Scythe Top-Down Coolers: Kabuto vs. Zipang 2

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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds 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. 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 recording starts with 10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.


Both Kabuto and Zipang 2 turned in very impressive performances. Kabuto is the first down-blowing heatsink to displace some of the better side-blowing coolers on our top performers list. Its cooling efficiency only becomes less than stellar when the fan speed is reduced to ridiculously low levels. The Kabuto is also about 13 cm tall, so it will fit in a some cases where a typical high performance 15-16cm tower heatsink will not. Motherboard compatibility shouldn't be an issue — if its heatpipes get in the way of any board components, it can be rotated to avoid interference.

It is fairly obvious why the Kabuto and the Zipang 2 are the best performing top-down airflow heatsinks — their fans are excellent and the area of their cooling fins is enormous, greater than any others we're aware of... except for Scythe's own monstrosity, Orochi, which is so oversized that we've vowed never to review it lest skimming readers interpret the mere existence of the article as our tacit approval (even though we use one in a silent lab PC). The Kabuto is very tall, and for the fan to work properly, it needs some clearance above, which means it really shouldn't be considered any "shorter" than the big tower coolers — unless there is a vent in the case directly over the Kabuto's fan. The height of the Kabuto also places the fan a fair distance above the motherboard components its airflow is supposed to help cool, and at very low speed, this design advantage may become moot. A tower cooler, which can work more effectively in concert with a case's rear exhaust fan may be a better choice.

The 1" lower height of the Zipang 2 and its virtually identical cooling performance makes it an obvious alternative when the Kabuto will not fit. However, it is slightly wider and deeper, and these dimensions need to be checked, especially where the CPU socket is very close to the edge of the motherboard.

Our real gripe about both of these heatsinks is Scythe's typical mounting system — bolt-thru designs are inherently superior. Bolt-and-spring mounting results in better performance due to improved contact between the CPU and the heatsink's base, and makes for a more secure installation as well. We get nervous using the stock retention mechanism for heatsinks that are heavier than about 600 grams. The stock mounting systems' only advantage is convenience, and with the Intel plastic push-pins, it's really not that convenient either. (Scythe does offer optional bolt-through "stabilizer" kits for socket 775 and AMD K8/AM2 but the price is not right at over $10.)

In summary, Kabuto and Zipang 2 offer superb performance and excellent stock fans. If you believe in the merits of top-down cooling, then their $45~$55 price-tags are more than reasonable. Even if you don't care about motherboard cooling, these coolers still match the performance of many of today's top tower heatsinks, at least on our open test bed. Well done, Scythe.

Scythe Kabuto

* Superb performance
* Quality stock fan
* Versatile mounting orientations

* No bolt through mounting
* A bit tall
Scythe Zipang 2

* Superb performance
* Amazingly quiet fan
* Versatile mounting orientations

* No bolt through mounting
* A bit wide

Our thanks to Scythe for the review samples.

Scythe SCKBT-1000 120mm Sleeve Kabuto 6 Heat Pipes CPU Cooler
Buy the Scythe Kabuto from

Note: Zipang 2 does not appear on Scythe's US site and is hard to find in the US or Canada.

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