Thermal Interfaces Roundup, Part 2: Bundled Products

The second part of our massive roundup is going to talk about 19 thermal interfaces that are included among the accessories accompanying cooling products.

by Sergey Lepilov
03/28/2011 | 04:06 AM

In the first part of the thermal interface roundup I tested 26 products for their efficiency in cooling a graphics card’s processor and also checked out some of them with a CPU. This second part that you are reading now is concerned with 19 such TIMs that are included with coolers and do not sell individually.

 

Like in the first part, I am going to test their efficiency so that you could see what manufacturers supply high-performance TIMs with their coolers. Let’s have a look at each of them one by one.

Testing Participants

Alpenföhn

The first thermal grease comes with the Alpenföhn Nordwand cooler. You can find a TIM called Schneekanone at the manufacturer’s website but I am not sure that they are one and the same thing. The small syringe lacks any markings or labels:

It is white and has the consistency of thick sour cream. It can be very easily applied and removed:

 

AMA

Next goes the thermal grease included with coolers from AMA Precision Inc. The manufacturer’s website doesn’t mention it. There is only the name of the manufacturer on the syringe:

 

This viscous and plastic gray-colored stuff is very easy to apply and remove.

 

I don’t know anything about the specs of this thermal grease, though.

Cooler Master

Cooler Master’s thermal grease is included with the company’s low-end coolers such as Hyper 212 Plus or Hyper N620. The small syringe with a Cooler Master sticker contains 3 or 4 grams of rather dense light-gray thermal grease.

  

Nothing is known about its specs. I can only tell you that it is easy to apply.

 

This grease is also easy to remove from the component surface.

Cooler Master Thermal Fusion 400 (RG-TF4-TGU1-GP)

Cooler Master’s Thermal Fusion 400 is shipped together with the company’s flagship V10 cooler. It is also available as an individual product, but I tested the stuff included with a V10.

The Thermal Fusion 400 is declared to have a thermal conductivity of 2.89 W/(K·m), which isn’t very high. It neither leaks nor dries out. It does not conduct electricity and has a very low thermal resistance.

The Thermal Fusion 400 is medium-density, viscous and sticky thermal grease. It can be applied and removed easily enough.

 

CoolIT

The thermal grease included with CoolIT’s liquid cooling systems is sealed into a small 1.5-gram pack.

Its specs are not declared. It is close to liquid thermal greases in consistency but does not leak. It is gray in color.

Here are the imprints left by this thermal grease on the graphics processor and cooler’s base:

 

Deep Cool

Now let’s have a look at the thermal grease included with the Deep Cool V4000 cooler. In the first review I tested Deep Cool’s Z9 grease and the manufacturer’s website mentions two more thermal interfaces, Z5 and Z3. It’s hard to tell which one is included with the company’s coolers. The cooler descriptions do not mention that, either.

The small syringe contains 2 or 3 grams of gray-colored stuff.

 

The Deep Cool thermal grease is rather thick but can be easily applied in a slim and uniform layer.

 

I also had no problems cleaning the component surfaces after using it.

Nexus

Next goes the thermal grease included with Nexus coolers, particularly with the Nexus VCT-9000. The company’s official website mentions a thermal interface called TPM-1000, but I wouldn’t guarantee that it is included with all of Nexus coolers.

The small syringe is unexpectedly informative, listing the thermal interface specs. The specified thermal conductivity of 6 W/K·m is quite high, by the way.

This thermal grease is thick yet also has high plasticity.

It is indeed quite a mystery to me how this very thick grease can retain such plasticity and be so easy to apply. I had no problems smudging it about in a thin and uniform layer:

 

The Nexus thermal grease is also very easy to remove from the component surfaces.

Prolimatech PK-1

Prolimatech Megahalems cooler, like the rest of the company’s products, comes with Prolimatech PK-1 thermal grease.

 

It is a viscous and plastic gray-colored TIM with undeclared characteristics. It is easy to apply and remove from the component surfaces.

 

Scythe

Despite having such a high-quality TIM as Thermal Elixer (SCYTE-1000) in its product range, the Japanese firm Scythe puts a small pack of some other stuff into its cooler kits. You can find it in the box of the new Ninja 3, for example.

The thermal grease is liquid as you can see by the imprints it makes:

  

The specs of this thermal grease are not known to me.

SilMORE

Many entry-level air-based coolers come with SilMORE thermal grease which used to be white and semi-liquid but now is gray and thicker.

The specs remain unknown, though.

 

This grease is easy to apply and remove.

Thermalright Chill Factor and Chill Factor II

The two old thermal interfaces from Thermalright, Chill Factor and Chill Factor II, are not listed among the products currently produced by the company anymore, but I guess it’s interesting to test and compare them with the new Chill Factor III.

The first thermal grease is white in color and has the consistency of thick sour cream. The other is gray and thicker as can be seen in the photos.

 

Despite the difference in consistency, both are easy to apply and remove from the component surfaces.

Chill Factor Chill Factor II

Thermaltake

Included with the Thermaltake Frio and many other Thermaltake coolers is a small syringe with light-gray thermal grease:

 

This viscous and plastic grease is easy to apply and sticks to the surface in a thin and uniform layer.

 

ThermoLab

ThermoLab supplies high-performance thermal grease with its coolers. For example, the new ThermoLab Bada 2010 comes with this syringe:

Most thermal grease syringes included with coolers are small but ThermoLab offers a generous 5 grams, which should suffice for 15 to 20 uses.

This thermal grease is plastic, viscous and sticky.

It can be easily spread out in a thin and uniform layer:

I could not find the official specifications of this thermal grease.

Titan Nano Blue and Nano Grease

Titan’s Nano Blue and Nano Grease used to be included with namesake coolers. As for newer products, the last model that I tested, the Titan Fenrir, came with Titan Royal Grease rather than either of these two.

 

The Nano Blue differs from the other products in its acid blue color and dense particles in its composition:

 

The Nano Grease is, on the contrary, white and rather liquid:

 

 

I don’t know anything about the official specs of these TIMs, but such specs are often different from what thermal grease can show in practice anyway.

I can tell you that the Nano Blue refused to ensure effective heat transfer between the GPU die and the cooler’s base during my preliminary tests:

 

But it may be interesting for modders due to its unusual color.

Zalman ZM-TG2

Before Zalman began to produce its high-performance ZM-STG2 thermal grease, the company’s coolers had used to come with a tiny tube of ZM-TG2.

  

Despite its small size, the tube is quite informative. You can learn the composition (zinc oxide) and thermal conductivity (1.2 W/K?m) of the thermal grease.

The ZM-TG2 is white and rather thick (perhaps the thickest of all the white-colored greases). It is easy to apply and remove, though:

 

Zaward

Zaward coolers come with a small syringe of white thermal grease:

 

The company produces TCG002 thermal grease with a declared thermal conductivity of 6 W/K?m but I don’t know whether the syringe contains it or some other stuff.

 

It is neither liquid nor very thick in consistency. I had no problems applying and removing it from the components.

ZEROTherm ZT-100

The Korean firm APACK supplies a 1.2-gram tube of ZT-100 thermal grease with its coolers.

  

The declared thermal conductivity is over 3.1 W/K?m. The thermal grease is gray in color, viscous and plastic.

It is easy to apply in a thin and uniform layer.

  

So, these are the 19 thermal interface materials that come together with CPU and GPU coolers. Let’s now check how effective they are.

Test Results and Conclusion

I tested these thermal interfaces using the same methodology as described in the first part of the roundup. The break-in period and the two cycles of tests for the two applications of each thermal grease are the same duration. I want to remind you that the modder-oriented Titan Nano Blue failed to perform properly during my preliminary tests. For the sake of comparison, I will add the results of the following products discussed in the previous review: Zalman ZM-STG2, Thermalright Chill Factor III and ThermaltakeTG-1 (the latter was in fact the winner of the previous comparative test).

Let’s see if the thermal interface materials included with coolers are as effective as those that sell as individual products:

The group of leaders includes the AMA, Cooler Master Thermal Fusion 400, Thermaltake (the company is in the lead again), Thermalright Chill Factor II and ZEROTherm ZT-100. These five products are as effective as the Thermaltake TG-1 and Thermalright Chill Factor III (by the way, the latter is only half a degree better than its predecessor). There is no reason to replace any of them with something else. The manufactures should be given credit for including such high-performance TIMs with their coolers.

The Prolimatech PK-1, Deep Cool, Nexus, CoolIT, ThermoLab and, rather surprisingly, the gray SilMORE follow the leaders at a distance of 2-3°C. The older SilMORE didn’t do so well and performed worse by 7°C and more. These six TIMs are 2-3°C inferior to the leaders and should be quite enough unless you are into overclocking and want to squeeze everything out of your CPU or graphics card. By the way, as my previous tests showed, the difference between thermal greases on a CPU is going to be smaller than on the GPU.

Next go three thermal greases with rather low efficiency: the Alpenföhn, the Scythe and the Thermalright Chill Factor. And while the Chill Factor is out of production already and is not included with Thermalright’s new coolers, Scythe should be more careful about its choice of thermal grease. These TIMs are not as effective as the leaders.

Finally, we’ve got three poor thermal interfaces: the Zaward, the Cooler Master and the Zalman ZM-TG2. That’s not a big problem, though. Zaward coolers are not very popular anyway whereas the Zalman ZM-TG2 is already replaced with the new ZM-SGT2. The small syringe from Cooler Master can be found with the company’s coolers but its top-end products are already equipped with the new Cooler Master Thermal Fusion 400. Hopefully, Cooler Master will soon begin to include the latter grease with its entry-level coolers, too.

I hope this roundup will help you make a better choice of thermal grease to use for your system.