Spreading it Thin TIM Roundup 2007

Cooling/Thermal Compounds by KeithSuppe @ 2007-12-13

Arctic Silver dominated the TIM (Thermal transfer Material) industry for many years. They may have invested more in R&D then all their competition combined. Many ask is there anything else out there? Today we hope to answer this question.

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Test Results / Conclusion


Madshrimps (c)

Arctic Silver ArcticClean was used to clean both the IHS and heatsink base between tests. I know of no other cleaning and preparation product on the market which works effectively as ArctiClean. Prepping your thermal transfer surfaces is just as important as the TIM you’re applying and how you apply it. On a side-note Arctic Silver also hosts what must be the most in-depth instruction pages of any TIM maker. Below I've illustrated a photo to show their recommended "line" across the IHS application for Quad Core. The water block pictured above with the phenomenal finish is Koolance CPU330.

Madshrimps (c)

(Background photo borrowed from TheRegister, Bits 'n' Chips)

Intel Test System
CPU Intel Quad Core Q6600 Retail 2.40GHz (1.285V) Socket-775
Mainboards Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
Memory OCZ Technology DDR3-1066 (2x1MB)
Graphics BFG 8800GTX
Power Supply NZXT Precise 1200W
Storage / Optical Seagate Barracuda ST30815AS / Plextor 760SA
Cooling Intel Stock Cooler used through out
Operating System Windows XP

Test Methodology:
In order to simulate a 100% LOAD to all four cores I chose Prime95 v25.5a. This and Orthos X are the only two programs which currently support Quad core testing. Core temps were recorded using Core Temp 0.95 and an average was calculated from the values. To increase wattage beyond the processor's TDP our Q6600 was overclocked from 2.4GHz to 3.0GHz (Vcore 1.28V / 9x334FSB) for a baseline 128W at IDLE. I recorded every result with a crop of Prime95 and Core Temp 0.95. An example can be found in the thumbnail below (temps are exceptionally low in this example as it represents H20 temps under LOAD)...

Madshrimps (c)

In every test I applied a specifc paste then cycled between IDLE and LOAD as produced by Prime95. After 7-days I removed the heatsink and photographed the IHS and heatsink base. For each paste I repeated the process above three times for each paste and for each application method to ensure I was getting solid contact and spread. I chose the lowest temp out of these multiple mounts for use in our results. In theory this should have given us the best contact (heat transfer). Throughout these tests I made sure the Ambient temp remained at a steadfast 21°C.
The charts are separated by application method.

Madshrimps (c)

Madshrimps (c)

Conclusive Thoughts

With the exception of Intel's factory installed thermal interface material, the temp difference between pastes was relatively close. Clearly synthetic blend pastes are now dominating the market and while silver infused products have great potential they are not the competition killers they once were.

By the criteria laid out on the first page:

  • Thermal conductivity of the material
  • Electrical conductivity of the material
  • Spreading characteristics of the material
  • Long-term stability and reliability of the material
  • Ease of application

    In the list below in order of the best performer first, reflects the criteria above as best as possible:

    1. Tuniq TX2
    2. Arctic Silver AS5
    3. Arctic Cooling MX-2
    4. Arctic Silver Ceramique
    5. Nanotherm PCM+
    6. Intel stock thermal interface material

    The number of pastes tested today doesn’t come close to what’s out there. One thermal interface material in particular I wanted to test was Innovation Cooling's IC Diamond 7 Carat Thermal Compound which in theory has the ideal formula, and CooLaboratory LiquidMetal Pad different from their Liquid Metal Pro. After the holidays I will be repeating these tests including the products mentioned on both a simulated-die and on the Q6600.

    If you’re in the market for a new tube of thermal paste, I would strongly recommend Tuniq TX-2 as your next choice. It out performed the competition tested here, it’s much easier to apply and remove, and requires no spreading. Initially I mentioned price, but when you think about the role your TIM plays in the scheme on things their all invaluable and whether one paste is a few dollars more or less pales in comparison.

    I would like to thank all the manufacturers fro submitting samples.
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    Comment from Rutar @ 2007/12/13
    that TX-2 seems to be good stuff, but I think you made an error in the ranking of AS5 and MX2 because AS5 definatly looses for long term stability and electrical safety

    Have you tested the difference between the line and the blob method?
    Comment from zerotol @ 2007/12/14
    is it difference between applying tim with a blob that BIG ??

    how many times did u guys test that , thats a huge difference in temps
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/12/14
    been using blob method for all my CPU HSF reviews last 2 years and it allows for more consistent results compared to spreading it out over the IHS
    Comment from Rutar @ 2007/12/14
    But there is the method of using a line on intel CPUs or a blob, both without spreading and it has to be solved by scientific testing.
    Comment from thorgal @ 2007/12/15
    Great little write-up Keith, I learned quite a bit

    You've certainly got some attention from other sites as well, even an xtremesystems forum thread about this article
    Comment from Arctucas @ 2007/12/15
    I see a lot of these TIM reviews, but never see my favorite; Shin-Etsu X23.
    Comment from Rutar @ 2007/12/16
    Originally Posted by Arctucas View Post
    I see a lot of these TIM reviews, but never see my favorite; Shin-Etsu X23.
    MX-2 is said to be the same