Scythe Musashi Dual Fan GPU Cooler [Postcript Added]

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POSTSCRIPT: Scythe Musashi Dual Fan GPU Cooler, Updated

Nov 29, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

After originally reviewing the Scythe Musashi, members of our forum mentioned that the issue of the voltage regulators overheating could be solved by utilizing the stock cooling plate. The fan and GPU heatsink can be removed on the reference ATI stock cooler of the 4870/4890, and the metal plate underneath which cools the memory chips and voltage regulators can be left on and used in conjunction with third party GPU coolers.

Not only was this an excellent suggestion to solve the VRM problem, but it would also improve our testing methodology. It's a more convenient option as we would not need to remove the seperate memory and VRM heatsinks if there are any clearance issues — the stock cooling plate is as low profile as it gets. In addition, it allows us to use a hotter card, the HD 4890, which we originally abandoned in favor of the HD 4870 because its VRMs became so hot, we could not cool it quietly with any of the heatsinks we tested.

So without further ado, we present the updated test results for the Zalman VF1000, Accelero S1, and Scythe Musashi using the HD 4890 stock cooling plate.

Updated Test Results

Test Results: HIS 4890 Turbo Stock Cooler
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Avg. Core Temp
Avg. VRM Temp
Auto
26 dBA
82°C
94°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient Noise Level: 11 dBA
(12 dBA with the test system on)

First up, for reference we tested the HD 4890 stock cooler. The system produced 26 dBA@1m when placed on load, with core and VRM temperatures registering at 82°C and 94°C respectively.

Test Results: Zalman VF1000 LED
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Avg. Core Temp
Avg. VRM Temp
12V
22 dBA
91°C
121°C
10V
22 dBA
96°C
133°C
9V
20 dBA
100°C
139°C
8V
19 dBA
102°C
145°C
7V
17 dBA
106°C
152°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient Noise Level: 11 dBA
(12 dBA with the test system on)

We were previously unable to re-test the VF1000 at all on the HD 4870 due to VRM cooling issues, but with the stock cooling plate, it wasn't an issue at least until the fan voltage was dialed down to 7V. As one would expect from a single fan cooler, the VF1000 struggles to keep the HD 4890 cool at noise levels of 20 dBA@1m and below, with the core temperature exceeding 100°C. VRM cooling was particularly poor, almost reaching the failing point of 155~160°C when the fan was set to 7V.

The VF1000's acoustics are rough, due to the poor undertones of the fan utilized. It is only quiet at 7V but close up, the character is dreadful. You may notice that we measured the same noise level with the fan at both 12V and 10V — this is not a typo. At 10V, the pitch of the fan increases dramatically resulting in a similar A-weighted SPL as the fan running at 12V.

Accelero S1 (2 x Nexus 92mm 1500rpm)
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Avg. Core Temp
Avg. VRM Temp
12V
16 dBA
85°C
114°C
10V
15 dBA
91°C
128°C
Accelero S1 (2 x Scythe 100mm 1500rpm)
12V
21 dBA
93°C
116°C
11V
19 dBA
94°C
117°C
10V
17 dBA
96°C
123°C
9V
16 dBA
97°C
126°C
8V
15 dBA
98°C
132°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient Noise Level: 11 dBA
(12 dBA with the test system on)

The Accelero S1 does a much better job, but cooling a HD 4890 is still a serious challenge. With a pair of Scythe 100mm 1500rpm fans strapped to it, core temperatures were in the 90's. VRM temperatures were 20~30°C better than the VF1000 though, so the advantage of having a second fan is clear.

Paired with Nexus 92mm fans, gave us an almost unreal increase in performance. At the 16 dBA level it defeated the Scythe 100mm fans by more than 10°C in both core and VRM cooling. At 15 dBA, the results were closer, but the dominance of the Nexus fans continued. The acoustics of both sets of fans are beyond reproach.

Scythe Musashi
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Avg. Core Temp
Avg. VRM Temp
12V
23 dBA
85°C
109°C
10V
19 dBA
90°C
117°C
9V
17 dBA
93°C
125°C
8V
15 dBA
97°C
131°C
7V
14 dBA
102°C
142°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient Noise Level: 11 dBA
(12 dBA with the test system on)

The Scythe Musashi delivered a slight improvement over the S1 paired with Scythe fans. Its pair of slim 100mm fans are also very smooth with a benign character.

Comparisons

Test Results @ 19 dBA
GPU Cooler
SPL@1m
Avg. Core Temp
Avg. VRM Temp
Scythe Musashi @ 10V
19 dBA
90°C
117°C
Accelero S1 @ 11V
(2 x Scythe 100mm)
19 dBA
94°C
117°C
Zalman VF1000 @ 8V
19 dBA
102°C
145°C

At the 19 dBA level, the Musashi pulls slightly ahead of the S1 with Scythe fans. The VF1000 which is deficient in acoustic quality to begin with, also falls behind in performance, particularly if you look at the VRM temperatures.

Test Results @ 15 dBA
GPU Cooler
SPL@1m
Avg. Core Temp
Avg. VRM Temp
Accelero S1 @ 10V
(2 x Nexus 92mm)
15 dBA
91°C
128°C
Scythe Musashi @ 8V
15 dBA
97°C
131°C
Accelero S1 @ 8V
(2 x Scythe 100mm)
15 dBA
98°C
132°C

With limited airflow producing 15 dBA of noise, the S1 paired with Nexus fans is an easy winner, beating the Musashi by 6°C in core temperature and 3°C in VRM temperature. The S1 paired with Scythe fans performs similarly to the Musashi — it would seem the Musashi is preferable with higher speed fans.

Final Thoughts

The Scythe Musashi acquited itself quite nicely, equaling the performance of the Accelero S1 with Scythe 100mm fans with low airflow, and pulling ahead slightly with high airflow, all while taking up less physical space. It cannot compete with the S1 paired with smaller 92mm Nexus fans though — that combination amazingly dominated the field. The superiority of Nexus fans continues to amaze us.

The Zalman VF1000 isn't in the same league as either of the aforementioned heatsinks, but managed to keep the HD 4890 stable, though at fairly high temperatures. With only a single fan, it's out of its element. To cool today's hottest graphics cards, two fans is really the way to go.

It should be noted that even with the ATI stock cooling plate, VRM temperatures of all the competitors were much higher than the 4890 stock cooler. Still, with a good dual fan heatsink, you can run a HD 4890 fairly quietly while keeping the VRMs about 30°C from their failure point, even in a restricted airflow environment.

Fortunately, the release of the HD 5000 series has brought overall power consumption down. If you plan on using one of these new cards, with the exception of the 5870 or dual GPU 5970, its unlikely high temperatures will be even close to a problem with a cooler of the Musashi's caliber.

Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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