Arctic Cooling MX-4: The Next Generation

Posted Aug 26, 2010
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Arctic cooling does, as the name suggests, cooling products. Be it CPUs, GPUs or computer cases they have all the bases covered.

Arctic cooling also does thermal compounds –the “MX” series. The latest iteration is called the MX-4, which is their 4th generation thermal paste.

FACTS

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The most striking fact about MX-4 is its 8 years durability. While I doubt any reader will actually keep the same setup unchanged for 8 years, it is good to know that the compound has a really, really long life. The rest of the features are industry standard.

Notice how I don’t mention the spreadability of the compound. MX-3 was a very hard compound and a pain to spread. As MX-4 is less viscous, it is easier to spread. However our way of applying thermal paste (see below under “testing”) neutralizes this aspect of thermal compounds and thus is not considered as a positive or negative factor.

PACKAGING

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The thermal compound comes in a standard hard plastic shell. The inset provides relevant technical information as well as the salient features of the compound.

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The packing also warns the perils to aquatic organisms if MX-4 was to find its way there. Don’t flush this down the toilet folks!

TESTING

For more info about our testing methods please read this article

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Our thermal compound application method is as follows: A smaller than a pea sized gob of thermal compound is applied to the center of the processor heat spreader.

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The weight of the cooler then helps the thermal compound to spread. This method has several advantages. If the compound is very thick, it is difficult to spread the compound manually. A manually spread compound might appear uniform, but microscopically it hardly ever is. By using the base of the heat sink the compound moulds itself to the gap between it (the heat sink base) and the processor heat spreader. It also reduces the chance of trapping air between the two metallic surfaces.

Test system

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Test Products

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Curing Time

Only two products (both from Arctic Silver) have recommended curing times (the time before the thermal compound is able to achieve maximal thermal conductance). For Ceramique the time recommended is 25 hours of use and for AS5 it is about 200 hours of use.

RESULTS

The test was run 5 times per thermal compound. The temperature of the hottest core during each run was averaged over the 5 runs. Each thermal paste was tested thrice, thus producing 15 discrete results for every thermal compound.

The results are presented relative to the best performer. The difference between this and the rest are shown graphically. The base line for the best performer is taken as “0” and all other results are relative to this.

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There is a 2 Centigrade spread. The results are consistent with those obtained with a slightly different setup used in the initial thermal compound shoot out conducted by WCCF.

CONCLUSION

How did the MX-4 fare? It did very well for itself. It comes to with in .5C of the best performing thermal compound; the AS5.

Arctic Silver 5 (AS5) has many limitations. It has a long curing time of 200 hours and as it is capacitive it should be used near electrical traces as it might short these out in the long run.

The MX-4 has none of these draw backs and is cheaper to buy as well. I won’t dunk any points for its relatively high viscosity. The reason being it is possible to use thermal compound without bringing this property into play.

For anyone in the hunt for an all around long life thermal compound, look no further than the Arctic Cooling MX-4.

Pros

    Performance
    Cost
    Universal usage

Cons

    None

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