Thermal Compound Roundup - November 2011
By Rafael Otto Coelho on November 15, 2011


Introduction

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.

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 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.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 2: Coollaboratory LIQUID Ultra

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 3: Items that come with the Coollaboratory LIQUID Ultra

Figures 4 and 5 present the EVGA Frostbyte thermal compound, which has a gray color.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 4: EVGA Frostbyte

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 5: EVGA Frostbyte

We also tested the Innovation Cooling (IC) Diamond 7 Carat gray thermal compound, shown in Figure 6.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 6: IC Diamond 7 Carat

The Thermal Compounds (Cont’d)

In Figures 7 and 8, you can see the Phobya HeGrease Extreme gray thermal compound.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 7: Phobya HeGrease Extreme

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 8: Phobya HeGrease Extreme

Figures 9 and 10 reveal the last “true” thermal compound of today: the StarTech Heatgrease10 white compound.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 9: StarTech Heatgrease10

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 10: StarTech Heatgrease10

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.

Thermal Compound Roundup
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Figure 11: Butter

For a detailed look at the other thermal compounds included in this roundup, please read our “Thermal Compound Roundup – October 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 CompoundRoom Temp.Core Temp.Difference
No Thermal Compound26 °C88 °C62 °C
Zalman ZM-STG224 °C59 °C35 °C
Prolimatech Thermal Compound24 °C56 °C32 °C
Cooler Master Thermal Compound Kit23 °C58 °C35 °C
Evercool EC420-TU1522 °C57 °C35 °C
Spire Bluefrost22 °C58 °C36 °C
Gelid GC Extreme26 °C61 °C35 °C
Coolink Chillaramic26 °C61 °C35 °C
Deepcool Z926 °C61 °C35 °C
Noctua NT-H126 °C61 °C35 °C
Thermalright The Chill Factor26 °C63 °C37 °C
Antec Thermal Grease24 °C58 °C34 °C
Arctic Silver 524 °C57 °C33 °C
Arctic Silver Céramique24 °C57 °C33 °C
Biostar Nano Diamond22 °C57 °C35 °C
Xigmatek PTI-G360622 °C55 °C33 °C
Antec Formula 721 °C55 °C34 °C
Arctic Cooling MX-421 °C56 °C35 °C
Cooler Master High Performance22 °C56 °C34 °C
Thermaltake Thermal Compound21 °C54 °C33 °C
Tuniq TX-322 °C54 °C32 °C
Shin-Etsu MicroSi14 °C 49 °C35 °C
Scythe Thermal Elixer Scyte-100014 °C49 °C35 °C
Titan Connoisseur Platinum Grease14 °C49 °C35 °C
Evercool Cruise Missile STC-0314 °C49 °C35 °C
Rosewill RCX-TC00114 °C53 °C39 °C
Pink Lipstick14 °C54 °C40 °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 45014 °C50 °C36 °C
Enermax (Dow Corning TC-5121)14 °C47 °C33 °C
GlacialStars IceTherm II14 °C49 °C35 °C
Rosewill RCX-TC060PRO14 °C56 °C42 °C
Titan Royal Grease14 °C52 °C38 °C
Chocolate14 °C89 °C75 °C
Arctic Silver Céramique 213 °C48 °C35 °C
Akasa 45513 °C49 °C36 °C
Masscool G75113 °C49 °C36 °C
Thermaltake TG-113 °C47 °C34 °C
ZEROtherm ZT-10013 °C51 °C38 °C
Mayonnaise13 °C48 °C35 °C
Coollaboratory LIQUID Ultra18 °C52 °C34 °C
EVGA Frostbyte18 °C56 °C38 °C
IC Diamond 7 Carat18 °C53 °C35 °C
Phobya HeGrease Extreme18 °C52 °C34 °C
StarTech Heatgrease1018 °C54 °C36 °C
Butter18 °C58 °C40 °C
Butter (12 h later)19 °C61 °C42 °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

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.”

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Thermal-Compound-Roundup-November-2011/1430


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