Thermal Compound Roundup - November 2011
By Rafael Coelho on November 15, 2011
Following up on our Thermal Compound Roundup – October 2011 review, we are adding five more thermal compounds to our roundup, for a total of 50 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, Nexus, Noctua, Phobya, Prolimatech, Scythe, Shin-Etsu, Spire, StarTech, 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 thermal compound “from the kitchen” 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 improving it.
Figure 1 shows the five new thermal compounds that we are adding to our roundup.
Let’s get a closer look at the new contenders in the next pages.
We will now examine the five new thermal compounds that we are including in our roundup.
Figures 2 and 3 illustrate the Coollaboratory LIQUID Ultra compound. According to the manufacturer, this compound is made of pure liquid metal, without solid particles. It comes with a cleaning sponge, two brushes and an isopropyl alcohol wet tissue, which must be used to clean the CPU and cooler surfaces before applying it.
Figures 4 and 5 present the EVGA Frostbyte thermal compound, which has a gray color.
We also tested the Innovation Cooling (IC) Diamond 7 Carat gray thermal compound, shown in Figure 6.
In Figures 7 and 8, you can see the Phobya HeGrease Extreme gray thermal compound.
Figures 9 and 10 reveal the last “true” thermal compound of today: the StarTech Heatgrease10 white compound.
After the successful performance mayonnaise achieved last month, we decided to try using another “bread topping,” so we applied some butter, as you can see in Figure 11.
For a detailed look at the other thermal compounds included in this roundup, please read our “Thermal Compound Roundup – October 2011” review.
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.
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.
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.
Operating System Configuration
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.
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
Evercool T-grease 800
Toothpaste (12 h after)
Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Evercool Deep Bomb
TIM Consultants Thermal Grease
Dow Corning TC-1996
|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|
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.
From the new group of thermal compounds we tested, most of them showed regular performance except for the Coollaboratory LIQUID Ultra and the Phobya HeGrease Extreme compounds, which presented good cooling performance.
This month, our non-standard thermal compound was butter. Compared to other alternative compounds we have used, it was not bad at all, even considering that its cooling performance degraded quickly. Unfortunately, it didn’t compare to mayonnaise, but we will continue to search for the ultimate “accidental thermal compound.”