Thermal Paste Comparison, Part Two: 39 Products Get Tested

Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra: Performance Measurements

If you want to know if this solution is worth its high price, the best we can do is answer with a non-committal maybe. Enthusiasts requiring an expensive, hard-to-apply thermal compound to lower Tcase by 2 or 3 degrees Kelvin (which could mean as much as 5 degrees Tcore) might want to consider their build goals. After running our own tests, we can state with some confidence that the supposed improvements of 5 to 7 Kelvin Tcase are overoptimistic. If you see that big of a gain, it's because you weren't doing something right with the paste you were using before. In order to create a more fair measurement, I compared one of the best conventional pastes, the GC-Extreme from Gelid Solutions, against Liquid Ultra. One-eighth of an ounce of GC-Extreme may be good for five or more applications; Coollaboratory's Liquid Ultra allows three, at most. Even without the expensive add-on cleaning kit, you're still looking at the difference between less than $2 per use and more than $4. You're also looking at five seconds of application time compared to three minutes or so. And we still haven’t taken increased risk into account.

Measurement Results

While Liquid Ultra isn’t compatible with aluminum coolers, we're lucky in that the Core 2 Quad Q6600's old boxed cooler sports a copper slug.

Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler

24 Hour Continuous Test
4 x 1 Hour Interval Test
Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra
Start:  31.0 °C ΔT
End:  30.0 °C ΔT
Start: 31.0 °C ΔT
End: 30.0 °C ΔT
Gelid Solution GC-Extreme
Start: 32.1 °C ΔT
End: 31.5 °C ΔT
Start: 32.1 °C ΔT
End: 31.8 °C ΔT
Air Cooler with High Mounting Pressure

24 Hour Continuous Test4 x 1 Hour Interval Test
Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra
Start:  32.0 °C ΔT
End:  32.0 °C ΔT
Start: 32.0 °C ΔT
End: 33.0 °C ΔT
Gelid Solution GC-Extreme
Start: 35.7 °C ΔT
End: 35.1 °C ΔT
Start: 35.7 °C ΔT
End: 35.3 °C ΔT
Air Cooler with Low Mounting Pressure

24 Hour Continuous Test4 x 1 Hour Interval Test
Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra
Start:  33.0 °C ΔT
End:  34.0 °C ΔT
Start: 33.0 °C ΔT
End: 34.0 °C ΔT
Gelid Solution GC-Extreme
Start: 36.9 °C ΔT
End: 36.5 °C ΔT
Start: 36.9 °C ΔT
End: 36.7 °C ΔT

It is amazing how well conventional thermal paste fares compared to liquid metal. A more familiar paste sports a lower difference between burned in versus not burned in, but at a mere 1°C ΔT, the Liquid Ultra certainly proves itself in the same league. Whether we run the interval test or the 24-hour stress test, only Gelid's paste manages to get slightly better as time passes.

Asked whether the 1.5 °C ΔT, which the Liquid Ultra holds over Gelid's GC-Extreme with a closed-loop cooler, or the 2.7 °C  ΔT, which it does in the boxed cooler test, are worth extra effort and cost, my personal answer is no. But of course, some enthusiasts swear by the liquid metal. Most folks don't need the stuff; it's really for the overclockers functioning at the very top of their game.

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  • rolli59
    As good as the first part!
  • dragonfang18
    I loved the toothpaste part. What about Vicks Vaporub? I wonder how that thing would do.
  • Azn Cracker
    Yeaaaa! nice in depth article. Disappointed that cheese was not use as a paste :(
  • ledpellet
    Can you test Antec Formula 7 NANO DIAMOND Thermal Compound?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • TerranTerrance
    Adding Ceramique would be greatly appreciated!
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • CaptainTom
    More things like this! Articles like this will keep me here more often!
  • John Goodman
    Was really hoping you'd test IC Diamond, since that's what I've always used. Bummer.
  • stickmansam
    You could do a giveaway for the thermal pastes :P and include Canada this time :)
  • 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.
  • All the hype aside, could Tom's include an actual industrial "Silicone Heat Transfer Compound", such as the one by MG Chemicals :, 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.
  • yannigr
    The good old Ceramique should have been in the list. Nevertheless nice article. Disappointed with the tooth paste. Expecting more from it.
  • 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.
  • milktea
    Great article!

    BTW, is the Cooler Master Extreme Fusion X1 available in the USA?
  • PreferLinux
    It would have been nice to see the stock thermal paste on the Intel cooler too...
  • HazardManiac
    I just ordered the liquid pro and I'm already starting to regret it...
  • 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.
  • dish_moose
    Nice article ... one small boo-boo "leaning toward the software compounds." on page 21 should be softer.
  • Technoart
    Standard thermal paste is good enough to conduct heat but buy high aluminum or silver content based thermal paste will serve your HSF and CPU coolly. I'm talking about industrial grade thermal compound. Try to get one from the manufacturers. 3rd Party based like CM, Arctic Silver and more still not good enough for our HSF and CPU. This is because when your CPU heat up so fast and cool down rapidly, your thermal compound may degrade fast until you thermal compound is flow to the sides of your CPU's IHS.
  • Technoart
    Also can try propanediol although is liquid but good for CPU benchmarking for setup in testbench mode.
  • BigMack70
    FANTASTIC article! Extremely informative and helpful, especially for newbies or anyone like me who hadn't ever seen the liquid metal compounds in action before.

    I'm personally partial to Noctua's NT-H1... I've gotten pretty nice results with it, and I love how easy it is to use compared to other compounds I've had. Might try the Gelid GC extreme at some point in the future when I run out of Noctua's NT-H1, though.

    Also, a big +1 for the lulz of using toothpaste and denture adhesive :lol: