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80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Test E-mail
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Written by Olin Coles   
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Test
80 Thermal Pastes Compared
Surface Preparation
TIM Application Methods
Square-Base Application
Application on HDT Coolers
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
Thermal Testing Methodology
TIM Testing and Scores
D: Modest Enthusiast Performance
C: Moderate Enthusiast Performance
B: Good Enthusiast Performance
A: Excellent Enthusiast Performance
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Testing Methodology

Let's start this section by defining Newton's law of cooling: which asserts that the rate of heat loss of a body is proportional to the difference in temperatures between the body and its surroundings, or environment. Science (and fact) has a strange way of eluding the average enthusiast, so if you didn't understand that definition Benchmark Reviews will summarize Newton's law and apply it to computer processors: the cooling rate of a heatsink is equal to the difference in temperature between that heatsink and the ambient surrounding temperature. Therefore, a heatsink with a 60°C temperature will cool faster (and with better performance) in a 20°C room than a heatsink of the same temperature in a 30°C room.

One of the toughest parts of our benchmarking process was maintaining a temperature-controlled test environment, which is critical to comparing results according to Newton's Law of Cooling. To establish a stable and consistent ambient room temperature, all of the testing hardware was partitioned off and the room was sealed. While we did our best to operate at exactly the same testing temperature for each product, there were very small fluctuations which resulted in fractional differences inside of one degree. As we progressed into the later stages of testing, the ambient temperatures were much tighter and more controlled because testing could be completed in one day instead of weeks or months.

Probably the most critical step in the testing process was the preparation. Thanks to the team at Arctic Silver, we were able to clean and prepare the surface of our test heatsinks and Intel Q9450 Core 2 Quad IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader) to a pristine state with their ArctiClean products. While these products are praised by product analysts like myself, they can be equally as useful for anyone who frequently separates the cooler from the CPU or frequently applies TIM material such as extreme overclockers and hardware enthusiasts.

Test Systemocz_freeze_ocztfrztc.jpg

Procedure Notes

The Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME offers a waterblock cooler on the P45 Northbridge, which we connected into a water-cooling radiator through the ZOTAC GeForce 9800 GTX+ Zone Edition video card. This enabled our tests to isolate CPU temperatures, and yield results without residual heat interference from other hardware components. The video card and motherboard Northbridge consistently operated at or near ambient room temperature, which dramatically reduces the temperature a CPU would report under normal circumstances.

Benchmark Reviews would rate the contact pressure between the Intel Q9550 quad-core processor's integrated heat spreader (IHS) and the Intel push-pin thermal management system to have been moderately firm. The surface condition of the processor's nickel-plated copper IHS was smooth with light texture visible, while the CPU cooler featured a polished copper surface. The use of a standard-performance cooler with mounting clip system and unpolished IHS finish was intentional, as improvements would narrow the range of thermal performance. By testing with a mild yet fundamentally sound configuration, recorded temperatures were not as closely staged between products.

Several stock Intel thermal cooling units were availble during our test period, which were discarded whenever a material appeared to permanently contaminate the surface (such as CooLaboratory's liquid metal products). While using the exact same unit throughout all tests would help reduce potential test result differences, Benchmark Reviews stands by our decision to rotate these parts out of the test configuration whenever necessary.

Benchmark Reviews used the following hardware parameters for all of our test equipment:

  • Intel Speed Step Technology was disabled. This allows the processor to operate at full power at all times, and does not reduce power or heat output.
  • All fan speed control mechanisms were disabled. The CPU cooler fan operated at 100% full power, and did not adjust speed to match the temperature or workload.
  • The Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME was installed into a HighSpeed PC Large Tech Station with an open-air environment. This eliminates heat-rise as an influencing factor in our temperature results.

Cure Time

It is the position of this author that when Benchmark Reviews compares products, they should be tested using identical methods. However, there are a few Thermal Interface Material products which recommend special application or added cure time. Although only a couple of the items we tested suggest or mention special application needs (either on the product or at the manufacturer website), we understand that certain interface products will exhibit improved thermal conductivity if they are allowed several temperate cycles to expand and contract the material.

For this article, each and every single product tested received the curing time recommended (see below), or approximately one hour of thermal cycling prior to testing when no cure time was specified.

  • (0) No Curing Time or Special Application Suggested
  • (1) Antec Formula 5 Application Instructions (no curing time recommended)
  • (2) Arctic Silver II Application Instructions(48-hours minimum curing time recommended)
  • (3) Arctic Silver 3 Application Instructions (up to 200-hours recommended curing time)
  • (4) Arctic Silver 5 Application Instructions (up to 200-hours recommended curing time)
  • (5) Arctic Silver Ceramique Application Instructions (25-hours minimum recommended curing time)
  • (6) IC Seven Carat Diamond Application Instructions (10-minute evaporation time, 2-hour curing recommended)
  • (7) CooLaboratory Liquid Pro Application Instructions (no curing time recommended)
  • At the start of each test, the ambient room temperature was measured to track any fluctuation throughout the testing period. Lavalys EVEREST Ultimate Edition was utilized to create maximum processor loading and measure each individual CPU core temperature. It's important to note that software-based temperature readings reflect the core temperature output as reported by the processor through the motherboards BIOS. For this reason, it is critically important (for testers) to use the exact same software and BIOS versions throughout the entire test cycle, or the results will be incomparable. All of the units compared in our results were tested on the same motherboard using the same BIOS and software, with only the product itself changing in each test. These readings are neither absolute nor calibrated, since every BIOS is programmed differently. Nevertheless, all results are still comparable and relative to each products in our test bed.

    One unfortunate problem is that CPU's report temperatures as a whole number and not in fractions. This in turn causes the motherboard BIOS and subsequent software applications such as EVEREST to also receive whole-number reports from the processors thermal diode. Thankfully, EVEREST also does offer averages in the statistics panel, which gives us more precise readings. To further compensate for this, our tests were conducted between five and nine times after complete power down thermal cycles. Conversely, the ambient room temperature levels were all recorded and accurate to one-tenth of a degree Celsius at the time of data collection.

    When each cooler is tested, Benchmark Reviews makes certain to keep the hardware settings identical across the test platform. This enables us to clearly compare the performance of each product under identical conditions. While the ambient room temperature did fluctuate between 20~21°C, this would not be enough to cause a noticeable impact on our test results since only the thermal difference is reflected in the charts.

    The Accuracy Myth

    All modern processors incorporate an internal thermal diode that can be read by the motherboards' BIOS. While this diode and the motherboard are not calibrated and therefore may not display the actual true temperature, the error is constant. This means that if the diode reports 40°C when it is actually 43°C, then it will also report 60°C when it is truly 63°C. Since the design goal of a thermal solution is to keep the CPU core within allowable temperatures, a processor's internal diode is the most valid means of comparison between different heatsinks, or thermal compounds. The diode and motherboard may be incorrect by a small margin in relation to an actual calibrated temperature sensor, but they will be consistent in their margin of error every time.



    # Good job!McBacker 2010-02-20 07:10
    Good job!
    Report Comment
    # Awsome!Me 2010-02-23 09:43
    Freaking crazy good and very informative article Keep up the work and your great detail in future testings!
    Report Comment
    # BEST REVIEW!Al 2010-03-06 11:58
    only 2 replies?!
    This is one of the best review ever consider the amount of writing and scrutiny the writer had been through! I cannot give you enough compliment!
    Report Comment
    # Great infoStu 2010-03-06 12:44
    I learned a lot from this, so a grateful thanks from me :-)

    Makes me want to know more detail about how to prepare/polish the heatsink surface as it seems really important. Like exactly how you go about it and exactly what materials are used? I imagine you could make it worse rather than better by not doing it well?

    Brilliant article, thanks again!
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Testthanks 2010-03-07 18:38
    Got here off a random review posted on a thermal paste product page but this is really very timely info. I'm starting my second build tomorrow, and my only challenge last year was the paste process. This article is so good I might pop open my existing PC and reapply better.

    Haven't even seen the result charts yet, but just having the pictures of different ways to apply the paste is hugely helpful.
    Thanks again!
    Report Comment
    # bought it!angrysnail 2010-03-10 03:48
    i got tuniq tx-3.its awesome!A+ result!..
    Report Comment
    # tuniq tx-3toeringsandthong 2010-08-10 05:25
    tuniq tx-3 is a waste of money the A/S ceramic is just as good if not better im running a i7930 and iv tested both and the A/S beats it by almost a full degree ! and cheapers and you get WAY WAY MORE !!! 22grams almost 8cc worth ,so if you want to throw your money away buy tuniq
    Report Comment
    # Arctic Silver 5Darklurker 2010-03-11 06:45
    Good to know that the syringe of AS-5 I've had in my desk for 5 years was worth the $15 I paid for it. I've used it in several low-end (P4, not Xeon) custom-built servers that run 24/7 and never had a heat problem with them. The thin-coating does seem to do the trick.

    Great article. Thanks for all the work.

    If you're looking for a follow-up article - investigate why the machine OEMs use such a thick layer of ITM in their boxes when it's blazingly obvious that a thin layer works much better.
    Report Comment
    # QuestionChris 2010-03-24 17:27
    There is one thing that does interest me - how would all of the thermal pastes have done with 200 hours to cure?

    I would expect that even the ones that are without a curing recommendation would do better. That would be a great comparison.

    Still, great review. It does however tell us that near the top, we are probably chasing diminishing returns here. I suspect that the 0.5 degrees could be within a margin of error.
    Report Comment
    # RE: QuestionGary 2011-01-28 10:34
    or perhaps the reason why the other thermal paste has no cure is because it will decrease performance. of course there might be some exception.

    found out on my test that any paste that require spread method. will give max/best result right away but over time the paste bleeds out of place, due to air bubbles. therefore decreasing performance.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Test_deXter_ 2010-03-27 02:11
    Very well written article. Would love to know more details on wet-sanding and how to make sure you get an even, level surface.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestChris H. 2010-03-30 18:59
    I don't find Artic Silver 5 to be thin at all. It's really thick to me... Did mine go bad or something?
    Report Comment
    # Greatgull 2010-04-06 03:42
    very nice review
    Report Comment
    # What's a BB size?Alfonso Mancero 2010-04-15 06:52
    Sorry... I have no idea of what a bb size is... Could anyone please let me know? Thank you in advance
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestStuart 2010-04-23 06:09
    A BB is about .176" in diameter, so about 4.5mm.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestH. Strauss 2010-05-06 07:57
    Truly a very great article. Concise, informative and practical. Very well done. I salute you.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Testruby 2010-05-12 06:04
    This is the most comprehensive and objective TIM review I have ever seen. I clicked on it because it was someone's sig on a forum. That's 15 minutes of my life well spent.
    Report Comment
    # WOAH!Javier M. 2010-07-19 19:22
    thank you so much, man this is amazing, i just want to applaud all your guys hard work and thank you so much for the info
    i learned so much, and not just about TIM
    Report Comment
    # HAHAHAHJavier M. 2010-07-19 19:27
    im now not buying arctic 5 anymore, LOL man thats crazy, ill just use the TIM ill be getting with my Heatsink. *confirmed A quality by the charts
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Testgyta 2010-07-20 19:52
    Great test, it really helped me to choose a Thermal Paste.
    Now I'm dying to see how the new ones like MX-3 go in the next test.
    Report Comment
    # dom eng.Dom OSullivan 2010-07-26 06:25
    How flat is the pressed metal surface of a processor say an Intel I7-###. Is there an engineer out there who has checked this out and was the inspection carried out at room temp or at say 50 deg c.?. Now thats a question.
    Report Comment
    # CPU IHS's are not very flat at all.~misfit~ 2011-03-04 15:59
    I've checked the flatness of a couple of C2D/Q IHS's and they tend to have a dip in the middle. I used to lap them to get them flat but it's long and tedious work and, as the best lap is a wet lap, fairly dangerous to your CPU as it can be wet for a long time.
    Now I just use a bit more TIM. I didn't mind lapping my old E4500 as there wasn't much at stake but I didn't lap my (current) O/Ced QX9560.
    Report Comment
    # CPU IHS's are not very flat at all.~misfit~ 2011-03-04 16:13
    I've checked the flatness of a couple of C2D/Q IHS's and they tend to have a dip in the middle. I used to lap them to get them flat but it's long and tedious work and, as the best lap is a wet lap, fairly dangerous to your CPU as it can be wet for a long time.
    Now I just use a bit more TIM. I didn't mind lapping my old E4500 as there wasn't much at stake but I didn't lap my (current) O/Ced QX9650.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Testcooler 2010-08-07 17:29
    there is also Shin-Etsu MicroSi G765, is it better than the winner of this test?
    Report Comment
    # RE: RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestOlin Coles 2010-08-07 22:04
    Just asking a question like that proves you didn't read the article.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Testcooler 2010-08-07 22:46
    ofcourse, I read only some parts I was interested in
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Testcooler 2010-08-07 23:03
    by the way, have you read my question well?
    I am not talking about "Shin-Etsu MicroSi G751", I am talking about "Shin-Etsu MicroSi G765"
    Report Comment
    # New TestGyta 2010-08-08 05:59
    Nice test, it really helps to choose a TIM. I wanted to know how the best ones compare to Arctic Cooling MX-3 and the Indigo Xtreme.Especially the last ones that i see verry few reviews.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestMichael 2010-09-15 22:38
    I notice that there are a few silicone products that made the cut. I find that Radio Shack brand silicone grease gives me lower temperatures as compared to any metallic product I've ever tried. I don't know who actually makes it, but I'll be using it on my new i7 system when I fire it up next week. I tried their silver product too, which didn't work as well. Test it against these A-rated products one day.
    Report Comment
    # Radio Shack Thermal GreaseRich 2012-03-06 23:41
    About 8 years ago someone did a review [Cannot remember who] on the 10 or so TIMS that were available to the computer enthusiast at that time. I believe Arctic Silver 3 was top dog followed by 1 incarnation of Shin-etsu. Number 3 was Radio Shack white thermal silicone based Tim that cost $2.25 back then.
    I happened to run out of Arctic Silver one night while assembling a build for a customer and I had a small tube of Radio Shacks white Tim. I used it on a a few builds and was surprised at the performance. The only thing that was worth mentioning stating is that it does dry out after 3-4 years and needs to be replaced IMHO.
    Anyway, great review, later........................................
    Report Comment
    # UpdateVygantas 2010-09-22 02:01
    Hey guys, do you plan to update the article with new paste additions for performance market?
    Report Comment
    # 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance Teststeven papanu 2010-10-06 12:48
    You mention the best materials are carbon based. When I scan all the results, I didn't see a single product based on carbon. Did I miss it? You said all the best are now using carbon. Where are the results of carbon based TIM? I would go for them based on what you've stated. Please help. Thanks.
    Report Comment
    # Carbon based questionRMSe17 2011-01-14 12:53
    steven papanu: Innovative Cooling Seven Carat Diamond?
    Report Comment
    # Electric Conductivity?twistdshade 2010-11-10 22:27
    Great job man!

    It would be grate if each product's electric conductivity was listed in the charts at the final results.
    Report Comment
    # RE: Electric Conductivity?Olin Coles 2010-11-10 22:54
    I'm sorry, but I don't have a standard method to conduct electrical conductivity. I imagine it would also take a considerable amount of time to complete.
    Report Comment
    # AmazingBK 2010-11-19 10:13
    Wow, this test article was amazing. I tip my hats to all involved for creating such an in-depth and comprehensive test on thermal pastes. It was a pleasure to read through the full article, I especially liked analysis into the different ways of applying the paste, I've always spread the paste out with a razor and never gave much thought to other methods. I especially liked the idea of spreading the substance out with a slick plastic surface.

    There is a slew of information in this article and it's definitely going into my bookmarks. Great job and many thanks for the extensive effort that was put into this project!
    Report Comment
    # Coolmcp20366 2010-12-01 13:53
    Excellent review that will provide information for some time to come.

    Helped me alot.
    Report Comment
    # temp difference for no compound?JG 2010-12-06 08:04
    Was it mentioned what the temperature difference was using no compound? (metal to metal)

    Or even a dumb (non-contaminating, non dangerous, cheap and available) poor mans product like toothpaste, or ??

    Or a test showing the best product with poor application technique?

    Seems like with all the work, a few more comparisons made to show the importance (or lack) of this.

    Was repeatability also ensured for accuracy of claimed results? (eg, 30 tests later, do the same test with XYZ and ensure same results obtained)
    Report Comment
    # RE: temp difference for no compound?Rahul 2010-12-16 02:56
    You dumb fellow if there is no TIM the system will keep on crashing at load.....
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestRahul 2010-12-16 02:54
    Really liked the entire session of TIMs...
    By the way I had a ghetto thought about this If Money is no problem why not weld the heatsink base and CPU IHS...
    Will love if this is done..
    Report Comment
    # RE: temp difference for no compoundJose Martinez 2011-01-21 17:19
    Rahul: Don´t call JG "dumb". The author quite correctly sums up by saying: "perfectly flat metal on metal with no material in-between is your ultimate goal". TIM is after all a not too good heat transfer media as compared to metal and becomes increasingly necessary only when that goal is not achieved and to the degree that it is not. It is perfectly possible that in some cases routinely applying TIM actually degrades performance of the cooler. Maybe the measure of TIM effectiveness perhaps should start with a no TIM test. I would like to see that, too.
    Report Comment
    # 1 layer spreadChris2 2011-01-23 07:58
    If you're gonna do a "1 layer spread" would it not be better to spread it on the CPU heat spreader than that of the air cooler? Reason being, the CPU heat spreader has a smaller surface area. Seems obvious.
    Report Comment
    # New testVic 2011-03-07 03:20
    When we will see a new test? It has been almost 2 years now and new products have seen the day light.
    Report Comment
    # RE: New testOlin Coles 2011-03-07 06:39
    Read the article, because that question has already been answered.
    Report Comment
    # Found your articleVincent 2011-03-19 00:12
    I found your article while doing cross comparisons and testing for the best thermal compounds and must say I was very impressed! Its awesome to see someone who finally put the quality, effort and time into writing a real review of the above products, techniques and other aspects in regard to the thermal compounds. I especially found the densities and composition charts most informative. I spent several hours looking for something that would give me such information and it was quite irritating not finding a simple comprehensive source until I ran across your article. So I just wanted to stop by and tell you what an awesome job you did with your article and commend you for a very thorough, insightful, and highly informative review process. If I should create a really awesome comprehensive review company you'll be one of the people I'm going to have to track down for a full time job to review things. Excellent job man.
    Report Comment
    # RE: Found your articleOlin Coles 2011-03-19 00:34
    Glad this helped you, Vincent. I'm hoping that you understood the underlying message of this article, and discovered that mounting and finish have more to do with good temperatures than any compound.
    Report Comment
    # Extremely HelpfulAntonio 2011-05-03 08:55
    One of THE BEST articles/reviews I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Not only because of the reviewer's persistence and professional attitude throughout the entire reviewing process (which at least at times I'm sure must have been both boring and tiresome!), but I'm especially satisfied to see that even though the end-point outcome of the whole review turned out to be of some marginal importance on a system used by the average Joe out there, nevertheless that was clearly pointed out from the beginning and throughout the whole article, instead emphasizing the importance of understanding, preparing and finally applying the METHOD of TIM used rather than what to use! Still giving excellent comparison between different brands using a stable and consistent testing method and nonetheless also giving final recommendations. Thank you very much for your immense effort and please keep up the good work in the future :)

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    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestChrisH 2011-05-03 18:35
    Great methodology within defined limitations. Acknowledgement of the effects of technique. Superbly honest. A commitment to testing products over time. I really am gobsmacked by the quality of this review. Any lab I know would by glad to have you onboard. Thanks for a well thought out review Olin.
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    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestAnonymousGuy 2011-05-04 01:01
    Amusing that GC Electronics 10-8108 runs right up there with AS5 and is even better than AS Ceramique. 10-8108 costs about $2.50 for a 6.5 g tube vs $5+ for a 2 g tube of Ceramique. From personal experience, I concur with the results that 10-8108 is better than Ceramique.
    Report Comment
    # ThanksJohn 2011-05-13 14:18
    I enjoyed this review a lot and benefited from it much.
    You did a hell of a job
    Keep the marvelous work
    Report Comment
    # upgradeal fresco 2011-06-04 16:39
    Thanks for the leg work!

    Funny how a 2 or 3 hour a day PC user could eyeing up the next upgrade path before as5 has cured. Any way I'm off to lap my sink
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestDon 2011-06-30 22:45
    When will a 2011 version of this comparison become available???
    Report Comment
    # RE: RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestErm... 2011-08-06 02:15

    Try reading the article.
    Report Comment
    # Updates NeededLuchog 2011-07-26 15:02
    Superb job of testing, definitely the most comprehensive guide I've seen. It looks like it could stand to be updated; as I know that some of the products -- most notably IC Diamond -- have undergone changes in their formulation and properties, so the tests in this article no longer apply. Other than that, it's definitely my go-to place to refer anyone looking for TIM info.
    Report Comment
    # RE: Updates NeededOlin Coles 2011-07-26 15:06
    Glad you liked my article. I'm pretty specific about a follow-up in this article. You might have missed it.
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestAtasimey 2011-07-29 00:04
    Epic article. Can't but echo all the praise dished out in the previous comments.
    Must say though, that adding the viscosities of each thermal goop was a brilliant move as it's hard to find any real info on them elsewhere.
    Report Comment
    # Great articleRhett 2011-10-22 17:03
    I read front start to finish and really appreciate the points you made about contact surfaces and allowed curing time. Paste aside, there are some solid gains to be had from the rest of the article. Thanks for your hard work. Prepping for bf3!
    Report Comment
    # Needs an update real badMergatroid 2011-12-16 09:31
    This is an excellent, comprehensive article comparing various TIMs. I have relied on it and send people to read it all the time. However, it is 2.5 years old now and many people just come her and look at the date before shrugging and saying "meh, it's two years old, there are newer TIMs on the market now".

    I would love to see some of the newer TIMs tested and added in a section at the end of this article as an addendum. I have been very interested in the metal TIMs I have seen around. Some people claim they are getting a 10c difference using a metal TIM over a TIM like AS5. I've never tried a metal TIM myself, and although I hear they are a little bit of a pain to clean off I would still like to try one.

    As it stands this is still the best article around on TIMs, but it could use a little bit of an update.
    Report Comment
    # RE: Needs an update real badOlin Coles 2011-12-16 10:17
    My conclusion clearly states my future intentions. It doesn't matter how many new TIMs come to market, if you properly prepare the surfaces and ensure great mounting/clamping force, they'll all perform nearly the same.
    Report Comment
    # That's not what I'm hearingMergatroid 2011-12-16 16:31
    As I mentioned in my comment, some people are claiming that they have reduced their temps 10c by replacing their TIM with newer metal TIMs (like liquid ultra).

    Saying they nearly all perform the same may have been true 2-3 years ago, but not so much now. I would sure like to put some of those claims to the test, but since I can't get TIMs like Liquid Ultra locally I can't test them myself.
    Report Comment
    # RE: That's not what I'm hearingOlin Coles 2011-12-16 17:40
    I'll start believing these claims when they begin to test in a controlled environment with identical setup and ambient temperatures. Until then, I've seen enough to know better.
    Report Comment
    # That's the entire point.Mergatroid 2011-12-18 13:55
    That's why I said these newer TIMs need to be tested.

    Frankly, until they are, no one can make any claims regarding them and be taken seriously, and that includes the naysayers. I have seen these claims on ocn. I can't counter them because I haven't tested these new TIMs.

    Have you?
    Report Comment
    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestSquire Toad 2011-12-17 11:54
    So I guess the tube of lithium grease (bought at Pep Boys for $2.50) that I've been using on everything for about 2 years now ... is right out? Could be, but I have no reason to change now.
    Report Comment
    # That dependsMergatroid 2011-12-18 14:03
    Only if you care about the temps in your system. Lots of people just have whatever their system came with, and I'm sure as long as it works they don't care.

    Then there are the people this article is aimed at, the enthusiasts who care that the difference between the poorer TIMs are better TIMs can be 5c. When you're overclocking, and aiming for a particular clock rate, then 5c can be pretty important.

    Your question is akin to comparing the fuel in a street car to that in a race car where a few octane can make a difference.
    Report Comment
    # HappypersonMatt 2012-02-13 16:31
    Thanks so much, my laptop used to be at 97degrees celsius all the time. Fantastic guide :)
    Report Comment
    # Student ForeverBay Blues 2012-02-23 18:42
    I read with great interest ALL of the article, and found it to be solid, Fair, and a FULL PICTURE of the subject matter.

    AND when I read all of the comments that were written thanking you and praising you for your all of your hard well thought out work, Nice elements table too, Then there were the "when are you going to do a new one" Persons. I have to just shake my head sometimes in wonder at the different densitieses that are exhibiteded in such exchanges.

    I have worked in metallurgicaliFielde ild much of my life and pretty well versed in such matters, had to laugh at the suggestion of soldering the processor to the cooler, I wonder do people actually take the chance on refinishing the surface of the processor? I can see flat lapping the cooler but I would never touch the processor, except to install.

    Thank you for all of you efforts and I enjoyed all of it and agree with all of your findings.

    Bay Blues
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    # Lapping the processor is not uncommonMergatroid 2012-02-23 19:49
    Yes, people do lap their processors. It's not as common as lapping the cooler, but some people do the processor as well as the cooler. Google "lapping cpu".
    Report Comment
    # Thank youShaun 2012-03-12 11:40
    This definitely solidifies my point on the fact that AS-5 is still one of the best (tied for first). Many people that test it do not do the 200 hours of curing, and if they do, its not the proper way with the heat cycles.
    Report Comment
    # futuredon 2012-04-15 21:33
    This article will be true for a very long time, It really shows how the mb and cooler retailers fail the public w/the likes of pushpins and shotty pitted cooler surfaces. As shown the most expensive is not always the best. I run amd x3 445 4core opened on a asrock w/cm212evo antec tim my temps x3 19/20c x4 26c loaded p95 x4 32c. for a $22.00 cooler it works as good as the best of them.I would like to mention graphics cards also need the right paste, I changed mine now runs 6c lower that is alot of cooling. To benchmark I always check with your reviews before buying anything I know that it's going to be done by skilled personell looking for the truth and not what some retailer is trying to put over on the novice. thanks for the hard work it really is appreciated.
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    # Fantastic Article. Super helpfulDavid S 2012-05-11 04:47
    This is the kind of article that makes the open web worth going to. Was super helpful and I can attest to the fact that (consistent with the ratings) IC7 beat the pants off AS5. After 2 applications of AS5, I have a 55w processor running significantly cooler than I ever got a 45w processor to run with 7 applications of AS5.
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    # correctionDavid S 2012-05-11 09:18
    above should be 2 applications of IC7 vs 7 applications of AS5
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    # mrdon 2012-05-13 19:26
    I for one cannot say enough about thermal paste, I presently am using antec6 on my cpu and gpu and the temps have gone down significantly in idle and under stress, if your system cpu is running above the 20's at idle, you need to check your paste. Oh and I have one of the cheapest after market cooler, the cm-212 evo my normal idle is 18c to 21c. I am not affiliated with any corporation this is strictly my own experience.
    P.S I also put the antec 6 on my 5670 card voided the warrantee, but I more than likely extended its life its getting 32c vs 40c plus before.
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    # Absolutely brilliant articleTom 2012-06-10 23:45
    Learned a lot. Thank you very much.
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    # Two years to find this!Monty 2012-07-19 06:01
    I have been looking for a comparison of TIMs for over 2 years. I have found many but there was a noticeable assumed problem with all of them. When comparative results are limited to only a dozen or so products it leaves me wondering if any given test could be skewed toward one product or another.

    When you put up 80 products agains each other the possibility of favoritism practically vanishes and the real picture begins to emerge.

    I do agree with several here who have expressed wishes this test included results after long term use and curing of the TIM application(s). At the same time I must understand the time and cost required to do such an in depth test with so many products. All in all considered this is a great trade off.
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    # AS5 really works on SupercomputerMike Caldera 2012-08-22 20:32
    I just had to say thanks. AS5 really works. Brought my e7-8860s X(4) down to 36c after hours or running algos. Was 50C Now 36F non load. With heavy 80 cores load at high priority in task mgr can't get close to shutting down like i used to. BSOD but not blue screen it would turn off with RadioCrap thermal paste. Max temp 50c thats it was ... so hot it shut down. All financial Pros use this.

    In Short, I didn't think it mattered. It does! Buy it!
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    # OutstandingVishal B 2012-10-25 04:58
    Salut, Master Chief. Serious #. One of the most detailed and well-executed tech tests I've read in recent times.
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    # le test des pates thermiquesmustam 2013-02-28 14:43
    Merci a tout ceux qui ont collaborés a l'établissement de ce rapport d'expertise que je trouve bien ficellé,merci ,cela va certainement permettre aux différents techniciens du domaine de trouver ce qu'ils leur faut comme moyens pour refroidir et dissiper au mieux l'exces de température au niveau des processeurs et des cartes meres,encor merci et bien a vous.
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    # More Kudos and a wish....tonestertm 2013-04-15 22:15
    Thanks, Olin, for a well-designed and -executed study. (I have to admit, I'm curious how you managed to maintain +/- 0.5C !)

    One thing I think could have really driven your important point home would have been to add a short table at the end, showing the "Before and After lapping" temp results using an A+ and a D- (perhaps thin and thick examples of each) on the illustrated Ultra-120 eXtreme heat sink, thus demonstrating the benefit obtained from prep, and the much lower importance of the paste used.

    Also, as someone who laps metal pieces flat and polishes them to a mirror finish in my daily work, checking with an optical flat/monochromatic light, I'd like to emphasize to the masses that a FLAT surface is not the same as a SHINY one. Obviously, flat AND shiny is what we're after, but it's important not to "unflat" a surface in the pursuit of "ultrashiny", which is easy to do if not performed properly.

    Finally, in answer to a question asked upstream to the effect of, "why would anyone not overclocking worry about this stuff?"-- those of us who are in quiet environments, particularly audio, like to keep our stock-volted machines as quiet as possible, which is partially accomplished by improving heat dissipation thus enabling lower, quieter, fan speeds.

    Thanks again for the insane number of hours this (and previous articles) must have taken, including the excellent presentation.
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    # RE: More Kudos and a wish....Olin Coles 2013-04-16 07:26
    I appreciate your feedback! It would have been great to have someone like you to assist with achieving the ultimate flat surface for these tests, setting the bar even higher for anyone with ambitions of creating a future article. Unfortunately, this product was beyond arduous and required so much time and attention that I will never attempt it again. Hopefully most the products and data are still relevant, because it's one of a kind.
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    # Encyclopedic Review of Thermal CompoundsDavid L. 2013-05-11 12:59
    Your article on thermal compounds is the clearest written and best researched work on the subject that I have come across. I'm appreciative of all the effort, and patience, that must have gone in to such a complex project. Many thanks, Mr. Coles!
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    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestJOMjoo 2013-06-01 20:48
    Thank ,It is very useful.
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    # RE: 80-way Thermal Interface Material Performance TestIvan 2013-06-04 10:12
    Great reveiw / comparison article.

    But BTW would this article updated in the future?
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    # Refreshingly Meticulous & Scientific!Rich 2013-08-25 11:52
    Outstanding, meticulously done, Test Review!! I know this test was done in 2009, but the every one of the scientific principles and procedures based on those principles are still applicable. I think a more commonly indoor/ambient temperature would have been 24C/75F instead of the selected 20C. But then, the increased ambient temperature difference is proportional and can be calculated easy enough so please don?t take that as some ?big deal? on my part.

    However, I do feel I must point out that acquiring perfectly flat, high-polished, metallic surfaces is not ?impossible?. As a first-class machinist, (job-shop and proto-type spe#t), as well as a mechanical engineer, for over 23 years, I can recall machining a number of special valve related devices for the aerospace industry, (to name just one), that I then hand lapped to a #2 to #6 micro-finish on a number of jobs.

    In one company I worked for, (supervisor capacity in a production company), we had a lapping machine used to lap high-pressured oilfield compressor valve rings, (nonmagnetic).

    Some of the additional tests we would run on these rings, (aside from micrometers and indicators), was to slide a number of rings together after the lapping process. We would then fill the resulting ?cylinder? stack with rubbing alcohol and make sure it didn?t seep through, (which of course, it didn?t).

    They were so flat that it was impossible to pull the rings apart without sliding them off. BUT I AGREE that the process would raise the price of the cooler so high as to make it ?unsellable? and therefore impractical to the manufacturers and hence, may as well be ?impossible? to find.

    But I?m just mentioning that as a FWIW-FYI kind of thing and it has no practical relevance to the EXCELLENT review and all the procedures there in.
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