This is the second installment of many of the Skinnee Labs TIM Comparison 2011. For most of the installments, results will be released in two TIM pairs roughly every two weeks but today, again, we have three TIMs for review.
Our testing methodology has changed for 2011; we’re back down to five mounts per TIM and down to ten hours per mount. But we’ve added a large new wrinkle: testing at three different ‘contact’ settings. By testing at “Poor,” “Moderate,” and “Great” contact, we can see how well each TIM performs across a wide range of situations. To do this, we’re using three Koolance CPU-360s with various modifications and different mounting pressures.
Like our previous TIM reviews, we’ll also show how the TIM cures over time and how it varies across mounts. Overall we feel the TIM Comparison 2011 will be familiar in format, just as rigorous, but with a lot more depth.
Today’s TIMs for the comparison are Arctic Silver Matrix, Cooler Master IceFusion, and Prolimatech PK-1. After today, we’ll have six TIMs completed in the 2011 Comparison, but we still have roughly 30 more on the docket. Lots of testing left to do!
Arctic Silver Matrix is Arctic Silver’s latest and greatest TIM, following up on the success of Ceramique and Arctic Silver 5. According to Arctic Silver, “Developed in conjunction with TIM Consultants and based on their acclaimed 0098 grease, Matrix Thixotropic Premium Thermal Compound offers optimum performance in demanding moderate to large bond line situations. It is designed for a wide range of applications between modern high-power CPUs and GPUs and high-performance heatsinks or water-cooling solutions.” Arctic Silver ups the ante for their typical cure-time recommendations to 300 hours plus multiple thermal cycles. Considering Arctic Silver 5 has been the benchmark other TIMs are measured by, but is also an older TIM that’s no longer near the top of the market in terms of performance, I’m really interested in seeing if Arctic Silver’s latest can bring them back.
Cooler Master IceFusion is a high-volume, budget paste. It comes in 40g and 200g tubs and at extremely low costs; the 200g tub can be found for less than $20. It’s a white paste that’s usually pretty thin but separates into two components: a thick white paste and a thin oil. This means it requires mixing before each use for consistent performance. In the AMD Installment of our last review we showed it was a poor performer, but that’s why it’s being included in the early portion of our 2011 Comparison: having a reference point for a ‘bad’ or ‘generic’ TIM can be important for people looking to upgrade.
Prolimatech PK-1 is a paste that’s growing in popularity. In addition to the fact it’s gaining popularity quickly, it’s in this review because it didn’t really have a logical pair to be reviewed in tandem with later. PK-1 is bundled with Prolimatech heatsinks and Aqua Computer’s cuplex Kryos line, both of which are considered high-end products in their own markets, so there’s promise from that aspect. It’s a grey, wet paste that has pretty low adhesive properties–a blob would rather stick to the syringe tip than to an IHS–but it also spreads very well.
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.