Thermal Paste Roundup 2015 – 47 products tested with air-cooling and liquid nitrogen (LN2)

Last year I published a thermal paste review on HWBOT Forums. In total I tested 26 different thermal pastes on air and also using liquid nitrogen at different temperatures. This year I invested about 300 hours to test 47 different pastes with air-cooling and liquid nitrogen for extreme cooling – safe to say that this is the biggest and most accurate thermal paste test ever. 

Index:

  1. Introduction and Basics
  2. Test requirements
  3. Improvements compared to the last test
  4. Test circumstances and consistency
  5. Gramm vs. Volume
  6. Air-Cooling results and buy recommendation
  7. Extreme Cooling Test
  8. Extreme Cooling Test (results#1)
  9. Extreme Cooling Test (results#2)
  10. Extreme Cooling Test (results#3)
  11. Product Details
  12. Conclusion

 

Thermal Paste Products Tested:

 

Thermal Paste Basics

Let’s take a look on this simplified image first. You can see a cut image of a CPU and the cooler on top. Greatly enlarged you will notice that the surface of CPU IHS and cooler are pretty much rough even though it looks very flat with the naked eye. The spaces between CPU and cooler have to be filled with thermal paste to improve the thermal conductivity. That’s why the thermal pastes are liquid and ideally never dry out. Most vendors guarantee about 2-5 years of usage between CPU and cooler. After this time you should change your thermal paste in case you still have your system after this time 😀

basics

The majority of the thermal pastes are made of different silicones, oils and additives like silver, aluminum, ceramic or diamonds to transfer the heat and are usually not electrically conductive. Only liquid metal pastes are different. Liquid metal is electrically conductive and made out of a special metal alloy which contains gallium, indium, rhodium, silver, tin and bismuth.

Liquid metal is quite hard to remove and must not be used with aluminium coolers such as the Intel-Boxed-Cooler. Otherwise it will damage the aluminium and eventually your CPU. If you plan to use liquid metal it’s very important to apply only a very small drop. I recommend to use a cotton swab to spread the liquid metal. Be careful though to not touch any other parts of the mainboard and/or CPU socket.

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