June 2009 Thermal Compound Roundup (Arctic Cooling, Arctic Silver, Gelid, Noctua, Tuniq, and Zalman) - Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Article Index
June 2009 Thermal Compound Roundup (Arctic Cooling, Arctic Silver, Gelid, Noctua, Tuniq, and Zalman)
Testing Paste vs. Paste vs. Paste
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

 

BCCHardware 2009 Thermal Compound Roundup Final Thoughts:

It's been a while since we took a look at thermal compounds, so we decided to put 6 of the most common compounds available on a hot quad-core CPU, and see if we could crown a winner. Unfortunately when all the dust settled, the results were very close (and very interesting), and crowning a definitive "Winner" is going to be tough. All 6 of the compounds we tested were within 3 degrees Celsius in performance to each other (which is less than a 5% difference between the top and bottom performers), but all 6 are definitely a upgrade to the thermal compound that comes pre-applied with your stock cooler. Due to the close performance numbers chances are good that factors like availability and price are going to play an even bigger factor in your next thermal compound buying decision.

I'm going to provide a individual rundown of each of the 6 thermal compounds that we tested, and let you decide the winner for yourself.

 

Zalman ZM-STG1 Thermal Compound Final Thoughts

The Zalman ZM-STG1 was the only compound that we tested that did not come in a tube, instead it comes in a container much like nail polish does, and features a brush (much like nail polish) to make applying the compound easy. Of all the compounds we tested the Zalman ZM-STG1 was the easiest to apply (and was easy to gauge if you're using enough, or not enough, compound on the CPU).

Pros:

  • Easy to Apply
  • Easy to tell if you've used enough (or not enough) compound
  • Good Performance

 

Tuniq TX-2 Thermal Compound Final Thoughts

This is the 2nd time we've taken a look at the TX-2 compound from Tuniq (read our original review here). In our original testing the TX-2 was right in the mix with all of our other compounds that we tested it against, and in this 2nd round of testing the results were much the same. The Tuniq TX-2 thermal compound is still a good choice.

Pros:

  • Good Performance
  • Easy to Apply

 

Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound Final Thoughts

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal compound has been our thermal compound of choice here at BCCHardware for a while now, and we use it on all of the coolers we review to provide accurate results in our testing of aftermarket coolers. One big plus to the MX-2 is the no curing period, which is very nice because you'll start to get the best results from day one (instead of having to wait 200 hours for "optimal performance"). Arctic Cooling MX-2 has been on the market for a while now, yet in our testing we still found it to be at the top of our results, and thanks to the wide availability in stores, Arctic Cooling MX-2 is still a great choice.

Pros:

  • Good Performance
  • Easy to Apply
  • No Curing Period Necessary

 

Gelid GC-1 Thermal Compound Final Thoughts

This is also the 2nd time we've taken a look at the GC-1 thermal compound from Gelid (read our original review over here).  The Gelid GC-1 (like most of the other thermal compounds we tested) also comes in a tube, but unique to the GC-1 is a handy applicator stick that makes applying the thermal compound onto your CPU nice and easy. In our original testing we found the GC-1 to be very competitive with its temperatures, and in this 2nd round of testing the results were very similar, however with the additional heat that the AMD Phenom X4 9950 kicks out we found the Gelid GC-1 to be a couple degrees warmer, however, still proves to be a very decent upgrade to stock thermal paste.

Pros:

  • Good Performance
  • Easy to Apply (Thanks to Handy Applicator Stick)
  • No Curing Period Necessary

 

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound Final Thoughts

This is the 2nd time we've had the Noctua NT-H1 on the bench (read our original review here). In our original testing we found the NT-H1 to perform very well, and once again (with a hotter CPU) the results were very similar and the Noctua NT-H1 finished towards the top of our list for performance. The Noctua NT-H1 comes in a tube (like most of the other thermal compounds we tested), and it also doesn't need a curing period (no burn-in time), so you'll be getting peak performance right away instead of having to wait.

Pros:

  • Good Performance
  • Easy to Apply
  • No Curing Period Necessary

 

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound Final Thoughts

Last but not least we've got the Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound. Arctic Silver is a pretty well known name in the thermal compound market, and chances are good most computer shops are going to have Arctic Silver 5 available for purchase. In our testing we found the Arctic Silver 5 to be very competitive, and it finished right in the middle in our testing. The biggest drawback with Arctic Silver 5 is that it has a 50-200 hour curing period (burn-in period) before you're going to get optimal results. For most applications the burn-in period isn't a big deal at all, and in our experience we saw only about half a degree improvement from the time we applied the Arctic Silver 5 to the end of the burn-in period (50 hours later).

Pros:

  • Good Performance
  • Easy to Apply

 

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