Thermal Paste Comparison, Part Two: 39 Products Get Tested

Thermal Adhesives: Arctic Silver And Akasa

Thermal adhesives binds surfaces together, acting as a thermal compound in the process. They're available both as pastes and in pad form, and may be necessary for mounting small heat sinks on memory packages or voltage regulation circuitry. Obviously, conventional pastes don't work in those cases, since the weight of a heat sink causes them to slide right off.

Adhesive pastes have better thermal properties than pads, but they are accompanied by a significant drawback: once thermal adhesive paste cures, you cannot remove the heat sink from the component without damaging something. We've seen too many pictures from folks who've torn off RAM packages or cracked MOSFETs in half. You can try a trick to avoid this: mix thermal adhesive with regular thermal paste. We'll discuss this shortly.

Paste: Arctic Silver Alumina Thermal Adhesive

Arctic Silver's Alumina is a classic among thermal adhesive pastes, but heed the above warning: once applied your heat sink won't come off again. But a similar non-adhesive version is also available, and you can mix about two parts of the adhesive with one part regular paste to achieve a compromise. Your sink shouldn't be affected by gravity or vibrations, but it should still come off if you need it to. After popping it off, remnants of the adhesive will remain on both surfaces, which you'll want to clean with a sponge.

Arctic Silver Alumina Thermal Adhesive
Thermal Conductivity9.0 W/(m*K)
CPU Water Cooling, High Pressure33.4 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, High Pressure37.5 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, Low Pressure
38.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
GPU Cooling70.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
Electrically ConductiveNo
Viscosity5 (1-10, lower numbers mean easier to use)
Ease of Use5 (1-10, higher numbers mean easier to use)
Application Hints
When in doubt, mix with the Arctic Silver Alumina paste. Otherwise, it can’t be removed after burn-in!
Price (approximate)$7 (1.75 grams)

Adhesive Pad: Akasa AK-TT12-80 Thermal Adhesive Tape

It is easier to use an adhesive pad, if you don't mind the compromise in thermal conductivity. But for making sure that RAM packages and MOSFETs don’t get too hot, pads are typically good enough. If you ever plan to change or remove the heat sinks you're attaching, use an adhesive pad rather than paste.

Akasa AK-TT12-80 Thermal Adhesive Tape
Thermal Conductivity0.9  W/(m*K)
CPU Water Cooling, High Pressure35.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, High Pressure40.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, Low Pressure42.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
GPU Cooling90.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
Electrically ConductiveNo
ViscosityPad (1-10, lower numbers mean easier to use)
Ease of Use1 (1-10, higher numbers mean easier to use)
Application HintsUse normal scissors to cut the tape to the desired size and shape
Price (approximate)$5 (80 mm x 80 mm)
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143 comments
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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 :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.
  • 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.
    -Bruce
  • 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: