Scythe "Summit" Mine Heatsink/Fan

Cooling
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TESTING


On the test bench...

Test Platform

  • Intel P4-2.8A The Thermal Design Power of this P4-2.8 (533 MHz bus) is 68.4 or 69.7W depending on the version. As the CPU is a demo model without normal markings, it's not clear which version it is, so we'll round the number off to ~69W. The Maximum Power, as calculated by CPUHeat & CPUMSR, is 79W.
  • AOpen AX4GE Max motherboard - Intel 845GE Chipset; built-in VGA. The on-die CPU thermal diode monitoring system reads 2°C too high, so all readings are compensated up by this amount.
  • OCZ DDRAM PC-4000, 512 MB
  • Seagate Barracuda IV 40G 1-platter drive (in Smart Drive)
  • Seasonic Super Tornado 300 (Rev. A1)
  • Arctic Silver Ceramique Thermal Compound
  • Nexus Real Silent 92mm fan
  • Two-level plywood platform with foam damping feet. Motherboard on top; most other components below. Eases heatsink changes and setup.

Measurement & Analysis Tools

  • CPUBurn processor stress software
  • SpeedFan version 4.25 software to show CPU temperature
  • A custom-built variable DC power supply that allows us to dial in exactly what voltage is powering the fan
  • B&K model 1613 sound level meter

Noise measurements were made with the fan powered from the lab variable DC power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using CPUBurn to stress the processor, and the graph function in SpeedFan was used to make sure that the load temperature was stable for at least ten minutes. Every fan was tested at four voltages: 5V, 7V, 9V, and 12V, representing a full cross-section of the fan's airflow and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 16 dBA and 23°C.

TEST RESULTS

Scythe Mine
Fan Voltage
Load Temp
°C Rise
°C/W MP
°C/W TDP
Noise
12V
42°C
19
0.24
0.28
26 dBA@1m
9V
46°C
23
0.29
0.33
22 dBA@1m
7V
51°C
28
0.35
0.41
19 dBA@1m
5V
58°C
35
0.44
0.51
<16 dBA@1m
Airflow: Measured in Cubic Feet per Minute mounted on the HS
Load Temp:
CPUBurn for ~20 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient at load.
°C/W MP / TDP: Temperature rise per Watt, based on CPU's Maximum Power (79W) or Thermal Design Power (69W) rating (lower is better)
Noise: SPL measured in dBA/1m distance with high accuracy B & K SLM

12V: At full speed, this may well be the quietest stock fan we've ever heard. While we weren't as impressed as one reviewer, who couldn't hear it at all, we do have to offer our congratulations to Scythe. No other stock fan that we know of has been this quiet at 12V. The fan is quiet enough to put any doubts as to whether it's worth keeping the oddly sized fan to rest.

Note that we said quiet, not silent. The fan definitely made some noise, mostly in the form of a low growl. There was also a slight overtone that could have been the aluminum fins resonating, and a significant amount of air turbulence.

Cooling performance was very good, although not champion level. That's hardly a surprise, because the stock fan is so slow. With a fast fan screaming along at 3,000 RPM, we have no doubt that the Mine could hit with the big boys. A more valid comparison would be to look at how the Mine compares with other heatsinks at a constant noise level... keep reading to find out.

9V: The resonance and most of the growl disappeared at 9V, leaving turbulence noise as the prominent source of noise. This is good enough for a very quiet computer; in a loud environment it might even have been inaudible. Cooling performance definitely dropped, but was still well within the bounds of safety for our P4 Northwood chip. There's even a little headroom to cool a warmer chip.

7V: At 7V, the fan was almost inaudible from one meter. Only a faint clicking let us know it was still spinning, and we had to listen hard to hear it. Performance was now borderline for our processor; we do not think any of Intel's 800 or 900 series could be cooled properly at this level. However, most AMD chips should still be fine, as they tend to run cooler than our test bed.

5V: The fan noise disappeared entirely at this level. We had to listen from within a foot or two to pick the noise out from the background. Performance was not good enough to cool our test rig under real system conditions, but a cooler processor would be perfectly fine. Despite Scythe's claim that the Mine is not intended for low airflow conditions, it certainly does well enough so long as a cool processor is used.

COMPARISON

The Mine was compared against several of our favorite low airflow heatsinks, including the Scythe Ninja. Both the Ninja and the HR-01 are designed for fanless operation and are significantly more expensive than the Mine. We include them because they are our favorite heatsinks, but they are not really intended to perform in the same class. The Zalman CNPS-7000ALCU, one of our previous favorites and still a very good heatsink is also included.

The comparison is meant to judge how well the Mine performs at a very quiet noise level, so we attempted to find test results as close to 22 dBA@1m as possible. This noise level represents what we consider to be the best compromise between noise and cooling for the Mine.

Heatsinks Compared at about the Same Quiet Noise Level
Heatsink/Fan
Noise
(SPL - dBA@1m)
Fan Voltage
Load Temp
°C Rise
°C/W MP
Scythe Mine,
Stock Fan
22
9V
46°C
23
0.29
Scythe Ninja, Nexus 120
23
12V
35°C
14
0.18
Thermalright HR-01, Nexus 120
23
12V
38°C
18
0.23
Noctua NH-U12,
Nexus 120
22
12V
42°C
21
0.27
Zalman CNPS-9500 LED, Stock Fan
22
5V
44°C
18
0.23
Zalman CNPS-7000ALCU, Stock Fan
22
5V
48°C
27
0.34

The Mine is clearly not at the same level as our favorite tower heatsinks, which employ a 120mm fan with 30% greater fin area than a 100mm fan, thus providing greater airflow even at lower RPM and at similar noise levels. Both the Ninja and the HR-01 outperform the Mine significantly at the same noise level. The Zalman CNPS-9500 also outperforms the Mine, but at the expense of noise; at 5V it is spinning as slowly as it can with its included Fanmate2 speed controller and it still sounds subjectively worse than the Mine. Only the old CNPS-7000 trails behind the Mine, a testament to how far CPU heatsink design has come in a few short years.

NOISE RECORDINGS

Scythe Mine:

MP3: Scythe Mine, Stock fan: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter, One Foot

Comparative:

MP3: Nexus 120mm fan: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter, One Foot

MP3: Nexus 92mm fan: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter, One Foot

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system and are intended to represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

CONCLUSIONS

The Mine deserves accolades for including the quietest stock fan we've ever heard on a heatsink. It is worth the money for this reason alone. Other heatsinks may outperform it at the same noise level, but with the cost of a quiet fan factored in, they are all significantly more expensive than the Mine.

With a higher airflow fan, the Mine may have potential to outperform these other heavyweights, but at the expense of noise. As it is, the stock fan should be adequate to cool nearly any system. It is certainly possible to use it in a quiet system.

We also appreciate the refined mounting system that retains the ease of use that we saw in the Samurai Z without its durability issues. Installation should be completely tool-free unless the fan is changed (not something we recommend).

In a very hot, overclocked or dual gaming video card system where cooling is essential, it may be worth upgrading to a beefier heatsink, since the Mine will require more airflow to reach the same level of performance. However, for well-designed quiet systems that employ one of the current AMD A64 or Intel's new Core 2 processors with TDP under 70~80W — which covers the vast majority of current processors — the Mine can do the job just as quietly without costing as much. It's an easy recommendation.

Pros

* Easy to install
* Supports AM2 (see compatibility notes)
* Good performance for price
* Excellent stock fan
* Lower profile than a tower heatsink
Cons

* Turbulence noise is a factor at higher fan speeds
* Odd fan size
* Not suitable for overclocking

Much thanks to Scythe USA for the Mine sample.

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POSTSCRIPT ADDED JULY 18, 2006: With a Quiet 120mm Fan
(Just click to the next page)



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