Thermal Compound Roundup - January 2012
By Rafael Coelho on January 16, 2012


Introduction

Following up on our Thermal Compound Roundup – December 2011 review, we are adding five more thermal compounds to our roundup, for a total of 55 different models from Akasa, Antec, Arctic Cooling, Arctic Silver, Biostar, Coollaboratory, Cooler Master, Coolink, Deepcool, Dow Corning, Enermax, Evercool, EVGA, Gelid, Glacialstars, Innovation Cooling, Masscool, Nanoxia, Nexus, Noctua, Phobya, Prolimatech, Scythe, Shin-Etsu, Spire, StarTech, Revoltec, Rosewill, Thermalright, Thermaltake, TIM Consultants, Titan, Tuniq, Xigmatek, Zalman, and ZEROtherm. In this review, we will determine if certain products are superior to others. We will also try another alternative thermal compound to see if it works.

For a better understanding of how thermal compound (a.k.a. thermal grease or thermal paste) works and how to correctly apply it, please read our How to Correctly Apply Thermal Grease tutorial and our article What is the Best Way to Apply Thermal Grease? The most important concept that you must understand is that it is a mistake to think that the more thermal grease you apply, the better. The thermal compound is a worse heat conductor than copper and aluminum (the metals usually found on cooler bases). So, if you apply more thermal compound than necessary, it will actually lower the cooling performance instead of raising it.

Figure 1 shows the five new thermal compounds that we are adding to our roundup.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 1: The new thermal compounds included in this roundup

Let’s get a closer look at the new contenders in the next pages.

The Thermal Compounds

We will now examine the five new thermal compounds that we are including in our roundup.

Figures 2 and 3 illustrate the Antec Formula 5, a silver-based gray compound.

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Figure 2: Antec Formula 5

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Figure 3: Antec Formula 5

Figure 4 presents the Arctic Silver Arctic Alumina thermal compound, which is the only white compound we are testing today.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 4: Arctic Alumina from Arctic Silver

We also tested the Evercool Sidewinder (STC-01) gray thermal compound, shown in Figures 6 and 7. As you can see, the package comes with four syringes of the product.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 5: Evercool Sidewinder

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 6: Evercool Sidewinder

The Thermal Compounds (Cont’d)

In Figures 7 and 8, you can see the Tuniq TX-2 gray thermal compound.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 7: Tuniq TX-2

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 8: Tuniq TX-2

Figures 9 and 10 reveal the last “true” thermal compound for today: the Xigmatek Freezing Point (G4718) gray compound.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 9: Xigmatek Freezing Point

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 10: Xigmatek Freezing Point

Still searching for the “kitchen thermal compound,” this time we applied some mustard over our CPU, as seen in Figure 11.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 11: Mustard

For a detailed look at the other thermal compounds included in this roundup, please read our Thermal Compound Roundup – December 2011 review.

How We Tested

We tested the thermal compounds using the same testbed system that we currently use to test CPU coolers, which is fully described below. Our Core i7-860 (quad-core, 2.8 GHz) CPU, which is a socket LGA1156 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power), was overclocked to 3.3 GHz (150 MHz base clock and 22x multiplier), and we kept the standard core voltage (Vcore). We used a Zalman CNPS9900 MAX CPU cooler. The only different part in each test was the thermal compound itself.

We measured temperature with the CPU under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all threads, we ran Prime 95 25.11 (in this version, the software uses all available threads) with the “In-place Large FFTs” option. For each test, we applyied the same quantity of thermal compound (about the size of a grain of rice) at the center of the CPU, as shown in Figure 12.

Thermal Compounds
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Figure 12: Applying thermal compound

After each test, we checked the base of the cooler, making sure the quantity of thermal compound was optimal. The thermal compound must be spread evenly on the metallic part of the CPU, without exceeding it, creating a thin layer. The “fingerprint” shown in Figure 13 illustrates that the compound was properly applied.

Thermal Compounds
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Figure 13: CPU “fingerprint,” showing the thermal compound was correctly applied

Room temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer. The core temperature was read with the SpeedFan program (available from the CPU thermal sensors), using an arithmetic average of the core temperature readings. During the tests, the left panel of the case was open.

We also tested the system with no thermal compound on the CPU.

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

Software Used

Error Margin

Since both room temperature and core temperature readings have 1 °C resolution, we adopted a 2 °C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.

Our Tests

The table below presents the results of our measurements.

Thermal Compound Room Temp. Core Temp. Difference
No Thermal Compound 26 °C 88 °C 62 °C
Zalman ZM-STG2 24 °C 59 °C 35 °C
Prolimatech Thermal Compound 24 °C 56 °C 32 °C
Cooler Master Thermal Compound Kit 23 °C 58 °C 35 °C
Evercool EC420-TU15 22 °C 57 °C 35 °C
Spire Bluefrost 22 °C 58 °C 36 °C
Gelid GC Extreme 26 °C 61 °C 35 °C
Coolink Chillaramic 26 °C 61 °C 35 °C
Deepcool Z9 26 °C 61 °C 35 °C
Noctua NT-H1 26 °C 61 °C 35 °C
Thermalright The Chill Factor 26 °C 63 °C 37 °C
Antec Thermal Grease 24 °C 58 °C 34 °C
Arctic Silver 5 24 °C 57 °C 33 °C
Arctic Silver Céramique 24 °C 57 °C 33 °C
Biostar Nano Diamond 22 °C 57 °C 35 °C
Xigmatek PTI-G3606 22 °C 55 °C 33 °C
Antec Formula 7 21 °C 55 °C 34 °C
Arctic Cooling MX-4 21 °C 56 °C 35 °C
Cooler Master High Performance 22 °C 56 °C 34 °C
Thermaltake Thermal Compound 21 °C 54 °C 33 °C
Tuniq TX-3 22 °C 54 °C 32 °C
Shin-Etsu MicroSi 14 °C 49 °C 35 °C
Scythe Thermal Elixer Scyte-1000 14 °C 49 °C 35 °C
Titan Connoisseur Platinum Grease 14 °C 49 °C 35 °C
Evercool Cruise Missile STC-03 14 °C 49 °C 35 °C
Rosewill RCX-TC001 14 °C 53 °C 39 °C
Pink Lipstick 14 °C 54 °C 40 °C

Arctic Silver Matrix

12 °C

50 °C

38 °C

Evercool T-grease 800

13 °C

49 °C

36 °C

Gelid GC-2

13 °C

50 °C

37 °C

Prolimatech PK-1

13 °C

47 °C

34 °C

Tuniq TX-4

12 °C

48 °C

36 °C

Toothpaste

13 °C

53 °C

40 °C

Toothpaste (12 h after)

13 °C

56 °C

43 °C

Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400

13 °C

47 °C

34 °C

Evercool Deep Bomb

13 °C

47 °C

34 °C

TIM Consultants Thermal Grease

13 °C

48 °C

35 °C

Dow Corning TC-1996

13 °C

49 °C

36 °C

Nexus TMP-1000

13 °C

50 °C

37 °C

Spray oil

13 °C

53 °C

40 °C

Akasa 450 14 °C 50 °C 36 °C
Enermax (Dow Corning TC-5121) 14 °C 47 °C 33 °C
GlacialStars IceTherm II 14 °C 49 °C 35 °C
Rosewill RCX-TC060PRO 14 °C 56 °C 42 °C
Titan Royal Grease 14 °C 52 °C 38 °C
Chocolate 14 °C 89 °C 75 °C
Arctic Silver Céramique 2 13 °C 48 °C 35 °C
Akasa 455 13 °C 49 °C 36 °C
Masscool G751 13 °C 49 °C 36 °C
Thermaltake TG-1 13 °C 47 °C 34 °C
ZEROtherm ZT-100 13 °C 51 °C 38 °C
Mayonnaise 13 °C 48 °C 35 °C
Coollaboratory LIQUID Ultra 18 °C 52 °C 34 °C
EVGA Frostbyte 18 °C 56 °C 38 °C
IC Diamond 7 Carat 18 °C 53 °C 35 °C
Phobya HeGrease Extreme 18 °C 52 °C 34 °C
StarTech Heatgrease10 18 °C 54 °C 36 °C
Butter 18 °C 58 °C 40 °C
Butter (12 h later) 19 °C 61 °C 42 °C
IC Diamond 24 Carat 24 °C 58 °C 34 °C
Nanoxia Heat Buster 24 °C 58 °C 34 °C
Masscool Fanner-420 24 °C 62 °C 38 °C
Revoltec Thermal Grease Nano 24 °C 60 °C 36 °C
Thermaltake TG-2 24 °C 62 °C 38 °C
Cream Cheese 24 °C 61 °C 37 °C
Cream Cheese (12 h later) 22 °C 62 °C 40 °C
Antec Formula 5 25 °C 59 °C 34 °C
Arctic Alumina 25 °C 62 °C 37 °C
Evercool Sidewinder 25 °C 62 °C 37 °C
Tuniq TX-2 25 °C 59 °C 34 °C
Xigmatek Freezing Point 26 °C 59 °C 33 °C
Mustard 25 °C 63 °C 38 °C

In the following graph, at full load you can see how many degrees Celsius hotter the CPU core is than the air outside the case. The lower this difference, the better is the performance of the thermal compound. The red bars refer to the compounds included in this batch.

Thermal Compound Roundup

Conclusions

This month, three thermal compounds proved to be great products: the Xigmatek Freezing Point (which achieved the same performance as the Xigmatek PTI-G3606), the Antec Formula 5 (which performed just as the Formula 7 from the same manufacturer), and the Tuniq TX-2.

On the other hand, mustard didn’t disappoint. It performed as well as some commercial thermal compounds (at least for the first minutes) and better than lipstick, oil, butter, and toothpaste, although mayonnaise is, as of now, unbeatable among the alternative compounds we tried.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Thermal-Compound-Roundup-January-2012/1468


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