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Old 11-08-2010, 06:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Thermal Paste Showdown

The Thermal Paste Showdown

First off, lets educate you on exactly what thermal paste is and what itís used for.

Thermal paste (a.k.a thermal grease, thermal transfer compound, heat paste or heat transfer compound) is a creamy, pasty substance which is spread between the bottom of your heatsink and the top of your CPU. Why? Simply put: to improve the transfer of heat from your CPU to the heatsink.

Your CPU is made up of billions of electrical components, which all start to heat up when you put electricity through them. If it gets too hot then these components start randomly turning themselves off and on, disrupting the calculations the CPU is trying to perform. If it gets really hot physical damage can occur, rendering the device useless. The bottom line being, it is VERY important to make sure your CPU stays cool.

Hereís where the problem comes in. The bottom of your heatsink and the top of your CPU may look flat, but in reality they are far from it. If youíve got a powerful magnifying glass, take a gander at the bottom of your heatsink. The smooth, mirror finish you usually see suddenly gives way to a myriad of imperfections. This is bad for cooling, because it means the bottom of the heatsink wonít be in full contact with the top of the CPU. Instead, there will be air pockets between the two, and air is a very bad conductor of heat. This means that instead of the heat being passed from your CPU to the heatsink, it stays in the CPU.

Thermal paste was created to solve this problem. It conducts heat a lot better than air does, improving the heat transfer between the CPU and heatsink dramatically. It oozes into all the little gaps and spaces between the two surfaces, smoothing out both surfaces and ensuring maximum contact is achieved.
It isnít nearly as good a thermal conductor as metal, however, so care should be taken not to apply too much. The goal is to fill all the gaps created by imperfections on the surfaces of the CPU and heatsink, but not block full metal-on-metal contact where possible.


Each paste was applied and left with the PC performing random tasks for 2 hours. It was then shutdown for 15 minutes, then booted and left idle for 5 minutes. After that, a 20 minute LinX run was started (utilising all available memory in every run). After the run, the PC was overclocked to 3.2Ghz, left shutdown for 15 minutes, booted and left idle for 5 minutes, then the 20 minute LinX run was started again. Room temperature was at a constant 22C (+/- 0.9C)

For most of the tests I did an extra remount, and if anything seemed out of place or strange, I wiped and started again. I also think it's worth noting here that I did three remounts for the Arctic Silver 5. I'm guessing that it needs every second of its recommended 200 hour curing time.

Test System Specifications
  • CPU: i7 920 D0
  • Motherboard: Asus P6T
  • Heatsink: DBX-B on Performance mode
  • 1x 120mm rear exhaust fan
  • 1x 120mm front intake fan

(Prices sourced from,, and

Noctua NT-H1
  • 3.5g - $9.99
  • Excellent Performance
  • Maximum ease of use & efficient dosage
  • Top-performance right from the start
  • Excellent long-term stability
  • Not electrically conductive, non-corroding
  • Suitable for compressor cooling
  • Technical specifications
Less viscous than most pastes. I'd suggest not to applying it in one big blob, it'll make it harder for the heatsink to spread it. I find two thin lines works best

OCZ Freeze Extreme
  • 3g - $7.99
  • Oxidation / ozone / solvent resistant
  • No curing time needed
  • Non-electrically conductive
  • Non-Toxic and Environmentally Safe
  • For use on ALL socket type CPUs
  • Easy Application
  • Technical Specifications
Extremely easy to apply, spreads very well.

Arctic Silver 5
  • 3.5g - $9.99
  • Contains 99.9% pure silver
  • Contains over 88% thermally conductive filler by weight.
  • Controlled Triple-Phase Viscosity
  • Not Electrically Conductive
  • Does not contain any silicone
  • Technical Specifications
Dark grey paste, which is a little strange. Easy to apply, I tried applying a single dot, a thin line, and also tried spreading it myself. All methods gave similar readings, so do what you feel most comfortable with.

Arctic Cooling MX-2
  • 4g - $9.98
  • High Thermal Conductivity
  • Low Thermal Resistance
  • Non-Electrical Conductive
  • Non-Capacitive
  • Non-Curing
  • Non-Corrosive
  • No Bleeding
  • Odourless
  • Technical Specifications
Easy to work with and spreads well.

Tuniq TX-2
  • 3.5g - $4.99
  • Low thermal resistance for superior heat transfer, 4.5W/Mk
  • Thin bond line for high efficiency conductivity
  • Low bleed under high pressure
  • Spreads easy - clean consistency
  • RoHS compliant
  • Not Electrically conductive
  • Technical Specifications
Slightly less viscous than the MX-2 and OCZ Freeze. Still spreads very well

Tuniq TX-3
  • 3g - $10.99
  • Extreme performance
  • High stability and reliability
  • Not electrically conductive
  • Low bleed under high pressure
  • RoHS compliant
  • 6.2W/mK Ultra-High thermal conductivity for superior heat transfer
  • Helps the low-pressure clip design of cooler to achieve better cooling performance
  • Technical Specifications
Very thick paste, you can even pick it up. As with the NT-H1, be careful. I'd suggest applying in small dots over the CPU and spreading it out yourself a little instead of one blob in the middle. Be careful not to use too much! It'll spread out more over time.

Thermalright Chill Factor
  • 4g - $3.99
  • Electrical impedance and thermal resistant
  • Contains no health hazardous chemical and non-electrical conductive
  • Easy application, spreads easily, and easy to clean
  • Generous volume and competitively priced
  • Technical Specifications
White paste, pretty thin consistency (which means easy spreading)

Innovation Cooling Seven Carat Diamond
  • 1.5g - $9.99
  • Superior bulk conductivity
  • Excellent thermal impedance
  • Tight particle distributions
  • < 40 Ķ maximum particle diameter
  • Silicone free
  • Greater stability
  • Non capacitive or electrically conductive
  • Technical Specifications
Same colour as the AS5, same consistency as the TX-3 but slightly more moist. Doesn't spread too easily, so same notes as the TX-3 and NT-H1.

Arctic Silver Matrix
  • 2.5g - $5.95
  • Not electrically conductive.
  • 2.5 gram syringe
  • Matrixís silicone suspension fluid and conductive fillers are engineered for easy application and superior surface wetting.
  • Unique blend of micronized Zinc Oxide, Aluminum Oxide, and Aluminum particles in silicone base oil forms a thermally conductive matrix
  • Technical Specifications
Not as easy to apply as most of the other pastes due to the fact that it didn't 'stick' to the CPU's IHS very easily. It is based off TC Grease 0098, hence the very similar performance between the two.

TC Grease 0098
  • 2.5g - $4.99
  • Original TIM Consultants Thermal Grease
  • Silicone Backbone, Aluminum, Aluminum Oxide, Zinc Oxide filler
  • Bondlines as thin as 2 mils and very low contact resistance for superior thermal impedance
  • Very reliable - will maintain functionality under extreme conditions
  • Technical Specifications
Very thin, tall, syringe-like tube. Makes it extremely easy to control how much paste you push out. Also, due to the fact the paste comes out in a thin line, extremely easy to correctly apply.

Shin Etsu G751Same physical form as the TC Grease, same notes.



Out of all the pastes I tested, my top pick would be the TX-2. Easy to work with, and one of the best performers of the lot, it's still holding its own against the newer pastes. Second place goes to OCZ's Freeze Extreme. It was the easiest out of the lot to apply, which is good for those who are less experienced in the proper application of thermal pastes, and it performed very well.


- Arctic Silver 5

- Shin Etsu G751, Thermalright Chill Factor

- Arctic Silver Matrix, TC Grease 0098

- Arctic Cooling MX-2, IC Seven Carat Diamond, Noctua NT-H1, OCZ Freeze

- Tuniq TX-3, Tuniq TX-2

I would like to thank the below companies for allowing Tech-Forums to review their products, and we look forward to evaluating more of their products in the future.


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Old 11-08-2010, 10:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

nice review Soul

nice to see that my tx-2 is still very much in the game, im gonna run out soon though lol. good thing it's cheap too .

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Old 11-08-2010, 10:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

Excellent review. It's been a long time since I've seen a comprehensive thermal paste review like this one.

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Old 11-08-2010, 10:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

Uhh, I wouldn't give a paste that scores in the middle 2nd place just because it spreads evenly, though, it is sad to see AS5 at the bottom... I wonder what some of the really old pastes score that made people all go AS5 crazy 5-6 years ago, or at least an "OEM" paste.

One thing I dislike, this test doesn't really take into account the full cure time of each paste does it? I know AS5 drop's a decent bit after the 200 hour with cycling.
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Old 11-08-2010, 11:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

The top two picks were just my personal preference. First and second place *technically* go to the TX-2 and TX-3 if you go by the numbers, but I didn't make my preference just based on performance. I allowed 'feelings' to influence me there
That being said, if you factor in potential error due to ambient temperature, the top six could have in all actuality performed the same, meaning the Freeze could have been working as well as the TX-2.

Cure time was 2 hours for each paste, I wasn't about to wait 200 for the AS5 lol. I doubt it would have been a serious contender anyway, the fact taht it has to drop a whole 4C just to equal the next worst paste says a lot to me. Reading around it seems it usually drops ~5C max
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Old 11-09-2010, 12:03 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

Newer pastes do not require any cure time.

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Old 11-09-2010, 12:21 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

Great review. Most people don't think much about thermal grease but this goes to show that all thermal grease is not equal.

Originally Posted by c0rr0sive View Post
Uhh, I wouldn't give a paste that scores in the middle 2nd place just because it spreads evenly, though, it is sad to see AS5 at the bottom... I wonder what some of the really old pastes score that made people all go AS5 crazy 5-6 years ago, or at least an "OEM" paste.
My friend is using Dynex paste on his CPU, I used it for something an it was terrible. I wonder how it would compare.
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Old 11-09-2010, 01:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

You should see some the cheap pastes I have laying around 35g700, some brands I have never heard of, got a few tubes from votech incase of emergencies, and well, lets just say, I swear the stuff insulates the CPU -.-
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

Nice review! All-in-all we're looking at minuscule amounts here. Most pastes were within a degree or two, which could easily fall within margin of error.
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Old 11-09-2010, 04:02 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thermal Paste Showdown

If I recall properly, AS5 is actually electrically conductive and should not be used in certain applications as a result.

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