This is the sixth installment of many of the Skinnee Labs TIM Comparison 2011. For most of the installments, results will be released in two or three TIM sets roughly every two or three weeks and today we have three TIMs to show.
Arctic Silver is the biggest name in thermal paste. For the longest time, Arctic Silver 5 was known as the pinnacle of thermal paste and its sibling, Ceramique, was also highly regarded for being the best performing paste without any conductivity/capacitance qualities. Things changed a few years back, however; Arctic Cooling MX-2 came on the scene and exceeded Arctic Silver 5’s performance while also not being capacitive. Even so, a quick glance at the number of user reviews at Newegg shows Arctic Silver makes the most popular pastes on the market with AS5 and Ceramique (although Ceramique has now been EOL’d).
Last year, Arctic Silver introduced a new paste: Matrix. We already reviewed it and were not impressed. It was inferior to MX-2 while being more expensive–not a great combo. Matrix didn’t really replace anything, just supplement AS5 and Ceramique. This year, Arctic Silver introduced Ceramique 2, a direct replacement to Ceramique. With this review we’ll see how AS5, Ceramique, and Ceramique 2 compare to the competition.
After today, we’ll have seventeen TIMs completed in the 2011 Comparison, but we still have over 25 more on the docket. Lots of testing left to do!
Arctic Silver 5 is Arctic Silver’s premier paste. It’s a thick, dark gray paste that thins well with pressure. It comes in two sizes, 3.5g and 12g, typically priced at $8 and $20ish, respectively. Those aren’t great prices in terms of cost per gram or entry cost (cost of the smallest possible quantity), but this is their flagship. AS5 is capacitive, meaning it cannot be used in any scenario where it could possibly get on a traces or SMD components.
Arctic Silver Ceramique is Arctic Silver’s old general-use paste. It’s a thick, white paste that thins well with pressure. It comes in two sizes, 2.5g and 22g, typically priced at $5 and $12, respectively. Those are really good prices in terms of entry cost and cost per gram with the largest syringe. Ceramique has been EOL’d.
Arctic Silver Ceramique 2 is Arctic Silver’s update of Ceramique. It’s a general-use paste that is thick and white but thins well with pressure. It comes in two sizes, 2.7g and 25g, typically priced at $5 and $12, respectively. Those are really good prices in terms of entry cost and cost per gram with the largest syringe.
For all three contact “settings” I use a Koolance CPU-360. I’ve chosen the CPU-360 due to its great mounting system (although I’ve modified all three blocks’ mounting systems) and because it’s pretty easy to add slight modifications.
At the “Poor” end of the spectrum, I have a stock CPU-360r1.2 with extremely low mounting pressure; the stock CPU360r1.2 has a somewhat irregular base and when paired with low pressure, TIM does not spread into a thin layer particularly well.
For the “Moderate” contact setting, I’ve taken a CPU-360r1.1 and reduced some of the internal structure so that there’s absolutely no bow. With pressure in the center of the base the block can actually become slightly concave as the o-ring compresses, but with only moderate mounting pressure the base seems to stay perfectly flat.
As for “Great” contact, I might have gone a little overboard; no block on the market has contact this great. I’ve modified a CPU-360r1.2 to have a thicker midplate with a compressible layer and the result is a pretty extreme bow that flattens with mounting pressure. And there’s a lot of mounting pressure. The result is impressive; with low viscosity pastes, it looks like there isn’t even any TIM on the center of the CPU when taking the mount apart. Even with viscous pastes the resulting layer is extremely thin.