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33-Way Thermal Interface Material Comparison E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 04 March 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
33-Way Thermal Interface Material Comparison
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
TIM Test Methodology
TIM Testing: Round 1
TIM Testing: Round 2
TIM Testing: Round 3
TIM Roundup Conclusion
Project Epilogue

Final Thoughts on Cooling

What began as a huge collection of products has worked its way to a narrow selection of premium Thermal Interface Materials. It may seem like a lot of testing for such a small difference in performance, but when everything you do relies on performance the research is always of great value. Even though the slight difference in thermal conductance among products is considered very important for hardware enthusiast and overclockers, your average user has very little to gain from aftermarket thermal interface materials.

Years back, the average computer system processor would consume almost twice the power it presently does... even without the additional cores. Nowadays (and I hate using that term) the vanilla computer system that receives no overclocking or additional voltage can operate considerably cool with the stock manufacturer-supplied cooler. This is evidence enough that CPU cooling has reached a delta, and the need for aftermarket cooling is, well, cooling.

But all of this has a lot to do with CPU coolers, and nothing to do with TIM's. Good thermal interface material is still the link between good performance from the cooling solution, or bad. Video cards are the next platform for aftermarket cooling, as the recently launched GeForce 8800 GT video card have helped to spawn dozens of aftermarket cooling solutions. Heatpipe Direct Touch may have revolutionized CPU cooling the way liquid cooling did over a decade ago, but now our attention must turn to graphics processors and their growing hunger for power.

33-Way Thermal Interface Material (TIM) Compound Performance Comparison Test Review

TIM Mega-Roundup Conclusion

My biggest regret is not having a more powerful test system, and by system I don't mean computer hardware. You see, even with a heavy overclock on the most modern processor there just isn't enough heat produced to create a clearly evident divide between products. Telling the difference between products producing less than one degree of temperature variance isn't a perfectly accurate method, which is why a heat source that approaches boiling point would be best. Until that day arrives, you will have the better part of three days worth of testing to prove the point.

EDIT: Although cure time is only suggested for two of the thirty-three products listed in this review, it is understood that extended performance may be gained if the material is allowed proper thermal cycles to level the TIM. In a scientific comparison such as this one, all products must be compared "apples-to-apples" to ensure fair and comparative results. The average user can use this at face value, and the hard core overclocker or hardware enthusiast can use this as a basis for selecting potential materials for their own project.

Excellence Achievement Recipients: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

  • TIM Consultants T-C Grease 0098 Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award
  • OCZ Technology Freeze

TIM Consultants offers their T-C Grease 0098 product to OEM's and end-users alike, with packages available in syringe and large container sizes. Ultimately, they proved that producing a quality product will beat a quality marketing pitch, and narrowly claimed the top position in our final test. In a market that is overrun with advertising and hype, it's nice to see the little guy come out on top for a change. (Anyone care to guess how long it takes before they get bought out now?)

T-C Grease 0098 sure doesn't roll off the tongue, but thanks to its thixotropic properties the more I spread it the more viscous it became. I can see this being a favorite among overclockers and enthusiasts, as it was very easy to work with in comparison to other TIM's.

OCZ Technology is best know for their amazingly diverse system memory product line. Very recently though, they have expanded into high-performance system building with the acquisition of Hypersonic. This puts them in a perfect position to offer full-spectrum performance on every level.

The OCZ Freeze compound appeared to be identical to all other grey silicon-based carbon-enriched TIM's, yet somehow the lab coats managed to dope this product with all the right ingredients. I presume that this will be the most popular product of the bunch, since it can be purchased from a myriad of online stores such as NewEgg for only $6.49.

Quality Recognition Recipients: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award

  • Innovation Cooling Seven Carat Diamond Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award for Quality Recognition
  • Arctic Silver 5
  • Zaward HSC-G

I think that aside from TIM Consultants, Innovation Cooling might be the next least-known name in the thermal interface market. It has already been mentioned how the marketing dollar can often times outweigh the actual performance of a product, so I always cheer for the team the produces a product capable of impressive results.

IC's Seven Carat Diamond interface compound seemed to be identical to the others in appearance, in that it was a grey silicon-carbon mix, but is spread very thick and required effort to smooth. Nevertheless, it performed like a diamond in the rough rather than a rough diamond. Puns aside, whatever the clever folks at Innovation Cooling are using in their recipe, it works.

What would a Thermal Interface Material review be without Arctic Silver products being mentioned? In a land once dominated by their polysynthetic silver paste, it's good to see a little diversity in the final lineup. Arctic Silver has been a integral part of the hardware enthusiast family for over a decade, and their AC 5 product still stands the test of time (and temperature). Available almost everywhere that sales cooling products, NewEgg offers two sizes to answer personal and system builder needs.

Zaward has seen very little exposure in the United States, since they are based out of the UK. That hasn't stopped Benchmark Reviews from testing the very first Heatpipe Direct Touch products that were ever offered to the market when Zaward made their evolutionary step. Taking their HDT technology one step further (which is difficult since it is now used by nearly everyone), Zaward offers the HSC-G compound to help bridge the contact gap between bare copper heatpipe and CPU.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, Benchmark Reviews really wants your feedback. We invite you to leave your remarks in our Discussion Forum. It's the only way we can meet your expectations.



# Correction on OCZ and NeweggNoworldorder 2011-02-27 05:46
Please note that Newegg no longer carries. the OCZ Freeze Compound.
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# hahaboby 2011-09-03 01:39
the picture of all the thermal paste looks like a pile of drugs!
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