Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste Reviewhardnrg - July 13, 2008
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If you've been building computers for a while, you probably already have your own favorite brand and type of thermal paste. But why do you like one over another? Obviously, performance is important, but I like to look at other factors when it comes to deciding on which thermal compound to use.
Probably the second most important factor to me is consistency (the texture and viscosity of the stuff). Years ago I made the mistake of buying some Coolermaster thermal paste as it was the only thermal compound available at a store that promised higher performance than generic white silicone-based compound. The Coolermaster stuff was like the dried up peanut butter you get at the side of the jar when there's barely any left, truly awful, and a complete nightmare to spread on an Athlon XP CPU die.
Even now, with pretty much everyone keeping the Core 2 heatspreader intact and the application directions for CPUs being variations on the blob-and-squeeze method, you still need to be able to spread the paste around for Northbridge and Southbridge chipset dies, GPUs, GDDR modules, MOSFET/PWMs, etc.
Here are the thermal compounds used in this review, and in the second picture is a visual comparison of what the paste is actually like. From left to right, and reading down like a book, you can see: Arctic Silver 5, Thermalright (Type 1), Thermalright (Type 2), (NOT USED: unbranded silver paste), Evercool 420, Arctic Cooling, Vantec, Arctic Silver Ceramique, and Noctua NT-H1.
After several attempts to get equal amounts of paste on the CPU, it was clear that two of the white pastes, Thermalright (Type 2) and Arctic Silver Ceramique, sank lower to the surface due to a lower viscosity, almost approaching a liquid state. Arctic Silver 5 and Noctua NT-H1 were both notably thicker, but the Arctic Silver 5 appeared wetter than the Noctua NT-H1. With Noctua's offering being the most viscous paste in this group, I wondered if it would be difficult to spread thinly on the bare dies of chipsets and unlidded CPUs.
You might be wondering about the choice of comparison thermal compounds in this review. Arctic Silver 5 is a thermal paste that I buy separately and have not seen included with any cooling products, whereas the other thermal compounds in this review are included with high performance cooling products. Thermalright used to ship the Type 1 paste with its heatsinks, and the most recent heatsink I bought, the Ultra 120, came with the Type 2 paste. The Evercool paste comes with the VC-RE chipset heatsink, Arctic Cooling paste came with one of its GPU Silencer heatsinks, Vantec's paste came with one of its Iceberq chipset heatsinks, Dangerden ship its waterblocks with Arctic Silver Ceramique, and finally the Noctua NT-H1 paste is included with the NH-U12 CPU heatsink. So, the majority of thermal compounds in this review are the same brand as the heatsinks that have thermal paste as part of the product.
While not everyone reapplies thermal paste to their chipsets and other hardware, I feel that it's an important aspect to look at for the NT-H1's evaluation.