View Full Version : Review: Scythe Musashi VGA Cooler

06-04-2009, 04:14 AM

I recently got to do that thing we all love doing, building a new system. I managed to keep all of the cooling options I had collected over time except one. I switched video cards, going from two ATI HD 4670 cards in Crossfire to a single HD 4870. I had installed very quiet aftermarket coolers on the 3670 cards, but they were sold with the old cards, which left me with the stock cooling option from Sapphire.

First off, I have to say that the stock cooler on this card is effective. I’ve been told that the HD 4800 series runs very hot in general, but it never let my temps get above 75, even under 96% load for an hour. While this isn't as low as most of us would like, it’s nowhere near the danger zone. It also came equipped with a smart-fan setup that automatically controls fan speed based on VGA temp. Even so, when things got hot, it sounded like a small jet engine was being tested inside my case. Noise. I hate noise.

I did a lot of looking for an aftermarket cooler, wanting to try something different. I honestly don't think I've seen the cooler that would effectively cool this monster passively, and I didn't want to add fans to a cooler that was obviously meant to work without them, so that eliminated a lot of the options. While looking over VGA coolers at Xoxide (http://www.xoxide.com) I came across the Scythe Musashi (http://www.xoxide.com/scythe-musashi-2fan-vgacooler.html). It seemed to be what I wanted, with a heat sink large enough to cover the entire card, and already equipped with twin 100mm low-profile fans.


As a bonus, it also includes a PCI bracket with two speed controllers, one for each fan. Why they opted to give each fan a separate controller is beyond me, but so be it.


The fans come wired with 3-pin connectors, so they can be connected directly to headers on your motherboard if you have two available. If not, don't worry, because Scythe has included an adapter to use a single 4-pin Molex for both fans instead.

As a "universal" VGA cooler (http://www.xoxide.com/vgacoolers.html), the Musashi is designed to fit as many different cards as possible, and includes no less than twenty-three aluminum heatsinks for RAM and voltage regulators on different models of cards. It even comes with a solid copper plate to place between the contact area on the cooler and the GPU on certain cards where the surrounding hardware is just a tad too high to allow clearance otherwise. This could have been avoided by making the heat sink stand higher off of the card, but the Musashi was clearly designed as a space saver, and should work in a Crossfire or SLI setup quite well.


The fit on the Musashi is obtained with these threaded rods and thumb nuts. A series of holes has been drilled in the backing plate and in the contact plate, giving many possible mounting configurations, and Scythe has also added a soft rubber pad to the backing plate, ensuring that pressure is applied to the GPU as much as possible, rather than the board itself.

Unlike most air-cooling products available today, the Musashi does not come with any thermal compound applied to its base, though a small amount is included with the package. Perhaps that was intentional, to show off the mirror finish on the base.


Here we have our test subject: the Sapphire HD 4870 512MB video card. A good-looking card out of the box, with its black full-coverage shroud and black fan. It's a shame it's so loud. "Silent efficiency". Right.


Removal of the stock setup was simple, requiring only the removal of eight small screws and the plug for the fan, plus the inevitable cleanup of the old thermal compound. Here is the naked card:


A little measurement on the mounting holes in the card determines which of the mounting holes in the Musashi plate should be used, and the four mounting rods are attached and tightened accordingly:



Then simply lay the cooler upside down on the workbench, apply thermal compound as usual, gently lay the video card onto the cooler, with the mounting rods through the holes, slide the backing plate on and tighten the thumb nuts. The fan controller is hard-wired to the cooler, so no further connections are needed.


Not nearly as pretty as the stock cooler, to be sure, but hopefully it will be quieter and at least as effective.

Before removing the card from the system, I stressed it for an hour with a video testing program called Rthdribl. Running that while running GPU-Z let me see GPU load as well as seeing temperatures in real time. Rthdribl was able to stress this card to 96% load, according to GPU-Z. After those results were recorded, the card was removed, the new cooler installed and the card was replaced. I then ran the same test on it with the new cooler, once with the fans running on the lowest possible speed, and again on the highest speed. Here are the results.

Stock cooler at idle: 53C
Stock cooler under load: 75C

Scythe Musashi at idle, lowest fan speed: 46C
Scythe Musashi under load, lowest fan speed: 65C

Scythe Musashi at idle, highest fan speed: 42C
Scythe Musashi under load, highest fan speed: 58C

Clearly a much more effective cooler. Even at the lowest fan setting, load temps were ten degrees lower, and the highest setting saw a drop under load of seventeen degrees. Excellent. Also, I am pleased to say that (at least with the Hiper Anubis case I’m using) I could tell absolutely no difference in the noise level between the lowest fan setting and the highest. These fans are extremely quiet.

Overall, I am very pleased with my purchase. While the Scythe Musashi may not look as sleek as the stock cooling option on the Sapphire HD 4870, the performance gains were tremendous, and the noise level is almost nonexistent. The Scythe Musashi sells at Xoxide.com for $39.50 plus shipping, and I honestly don't know how you could do any better anywhere near that price range.

4.5 out of 5


06-04-2009, 05:59 PM
Great review! Looks like a decent little cooler. My rig is noisy as all hell so I haven't even bothered to replace the GTX280's stock cooler.

06-05-2009, 08:18 AM
Great review. :up: +rep Good to know there is a VGA cooling option this quiet and effective for a good price. :banana:

Dane Bramage
06-05-2009, 09:37 AM
excellent review. cooling is one of those things where you just can't believe what the packaging tells you. always take a risk when buying after market coolers. i appreciate you taking that risk for the rest of us ;-)