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Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound Review

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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound Review




Manufacturer's Part Number: MX-2
Manufacturer's Product Page: Arctic Cooling
Price: $9.00CAD
Availability: Now
Warranty: N/A



Arctic Cooling, with its head office located in Switzerland, suboffices in the USA and production facilities in Asia, is a fairly young company specialized in manufacturing silent cooling solutions for your PC. Besides that they also design silent fans, PC cases and more recently they have added a power supply line to their offerings. As the company's name indicates, they know the cooling business and in that same vein, they have released a new thermal compound called MX2.

MX-2 follows in the footsteps of the extremely popular MX-1 compound and Arctic Cooling is hoping that it will be as popular as their older product and it looks like their dreams have come true. Even though this compound has only been on the market for a few short months, it has steadily gained in popularity to the point where it is considered one of the best thermal compounds on the market. In fact, it has become so popular that many of our etailer contacts tell us that they can't keep it in stock and we have to agree with them since it seems to sell out as fast as stock appears. Arctic Cooling has heard what the market wants and they are now offering a 30 gram (yes, that's 30 grams) tube of MX-2 to their rabid customers. Since this behemoth tube of thermal compound has just been announced, the tube of MX-2 we will be looking at today is of the much more mundane 4 gram variety. Believe it or not, this is more than many other thermal compound manufacturers give you; many other compounds are only available in 2 to 3.5 gram tubes. Some compounds even come in smaller quantities so at around $9.00CAD per 4 gram tube, Arctic Cooling seems to have hit the nail on the head in terms of the amount of TIM you get for your hard-earned dollar. This value is something that Arctic Cooling has long been banking on and it is good to see that they have continued this tradition with MX-2.

There are promises aplenty when it comes to MX-2. Not only is it (supposedly) one of the best thermal compounds on the market but it also boasts high thermal conductivity, no curing time and it is does not have any electrical conductivity. All of these things in one package is like the Holy Grail for enthusiasts everywhere so it will definately be interesting to see how it performs. Does it live up to its hype? After hours, hours and then some more hours of investigating, testing, overclocking, calibrating, deliberating and benchmarking, we have finally have the results. How does it perform? I won't spoil the end for you just yet....so read on!!


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SKYMTL

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Specifications / How Thermal Compound Works

Arctic Cooling MX-2 Specifications

Arctic Cooling MX-2 is a high thermal conductivity and low thermal resistance compound for components that require optimum thermal dissipation. It is ideally suited for use in CPU, GPU cooling and other applications between power semiconductor components and heat sinks where thermal conductivity is a major factor.

Here is a short, but pretty extensive list of Arctic Cooling MX-2 capabilities:

- High Thermal Conductivity
- Low Thermal Resistance
- Non-Electrical Conductive
- Non-Capacitive
- Non-Curing
- Non-Corrosive
- No Bleeding
- Odourless

As for ALL the technical specifications:

Density : 3.35 g/ cm3
Viscosity : 2850 poise
Net Weight: 4 g

MX_Perf.png


This chart above shows us that the new MX-2 is beating all of its contenders in the performance race of cooling down our hot computer parts. Just remember, this chart is part of the Arctic Cooling marketing package so take it with a grain of salt.


How Thermal Compound Works

Let’s explain first what TIM (Thermal Interface Material) really is. Thermal Interface Material is a substance designed to take heat from one object and transfer it to another. It could be silicon based, metal based or ceramic based. We’ll use all three of them today in our tests. It is mostly used in the computer industry for dissipation of heat through a heatsink. CPUs and GPUs generate tons of heat and we all know that heat is bad for our computers. So we want the product that is going to help us most in keeping our rigs cool.

The workings of TIM are based on a difficult formula that looks like this:

Thermal.png


Hold onto your hats folks, this is where it gets complicated.

Thermal conductivity = heat flow rate × distance / (area × temperature difference). In physics, thermal conductivity, "k" is the property of a material that indicates its ability to conduct heat. It is defined as the quantity of heat, "ΔQ", transmitted during time "Δt" through a thickness "L", in a direction normal to a surface of area "A", due to a temperature difference "ΔT", under steady state conditions and when the heat transfer is dependent only on the temperature gradient. (Thanks to Wikipedia.)

Well, that is not the only difficult part. When we're talking TIM, we also have to look at the density, viscosity and low thermal resistance of a product. Our product has a density of 3.35 g/cm3 which is explained like this: Density is mass (m) per unit volume (V). To keep it short, MX-2 is 3.36 times denser than water. Which is better for the thermal conductivity and thermal resistance. See how it all comes together? Viscosity is explained like this: the measure of the resistance of a fluid to being deformed by either shear stress or extensional stress. In other words: the thickness of a fluid. It is measured in cP(Poise). 2850 cP means that it is a thick fluid, very unlikely to flow. Compare it to corn syrup at 1380 cP.

Now, let us take the CPU/Heatsink combination for example. These two surfaces are never really flat, meaning that if you put the heatsink on the CPU, there will be AIR in between the two of them. And that is BAD. Air is 8000 times less efficient in conducting heat than your thermal paste. What the thermal paste does is basically fills up the minute gaps, scratches and dents in between the two, so that heat can dissipate faster.
 

SKYMTL

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Packaging / Usage Characteristics

Packaging

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MX2004.jpg

MX-2 came to us in retail packaging and it is very similar to how RAM is packed nowadays. It is securely sealed in a hard, see-through plastic cover that protects its contents really well. It is also a pain to open, but who doesn't prefer security over that? The back of the package shows a short description and a little performance chart.

MX2003.jpg
MX2008.jpg

The Arctic Cooling MX-2 tube is a syringe filled with 4 grams of TIM, which is supposedly enough to apply onto a surface of 80cm². It has a light grey color and doesn't smell, unlike some other pastes.


Usage Characteristics

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After having used many different thermal compounds, I have come to realize that every manufacturer requests their compound to be applied in a certain way. In the case of the MX-2 compound, Arctic Cooling advises to use a "blob" about the size of a grain of rice (Arborio, not Basmati), of thermal compound on the middle of your CPU. It comes out of the tube easily and its consistency makes it very spreadable over your CPU/GPU. Let me reiterate: This is a TIM spreaders' dream.​

The only issue we have had with this step is that the syringe has a bit of a Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde mentality. At some points the compound glided out without any problem while at other times we were forced to press a bit harder on the applicator and were rewarded with a spurt of compound.

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Due to the huge pressure of modern heatsinks, the thermal compound will spread out easily and equally over your CPU. When you look at the base of the cooler, you will see that the paste worked the way it was supposed to. On the edge you'll see some extra thermal compound that was basically squeezed away from underneath due to the pressure and this could mean you've used too much. Be carefull though; It is better to use enough than too little.

I took a sheet of white paper and put the three thermal compounds that we are using on it. After folding the piece of paper in half and then opening it again, you are able to see the consistency of the thermal compounds. Arctic Cooling MX-2 is the only paste that is not syrup-like. As you can see, the other two are so thick that they are hard to work with and that's even worse when it is cleaning time.

Another positive point is that since MX-2 does not contain metal particles, it is NOT electrically conductive so it won't cause you any shorts if you happen to spill some onto places where it should not be. In addition, it does not need a curing or settling time, which is great because now we do not have to wait anymore before we see our temperatures dropping.
 
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SKYMTL

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology

System Setup

Here is the system used for writing reviews such as this. You will see that we run the processor at regular and at overclocked speeds, so we can generate more heat to test TIM such as our test subject today: Arctic Cooling MX-2

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• Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 @ 3.0Ghz running 1.3500V(Stock)
• Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 @ 3.6Ghz running 1.4250V(20% OC)
• CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U12F with Noctua NF-S12-1200 Fan
• Memory: 2GB OCZ Platinum Rev. 2 DDR2 @ 900Mhz (4-4-4-12)
• Motherboard: Asus P5N32-E SLI (680i)
• Disk Drive: Benq DW1650 DVD Writer
• Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 250GB SATAII
• OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x32
• Graphics Cards: BFG Tech 8800GTS 640Mb OC (550/1300/800MHz Stock OC)
• Drivers: Nvidia 169.25
• Monitor: Acer AL2216W (1680X1050)


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The Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 is the fastest dual core processor to date running at 3.0GHz using only 1.35V. It runs fairly cool, however when it is overclocked, it can get pretty hot.

Note that our case is open and on its side during our testing periods. We do this to decrease the cases cooling capacity, which could possibly lower the CPU's temperature in addition, it allows us to better control the ambient temperature so it is the same during each test.


Curing times used:

- AC MX-2: None
- AS Ceramique: 25 hours
- OCZ Ultra 5+: 200 hours

Thankfully for us, Arctic Cooling MX-2 does NOT have a curing time, which means testing could start right away. Sadly for us, we had to wait for the curing time for Ceramique which is 25 hours and even worse, we also had to wait for the curing time for OCZ Ultra which takes a mind-blowing 150-200 hours. But in the interest of fair results, we went through the whole curing process for each compound.


Temperature Logging & Load Conditions

Stress Program: Orthos
Temperature logging program: CoreTemp 0.95.4
Ambient room temperature: 23.5°C (constant)

For temperature logging, we used CoreTemp 0.95.4 and let it log the temperatures for the entire test period.

After idling the computer for 20 minutes, we run Orthos to stress the two cores in our CPU for 20 minutes and then we turn our computer off to let it cool down again for 60 minutes. We take this long to let the ambient (room) temperatures settle as well. After doing all of that, we remove the heatsink, reapply the thermal compound we are testing and begin again after (if necessary) the curing time has expired. We do this for three mounts for all three compounds we are using in this review.


Why three mounts?

While this whole business of three seperate mounts for three seperate compounds may be a time-consuming process, there is a method to our madness. The issue with thermal compound testing is that there are so many variables to take into account and usually such a small difference between temperatures which could all be chalked up to different heatsink mounting methods from one test to the next. Those of you who are well-versed in water cooling know about the temperature changes that can be experienced from one mount to the next and the same thing goes for thermal compound.

To run one test with each compound and arbitrarily pull a winner out of our butts would not serve you much good. So, we will remount the heatsink three times for each thermal compound with a new application of TIM between each test. This way you will be able to see not only how much temperatures can change based on installation but also determine a clear-cut winner.


Of Average Temperatures...

Another one of the variables we wanted to eliminate with this testing methodology is the reading of "maximum" temperature results over a period of time. The issue with reporting maximum temperatures is that temperatures change on a millisecond basis and while a maximum temperature may be picked up by a logging program fine in one run, the next run may miss it entirely.

Instead what we are doing in this review is reporting to you the average temperature seen during both the idle and load tests. We feel that this will show a much more accurate representation as to what a thermal compound is capable of.


The Competitors

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Pictured above are two well known champions of older times; OCZ Ultra 5+ (which has now been replaced in OCZ's stable) and Arctic Silver Ceramique. Let’s see if our new MX-2 can beat them.
 
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SKYMTL

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Performance Tests

Performance Tests

Idle Temperature Testing

Idle30.jpg

Idle36.jpg

Idling temperatures for MX-2 on a non-overclocked processor average around 28°C while the other two do 30°C and 30.5°C. It also performs admirably when the processor is overclocked and at idle but these tests are very close between all of the competitors due to the low amount of heat generated by the processor when it is at idle.


Load Temperature Testing

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Under load while running at 3.0GHz MX-2 manages to keep it the processor cooler than both the Ceramique and Ultra 5+. When we overclock the CPU to 3.6GHz, thus generating more heat, the temperature rises to 49°C and again the Arctic Cooling compound proves that it is at the top of the heap in this test.

From all tests performed, it looks like Arctic Cooling MX-2 is the winner by a small margin when it comes to average temperatures. It runs about 1°C cooler than the OCZ Ultra 5+ and 1.5°C cooler than Ceramique on average. To tell you the truth, because we are using average instead of maximum temperatures, we were not expecting the MX-2 to be such a clear-cut winner. Luckily for Arctic Cooling, we were proven wrong and the MX-2 performed above our expectations.
 
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SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion

After performing so convincingly in our tests, I know we’ll be using MX-2 for a long time to come since it completely blew away our expectations. Without a doubt, I’m totally satisfied with this product. There are so many things to like about this product and to tell you the truth, I’m really having a hard time thinking of any negative points. Its performance was at the top in every test while its easy of use in terms of spreadability was second to none and (unlike some competitors) it is not electrically conductive. The real icing on the cake is the fact that Arctic Cooling gives you more thermal compound (4 grams to be exact) than its competitors while maintaining a lower price than most of the other compounds on the market. It doesn't get any better than this folks!!

I personally believe Arctic Cooling has brought another small, yet great (and necessary) product into the retail market. They took their older MX-1 and reengineered the heck out of it in order to create the MX-2 compound we see here today. Our tests have shown that it is clearly a winner in every category. Being an enthusiast, I find myself always looking for ways to lower my temperatures in any way possible and just by applying MX-2 from Arctic Cooling, I can lower my temperatures by 1 sometimes 2 degrees Celsius over other, more expensive TIM’s.

While we can debate hours and hours over that one degree Celsius difference, one thing is abundantly apparent: the MX-2 thermal compound is not only a solid performer but it is also a great value.


Pros:

• Ease of use
• More compound for your money
• Not electrically conductive
• Easy to clean off
• Great Performance
• No Curing Time

Cons:

• None that I can think of


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Thanks to Arctic Cooling for sending us this product for review

 
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