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 Methodology

Testing Methods

Madshrimps (c)

The stock cooler above will be the only heatsink used in this round-up. However there are problems with Intel's stock heatsink foremost being its push-pin mounting system. Made of plastic they have finite lifespan and repeated installations can eventually cause damage. Intel wanted to make things easy for PC-Hobbyists and push-pins were the solution. Given the number of times I would be removing the cooler to re-install thermal pastes, I decided upon a modification.

Madshrimps (c)

The mounting system pictured is similar to what I use for certain water-blocks which have problematic mounting hardware themselves. The testing process involved repeated installations to find the best "mount." For each paste I chose the best of three installs, which became a time consuming process. Cleaning the heatsink and IHS between installations used almost all my Arctic Silver ArcticClean.

Madshrimps (c)

The only installation which could not be repeated was the Intel's factory installed thermal material. Comparing the effects (if any) of different application methods such as spreading or the dollop method then doubled the overall number of installations. The dollop method involves placing a drop in the center or thin line of paste across the IHS and then simply mounting the heatsink ensuring the pressure is evenly distributed. The theory behind the dollop application is that "compressing" rather then spreading the paste forces air out and thermal material into the gaps along both surfaces.

Madshrimps (c)

As seen above Intel uses a combination installing their factory paste. We can see that the paste below is already spread and when the heatsink is installed TIM will be compressed filling the gaps and ideally displacing the air from those surface gaps. Examining differences between different application methods involved taking photos of both the heatsink base and IHS before and after.

Madshrimps (c)

Intel factory installed paste distributed evenly under the mounting pressure. A certain benefit of Socket 775 is the clamping mechanism which holds down the CPU. This prevents the CPU from potential damage as in Ziff Sockets when the CPU is pulled out attached to the heatsink. Even with the Ziff locked I've had this occur so many times I began unlocking the small lever, at least as far as I could. Note the large ridge of paste at the right of the photo.

Madshrimps (c)

Ultimately temps will provide the best proof for the specific application method ->
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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