TIM Review V2 – AMD Installment

Thoughts and Conclusion

There really is very little new news to share here. Indigo Xtreme is a killer TIM on AMD as well as Intel and Shin-Etsu X23-7783D maintains its position as the best paste I’ve tested to date. The gap between the good pastes and Indigo Xtreme did shrink in this set of tests, I suspect it’s due to the larger IHS and increased mounting pressure. IceFusion proved to be useful as a generic reference TIM, but is really a bad proposition for a value TIM for an enthusiast, despite its tremendous price. Arctic Silver 5 fell much further behind MX-2 and X23-7783D in this test, and I’m really not sure why. I suspect it might be the bead method but I can’t say for sure without doing an series of tests isolating the possible causes.

Something new we’re debuting with these tests is a scoring system. But there’s no subjectivity here–no scoring based on usability, value, or any of that–this scoring method averages the best mount temperature with the average temperature of all the pastes, makes the best a 10 and the worst a 1 with linear scaling between. Overall, this scoring method is a unitless relative description of what to expect from (approximately) a 75th percentile mount. We’re pretty averse to giving scores to the products we test since there’s usually so much subjectivity involved. Things like value and ease of use are unique to each individual, but repurposing and reformulating measured thermal performance is something we’re comfortable with. So without further adieu, I present you Relative Performance scores of the TIMs in this review.

It may seem unfair that a TIM within 1.4C of the best TIM merely got a 8.37 score, but that’s just how the numbers came together. This scoring system will flex some muscle in the upcoming waterblock and TIM reviews where the database of results gets updated over time–new 10s and 1s will crop up as testing progresses and this method will disambiguate from actual temperature numbers and show how the performances relate to each other.

Returning to the TIMs in this review, the performance standings and relation is pretty straight forward…where things muddy a bit is with the non-performance factors. Little has changed from the first time I reviewed Indigo Xtreme, I still think the only downsides are the atypical installation and cost. At $20 for a kit (2 installations), it’s more expensive than its competitors. But for most setups, the improvement it brings will be the most cost-effective upgrade possible for them. Blocks, radiators, pumps, and fans (when bought in multiples) are almost always more expensive and don’t necessarily bring such a noticeable improvement in performance.

As for special notes regarding the other TIMs, there’s not too much to say. For applications where an Indigo Xtreme is not viable (namely GPUs and miscellaneous components), Shin-Etsu X23-7783D is a great paste-based TIM to use. It’s a pretty dry and thick TIM, so you have to use a medium amount of it (meaning you can only get 6-8 installations out of a 1g tube) and it’s a little difficult to work with, but it’s still a great performer and an easy second place in this test.

MX-2’s performance just reinforces how great this TIM is and that its slow disappearance from the market is not a good thing. If there were ever a perfect TIM in terms of usability, price, performance, compatbility (great on MOSFETs, RAM, etc.), and general forgiveness (easily the least finicky and most forgiving), MX-2 would get a nomination from me. It’s not what I would use when going for every last degree, but it gets used in every other scenario.

IceFusion and AS5 are a bit out of their element in this test, but I’m excited to test AS Matrix in Part 2 of the 2010 TIM Review and IceFusion’s usefulness as a reference TIM is a nice silver lining.

Overall, TIM remains a good place to look if you’re trying to get every last degree. The ever-popular AS5 just doesn’t keep up in this test and IceFusion is even worse than that. MX-2, X23-7783D, and Indigo Xtreme are tightly packed together, but with those three there’s a definite correlation between cost and performance–the more you pay, the more you get–and overall cost of a TIM uprgade is pretty low compared to getting a new HSF or waterblock. Indigo Xtreme is again the performance winner, it’s just a great, great TIM that brings you right to the edge of perfect TIM performance.

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