Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste Reviewhardnrg -
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I wasn't expecting the Noctua NT-H1 to out-perform Arctic Silver 5 (AS5) during the tests, but it did when the system was overclocked and producing the highest heatload, albeit by a very slim margin.
The reasoning behind my doubts is the NT-H1 paste appears thicker than AS5, and I thought the resulting layer of thermal compound material between the CPU and the water block would be thicker when using Noctua's paste. This isn't the case and both NT-H1 and AS5 spread out to a very thin layer.
When using the NT-H1 on bare silicon chipset dies, I also thought the thickness would be a problem after my experience with Coolermaster's Premium Thermal Compound. The NT-H1 is quite viscous, certainly more than all the other pastes in the test, but the consistency is extremely smooth, so it is very easy to spread over a silicon die using a razor edge, quite effortless to achieve a thin and even layer in fact.
The biggest surprise during testing was just how much better the NT-H1 is compared with other cooling companies thermal compounds. Granted, some of the companies have newer, improved thermal pastes, but the large difference in performance really underlines the importance of choosing an efficient thermal paste, especially for overclocked machines.
The NT-H1 is currently $8.99 at a number of US retailers. AS5 has been around a lot longer and is available at a much larger number of retailers at price ranging from $4.99 to 9.99 for the standard size syringe. Comparing the NT-H1 to the standard size AS5 in terms of quantity, the 1.4ml of appears to be just slightly more volume than the 3.5g of AS5. It's very close, and Jakob from Noctua cleared this up for me: "AS5 comes in tubes of 3.5g. The density of AS5 is 4.1g/cm³, so it only offers a volume of about 0,85cm³ (0,85ml). NT-H1 has a density of 2.49g/cm³, so our 3.5g tube gives you 1.4cm³ (1.4ml) of paste to work with. So while NT-H1 may be slightly more expensive, you should also get more applications out of one tube." - This works out to around 65% more thermal paste in favour of the NT-H1.
So, the NT-H1 is a better performer than AS5 (only just), but you can find AS5 cheaper in the US, while in the UK, the price difference is a lot smaller. AS5 can be found as low as £4.00, and NT-H1 at £4.25. But, with the NT-H1, you get substantially more thermal compound than the AS5 3.5g tube.
As the NT-H1 beats AS5 by 1°C, and you get more paste for a similar price, the Noctua NT-H1 is the better deal for CPU cooling.
Which thermal paste do I personally prefer? It's actually still AS5, even though it loses out to NT-H1, the consistency is wetter than NT-H1. Spreading AS5 is like spreading mayonnaise, whereas NT-H1 is sort of like a very smooth clay texture. The thinner consistency of AS5 makes it easier to apply in situations that require spreading (Northbridge, Southbridge, GDDR, GPU, etc) so while NT-H1 takes the performance crown for CPU cooling, it's not quite as good as an all-round thermal compound solution in my opinion. (Update: since the production of this review sample, Noctua have modified the formula of NT-H1 slightly, so that it is easier to spread).
- Extremely high performance
- Smooth consistency, easy to spread
- Easy to remove
- Not as cheap or as widely available as its closest competitor Arctic Silver 5
- Requires more effort to spread on bare silicon than Arctic Silver 5