The Bottom Line
- + RAM clearance
- + New aesthetic
- + HPMS V Lite hardware
- + Low cost
- - Performance
Should you buy it?AvoidConsiderShortlistBuy
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
In some form or another, the Kotetsu tower-style CPU cooler has been around for quite some time. Oddly, since we seem to have touched every other design from Scythe over the years, the Kotetsu has never been offered until now. From what we have gathered, starting with the Mark 1 design, we got aluminum fins, copper pipes, and a black top shaped like a dog bone. The Mark 2 offered many more fins; it did away with the black top cover but still kept the same shape. There was also a Mark 2 ARGB model, but it was essentially the same cooler with a different fan.
After many years and many revisions to the cooler design, and newer and better hardware designs, Scythe has kept an OG in the game relevant today. With no previous experience with this series of coolers, we have no idea what to expect, performance-wise, when it comes to the Kotetsu CPU coolers. As always, we will give it a fair shot at the charts and see how everything pans out, and at the end of it all, we draw a verdict we feel is straightforward and honest, no matter what we find.
One major factor still lingering, which will decide for many potential buyers, is the price. It will be very hard to find fault with a design with this little investment. We have a tower that looks the part, won't break the bank, and will happily sit in just about any build without clearance issues like some others pose. For now, we may as well jump right in, see what we are getting, and drop this CPU cooling solution's super low price point, so we can get to the numbers and see where this new Scythe Kotetsu Mark 3 lands in our charts.
From what we have seen on the product page and the side of the box, we cobbled together the chart you see. The Kotetsu Mark 3 is also known by the SCKTT-3000 part number, which should be verified before purchase to avoid getting an earlier model by mistake. Along with some upgrades, the newest version accommodates socket LGA1700 and 1200 while still fitting LGA115X sockets and is also made for AM4 and AM5 fitment. Dimensionally, the tower is 138mm wide, 80mm thick, and 154mm tall, allowing it to fit in many mid and full-tower cases.
We see four 6mm diameter heat pipes in this cooler design, and we are shown that the entire setup weighs 723 grams when installed. We do not see a mention of the use of aluminum for the fins, fifty-two of them, nor any word of the thick aluminum top cover used this time.
We are told that the tower is cooled with a Kaze Flex II 120 PWM fan, a 120 mm-based fan, dressed in all black. The fan's speed ranges from 300 at the low-end to 1500 RPM at the maximum. At full speed, the fan can deliver 67.62 CFM of airflow and 1.5 mmH2O of static pressure, all while staying below 29 dB(A). The Kaze Flex II is powered with a 4-pin PWM cable; it is shown to last over 160,000 hours and spins on a rifle bearing.
Lastly, where the warranty is concerned, even though the fan is said to last over eighteen years, the warranty covering the Kotetsu Mark 3 only lasts two of them.
Even though we would have expected this cooler to hit the market at around $50 based on its design and feature set, we were pleasantly surprised. When we looked at Amazon, we found the Kotetsu Mark 3 listed at $29.99, which we feel is a hell of a deal for what we get on paper. We also looked at Newegg to see what they have going on and found the Kotetsu Mark 3 at $31.99. Either way, you decide to go, the dent in your bank account is kept to a minimum, and to be blunt, if the Kotetsu Mark 3 can stay ahead of stock cooling by five to ten degrees, we would have to say they have done their jobs well, and made something worthy of your attention.
Typical to what we find with many Scythe coolers, we get a white and gray box with dark blue trim. In this instance, we see the Kotetsu Mark 3 on the front panel, and along with the name and logo at the top, we also see that this tower is LGA1700 and Socket AM5 ready.
The next panel is blue, with five-dimensional renderings, showing the tower and fan from all angles with measurements to ensure proper fitment. Across the bottom are feature shots of the hardware, the Kaze Flex II fan, and the overall aesthetics.
On the back, we are back to the lighter backdrop, used to highlight the multi-colored icons across the top, denoting six of the features Scythe feels you need to see before we get to the multi-lingual specifications chart.
The remaining panel offers warranty information in a few languages, covering most of the top half. The lower half contains Scythe's information and provides a serial number sticker and a pair of barcode stickers with the SCKTT-3000 model numbers.
To protect the Kotetsu, Scythe chose dense foam layers wrapping around four sides of the tower, keeping it away from the fan resting next to it. On top of the fan is the box of hardware, which holds all of the components snug inside of the box, delivering us a CPU cooler that is in excellent shape and ready for its pictures.
Scythe Kotetsu Mark 3 CPU Cooler
From the bottom up, the Kotetsu Mark 3 delivers a chunky aluminum base with chromed steel hardware mounted to it. Four copper pipes are gently bent and plated from the base and then aligned to run through the stack of fifty-two aluminum fins. To top off the build, we found a hunk of aluminum with vents on the sides, bent to fit the top of the cooler.
From the side, we can see more of how the heat pipes are aligned at the bottom of the tower to offset one another. We can also see the asymmetric design of the tower to allow complete RAM clearance. At the other end of the fin array, we can see more of the aluminum at the top, which is also brushed aluminum.
Since the back view of the tower is almost a mirror image of the front, we laid the tower on its side to get a look at the fin edges. While evenly spaced near the left and right sides, as the fins travel across, they are bent to create wider openings, converging on hexagonal-shaped centers. We can also see that the sides are raised, and the center is a bit lower, allowing the fan room to build a head of steam before entering the tower.
From the side, we see those evenly spaced fins, which are kept that way without tabs to help with alignment. While the top offers a small look at more brushed aluminum, the side view is of little more than the grooves used to mount the fan.
The top of the Kotetsu Mark 3 loses the dogbone shape of old in favor of a rectangular shape made with a thick hunk of black brushed aluminum. We also love the ghosted Scythe logo dead center of the top cover.
At the other end of the tower is a thick chunk of aluminum with a nickel-plated copper base below it, with the pipes sandwiched between them. The aluminum is cut to act as a pre-cooler while also grooved to allow the crossbar portion of the mounting hardware to come installed on the tower.
At first glance, it may seem like the pipes align, but if you look closely, you can tell they are slightly offset. That way, the turbulence from the first pipes does not go around and miss the ones behind it. The fins are press fit onto the pipes, which is how the heat migrates to the fin array.
The mating surface of the Kjotetsu Mark 3 is convex in shape, meaning the center is the highest point. In the center is a dimple from the machining, which is then done in circles around the dimple before the nickel plating that will help fight corrosion.
Accessories and Documentation
Going over the HPMS V Lite hardware, we will start with the universal Intel backplate with adjustable threaded studs at the corners. We get universal brackets for both Intel and AMD users on either side. The pairs of holes on an angle are for Intel sockets, while the notches at the top and bottom are for AMD.
More parts of the HPMS V Lite hardware are the set of four black spacers for Intel users and a gray set for AMD. There are four knurled nuts to secure the brackets to Intel sockets, whereas AMD users will need the screws with knurled tops to attach the brackets to the factory backplate.
We also found four wire fan clips for securing up to two fans on the Kotetsu Mark 3, although only one fan cools the tower out of the box. We also get a packet of thermal grease, enough for a couple of attempts at mounting the cooler.
Those pondering an additional fan will appreciate us showing the KF1225FD15-P model number so that you can get an exact match. The fan offers rubber corners for vibration cancellation, and the cable is sleeved, terminating in a 4-pin PWM connection for this eleven-bladed black 120mm fan.
The manual comes folded much smaller than we show it, so it fits in the hardware box. When unfolded, you get some tips and tricks on the left side, a full parts list with numbers to follow parts used in the installation processes displayed on the rest of the manual. There are very few words, but the drawings and numbering used with the images make it simple to follow along and get the Kotetsu Mark 3 mounted and ready to go in just a few minutes.
Installation and Finished Product
We removed the chunky plastic clips and screws from the motherboard to prepare for the situation, leaving only the backplate in place. We then grabbed the gray AMD spacers and the universal brackets. Aligning the spacers with the notches at either end, we sent the screws supplied by Scythe into the backplate. We used a screwdriver for this and kept at it until they were very tightly secured.
The fan cannot be on the tower during installation, as the front mounting screw is very close to the front of the fin array. Once thermal paste was applied and the cooler secured to the brackets, we installed the fan on the tower and found it to be mostly a view of that Kaze Flex II PWM fan behind the RAM.
When we said behind the RAM, we meant it. The asymmetric design allows the fan to clear the memory completely, and the only obstruction we found with the fan was its own mounting hardware below it, stopping the fan from going any lower. No matter the RAM wanted in your system, the Kotetsu Mark 3 will not impede that choice.
Stepping back to take a wider view from the top, we find access to the 8-pin is wide open and allows users to install the tower on the board and then install it into a chassis. Even with an additional fan attached, it would be a bit more challenging to access the 8-pin on most motherboards, but not impossible.
Inside the chassis, the Scythe logo on the aluminum cover is much less visible, but at this angle, under the bright lights, the brushed aluminum pops, and so does the contrasting black logo. Otherwise, the Kotetsu is more of a sleeper, nothing bold and brash, just a clean looking blacked out design ready to be abused thermally.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests, and Noise Results
Chad's CPU Cooler Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII HERO [Wi-Fi] (AMD X570) - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 4000MHz 4X8GB
- Graphics Card: ASUS GeForce RTX 2060 6GB OC - Buy from Amazon
- Storage: Galax HOF Pro M.2 1TB SSD
- Case: Hydra Bench Standard
- Power Supply: ASUS ROG Thor 850W - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Software: AMD Ryzen Master, AIDA64 Engineer 6.25.5400, and CPU-z 1.92.0 x64
To see our testing methodology and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our 2020 CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for more information.
There is no denying that the 62.5°C average temperature from our stock run does not look great in this chart, but allow us to add some perspective. Overall, the Kotetsu Mark 3 is 8.5°C from the top of the chart and is still 3.7°C better than the best run from the Wraith Prism and 8°C better than the Wraith Spire. With perspective added, the Kotetsu Mark 3 comes up average.
At 69.6°C for the overclocked average temperature, Scythe lands near the bottom again. This time, they are 9.1°C out of the lead and 6.1°C ahead of the worst-performing AMD solution. Adding more processing power seems to reduce its effectiveness, but it is more than fine for the average build out there.
Typically when we push the fans to their maximum to find what is left on the table, we see a couple of degrees, maybe three, but the Kotetsu Mark 3 leaves over four degrees in the tank for our processor. Running the fan at full speed also gets the Kotetsu back into average territory thermally compared to the rest of the chart.
Noise Level Results
In our stock run, we saw that the fan got up to 973 RPM during the test, and at that time, we grabbed the meter and got a reading of 25 dB. Compared to the rest of the chart, Scythe does very well in the sound game portion of the design.
Running the test with the overclock applied, the fan didn't seem to care much, as it increased to only 1099 RPM of its potential 1500 RPM with PWM in control. Even now, the sound will have little consequence as it sits at 29 dB while delivering better than stock cooler performance, with much less noise involved.
Those of you who do not care about noise and want the most of the Kotetsu Mark 3 will be dealing with 48 dB of noise. It is not terrible compared to others, but your friends in chat may not like the background noise. Also, as a side note, our fan broke the 1500 RPM barrier and topped out at 1560 RPM, meaning it is possible yours would not be as loud.
There are a couple of ways we can take things at this point. On the one hand, we like the looks and appeal of a cooler like this. The hardware is easy to use, the tower clears all of the major components surrounding it, and it takes no time to get it installed and ready for use. Scythe could have gone basic, but they addressed fin design beyond what many $50 coolers deliver, and that hunk of brushed aluminum on top could not have been cheap, but here it is on an entry-priced product. As much as we could go on and continue these glowing bullet points, there are other things to consider.
Sound, however, is not one of them. Under PWM control, the Kaze Flex II PWM 120mm fan is an excellent choice to appeal to the masses. Under stock load, it is nearly inaudible, and even with an overclock applied, we didn't break that 30 dB threshold that many users want to stick below. Scythe comes through with flying colors here, and even if you want to run it maxed out, 48 dB is not all that outrageous.
Thermal performance is a sticky wicket in the mix. Objectively, the results are not horrible, and they certainly are not outstanding, but sometimes average is fine, but only if all other things fall into place. To be blunt, you can find better coolers, and maybe one or two of them is comparable in cost, but none come to mind in this price range with this much style and effort.
Whether you go with Amazon or Newegg, you will need to shell out around $30 to obtain the Kotetsu Mark 3, and with that in the mix of what we discussed above, you can sense a deal at hand, but there are limitations. While it is perfect for system builders, entry-level self-built gaming rigs, and daily grind builds, absolutely. Would we try sticking this on the best of the best from either camp and expect miracles? No, but we take things for what they are. Regarding budget solutions, Scythe is in the mix with its competition, with a classy yet better thought-out design than any other in the entry-level cost segment of CPU air coolers.