Scythe Ninja 3

Written by Luke Ponio    Sunday, 25 July 2010 21:11
Article Index
Scythe Ninja 3
Packaging and Design
Fan
Installation
Testing Results
Conclusion
All Pages

Scythe has been in the PC cooling market for over half a decade.  Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Scythe’s first CPU cooler was the Scythe Kamakaze, released in 2002. The Kamakaze’s success in Japan convinced Scythe to begin exporting products to the rest of the world. Scythe’s US operations began in Northern California in 2004 until moving to Los Angeles later that year.

Scythe’s first monster heatsink, the Ninja, was released in 2004. It started a trend in the industry towards large aluminum fins, a ridiculous amount of heatpipes, and 120mm fans. Before then, high-end heatsinks were made purely of copper and were just starting to incorporate heatpipe technology. 80mm and 92mm fans were pretty much standard for CPU coolers, power supplies, and case fans.

The Ninja may look like a familiar design today but back then it was quite original. It went through a number of revisions, a successor called the Ninja 2, and finally the latest Ninja 3 which we are going to take a look at today.

Scythe Logo

 


The Ninja 3 comes in the same type of box as the Ninja Plus rev. B that I bought many years ago. Scythe’s packaging is really unique for the US market because of the Japanese lettering near every English word.  The entire box is covered in art and pictures with simple descriptions in Japanese and English. It looks like an imported product rather than something designed specifically for the US market. Since Scythe’s product names are definitively Japanese like Ninja, Kamakaze, Katana, Shuriken, Samurai; the product packaging matches up perfectly.

Scythe Ninja 3 Scythe Ninja 3
Scythe Ninja 3 Scythe Ninja 3

Included in the box is the Ninja 3, a back-plate, mounting hardware, one 120mm fan, thermal grease, and an installation guide. Mounting hardware is included for Intel 775/1156/1366 and AMD 754/939/940/AM2/AM2+/AM3. Although mounting hardware for all those sockets is included, Scythe mentions that you should still check to make sure there is enough room around the CPU socket on the motherboard and in your case as the heatsink is pretty tall. I installed it on a Gigabyte AMD AM3 board and Asus Intel 775 board without any issues. Sycthe posted a motherboard compatibility list on the product page for the Ninja Plus rev. B but hasn't added one for any of their recent models. I would say it is safe to assume that it will work on your motherboard.

Scythe Ninja 3

The overall dimensions of the Ninja 3 including the fan are 120 x 120 x 160mm or 4.72 x 4.72 x 6.30 inches. The fan dimensions are 120 x 120 x 25mm or 4.72 x 4.72 x 0.98 inches. The cooler, including the fan, weighs 1040g or 36.68oz.

Oddly, Scythe recommends that you use the product only with a new motherboard as a used motherboard could be distorted causing the heatsink not to perform well. That is the first time I’ve seen that warning and I’ve never heard of a problem relating to installing a heatsink on a used motherboard.

Scythe Ninja 3
Scythe Ninja 3Scythe Ninja 3

The Ninja 3 is a tower design with 38 aluminum fins and eight heatpipes. The fin structure is new for the Ninja 3. Rather than the fins being one solid piece, they are split into 4 sections connected by a couple narrow strips. Each section of fins is held together by 4 halves of the 8 U-shape heatpipes.  If you look at the top of the heatsinks you can see an X shape. Scythe calls this the Multiple Airflow Pass-through Structure and it is meant to optimize the airflow to start at the bottom two points of the X and flow out the top two points. During testing I was surprised how much this affected the airflow. Air actually flows in that X shape rather than straight through like you would expect.

 


The fan can be mounted on any side of the heatsink depending on how the airflow works in your case. Normally this would be so the fan is above your RAM and blowing toward the exhaust case fan. Conceivably you could mount a fan on both sides in a push pull configuration like some other heatsink designs but I didn’t test this since most modern PC cases have a 120mm exhaust fan very close to where a second fan would be located. It would be nice if Scythe included two extra clips just in case you wanted to try it.

Scythe Ninja 3 Scythe Ninja 3

One thing to note about the fan installation, while the clips are pretty easy to use once stretched out, they require the holes on your fan to be free of each other. The fan that came with my Ninja Plus rev. B had a channel connecting the holes on both the top and the bottom. The clips that came with the Ninja 3 would not work with that fan. The Ninja Plus rev. B fan clips wrapped around the outside of the fan so it didn’t matter whether or not the channel was there. One downside to that is you were stuck using the same thickness fan whereas the Ninja 3 brackets will let you use thicker fans like the Panaflo as long as the holes aren’t connected.

 

Scythe Ninja 3

The included Scythe Slip Stream 120mm PWM fan, model SY1225SL12HPVC,  is rated at 470-1900 RPM, 7-37dBA, and 23-110CFM. The fan also has a potentiometer that fits in a PCI slot so you can adjust the fan speed without PWM or set two ranges for PWM to operate in, 470-1340rpm and 740-1900rpm. The fan is sleeve bearing and, in my subjective judgment, almost inaudible when set to low speed. It does get quite a bit louder at full speed but my testing shows that you will rarely need to keep it running at maximum. I would have liked to see the PCI bracket be optional as some people would like to sacrifice that extra control for having one less wire in their case. It is also annoying when it is dangling around while you are trying to install the motherboard in a case.

 


Scythe calls their custom motherboard back-plate the Flip Mount Super Back-Plate. The Ninja 3 comes with version 2 of this back-plate which has improved compatibility and more solid mounting. For Intel mounting, all previous coolers in the Ninja line used a push-pin design like the stock Intel coolers. Scythe has switched the Ninja 3 mounting to a screw-type design. Removing the motherboard back-plate is required for installation because of the custom back-plate. The first step is to attach the Intel brackets onto the heatsink itself. Then attach the “Screw Cup” and “Fixing Cup” into the correct location on the brackets for your socket. That was the easy part. Now you have to line up the back-plate on the back of the board while lining up the heatsink and screwing the screws in through the back-plate.

This sounds really simple. The most natural way to screw something is from the top down so you put the heatsink upside down on a table and flip the motherboard over while trying to line it up. What makes it not simple is the fact that your thermal paste is making the heatsink slide around like those people on Wipeout trying to make their way through an obstacle course covered in goop. It was so difficult to do that I had to ask someone else to help me hold the board in place while I screwed it in. I tried installing it over half a dozen times and couldn’t come up with a method to do it easily by myself. One benefit of taking the extra time over push-pin installation is that it is more stable and you don’t have to worry about the plastic pins breaking or getting worn out from repeated installation.

Scythe Ninja 3 Scythe Ninja 3
Scythe Ninja 3 Scythe Ninja 3

AMD installation is pretty much the same. You attach the clips and screw it in. The same headaches are involved. The Scythe Ninja Plus Rev. B. installation takes about 5 seconds for AMD and 10 seconds for Intel. I don’t know if the extra secure mounting is really worth the extra time. I spent over 15 minutes the first time I installed the Ninja 3 just trying to figure out a good way to do go about it and in the end I couldn’t come up with one. I wish I could use my old Ninja Plus rev. B’s mounting hardware with the Ninja 3. I realize the Ninja 3 is over 300g heavier but I know there is an easier way to mount it. Perhaps using longer screws so that it is easier to line up quickly or screwing from the top of the motherboard down into the back-plate would make it easier to install.


Ambient temperature was kept at a consistent 20-20.5°C. Arctic Silver Ceramique thermal paste was used for all tests. Temperatures were analyzed using a temperature probe touching the Intel heatspreader and Core Temp for software measurements. The core temp reading in the charts is the average of all four core temperatures according to Core Temp. Four threads of Prime95 small FFT were ran simultaneously with Core Damage. The purpose of the test was to determine results that a home user would obtain. There was no scientific testing conducted, simply because I do not have the proper equipment.

Thermal Probe Placement


All thermal control options including Speedstep were disabled in the BIOS for all tests. All testing was done under Windows 7 highest performance power profile.

Test System Specifications

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 (8 x 333FSB = 2.66GHz @ VID 1.184v load 1.15v idle)
  • Asus P5W-DH Deluxe 3001 bios (1.65v MCH)
  • G-Skill 2x1GB DDR2 800 PC6400 F2-6400CL4D-2GBPK (2.1v)
  • XFX 8500GT Fanless PV-T86J-Y1S3
  • Kingwin Lazer LZ-850w

Competition:

  • Scythe Ninja Plus Rev. B
  • Stock Intel Cooler

Test Procedures:

  • Idling at desktop for 15 minutes
  • Full load with 4 threads of Prime95 small FFT and Core Damage for 15 minutes

 

Scythe Ninja 3 Test Results

Obviously bringing the stock Intel cooler into this is like bringing a knife to a gunfight but it does help to show how much of an upgrade you can expect if you are an unfortunate soul still using the boxed cooler. The difference between the Ninja Plus and Ninja 3 surprised me so much that I re-ran the tests multiple times and did a couple remounts each. The numbers all stayed the same though. The difference between the high and low fan speeds also surprised me. Unfortunately my current thermometer doesn’t measure in tenths of a digit but that is still less than a 1°C difference from minimum RPM to maximum.

I also tried both coolers fanless because Scythe mentions it on the box but didn’t include the data because these were open air tests and the temperatures were sky high. After 15 minutes the Ninja 3 hit 86°C according to Core Temp with a probe reading of 67. The Ninja Plus hit 93°C core temp and 73 probe temp after only 8.5 minutes. I quickly turned it off after seeing those temps. If you want to run these heatsinks fanless you need to have airflow in your case. Scythe’s warranty says the Ninja 3 is designed for fanless usage such as e-mailing, internet browsing, word processing, and spreadsheet tasks at an ambient temperature of up to 25°C. It specifically warns against benchmarking or data processing and I can see why. The reason why I didn’t try fanless operation in a case was I have no accurate way of measuring the airflow inside my case and it is too large a variable to not consider. At idle I recorded probe temperatures of 41°C for the Ninja Plus and 36°C for the Ninja 3 so if you aren’t doing anything on your computer your CPU won’t burn up if you turn the fan off or it malfunctions.

Here is the Ninja Plus rev. B next to its younger brother the Ninja 3:

Scythe Ninja 3 Comparison

Overall I was very pleased with the performance of the Ninja 3. I did not expect such a big improvement over the older Ninja Plus Rev. B. I guess more fins and heatpipes really do add up to more efficient cooling.

 


I just want to preface the conclusion by saying that this review took the longest of any reviews I’ve ever done. The Intel Q9400 CPU that I was testing with seemed to get stuck at certain idle temperatures no matter the ambient or cooler being tested. In an effort to get better idle software temperatures I began testing on an AMD Phenom II platform, but three-quarters of the way through testing I ran into some system instability that I am still troubleshooting at the time of this posting (it has no relation to the Ninja 3). So I went back to the Intel system and decided I would just use my probe for idle temperatures. This worked great until the hard drive I was using died. I just thought I would share some notes on my tribulations doing this review to comfort myself after spending over 40 hours getting a good review finished. I know there are some people out there that can sympathize when computers just don’t want to cooperate.

Scythe Ninja 3

The main selling point of the Ninja 3 is definitely performance. Installation was a bit unrefined and I hope some improvement can be made in the next revision. Even seemingly small things like using longer screws would help stop frustration caused by mounting the heatsink. I know that this cooler is quite large and needs a sturdy mounting mechanism but I would also rather have the option of not having to remove the motherboard after initial installation of the back-plate. Some other heatsinks have a good method that secures the back-plate to the board so you can remove the cooler without removing the motherboard. This saves a lot of time if you are doing something simple like swapping CPUs.

Current price for the Ninja 3 at time of writing is $49.99 which is similar to other high-end CPU coolers. There is definitely value in the $49.99 price since the cooler includes a great fan and fan controller as well as a 2-year warranty.

I was really looking forward to testing this heatsink. The Ninja Plus rev. B that I have been using for years is one of my favorite heatsinks of all time. Scythe nailed the performance improvement but took a step back in installation method. If they can somehow make installation easier they will have a real contender for best heatsink in the market. If you have an older Ninja or are looking to upgrade to a high performance heatsink, the Scythe Ninja 3 is a great option worthy of your dollars.

 

InsaneTek Recommended

Pros:

  • Great performance
  • Quiet at low speed
  • Big improvement over old model
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Difficult installation
  • Fan controller is not removable

We would like to thank Scythe for providing us the sample.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit us up in the forums. You can also check out more of our latest reviews and tech news on the front page.