Scythe Big Shuriken 3 CPU Cooler Review

The Scythe Big Shuriken 3 has earned our Editors Choice award, as it provides class leading performance and features at a very reasonable price.

Manufacturer: Scythe
14 minutes & 36 seconds read time
TweakTown's Rating: 97%
TweakTown award

The Bottom Line

The Scythe Big Shuriken 3 delivers class leading performance for such a compact design, yet is still able to fit without all the hassles of many other SFF intended coolers. If you have a lack of room and need clearance as a priority, look no further!

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

Scythe has sent over another of their coolers to have a look at, and with the fact that we keep referencing their coolers in comparison to others as we review them, it goes to show what sort of a standing they have in the market.

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In just about every category, single-tower 120mm fan-cooled, dual-tower/dual thickness 120mm fan cooled, or whatever your specific needs may be; Scythe has a reliable reasonably priced solution for you. That being said, moving into the C-style coolers, as well as restricting the cooler to the smallest of Mini-ITX systems, we are eager to see if Scythe is here to top yet another class of coolers.

While we have not reviewed any of the past version of this cooler, we are no stranger to C-Style coolers, no matter the size and design. In this category, you tend to get things that tower coolers cannot offer. Things like a low-profile stance for use in NAS or HTPC builds where a tower cooler would never fit, and a stock solution may be overtaxed.

Also in confined spaces, airflow is a premium, and not just in how the chassis provides the influx of ambient airflow, but what in the system can be actively cooled. With the C-Style design, you almost get three coolers in one. Many cover some if not all of the memory, of course, they cool the CPU, but they also add direct airflow to the PWM of the motherboard. How many towers or AIOs can say that? Even more importantly, can they fit in an SFF chassis or Mini-ITX system?

Today we introduce you to the Scythe Big Shuriken 3 CPU cooler, which strangely is not that big as far as coolers go, but as the namesake, Shuriken, I'm not sure I'd want to be throwing these at trees. The reason we say this cooler is not that big as far as coolers go is that Scythe imposed its restrictions on the latest design.

Things like universal mounting options, Zero Interference to components around the cooler, doing so as the shortest C-Style cooler with a 120mm fan, and keeping with the easy of mounting that many of the Scythe coolers of the past have offered. In doing so, you will soon see, that what may seem too small for the task at hand is actually able to compete with the big dogs and run head to head with some of what many would say is the best solution on the market, at least until the Big Shuriken 3 showed up to play that is.

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In the chart we borrowed from Scythe, we see that the Big Shuriken 3 also goes by the part number SCBSK-3000, for reference when it comes time to buy one. Compatibility of this cooler is more inclusive than a lot of others, where Intel is covered since LGA775 and continues through all of the sockets up till LGA2066. As for AMD, AM2 and up is covered, including AM4 and the FM sockets.

Dimensionally, the cooler is 122mm wide, it is 122mm deep, and all told, with the fan included, it stands only 69mm tall. For the weight of this aluminum and copper-based assembly of parts, we have to go to the bottom of the chart, but the 475-gram weight is shown. Getting a touch more detailed, the Big Shuriken 3 has five 6mm diameter heat pipes, which draws heat from a nickel-plated copper base, is passed on to the pipes, and is then released into the air through a set of 68 aluminum fins.

A 120mm PWM fan cools this compact tower, but it is only 17mm in thickness. Fan speed can range from 300 RPM at idle on up to 1800 RPM at maximum speed. At full speed, this fan is shown to deliver 50.79 CFM of airflow, and Scythe even offers the 1.35 mmH2O of pressure this fan can achieve. The last bit of information provided in that chart covers the noise level, which is shown to top out at 30.4 dB(A).

Looking out in the wild for listing to purchase the Big Shuriken 3, we see that the MSRP was initially set at $49.99, which we feel is a bit too much to ask for a low-profile design that is this compact, but to help combat this feeling, the cooler appears to be on sale at both Amazon and Newegg at the moment. As we look today, Newegg is offing up the Big Shuriken 3 at $40.99 while Amazon is asking $44.99 currently. Closer to $40 sure sweetens the deal, and helps with our later comparisons with other similarly priced and size restricted offerings, but at this time we will hold our opinion on bang for the buck, at least until you have all of the information at hand to follow our decision.


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Scythe has always done well to attract attention to their packaging, and with the Big Shuriken 3, this has not changed. Across the top of the front panel, we see the company name and logo to the left, while the much larger product name, highlighted with red, pops right out at you. There is a mention of the fan choice, along with a large image of the cooler, which leaves the compatibility list in the bottom-right corner.

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The next panel we see gets right to it with the claim of Zero Interference. The text goes on to explain that while compact, the Big Shuriken 3 will clear motherboard components as well as offering room for memory, thanks to the "specially shaped" design. This panel is also where the Kaze Flex 120mm slim PWM fan is addressed, as well as points like the lifespan, shock absorption, and low noise.

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As we get to the back of the box, we see that Scythe uses this for all of the technical information. Not only are there five, dimensional renderings of the cooler and the fan, there is also a full specifications chart, which addresses everything we saw from the earlier chart, with the addition of the 100,000-hour lifespan of the fan, and its use of a Fluid Dynamic Bearing.

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The last side of the box, at the top, is where we find the UPC codes for various regions, and to the right of them are addresses for support, should you need it. The rest of the panel is used to display warranty information on what Scythe covers, and that you will need to return the cooler to where it was purchased for any warranty or service. These twelve bullet points cover anything you will run into for the term of two-years.

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Inside the box, we find that the cooler is well protected with the use of strategically placed cardboard. At the bottom of the cooler, the cardboard is bent to lift the cooler off the bottom of the box as well as taking the weight of the cooler. On top of the cooler is more cardboard, this time used to contain all of the hardware, while also protecting the fan and blades from being damaged. In this instance, our Big Shuriken 3 is in terrific shape thanks to the packaging.

Scythe Big Shuriken 3 CPU Cooler

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Our first view of the Big Shuriken 3 CPU cooler, the side that would typically face the GPU. The top of the cooler is covered with the 17mm Kaze fan with gray rubber corners, which is screwed to the black bracket with the Scythe logo. The aluminum fins to extend past the bracket with a bit of style to the trailing edges, and we can make out the base of the cooler under it all.

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From this side of the Big Shuriken 3, we start to see the notches and clearances made for the Zero Interference designs of it. The fan is offset from the fins at the top, covering part of the heat pipes, and in the fin stack, we can see the first nineteen fins are shorter to allow clearance for any sort of cooler that may be on the motherboard, below the CPU socket.

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How the cooler is shown to be installed on the box, we are looking now at the part of the cooler which would be near the VRMs on the motherboard. Beyond that, we see the braided lead for the 4-pin PWM fan connection, and we also see the five heat pipes as they take different paths through the stack of fins, while also staying out of the way for mounting purposes.

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The last image of the sides of the Big Shuriken 3 is a mirror to what we looked at two images ago, but gives is a chance to look under the fins for some more details. First, is the fact that the crossbar mounting system is already attached to the base to make mounting that much easier, and secondly, we see the two-part base assembly where the copper puck is under the pipes while a thicker chink of aluminum is used above the pipes.

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As we look down through the fins from the top, we see that the nine-bladed, Scythe Kaze 120 Slim PWM fan covers the fins well, and we also can see the gap at the top, where the fan adds more cooling to the pipes, even before the heat enters the fins.

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The fan needs to be removed to mount the cooler, and it also gives us a good look at the leading edge of the fins. Most of the surface of the fins are flat across the length, but nearer the sides, there are stepped sections of fins. Also, notice that there are gaps in the fins near the back. Those are there to be able to access the mounting screws on either side, while the one in the middle was used at the factory to screw in the crossbar.

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Since many of the side views did not show the bottom of the cooler very well, we flipped it over to grab this shot. Now there is no doubt about how the cooler is notched, and where Scythe left fins as long as possible to increase the surface area. It is a shame that this view is hidden, as the fins are all perfectly straight and evenly spaced, and it does show more of what goes on which this cooler than any of the others.

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The copper base is machined into a slightly convex shape, and while most of the surface has an orange peel effect from the later plating of the surface, at the center, there is a defined ring left from the machining process.

Accessories and Documentation

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From what is found in the hardware box, we started with the more substantial pieces. Starting at the left, we are looking at the AMD top brackets, universal for all compatible AMD sockets. In the middle, we find the universal Intel backplate, which offers adjustable positions for the threaded bits, and even a place for the preload spacer for LGA775. That then leaves us with the Universal top brackets, which appear to not only support all Intel mounting but also appear to have holes for AMD if the orientation of the cooler needs to change to fit the motherboard.

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Scythe is sure to include a large tube of thermal grease, but there is only enough paste for three, maybe four applications in it. Below, to the left, we see the four black spacers, one side of which has a rubber washer on it for isolation, the Intel nuts for the brackets, and the LGA2011/2066 standoffs. To the right, there is the LGA775 preload spacer, and to the right of it are the AMD screws to secure the bracketry to the stock backplate. As for the shorter set of screws, we can only assume they are fan replacement screws for use with a thicker fan.

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The installation guide is generic in its imagery, and the text offered is not the best if you have never installed a cooler before. However, with any mechanical ability, the renderings do help with orientation of parts and what is used where, but you are left to fill in the gaps here and there in the process.

Installation and Finished Product

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With our Intel test system, we are required to use the backplate, and no matter which way it is put into the holes of the motherboard, it will clear the screws protruding from the motherboard. To isolate the metal plate from the board, the plastic clips at the ends are what does the job.

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Using the correct set of universal brackets, we installed them on top of the black spacers as per the instructions, where they go on the sides of the CPU socket. To lock everything into place and solidify the lower mounting hardware, the nuts go over the studs and are screwed down until we ran out of threads.

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After the protective plastic layer is removed from the base of the cooler, and TIM is applied to the CPU heat spreader, you can attempt to mount the cooler to the brackets. This is almost impossible to do with the fan installed, and once removed, you can quickly go back and forth between the two screws to evenly apply pressure. You know you are tight enough when you run out of threads.

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Due to the height of the plastic on the rear I/O cover of the motherboard, we did have a clearance issue, which made us have to rotate the cooler 180-degrees, which did lead to some other problems, but we were able to rectify things to suit our needs for testing. However, the view of it behind the memory of the Big Shuriken 3 does show that this is wide like a 120mm tower cooler, but hardly needs space above the motherboard to obtain airflow.

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In a proper installation, the heat pipes would be next to the memory, but if, like us, you run into any issues, it is possible to spin the cooler while still populating the memory slots. It does appear that the fans would fit under the cooler, but the stick nearest the cooler was touching, so we removed them.

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As we step back to look at the cooler, two things come to mind right away. In a proper installation, the offset of the cooler shift closer to the 8-pin connection, but due to the compact design that is not much of an issue. However, the point we saw with our memory clearance will apply to any LGA2011/2066 user with the slots nearest the rear I/O.

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Looking at it as if in a standard chassis, the view is of the fan with all of the aluminum fins showing through it. Keep in mind; this should be turned around, and sadly, had it fit that way, it would have blocked our view of the silver heat sink with HERO painted on it. In all honesty, we like things better the way we had to install it.

Test System Setup, Thermal Tests, and Noise Results

Chad's CPU Cooler Test System Specifications

To see our testing methodology and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article (October 2016) for more information.

Thermal Results

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Using the stock CPU setting, with PWM circuits in charge of the cooling levels, the Big Shuriken comes in at 65-degrees. That far down the list seems really bad, but consider that the air cooler surrounding it are of the same caliber and designed for Mini-ITX systems in confined spaces, it seems to have done OK.

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While in the last test, the NH-U12S beat the Big Shuriken 3 by a bit more than a few degrees, with the overclock now applied, the field has leveled out. At 80-degrees, many would initially think it's a tad too warm, but the reality is that this cooler is quite competitive.

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One thing we did find that is odd in the testing, is that usually, the PWM curve leaves very little meat on the bone. However, dropping to 73.75-degrees gives us the most significant gap in available performance versus what is offered out of the box. The huge bonus here is that the noise isn't so bad as to make this benefit irrelevant.

Noise Level Results

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To deliver the 28 dB rating we see in the chart, we saw the fans turning at 850 RPM at maximum, during the stock testing. While not the best in the list, it is still tolerable in an open-air environment at close range, and behind a side panel, you will never know it is there.

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Delivering more heat into the cooler did make the PWM curve react, but only to the tune of spinning the fans at 1130 RPM. While we appreciate the lack of noise with the 30 dB result, but we feel that the fan was struggling.

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With the fan going as fast as it could, we noticed a bit of a discrepancy. We loved the fact that the noise topped out at only 35 Db to gain all of that extra performance, but the fan was at only 1600 RPM. The box and the specifications show that we should be using a faster fan, and if so, the potential for even better performance is there, just like if you decide to use a 25mm fan rather than the supplied 17mm Kazy Slim fan.

Final Thoughts

Going back over the design, rehashing all of the thermal and audio results, we do have to say that we are satisfied with what we have seen. Head to head; the Big Shuriken 3 competes with the NH-L12S, both are equally priced at a sub $50 price point, the Noctua is one millimeter taller, and were very close in the majority of testing. That says a lot on its own.

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The build quality of the Big Shuriken 3 is quite good, everything works as intended, and even with the minor issues we ran into with a specific set of components, it is unlikely that many will run into what we did in the first place. However, it did have us feeling the pain of any LGA2011.2066 users, where quad-channel memory will need to be standard height.

The assembly process went off without a hitch once we sorted the orientation, and from CPU installed in the socket to having the cooler installed and ready for action, it took us all of about three minutes to make it happen. For those of you with confined space requirements, the Big Shuriken 3 is the shortest option we have seen with a 120mm fan on top, and at the same time, delivers top-tier cooler performance for its category.

There are a couple of things that are still sticking in our minds though and are things beyond our choices of components to test CPU coolers with. We do feel that the fan is either inefficient or is in some way less than compatible with the motherboard PWM circuit powering the RPM signal. We say this for two reasons.

One, if the fan is supposed to be 1800 RPM and it only turns at 1600 RPM, there is a prominent issue glaring at us there. Two, we feel that the curve did not react as well as it could have with the overclocked setting applied, where the fan leftover 500 RPM in reserve, and a bit more than six degrees on the table, available, but not used.

As strange as all of that is, we can understand the desire to stay at 30 dB to appeal to the masses, and usually, this goes in an HTPC where silence is vital, but we feel the cooler could do more, but for some odd reason, it isn't. Still, though, in the end, the performance and audio are right there where it should be for this class of CPU air coolers. When it comes to the cost, we may have misspoken earlier saying that the near $50 MSRP was a bit high, as it is a direct competitor to the NH-L12S, which we were happy with when we reviewed it. And it still requires $50 to obtain now.

With the fact that the Big Shuriken 3 can be had for just $40.99 right now, that one-degree difference we saw in the overclocked thermal chart is a nine dollar advantage to Scythe. Even at max, with a fan on top of this cooler, also if it is a 25mm thick replacement fan, the Big Shuriken 3 will only stand 77mm tall, and the Noctua is 70mm to start, with the fan under the fins.

So when it comes to having the best performance, and the ability to suit many more environments, we have to give the edge to Scythe and show them the love this cooler deserves. While the masses may not find the need for a cooler like this, for those with the right conditions in place, Scythe has the smallest, most affordable option with a 120mm fan that can also deliver the goods in all areas.











The Bottom Line

The Scythe Big Shuriken 3 delivers class leading performance for such a compact design, yet is still able to fit without all the hassles of many other SFF intended coolers. If you have a lack of room and need clearance as a priority, look no further!

TweakTown award

Chad joined the TweakTown team in 2009 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM and coolers.

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