Once you progress beyond the basic heatsink with a fan on top, the big thing in air cooling is the tower cooler. A combination of heatpipes, aluminum cooling fins, and large, quiet low-rpm fans, the tower coolers are very effective. This was clearly demonstrated in the recent AnandTech review of the Tuniq Tower.

However, the added efficiency is not without a few compromises. Most of the effective tower coolers are extremely large, with many barely fitting in a standard case. Prices are also at the upper end of the air cooling spectrum, although $50 to $80 for an effective tower cooler must still be considered a bargain compared to other computer components. The big towers are also normally heavy, exceeding manufacturers' maximum recommendations for heatsink weight.

This added weight has not been a particular problem in desktop/tower setups with a secure motherboard, but it can be a real issue for those who take their PCs with them to LAN parties, for example. Anyone who has ordered a PC and had it shipped to them has sometimes been greeted by a CPU heatsink/fan that worked its way off during transport. Moving a PC with a heavy and bulky cooling tower is risky.

Despite these concerns there is one thing that is difficult to ignore with the big tower coolers. They cool exceptionally well, lowering CPU temperature dramatically and extending overclocking capabilities of the systems that use them. That is certainly why the design is so attractive in today's market.


Several manufacturers have tried to produce lighter and cheaper cooling towers in an effort to address some of these concerns. Two such efforts are the focus of today's review - a comparison of the new Thermalright MST-9775 and the Scythe Katana. Both Thermalright and Scythe are big names in the cooling tower business, with Scythe producing the Scythe Infinity and Thermalright marketing the Thermalright Ultra 120.

The Scythe Katana and Thermalright MST-9775 are a different approach to the cooling problem. While both are tower inspired, they are both very lightweight. To put this in perspective keep in mind that the excellent Tuniq Tower weighs about a kilogram (2.2 lbs) with a 120mm fan. The Scythe Katana weighs around 300g and the Thermalright MST-9775 tips the scale at just 425g with the supplied fan. These specifications are well within the Intel and AMD specifications for any motherboard either cooler can be used with.

Both coolers are also much smaller than most towers, meaning they will fit almost any motherboard and case. The cost is also low. The Katana and MST-9775 normally sell for less than $30, and we found them both selling around $25 at several sites. The Thermalright MST-9775 was just recently introduced and it was supplied to AT by Frozen CPU, which always seems to have the latest in cooling. The Scythe Katana was purchased for review.

All of this is good, but it really doesn't mean much unless the coolers deliver better performance than the stock cooler. There are a couple of questions then. First, can the coolers outperform our retail Intel cooler? If they can, is there any reason to spend more on the big towers like the Tuniq or Infinity?

Thermalright MST-9775
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  • Vidmar - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    Thanks for the info. Now I wonder if someone is making a CPU cooler where the heatpipes are setup to be in a somewhat vertical orientation when the case is vertical?

    If you look at some GPU and chipset heatpipe coolers they obviously had that in mind with their design. Hot gas will flow up, gravity will pull the cool liquid down.

    I would be willing to bet (based upon the heatpipe design) that Thermalright MST-9775 would have done better in a horizontal orientation than when in a vertical orientation. Can you re-test the Thermalright MST-9775 in a vertical orientation and see if it made any difference?

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Vidmar - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    That should have been "Can you re-test the Thermalright MST-9775 in a horizontal orientation and see if it made any difference?" Reply
  • anandtech02148 - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    just curious, with a 520wtt psu, does psu fan spin constantly?
    the hardwares you have seems to indicate this will utilized 80% of the psu, what's the total load power for this?

    will this run stable if you put a 8800gtx instead of 7900gtx?

    now i can visit Anandtech too for cooler reviews instead of Frostytech.com, great start with the under $30 coolers

    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    The OCZ 520w PS handles a pair of overclocked 7900GTX in SLI mode just fine. We have destoyed power supplies with higher wattage ratings with this same configuration. It is also quiet for a PS, which is why it is also used in the hard drive test bed. We had no problem with a single 8800GTX in this test rig, but we have not yet tried 8800GTX SLI in this rig. Reply
  • ninethirty - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    Wondering -- for those of us with space-challenged cases, could you mention the height of the coolers in question? For people who can't fit a Tuniq Tower, the limitation is likely to be height.
    If it's already mentioned somewhere, then I apologize for missing it.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    The Katana is 130mm tall (5.11") and the standard Thermalright MST-9775 is 71mm (2.8"). Thermalright also makes a shorter OEM version of the MST-9775 called the MST-9775 LE that is said to fit any case configuration available.

    The Tuniq Tower 120 in contrast is 155mm tall and mid-tower cases are said to be 190mm on average in the heatsink height dimension.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    I second that motion. I have an Lian Li PC-G50, and the PSU sits right above the CPU, only aftermarket cooler I can think of that may fit, would be the Ole Gigabyte one (which if memory serves, it was a pretty good cooler). Reply
  • banshee164 - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    No offense guys, but aren't you just a little behind with the heatsinks here? The Katana has been out for a year & a half now, and the MST-9775 has been around since the summer... Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    While the Katana has been out for a year and a half, most earlier reviews tested it on the hot Pressler or a Socket 939 AMD. Performance on the Core 2 Duo is quite different, and C2D has only been available about 6 months.

    We are testing some of the older and more popular coolers that are still available because what was true of the Katana on Pressler or AMD is certainly NOT the case on Core 2 Duo.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    If you've been around AnandTech for a while, you know we haven't done cooling reviews in quite some time. The idea is to establish a baseline of testing results for some of the popular coolers, even if they've been out a while and over time we will be adding more cooler results. Basically, we have to start somewhere and move forward. Luckily, unlike motherboards, GPUs, and some other components, HSFs tend to have a pretty long shelf-life (at least for the effective solutions). Reply

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