Thermal Compound Shootout


We are going to take a quick straightforward look at various thermal compounds with straight numbers.  Without further ado, let's dive in.

First of, let me thank the following:

  • ESG Associates for Nanotherm series of compounds
  • Spire for Stars-700 Compound
  • Akasa for ShinEtsu TIM Pads
  • ME:) for Arctic Silver 3 Compound

Analogy of “TIM”

Thermal compounds or “TIM” (Thermal Interface Material) are compounds that are meant to fill in the “gaps” between the heatsink fan and the CPU die. Every surface has these air gaps and it is best to lap the heatsink for better metal-to-metal contact. However, nothing is perfect, even with lapping. Thus, thermal compounds come into play. It plays the role of filling microscopic air gaps that are within the CPU die and heatsink itself.

Without further ado, let us introduce the contenders.

As you can see the colors of the various compounds


Nanotherm Blue II

The following are some of the features, characteristics and benefits of Nanotherm II Thermal Compounds:

Cost-Effective, High Performance Thermal Interface Material
High Thermal Conductivity
Low Thermal Resistance
Excellent High and Low Temperature Characteristics
Electrically Insulative
Spreads Smoothly & Evenly in Thin Layers
Viscous, Sticky Consistency
Fills Micropores & Grooves on Contact Surfaces
Fast, Easy Cleanup - No Mess
Excellent Barrier Properties to Oxygen and Moisture
Resistant to Separation, Leeching and Drying Out
High Pressure Resistance
Transparent to Microwave Radiation

Nanotherm Silver XTC

The newest product in our family of Nanotherm thermal compounds. This "Xtreme Thermal Compound" contains a one of the highest loadings of Silver particles of any compound on the market. We use a special mixture of custom-milled Silver particles (99.98% pure) which are blended into a unique high temperature synthetic suspension fluid. The Nanotherm Silver XTC also contains a small percentage of the special Boron Nitride and "Nano" powders used in our Nanotherm II thermal compounds to further enhance the performance of the compound. The Nanotherm Silver XTC comes in a measured, clear 3 ml syringes each packed with a hefty 4.0 g / 1.15 ml of compound. MSRP - US $7.95

Nanotherm EXP

ESG Associates explained the importance of keeping tight lipped on the EXP because it's still in experiment phase.  I will respect that.  What I can tell you is that it is not a thermal grease and is only for air cooling purposes.

Spire Stars 700


Silver Grease
Dimensions Injection tube : 55×5×5mm. (w × d × h)
Weight 0.5 Gram
Color Silver
Thermal Conductivity 7.5 W/m-K
Application Thermal grease can be used on the rear side of the heatsink which has no thermal pad. It will improve the heat dispatch of your processor.
Thermal Impedance 0.06°C-in²/W

Akasa ShinEtsu TIM Pads

Unfortunately, there wasn't sufficient information on Akasa site.

Arctic Silver 3

Features of Arctic Silver 3 (from the AS website)
The first silver-based, polysynthetic thermal compound for use between modern high-power CPUs and high performance heatsinks or water-cooling solutions.
Made with 99.9% pure micronized silver.
Arctic Silver 3 uses three unique shapes and sizes pure silver particles to maximize particle-to-particle contact area and thermal transfer. This exclusive combination gives the compound a distinctive silver-green color as each type of particle reflects light differently.

Over 70% silver content by weight.
Arctic Silver 3 also contains a small percentage of specially engineered micronized boron nitride. The thermally-enhanced boron nitride ceramic particles improve the compound's flow characteristics and long-term stability.

Extended temperature limits:
– 40°C to >160°C Arctic Silver 3 will not run or separate.

Controlled triple phase viscosity.
Arctic Silver 3 does not contain any silicone. The suspension fluid is a proprietary mixture of advanced polysynthetic oils that work together to provide three distinctive functional phases. As it comes from the tube, Arctic Silver 3's consistency is engineered for easy application in a thin even layer. During the CPU's initial use, the compound thins out to enhance the filling of the microscopic valleys and insure the best physical contact between the heatsink and the CPU core. Then the compound thickens slightly over the next 50 to 200 hours of use to its final consistency designed for long-term stability.  (This should not be confused with conventional phase change pads that are pre-attached to many heatsinks. Those pads melt each time they get hot then re-solidify when they cool. The viscosity changes that Arctic Silver 3 goes through are much more subtle and ultimately much more effective.)

Thermal conductivity: >9.0 W/m°K (Hot Wire Method Per MIL-C-47113)

Thermal Resistance: <0.0024°C-in²/Watt (0.001 inch layer)

4 to 15 degrees centigrade lower CPU core temperatures than standard thermal compounds or thermal pads.
When measured with a calibrated thermal diode imbedded in the CPU core.

Negligible electrical conductivity.
Arctic Silver 3 was formulated to conduct heat, not electricity. It is only electrically conductive in a thin layer under extreme compression.

Arctic Silver 3 is sold in 3 gram and 6 gram tubes. The 3 gram tube contains enough compound to cover at least 20 to 30 small CPU cores, or 7 to 12 large CPU cores, or 3 to 6 heat plates. At a layer 0.003" thick, the 3 gram tube will cover approximately 18 square inches.

Important Reminder:
Due to the unique shape and sizes of the silver particles in Arctic Silver 3, it will take a minimum of 72 hours to achieve maximum particle to particle thermal conduction and for the heatsink to CPU interface to reach maximum conductivity. (This period will be longer in a system without a fan on the heatsink.) On systems measuring actual internal core temperatures via the CPU's internal diode, the measured temperature will drop as much as 2C to 4C over this "break-in" period.

Disclaimer:  Results WILL vary from computer to computer, probably not greatly, but they will vary, no two systems are identical, and environmental conditions are impossible to duplicate between any two locations.

All you have to do is use 1/4th of thermal compound on a CPU die (AMD in this case) and spread it evenly with your finger in a plastic bag, or use a credit card to spread it. With the Akasa TIM Pads, you have to use 1 pad and place it on your cooler.  Use you finger and rub it on the plastic so the pad will stick on.

Procedure and Testing

Tested on Spire MicroFlow I Cooler.  Tested in ambient room temperature of 23c.  Monitored temperatures by Winbond Hardware Doctor (Usual Abit NV7-133R Motherboard.

“TIM” was let running for 72 hours for setting period.

The Results

Nanotherm Blue II

  • Idle (30min) - 46.50 degrees
  • Load (UT 2003, 1 hour) - 51 degrees
  • Load (Toast 5 mins) - 53 degrees

Nanotherm Silver XTC

  • Idle (30min) - 46.50 degrees
  • Load (UT 2003, 1 hour) - 50 degrees
  • Load (Toast 5 mins) - 52 degrees

Nanotherm EXP

  • Idle (30min) - 46 degrees
  • Load (UT 2003, 1 hour) - 50 degrees
  • Load (Toast 5 mins) - 53 degrees

Akasa TIM Pads

  • Idle (30min) - 47 degrees
  • Load (UT 2003, 1 hour) - 51 degrees
  • Load (Toast 5 mins) - 55 degrees

Stars 700

  • Idle (30min) - 47 degrees
  • Load (UT 2003, 1 hour) - 52 degrees
  • Load (Toast 5 mins) - 56 degrees

Arctic Silver 3 (Results taken from MicroFlow Review)

  • Idle (30min) - 45 degrees
  • Load (UT 2003, 1 hour) - 51 degrees
  • Load (Toast 5 mins) - 54


As you can see by the results, all of the compound resulted in a degree or 4 between each other and each did it's job.  What was really good to see was that Nanotherm line of compounds held it's ground against the pack and beat out the Arctic Silver in load areas.  The Stars 700 compound scared me when it reached 56 degrees on toast, and the Akasa TIM Pads did very well and beat out the Stars 700 compound. 

Hope you enjoyed the quick run-down and learned which compound you want.