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Thermal Paste Comparison, Part One: Applying Grease And More

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October 10, 2013 9:29:45 PM

Nice article and bookmarked for reference. Looking forward for the next part.
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37
October 10, 2013 9:35:09 PM

please tell me yo are also going to do the solder the heatsink to the cpu method? i forget what its called, but that is what i want to use for my next computer and would love to see how it stacks up.
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10
October 10, 2013 9:36:45 PM

In the second section about advanced cooling methods, are you planning on discussing delidding CPUs and replacing thermal paste? If you do it might be worth mentioning that the delidding won't improve temperatures because of improved thermal paste conductivity but because of reducing the thickness of the paste. See http://forums.anandtech.com/showpost.php?p=34053183&pos...
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7
October 10, 2013 9:40:25 PM

a really nice and helpful article!
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3
October 10, 2013 9:44:48 PM

Huh, I do turn my heatsinks sometimes for optimal alignment so the heat pipes are perpendicular to the die. Depends if I got the room in the case and what ram is being used. Also heatsink dependent
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2
October 10, 2013 9:47:34 PM

One of the best articles I've read on Tom's in years and that's saying something. Looking forward to part 2.
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9
October 10, 2013 9:48:42 PM

ooooooooooh such a tease

can't wait for part 2 - this was a great read!
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6
October 10, 2013 9:49:38 PM

Loving that DHT-based design overlay picture on the first page. I've been telling my friends for a while to just get coolers with plated covers because the pipes miss the hotspot on intel CPU's, but no I'm full of bs apparently. This video is awesome btw, shows how spreads happen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyXLu1Ms-q4
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2
October 10, 2013 9:51:15 PM

How many volts does this "7 volt" unregulated power supply put out?

Just curious. I have some 8/9/12 volt regulators that would eliminate the guessing games for resistor fan adapters(voltage depends on the fans current draw).

I have seen unregulated 6 volt power supplies range from 8-over 12 volts at low loads.

For a rather low price you can use a regulator to get whatever voltage you want :) 

ohh yeah and...
I can't wait for the next part of this to be release
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4
October 10, 2013 9:55:54 PM

From what I have seen it depends on the materials. AS5 was great for a while but thee are better ones out than that now such as Noctuas or Zalmans.

I also enjoyed using the IC Diamond thermal paste as it proved to cool very well but since it has a diamond based substance it can scuff the heat spreader.
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2
October 10, 2013 9:57:05 PM

Also would like to see an Ivy/Haswell test system since they run pretty hot and imo, they need more study on how to best cool them due to the TIM inside them.
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6
October 10, 2013 10:09:51 PM

I always spread the paste manually. Never had issues with overheating.
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2
October 10, 2013 10:44:00 PM

I am using dirt cheap masscool fanner-420.

My temps are quite good - really the choice of cooler is much much more important than the choice of paste.
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0
October 10, 2013 11:07:12 PM

"don’t apply too much. Otherwise, the paste will ooze out on all sides. If your paste is electrically conductive, you can almost be assured of hardware damage."

Tell this to OEM's ever seen a hp, dell, Lenovo, Asus, Acer cpu after you take off the heatsink with thermal paste on it? it's oozed all over he place...
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8
October 10, 2013 11:24:40 PM

I experimented with different application methods when I built my 4770K-based system. Small dot, large dot, X, line. No real difference, but the small dot produced the best results by ~2C. I used MX-4, which is so easy to apply that you can't really mess up.

When delidding and applying Liquid Pro between the IHS and die, I "painted" a very thin layer. It was very difficult until the surface tension broke, then it was easy from there.
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1
October 11, 2013 12:10:31 AM

Nice article, you guys ripped me a new one with the spread all over cpu method. Been doing that for a long time hah. Based off what you guys said i feel like it need to reapply paste considering the hot spot on my ivy bridge processor. I feel as if that method works although its very tedious and takes a long time to apply a even surface, i used Arctic MX-2 and it seemed to apply easy with some resistance to spreading evenly flat.. 30 minutes later walaa.. haha painted flat all over.. But i like that pea method in the middle seems to cover the hot spot quite well. Will have to try that out. Can't wait for the next part.
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0
October 11, 2013 12:19:54 AM

Dude! this is great. This the first time since the Coppermine era that we started using thermal pastes widely that somebody put all the information together. Congrats guys great job. Well done.
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2
October 11, 2013 12:36:08 AM

2.66Ghz Q0 Q6600? What planet did I stumble upon? Hopefully one that still has Indigo Xtreme.
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1
October 11, 2013 1:27:51 AM

Hey Tom's, I realize that you guys have limited time for these articles, and have to limit the scope. But I think it should be pointed out that not every one reading these articles are complete novices. In fact, I would wager those of us wanting to see the subtle differences between paste and cooler combinations are intermediate to advanced users. As such, in the future I think the risks involved should be left up to the reader. Having the comparison data to go with the risk would be helpful. Gaining .5C better temps for me would not be worth it. But if it dropped 2C on a GPU for my laptop... now that is tempting. As it stands, this data will not be available for those of us that would be interested.

Otherwise, great article, can't wait to see the results.
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-9
October 11, 2013 2:26:31 AM

Nice Job Igor, You have your ambient controlled for the tests and very good illustrations of contact imperfections and CPU hot spot area!

I know you're glad to be nearing the end as that was a lot of time invested to completion.

Congratulations sir, on one of the best reviews I've seen come from Toms yet!

Ryan
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6
October 11, 2013 2:29:42 AM

Direct touch heat pipe heatsinks do not have air between the pipes where they contact the cpu. There's the block that they are set into. No mention was made of lapping heatsinks. 16 and 8 hour breakins for paste is way too little, so the fast breaking in paste will have an advantage.
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1
October 11, 2013 2:49:13 AM

Hi, i would love to see tests done with a couple of the best pastes comparing the amount of cooling between the paste been applied spread with a credit card or similar and applied by the pressure done by the sink. Would be much better than just saying spreading is bad because you can create air bubbles because we can't compare by the sayings here what is better, if spread by pressure or spread by hand if is done well and without bubbles (and of course with an easy to spread paste like MX4). Thanks :D 
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-1
October 11, 2013 2:57:48 AM

I've bee trolled!!!! lol. I'm looking forward to part 2. This is an great read for us hardware geeks.
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0
October 11, 2013 3:23:50 AM

IMHO Igor's articles are the best (any maybe not only on Tom's). Always a worthy read, sometimes even a funny one. :D  And dammit, he's versatile (not only the nomral stuff, but also keyboards, speakers, you name it, he's got it covered - in detail.)

Yeah, I'm a fanboi.
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1
October 11, 2013 3:44:19 AM

In another article, it was advised to put the thermal paste in an X formation on top of the chip. I want to believe that although the die is underneath only a fraction of the chip surface, it doesn't hurt to ensure that the entire surface is in good thermal contact with the cooler.
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1
Anonymous
October 11, 2013 4:27:52 AM

In my opinion some device makers apply heat sink material like McDonalds does Mayo. The more the merry. I think they could save even more money by applying the correct amount. Which is on the lighter side. You only want to fill in those small imperfections. Not create a barrier and another layer for heat to pass through.
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1
October 11, 2013 4:52:32 AM

good information, even for the experienced builder.
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1
October 11, 2013 5:02:01 AM

It says that results are in Kelvin on your actual benchmark results. 30 degrees kelvin would be roughly -405 degrees fahrenheit. I think that is a mistake, or I'm buying that thermal paste.
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1
October 11, 2013 5:14:11 AM

When I got to the end of the article, somehow the term 'blue balls' came to mind.

Can't wait for partie deux.
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2
October 11, 2013 5:53:55 AM

"When you cut a CPU in half..."

Okay, that's a beautiful way to start a sentence!
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3
October 11, 2013 5:57:20 AM

Great info! Bookmarked for reference. Looking forward to the test results!
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0
October 11, 2013 6:31:44 AM

Tomshardware should do a survey on its forum members asking what method do they use to apply thermal compound.

Do you cover the entire cpu?
Do you do the "lintel" pea size method?
Do you never add any thermal compound?
Do you use thermal pads?
etc.
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4
October 11, 2013 6:39:50 AM

Plenty of GPUs have heat spreaders. My 580s do and they aren't exactly young.
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1
October 11, 2013 6:42:31 AM

There's a good video out there about application techniques. He applies the paste in various ways, then takes a piece of plexi-glass on camera, mushes it down evenly, to help illustrate how they spread. It just helps to visualize which methods have a higher potential for creating air pockets, which spread too far, etc.
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0
October 11, 2013 6:49:31 AM

Haha...talk about leaving us hanging! This should have been done 15 years ago!!! Great idea and extremely important! Give us the results please!
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0
October 11, 2013 7:10:03 AM

Great article! Finally puts into words some things that I have had troubble explaining myself.

Most interesting part for me was the bit about the heat pipes on today's coolers, and how only the center pipe (or maybe two) are the only ones that do the bulk of the work at heat disipation. In my own rig I use to have a traditional setup of moving air from the front to the back, but when I eventuially got a bigger case which made use of larger 140mm fans on top and bottom I went with more of a bottom to top air flow. As part of this change I changed the orientation of the CPU cooler (212 evo) to move air in line with the rest of the case and was amazed to see the temps drop ~5*c even though I also replaced the fans with quieter (but lower rpm and cfm) fans. I thought it was merely because I had a more efficient airflow and was working with convection, but in the back of my mind I knew there was no way that could account for that large of a change.
But as it is explained here it looks like there are just more (in my case all) of the heat pipes that are making direct contact with the hot spot on the CPU which is making the cooler more effective in the first place.
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0
October 11, 2013 7:26:02 AM

Thanks for that link jtd871, that was some pretty good information. I had recently been watching a video where the pre-spread methods were mentioned as debunked and that you shouldn't do that, yet the spread method performed very well in that test.

Personally I use my finger covered by plastic to spread and incredibly thin layer on both the heat sink surface itself as well as the top of the CPU spreader. I've always had pretty good results with this method. I only recently tried switching to the one middle dot method when I got a heat sink with exposed pipes since I figured the squishing would help get some contact in to the gaps between the pipes and the main heatsink block. This method seemed to work pretty well too but it didn't change my numbers in any measurable way from my finger-spread method I had on there previously.

I think the main point, no matter how you do it, is just to use a small amount. Think filling microscopic gaps, not spreading peanut butter on toast.
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October 11, 2013 7:43:21 AM

SteelCity1981 said:
"don’t apply too much. Otherwise, the paste will ooze out on all sides. If your paste is electrically conductive, you can almost be assured of hardware damage."

Tell this to OEM's ever seen a hp, dell, Lenovo, Asus, Acer cpu after you take off the heatsink with thermal paste on it? it's oozed all over he place...

Most metal oxide pastes are non-conductive so it does not really matter if they overflow all over the place aside from making a mess to clean up if you want your CPU to look nice and shiny between re-applications. If you aren't too picky about cleanliness, you clean the IHS and leave the surrounding mess as-is.
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0
October 11, 2013 7:55:41 AM

edlight said:
Direct touch heat pipe heatsinks do not have air between the pipes where they contact the cpu. There's the block that they are set into.

The popular Hyper 212+ has sizable gaps between the flattened heatpipes and "fingers" of its aluminum mounting block between each pipe. On the 212EVO which has no aluminum fingers between pipes, the gaps are much thinner but they are still there.
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1
October 11, 2013 8:06:17 AM

Oh *thank god*. I was two steps away from drafting a generic post for replies to threads about thermal compounds. Thank you very much for making an article out of this, and I look forward to part two.

Sometimes it is kind of worrisome with how readily people will still recommend Arctic Silver 5. Do not get me wrong, it is good stuff still, but better products do exist now, if only in regards to the lack of cure-in time and being potentially damaging. The same with spreading thermal compound versus some sort of dot or line method.

But I can grumble and complain only so much; I know that, as a general rule, people often prefer to rely on historic/popular memory, rather than exploring to find things out for themselves. (Thank god for article reviews.)
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1
October 11, 2013 8:34:56 AM

A small nipple size dot at the center of the CPU heatsink spread out vertically and horizontally with a credit card has ALWAYS created a nice smooth even coat across the entire surface of the heatsink for me over the years. It doesn't have to be very thick at all. the gaps are microscopic so a thin layer works fine, it just has to be even. That brush technique looks ridiculous and wasteful.
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-1
October 11, 2013 8:46:11 AM

Anyone 'tinting' prior to application? I did this with my i7-930 and have been doing it since. This is in the AS5 application manuals. I've had no problems using this method prior to normal application.
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1
October 11, 2013 8:55:13 AM

I do on new coolers(I am betting the microscopic stuff does not come out when you clean a cooler after the first use), but it has never seemed to make a difference.
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0
October 11, 2013 9:08:06 AM

warezme said:
A small nipple size dot at the center of the CPU heatsink spread out vertically and horizontally with a credit card has ALWAYS created a nice smooth even coat across the entire surface of the heatsink for me over the years.

It may LOOK smooth but if you use a glass plate to simulate the heatsink or CPU being attached to it and scan the result with a microscope, you will likely find thousands of microscopic air bubbles between the glass and paste caused by fine streaks from the card's edge. With the center pea method, air gets displaced out as the pea flattens.

The "credit card" method is useful for coating unusually rough surfaces. For relatively smooth surfaces, it most likely creates more bubbles than it prevents.
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0
October 11, 2013 9:13:33 AM

InvalidError said:
warezme said:
A small nipple size dot at the center of the CPU heatsink spread out vertically and horizontally with a credit card has ALWAYS created a nice smooth even coat across the entire surface of the heatsink for me over the years.

It may LOOK smooth but if you use a glass plate to simulate the heatsink or CPU being attached to it and scan the result with a microscope, you will likely find thousands of microscopic air bubbles between the glass and paste caused by fine streaks from the card's edge. With the center pea method, air gets displaced out as the pea flattens.

The "credit card" method is useful for coating unusually rough surfaces. For relatively smooth surfaces, it most likely creates more bubbles than it prevents.

For gpus as well? I have always used that for gpus and most times the line method for cpus with heat spreaders.

I have sometimes used the baggie method(same as latex glove method) without any problems and it works in more enclosed spaces well.

I need to try the plate of glass idea as that is just a great way to visualize the spread of paste.
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-1
October 11, 2013 9:32:01 AM

nukemaster said:
I have always used that for gpus and most times the line method for cpus with heat spreaders.

The thing is even the worst (yet sensible) methods will still yield 90+% coverage in the critical area with very little effort or care or 95+% if done remotely well so the differences between application methods would be barely measurable unless done exceptionally badly or other variables entered the equation.
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1
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