Thermal Paste Comparison, Part Two: 39 Products Get Tested

Pastes: Arctic And Arctic Silver

Arctic MX-2

This classic compound started the premium paste frenzy. It is still a good entry-level choice, too. Inexpensive and easy to use, its thermal performance is in the upper mid-range. And for what you pay, MX-2 seems like it's meant to keep competitors out of the lucrative thermal paste market.

Arctic MX-2
Thermal Conductivity5.6 W/(m*K)
CPU Water Cooling, High Pressure32.9 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, High Pressure36.6 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, Low Pressure37.5 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
GPU Cooling66.5 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
Electrically ConductiveNo
Viscosity3 (1-10, lower numbers mean easier to use)
Ease of Use8 (1-10, higher numbers mean easier to use)
Application Hints
This paste seems best suited for the "lentil ball" method, and can even be used in heavily air-conditioned rooms as low as 60 °F
Price (approximate)$5 (4 grams)

Arctic MX-4

While MX-4 is more expensive than the MX-2, it surprises us by offering only barely better results. This paste may have its strengths, but it's not your best option for high-power applications like GPUs. It's also tougher than Arctic's MX-2, making it more difficult to use, and less attractive to novices. The thermal performance we recorded puts MX-4 into the upper mid-range, but it also doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Fortunately, at $1.75 per gram, it is one of the least-expensive pastes.

Arctic MX-4
Thermal Conductivity8.5 W/(m*K)
CPU Water Cooling, High Pressure32.4 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, High Pressure36.5 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, Low Pressure36.9 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
GPU Cooling67.5 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
Electrically ConductiveNo
Viscosity6 (1-10, lower numbers mean easier to use)
Ease of Use4 (1-10, higher numbers mean easier to use)
Application HintsThis paste seems best suited for the "lentil ball" method, and should be used in warmer-than-average rooms from 85 °F
Price (approximate)$7 (4 grams)

Arctic Silver 5

Buyer beware: The brand Arctic Silver is not the same as Arctic. This is one of the few pastes on the market that still sports silver as an ingredient. However, it shows its age and does not keep up with the best pastes out there today. Based on its performance, it seems overpriced.

Arctic Silver 5
Thermal Conductivity9.0 W/(m*K)
CPU Water Cooling, High Pressure33.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, High Pressure37.2 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, Low Pressure37.7 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
GPU Cooling69.5 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
Electrically ConductiveNo (but unlike most silicone-based pastes, it is not a real insulator either)
Viscosity6 (1-10, lower numbers mean easier to use)
Ease of Use4 (1-10, higher numbers mean easier to use)
Application HintsThe paste can be spread more easily if you warm it to 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit in a pot of water, sealed in a water-tight pouch.
Price (approximate)$7 (3.5 grams)
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    Top Comments
  • TehDudeMan
    Great article guys! As a reader for over 10 years pretty much daily, this reminds me of the old Tom's Hardware. These type of in depth articles on enthusiast products are what I love.
    30
  • rolli59
    As good as the first part!
    26
  • danwat1234
    Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra isn't all that good after a year of hard use. In fact, it completely hardens / dries. On my X9100 after 9 months of nearly 24/7 100% load, I started seeing high temps and after 1 year auto shut downs while crunching. Turns out it was shutting off because it hit the 105 C thermal protection.
    Opened it up; thermal compound was as hard as a rock. has to pocket knife blade and sand it down.
    So for longevity it sucks. That is something to consider, not just initial performance, but performance months and years down the road. Especially for laptops that aren't designed to be opened up frequently for repasting.

    After trying Liquid Ultra many times and having it fail on me, I've put on Arctic MX-2 that has a supposed 8 year durability rating. Initial performance is great, we'll see how it lasts (been 3 weeks so far).
    21
  • Other Comments
  • rolli59
    As good as the first part!
    26
  • dragonfang18
    I loved the toothpaste part. What about Vicks Vaporub? I wonder how that thing would do.
    6
  • Azn Cracker
    Yeaaaa! nice in depth article. Disappointed that cheese was not use as a paste :(
    7
  • ledpellet
    Can you test Antec Formula 7 NANO DIAMOND Thermal Compound?
    6
  • TehDudeMan
    Great article guys! As a reader for over 10 years pretty much daily, this reminds me of the old Tom's Hardware. These type of in depth articles on enthusiast products are what I love.
    30
  • Matt Edwards
    A great article, agree the application of the compound, not the compound itself is most important.

    Like ledpellet I too am curious about these diamond compounds. Wonder if it offers similar results to the Coollaboratory products with an easier application, or if the results simply don't justify the price. E.g in Australia, Innovation Cooling IC7 Diamond 7 Carat Thermal Compound Paste - 1.5G can be found for as much as $25. The cheapest I have managed to find it for is $15. For that price it would want to be good considering the leading GELID GC Extreme, can be found for around $8.
    6
  • TerranTerrance
    Adding Ceramique would be greatly appreciated!
    7
  • danwat1234
    Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra isn't all that good after a year of hard use. In fact, it completely hardens / dries. On my X9100 after 9 months of nearly 24/7 100% load, I started seeing high temps and after 1 year auto shut downs while crunching. Turns out it was shutting off because it hit the 105 C thermal protection.
    Opened it up; thermal compound was as hard as a rock. has to pocket knife blade and sand it down.
    So for longevity it sucks. That is something to consider, not just initial performance, but performance months and years down the road. Especially for laptops that aren't designed to be opened up frequently for repasting.

    After trying Liquid Ultra many times and having it fail on me, I've put on Arctic MX-2 that has a supposed 8 year durability rating. Initial performance is great, we'll see how it lasts (been 3 weeks so far).
    21
  • slomo4sho
    CLU and Arctic MX-4 are both great products. MX-2 and MX-4 can often be found free after rebate so they are an exceptional value.
    1
  • CaptainTom
    More things like this! Articles like this will keep me here more often!
    1
  • John Goodman
    Was really hoping you'd test IC Diamond, since that's what I've always used. Bummer.
    2
  • stickmansam
    You could do a giveaway for the thermal pastes :P and include Canada this time :)
    2
  • iam2thecrowe
    would have liked to see a test without thermal compound. Have used noctua nt-h1 for ages now, no curing time sells it for me.
    2
  • Anonymous
    All the hype aside, could Tom's include an actual industrial "Silicone Heat Transfer Compound", such as the one by MG Chemicals :http://www.mgchemicals.com/products/greases-and-lubricants/thermal-greases/silicone-heat-transfer-compound-860/, any of the future comparisons. If this stuff is good to use in mass industrial applications, how can it not be any better then let's say AS5.

    Plus, AS5 can short out your mobo if some of it gets on the PCB and it costs 10 times as much as the industrial stuff and I don't think it is 10 times better.
    3
  • yannigr
    The good old Ceramique should have been in the list. Nevertheless nice article. Disappointed with the tooth paste. Expecting more from it.
    2
  • rwinches
    Coollaboratory Liquid MetalPad sounds ideal.
    Might there be a way to achieve proper bond by heating the pad as well as getting the cpu hot?
    I guessing this would be most ideal for GPUs though, as they want to get very hot.
    0
  • milktea
    Great article!

    BTW, is the Cooler Master Extreme Fusion X1 available in the USA?
    0
  • PreferLinux
    It would have been nice to see the stock thermal paste on the Intel cooler too...
    8
  • HazardManiac
    I just ordered the liquid pro and I'm already starting to regret it...
    0
  • Technoart
    You guys should see how big tube of thermal paste and how big is the thermal tape that are available inside AMD. All of this product are obsolete.
    -8