Before I start, I’d like to thank the folks at Enerdyne for sending out a kit of Indigo Xtreme for this review. It’s been a pleasure dealing with them as I give them feedback and toss questions their way.
In this review, I will be testing five TIMs and comparing how they perform compared to each other and how they behave over a twelve hour load. The five TIMs being tested are: Arctic Cooling MX-2, Arctic Silver 5, IC Diamond, Indigo Xtreme, and Shin-Etsu X23-7783D. While not a conclusive review of every product on the market, it includes three of the most popular TIMs: MX-2, AS5, and ICD, as well as the newcomer and a wildcard, Indigo Xtreme and the Shin-Etsu, respectively.
The Indigo Xtreme TIM is, frankly, a totally different TIM compared to what computer enthusiasts are accustomed to. It’s not a ceramic paste, it’s not a metallic paste, it’s not a metallic paint, it’s not a liquid metal, it’s not a metal pad, it’s….something very different. The makers of Indigo Xtreme say it best: “Indigo Xtreme™ is a self-contained and sealed structure, deploying a Phase Change Metallic Alloy (PCMA) which reflows and fills surface asperities on the CPU lid and heat sink. The resultant interfacial layer is void-free and robust, with low thermal contact and bulk resistance.” In Layman’s terms, it’s a plastic card-like outer frame with a partial ring of metal that, once heated and allowed to reflow between the IHS and the cooler, forms a thin layer of metal perfectly adapted to the two surfaces. It’s a high-tech TIM.
Arctic Silver 5 is an old-timer in this group. It was a new TIM all the way back in 2003 yet it’s very competitive with today’s "new generation" of TIMs and is still incredibly popular. It has evolved into the TIM to which every other TIM manufacturer compares their products, as big a compliment as any. Despite being an old product, Arctic Silver provides updated application instructions for even Intel’s newest processor, Core i7, and promises to perform well.
Arctic Cooling MX-2 is, arguably, the most popular TIM in the enthusiast community. It’s known for exceptionally easy and consistent installation, great performance, non-conductive and non-capacitive qualities, and for being non-curing. It’s also become popular in the testing community as it’s readily available in large, 30g syringes for a reasonable price.
IC Diamond is Innovation Cooling’s first product on the market and it’s made a big splash in the enthusiast community. They entered the market with a bang, using buzz marketing and seeding hundreds of users with their TIM for free and having the users report performance in return. It is a thick, diamond-based TIM promising noticeable performance increases over the likes of MX-2 and AS5. At the time of writiing this review, Innovation Cooling reports that “336 Independent users in ten different forums used their own PCs to test the difference between IC Diamond and other thermal compounds. This independent testing shows an average performance gain of 3.65 ºC over other thermal compounds (Tests are still in process).”
Shin-Etsu X23-7783D is Shin-Etsu’s least thermally resistive TIM and their easiest to work with, according to their data. Shin-Etsu doesn’t market to enthusiasts, nor do many people know about their specific offerings, but many enthusiasts do associate Shin-Etsu with good TIM. To be honest, as the world’s largest supplier of semiconductor materials, the enthusiast community’s interest in TIM is probably way off their radar.