Cooler of the Rising Sun: Scythe Zipang 2 Review

Impressive size, six copper heatpipes, six heatsink arrays, 140 mm fan and mirror-shining base – all these are distinguishing features of the new Japanese CPU cooler, which will be the hero of our today’s review.

In ancient Japanese “Zipang” stands for “Japan” which is a sacred word for the Japanese. Therefore, Scythe must have had very good reasons to use this word as a name for their cooling solution. Just recall some other cooler names from this maker: Ninja, Katana, Shogun, etc. and you will understand right away that they can’t even compare to Zipang in terms of significance. Anyway, in early 2008 Scythe launched a cooler with this particular name and it proved an excellent solution back in the days, although we can’t say that it became very popular among computer enthusiasts as well as mainstream users. However, not so long ago the Japanese cooler maker released a second version of the ZIpang cooler designed with M.A.P.S. technology that has proven very effective in Mugen 2 and Kabuto coolers.

Our today’s review will take a closer look at Zipang 2 cooling solution, its performance and design.

Package and Accessories

Zipang 2 ships in a very compact cardboard box, which is at the same time extremely informative.You can find all the info about the cooler on the box side panels.

They contain the description of the cooler key peculiarities, the details about employed technologies, technical specifications, as well as list of included accessories. The accessories bundle is stored in a small cardboard box and looks as follows.

Among the items you get with Zipang 2 cooler there is a retention kit for Socket 478 platforms, retention kit for contemporary AMD platforms, universal retention kit for LGA775/1366 sockets. There is also an installation guide and a 1 g pack of gray SilMORE thermal compound.

The new cooler is made in China and will be available at a recommended price of $58. The manufacturer provides this cooler with a 2-year warranty.

Design and Functionality

New cooler measures 145x149x106 mm and weighs 715 g. just like its predecessor, Zipang 2 is a top cooler with the airflow directed towards the PCB surface and consists of six copper heatpipes 6 mm in diameter, aluminum heatsink arrays, small additional heatsink and a 140 mm fan.

All heatpipes come out of the same side of the cooler base, twist in a sophisticated curve and pierce aluminum heatsink plates. The fan covers most of the heatsink top and directs the airflow between the plates.

As I have already said above, the heatsink consists of six arrays that are all connected with small bridges adding sturdiness to the whole thing.

According to Scythe, multiple heatsink arrays like that are called M.A.P.S. (Multiple Pass-Through Airflow Structure). This structure reduces the airflow resistance and stimulates fast heat transfer from the parts of the heatsink closest to the heatpipes, which improves overall cooling efficiency of each heatsink array and the cooler as a whole.

Each heatsink array consists of 68 aluminum plates, each 0.35 mm thick that are spaced out at 2 mm from one another.Two heatsink arrays on the sides are 23 mm wide, and the four in the middle – 21 mm wide. All plates are of the same height, which makes 35 mm. The calculated effective heatsink surface of Zipang 2 cooler (without the lower additional heatsink) makes 5,890 cm2, which is 7.7% smaller than that of Kabuto (6,380 cm2).

In my opinion, this is not the best way to do it. Two central heatpipes that bear the maximum thermal load (which you can check simply by touch) are right beneath the fan rotor, which is 49 mm in diameter. So, part of two heatsink arrays that are right beneath the fan rotor won’t be cooled as efficiently as the next two arrays located in better ventilated zones. They should have directed the two central heatpipes coming out of the cooler base to these particular arrays, the second and the fifth from the left (as shown on the left photograph above), because this way the hottest heatpipes and heatsink plates would have been cooled best of all.

Another drawback about Scythe Zipang 2 cooler, in my opinion, is excessive curving of the heatpipes on the way from the base to the heatsink.

The reasons behind that are absolutely clear: they wanted to make sure that the cooler heatpipes wouldn’t interfere with tall heatsinks on the chipset and mainboard voltage regulator components during Zipan 2 installation. However, I think Scythe engineers decided to play it way too safe, because if these heatpipes were leading straight to the heatsink without any additional curving along the way, they would still create no obstacle. I specifically checked if this supposition was correct on three different mainboards, and on none of them the virtual path of the heatpipes going straight interfered with the mainboard heatsinks. At the same time, we can’t deny the fact that heat flows quicker along straight heatpipes rather than curved ones, which means that straight heatpipes have higher heat transfer rate. It is a pity that Scythe Zipang 2 lost a bit of the cooling efficiency here. In conclusion I have to say that the heatpipes are soldered to a copper nickel-plated base plate, which is 1.9 mm thick.

The base of Zipang 2 cooler is extremely even.The finish quality is also excellent.The thermal compound imprint on the CPU heat-spreader turned out very good.

This is the good old buddy Scythe Kaze Maru, 140x140x25 mm in size with 11 blades. This fan model is called SY1425SL12ML and is based on a slide bearing with claimed MTBF of 30,000 hours. It rotates with constant speed of 1,000 RPM. According to the specs, at this rotation speed the fan should create 51.43 CFM airflow and generate no more than 22.74 dBA of noise. The static pressure is not mentioned in the fan specs. The maximum power consumption shouldn’t exceed 1.5 W.

The fan is attached firmly to the heatsink using two wire clips that catch on to the fan loops with one end and go into special heatsink grooves with another.

Since these retention “loops” on Scythe Kaze Maru fan are at the same distance from one another as the loops on the regular 120 mm fans, you can easily replace the default fan with an alternative 120 mm fan using the same wire clips.

In conclusion I would like to offer you three photos comparing the heatsinks of Scythe Kabuto and Zipang 2 side by side.

Compatibility and Installation Tips

Scythe Zipang 2 may be installed on all contemporary platforms except LGA1156, which is actually not quite current yet. The cooler is equipped with a universal V.T.M.S. (Versatile Tool-Free Multiplatform System) retention, which makes installation extremely simple and doesn’t require any special tools or efforts on the user’s part. To install the cooler you have to insert the appropriate retention brackets into the sides of the lower heatsink and then install the cooler onto the CPU.

Theoretically, you don’t need to remove the mainboard from the system case in order to install or remove Zipang 2 cooler, however, this is only theory. The thing is that all retention brackets are extremely close to the cooler heatsink that is why it is nearly impossible to lock or unlock them inside the cluttered system case. It is especially true for the so-called “push-pin” retention used for LGA775 and 1366 processors, which are extremely difficult to work with even when the mainboard is completely outside the system case, not to mention when it is still inside…

And here is proof that they didn’t have to curve the heatpipes so much.

However, once you have successfully installed the cooler, its heatsink covers a significant part of the mainboard PCB including all heatsinks over the voltage regulator components and even the first DIMM slot (which may be empty on some other mainboards).

To achieve maximum cooling efficiency inside an ATX tower case, it is best to install Scythe Zipang 2 with the heatpipes ends facing up. It is possible to install the cooler with the heatpipes lined up horizontally, but never with the heatpipes ends facing down.

By the way, note that the schematic image of the Zipang 2 cooler doesn’t have the curved heatpipes :)In our case Zipang 2 was installed in the most preferable way.Note that you can also download Scythe Zipang 2 installation instructions from the official web-site.

Testbed and Methods

All tests were performed inside a closed system case. Our testbed was identical for all coolers throughout the test session and featured the following configuration:

  • Mainboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe (Intel X58 Express), LGA 1366, BIOS 1606;
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-920, 2.67 GHz, 1.25V, 4 x 256 KB L2, 8MB L3 (Bloomfield, C0);
  • Thermal interface: Arctic Silver 5;
  • Graphics card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260 AMP2! Edition 896 MB, 648/1404/2108 MHz (1030 RPM);
  • Memory: DDR3 PC3-12800 3 x 2 GB OCZ Platinum Low-Voltage Triple Channel (Spec: 1600MHz / 7-7-7-24 / 1.65 V);
  • System HDD: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-II, 300 GB storage capacity, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” silencer and cooler chassis;
  • Backup HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS (SATA-II, 1000 GB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
  • Optical drive: Samsung SH-S183L;
  • System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S1 fans at 820 RPM and Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan at 840 RPM; back panel: two Scythe SlipStream 120 fans at 840 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM at the top of the case);
  • Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2;
  • Power supply: Zalman ZM1000-HP 1000 W (with a default 140 mm fan).

During this test session we managed to overclock our 45nm quad-core processor with the multiplier set at 21x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 3.93 GHz (+47.4%) using the weakest cooling system of the today’s testing participants. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.3375 V (+11.5%) in the mainboard BIOS.

The memory voltage was at 1.62 V and its frequency was around 1500 MHz (7-7-7-14_1T timings). All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and connected with CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged (set to Auto).

All tests were performed under Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86 SP1. We used the following software during our test session:

  • Real Temp 3.30 RC10 – to monitor the processor core temperature;
  • Linpack 32-bit with LinX shell version – to create maximum CPU load (two test cycles, 15 Linpack runs in each cycle with 1624 MB RAM capacity involved);
  • RivaTuner 2.24 – to visually control temperature changes (with RTCore plugin).

The stabilization period for the CPU temperature between the two test cycles was about 10 minutes. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest processor core of the four for the results charts. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1 °C precision that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperature was unusually high and stayed at 23.5-24 °C.

The noise level of each cooler was measured after 1:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The noise level for each cooler was tested outside the system case when the only noise sources in the lab were the cooler and its fan(s). To measure the noise we set the cooler onto a 50 mm stand made of polyurethane foam material on top of a desk and the noise meter was always at a 25 cm distance from the cooler. The rotation speed of the coolers fan(s) varied in the entire supported range by changing the voltage with the help of an independent controller. The lowest noise reading our noise meter device can register is 29.8 dBA and the subjectively comfortable noise level is at 35 dBA.

Keeping in mind the design of the new cooling solution we decided to compare it against the already mentioned Scythe Kabuto ($48) equipped with a 120 mm Scythe Slip Stream PWM fan ($9.70) working in the rotation speed interval from 800 to 1320 RPM and with a more powerful Slip Stream fan model working at 1800 RPM.

We used the same fans, besides the default one, to also test our today’s hero – Scythe Zipang 2 cooler (marked with “SS” letters on the results diagrams). We attached Slip Stream fans using standard wire clips of the Zipang 2 cooler, but also employed Noctua silicone mounts.

This way we could not only slightly lower the level of generated noise by eliminating direct contact between the fan frame and the heatsink, but also improve the fan cooling efficiency a little bit by raising the fan 3 mm above the heatsink (which lowered airflow resistance). And one more thing: besides the default Scythe Kaze Maru at 1000 RPM, Zipang 2 was also tested with a more powerful fan of the same model working at 1830 RPM.

Of course, we couldn’t leave out our usual reference coolers such as Thermalright IFX-14 ($79.90) and XILENCE Black Hawk COPPER ($90).

The latter cooler was tested in its default configuration with automatic fan rotation speed enabled in the interval from 1030 to 1830 RPM as well as at subjectively quiet speed of 1260 RPM. As for Thermalright IFX-14, it was equipped with two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe MF12-S3HS fans ($23×2) working in quiet mode at 1110 RPM and at maximum rotation speed of 1760 RPM.

Cooling Efficiency

At first let’s check out the cooling efficiency of our today’s testing participants. Since top-coolers prove more efficient in cases that have a fan on the side panel (and my Antec case doesn’t have that), we decided to test the coolers not only inside a closed system case but also inside the case with the removed side panel. These results have been singled out into a separate group on the diagram.

Unfortunately, Zipang 2 in its standard configuration yields in efficiency to Kabuto and this yield is pretty significant: 5 °C in a closed system case and 4 °C in a case with removed side panel. However, as soon as you replace the default fan with Scythe Slip Stream 120 borrowed from Kabuto, and the gap reduces to 3 and 1 °C respectively. Another remarkable thing is that the cooling efficiency of Zipang 2 with Scythe Slip Stream 120 fan at 1800 RPM is at least as high as that of the same cooler with a 140 mm Scythe Kaze Maru fan at 1830 RPM. Although a 140 mm fan seemed to suit better for a heatsink of that size, things turned out completely different in reality. In other words, Slip Stream with its small rotor and good airflow cools the hottest part of the Zipang 2 cooler (two middle heatsink arrays), while Kaze Maru is not too good at that.

Both Scythe coolers fall about 3-4 °C behind the copper giant XILENCE Black Hawk COPPER in medium fan rotation speed mode and about 4-6 °C at maximum fan rotation speed. As for the top Thermalright IFX-14 equipped with a pair of highly efficient fans, all other three today’s testing participants cannot even dream of competing against it. However, I have to say that their cooling efficiency improves greater inside the system case with removed side panel than the efficiency of IFX-14, which allow to lower the gap between them and the test session leader.

Acoustic Performance

Now let’s talk about the noise levels of the today’s testing participants. First comes the graph for Scythe Zipang 2 acoustics and its fan power consumption.

Obviously, the 140 mm fan of the Scythe Zipang 2 cooler is not only quiet but also pretty economical. We detected no parasitic noises during its work. The fan’s startup voltage is 2.4 V.

Now let’s compare the noise levels from all three top coolers participating in our today’s test session in the entire speed range of their default fans.

Approximately until 800 RPM mark Scythe Zipang 2 is the quietest. However, after this threshold its noise becomes stronger than that of Scythe Kabuto and XILENCE Black Hawk COPPER. The latter is overall the quietest of the three, because its dBA are lower at the same fan rotation speed.

Finally, here is the summary chart with the noise levels of all tested coolers in the same modes that were used during efficiency tests.


I have t admit that I expected a bit more from Scythe Zipang 2 solution than it actually demonstrated today. Less expensive Scythe Kabuto cools the CPU a little better. The only thing that the new cooler is really good at is quiet operation. Our earlier experience proves that giving advice to cooling solutions makers doesn’t always work, because in most cases the manufacturers prefer to disregard what we have to say. Nevertheless, I would like to make a few recommendations for Scythe, which should help us better understand the reasons behind its defeat today.

First of all, the cooler design doesn’t seem to be well-finished. To achieve the fastest heat transfer between the cooler base and its heatsink, they should remove the additional heatpipe curve. Besides, more efficient heatpipes layout inside the heatsink (if the two central heatpipes lead to the best cooled heatsink arrays) will lower the CPU temperature even more. At the same time, why not bundle Zipang 2 cooler with Scythe Slip Stream 120 fan? The tests showed that the cooler worked more effectively with this fan than with Kaze Maru. Moreover, this change doesn’t require any modification of the fan retention and won’t cost anything extra. And an additional benefit will be slightly lower weight of the assembled Zipang 2.

We should specifically dwell on the retention mechanism for LGA775 and LGA1366 mainboards. To begin with it doesn’t provide as good and secure hold (compared with screw-on retention). Moreover, it is so inconvenient to work with on a large and low Zipang 2 cooler that you won’t ever want to install this cooler more than once. Yes, it must be very simple and inexpensive to make, but we have to admit that retention is currently the weakest spot of Zipang 2 cooler. On our part we would like to ask Scythe if they could include a new LGA1156 retention instead of the outdate Socket 478 one, as it might come in handy in the future. We also hope that it won’t take long before we see the next revision of the cooler of the Rising Sun and there will be a worthy rival to XILENCE Black Hawk COPPER at a reasonable price.

About The Author

XbitLabs Team

We are a team of enthusiasts thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying tech.

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