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Noctua NT-H1 Pro Grade Thermal Compound Review

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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Noctua NT-H1 Pro Grade Thermal Compound Review




Manufacturer's Part Number: NT–H1
Manufacturer's Product Page: Noctua.at
Price: Compare Prices for Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound
Availability: Now
Quantity: 1.4ml / 3 gram tube



Noctua stands for ‘little owl’ in Latin. Hence the owl in their logo. Noctua, a fairly young company that manufactures aftermarket cooling solutions, is based in Austria and has been producing some of the better cooling products on the market. Working together with the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology, they continuously strive for new developments and improvements in their cooling products. Recently we have seen quite a few products from Noctua coming out on the market which is helping to make the Noctua brand better known here in North America. Noctua strongly believes in cooperation which leads to another interesting fact: Noctua’s products are a result of the cooperation of several companies, such as Rascom Computer distribution, Kolink and the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology. Here’s a little bit more about Noctua according to their website:

Noctua aims at establishing a new level of quality and performance "Designed in Austria" through paying attention to the users' needs in a market burdened with all kinds of frills and furbelows and providing sound-optimized premium components, which serve their purpose in a smart, precise and reliable manner.

Noctua arises from a cooperation between the Austrian Rascom Computer Distribution G.m.b.H and the Taiwanese Kolink International Corporation and entertains a development partnership with the Austrian Institute of Heat Transmission and Fan Technology (Österreichisches Institut für Wärmeübertragung und Ventilatorentechnik, ÖIWV). These connections form the key to the achievement of our goal: The partnership with the ÖIWV permits the application of scientific measurement instrumentation, methods of calculation and simulation technology in the R&D process. Rascom's long, customer-oriented experience in developing and distributing sound-optimized high-end products ensures a clear focus on the users' needs. The use of Kolink's advanced manufacturing technology and ultra-modern production plants allows us to efficiently implement our technical edge and provide solutions of the highest standard in quality and performance.

While a lot of enthusiasts may be familiar with Noctua’s main product line, only few people know that they have recently expanded their portfolio a bit by designing a brand new hybrid thermal paste. They must have thought: "If you already make heatsinks, why not make your own thermal paste as well?" With this paste being their first thermal compound and being completely developed in-house by Noctua, some people are rather skeptical regarding its performance. Today however, we are going to either confirm or destroy that skepticism. NT-H1 is the name of this new "pro-grade" thermal paste and it boosts some great features.

One of those important features is that the NT-H1 does not require a burn-in time like many other thermal pastes do. You can apply the thermal compound and start overclocking without having to wait for the compound to ‘settle’ or to reach its optimal performance levels. Noctua’s Pro Grade thermal compound is widely available in re- and e-tail and can sometimes be had for as little as $ 4.99CAD. Yet, just like other thermal compounds, price varies quite a bit so make sure you use our price comparison engine if you are buying it here in Canada. The tube is a filled with 1.4ml (as per its package, which threw me off a little since I only think in grams) of NT-H1 thermal compound but that would suffice for a generous 15 applications of TIM on your CPU/GPU’s. Why don’t you get a little more comfortable, while we start applying this on our CPU and we will tell you if it’s going to perform better than our current No. 1 placeholder.

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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Specifications

Noctua NT-H1 Pro Grade Thermal Compound Specifications

From Noctua’s web site:

Noctua’s NT-H1 is a pro-grade TIM solution for enthusiasts who demand both exceptional performance and maximum ease of use: A hybrid compound of different micro-particles allows for minimum thermal resistance, excellent ease of use and outstanding long term stability.

Here are some of the ‘Noctua NT-H1 Pro-Grade Thermal Compound’ product descriptions:

• Excellent performance
• Maximum ease of use & efficient dosage
• Excellent long-term stability(recommended up to three years of usage)
• Not electrically conductive
• Non-corroding
• Suitable for compressor cooling
• Thermal Resistance: Not disclosed by Noctua
• Dielectric Constant@ 1KHz: 4.0
• Dielectric Strength: 1.5 kV/mm
• Specific Gravity: 2.49g / cm3
• Thermal Conductivity: Not disclosed by Noctua
• Poise: 4800
• Color: Dark Gray
• Volume: 1.4ml syringe
• Peak Operating Temperature: -50C to +110C
• Recommended Operating Temperature: -40C to +90C

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 different ones today in our tests. It is mostly used in the computer industry for dissipation of heat through a heatsink. CPU’s and GPU’s 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, thermal resistance and now that Noctua claims that NT-H1 is non-conductive, we also have to look at a new term: Dielectric Constant. Our product has a density/gravity of 2.49 g/cm3 which is explained like this: Density is mass (m) per unit volume (V). To keep it short, Noctua NT-H1 is 2.49 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). With Corn syrup being at 1300cP you can now imagine what the Noctua NT-H1 looks like. As for dielectric constant numbers, the lower its value, the less relative static permittivity is has. In Laymen’s terms: It is non-conductive.

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.
 
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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Packaging / Usage Characteristics

Packaging

NT001.JPG
NT002.JPG

Noctua’s NT-H1 came to us in retail packaging which is done somewhat differently from what we have seen since it does not secure the tube very well. It simply consists of a piece of carton with a product description on it which is protected by a loose-fitting plastic cover. The back of the package shows a short description (in seven different languages) of Noctua NT-H1, some caution marks, product specifications and a UPC code.

Basically, the tube is put on a cardboard backing and the plastic is molded/folded around it. Unfortunately, getting into one of these packages is VERY easy since it is not even secured with staples. It would be wise of Noctua to use any other method to secure the contents of this package from theft in a retail-store environment.

NT003.JPG
NT004.JPG

The Noctua NT-H1 tube is a syringe filled with 1.4ml of TIM, which is supposedly enough for 15 applications of TIM. When we first received the tube, we thought it showed a striking resemblance with another thermal compound out on the market, but that goes only for the tube itself and not what's inside.

Here is a little explanation on the meaning of NT-H1: The ‘N’ stands for Noctua, the ‘T’ for thermal compound, ‘H’ for hybrid as this thermal compound is considered a "hybrid" of sorts and the last part ‘1’ refers to this being the first (of perhaps many) thermal compounds from Noctua.


Usage Characteristics

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 Noctua NT-H1, Noctua provides you with the usage instructions on the packaging which give you a detailed description of how to use your new thermal compound.

Here are the 4 detailed steps from Noctua:

1. Clean off any residual traces of thermal paste on the CPU.
2. Press a small drop (4-5mm diameter) of NT-H1 onto the center of the Heatspreader.
3. Put the heatsink onto the CPU; turn it back and forth a few times in order to spread the paste.
4. Fasten the heatsink

Noctua’s NT-H1 is a very thick (4800 cP) and dry fluid but it comes out of the tube quite easily and its consistency makes it not hard but also not quite easy to spread out over your CPU/GPU. It is actually one of those middle-of-the-road performers when it comes to spreading it onto a CPU. What we did notice is that the fluid dries rather quickly and when we reapplied our thermal paste over and over again for our testing, at the end of the runs the paste would almost look like the dried up salt lakes in Utah.

As Noctua already states on their packaging; Due to the huge pressure of modern heatsinks, the thermal compound will spread out easily and equally over your CPU. When you take your heatsink off and look at the base of the cooler, you will see that the paste worked the way it was supposed to; the thermal compound is basically squeezed to the outside edges of your chip, from underneath the base, due to the pressure.

Cleaning up Noctua NT-H1 when you are changing your heatsink or processor is a breeze. Compared to MX-2 and OCZ Freeze this stuff becomes almost bone-dry, but I actually found it a lot easier to clean my equipment that way. This dryness does not affect temperatures; it only makes the cleaning part a lot more pleasurable.

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As new developments arise every time you look around, it seems as if nowadays it is normal for a thermal paste NOT to be electrically conductive so it won't cause you any shorts if you happen to spill some onto places where it should not be. Interestingly, there is very little information regarding if the NT-H1 is or isn't electrically conductive. So, we spoke to Noctua regarding their new thermal paste to get some additional information. We were informed that the new hybrid paste does contain tiny tiny metal particles; however, according to them, the percentage of metal particles is FAR to low to conduct any electricity.

NT0015.JPG

As much as we tried measuring the electrical conductivity ourselves, our electrical equipment did not show any significant results which would lead us to refute Noctua's claim.. In addition to all this information, the NT-H1 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 by significant amounts.
 
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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology

System Setup

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NT005.jpg

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: Noctua NT-H1

• 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: ASUS DVD DRW-2014L1T
• 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 169.28
• Monitor: Acer AL2216W (1680X1050)

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

Curing times used:

- Noctua NT-H1: None
- OCZ Freeze: None
- AC MX-2: None
- AS Ceramique: 25 hours
- OCZ Ultra 5+: 200 hours

Noctua NT-H1 does NOT have a curing time, which means testing can start right away. In our previous reviews, we had to wait 25 hours for the curing time for Ceramique but also OCZ Ultra 5+ which takes a mind-blowing 150-200 hours. Today we use the same recordings that we took in our last tests and thus can we compare Noctua against other thermal compounds in the market that we have previously tested. As you will notice, the temperature in the room is carefully monitored as is humidity.

Temperature Logging & Load Conditions

Stress Program: Orthos
Temperature logging program: CoreTemp 0.96.1
Ambient room temperature: 23.5°C (+/- 0.5°C)

For temperature logging, we used CoreTemp 0.96.1 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 all three mounts as well as for all the compounds we are using in this review.

Why three mounts?

While this whole business of three separate mounts for three separate 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

NT009.JPG

Pictured above are all the other thermal compounds we have tested before and like normal, today we are also including our results from champions of past and present times; OCZ Ultra 5+ (EOL), OCZ Freeze, Arctic Silver Ceramique and Arctic Cooling MX-2. Let’s go see if our new Noctua NT-H1 can take on this stiff competition.
 
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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Idle Temperature Results

Idle Temperature Results


Stock Temperatures

Idle30.jpg


Overclocked Temperatures

Idle36.jpg

Idling temperatures for Noctua NT-H1 on a non-overclocked processor average around 28.5°C and that goes as well for the other two top performers here. The weaker pastes average 30.5°C. It also performs admirably when the processor is overclocked and 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. Temperatures, when idling at 3.6GHz, are looking good as well where again the Noctua NT-H1 is up-to-par with the ‘top’ performers, averaging 32.3°C.
 
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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Load Temperature Testing

Load Temperature Testing

Stock Temperatures

Load30.jpg


Overclocked Temperatures

Load36.jpg

While at most times it looks like our new Noctua NT-H1 is beating out OCZ Freeze, the difference is minimally; measured by tenths of a degree Celsius which is within the margin of error. Coming extremely close to the performance of MX-2, we would have to commend Noctua on such a great achievement for a first timer in the extremely competitive TIM market.

When we overclock the CPU to 3.6GHz, thus generating more heat, the temperature rises to 50°C and Noctua NT-H1 keeps its performance between the No.1 and No.3 spots. It scales very well against MX-2 and OCZ Freeze while staying ahead of the other two compounds we used here.

It should be mentioned that in these tests you can really see the benefits of using three separate mounts in a thermal compound review since temperatures do tend to vary from one mount to the next. There is usually one spike in temperatures and that spike could sometimes be a much as a whopping one to (in some extreme cases) two degrees Celsius on average.
 
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Prof. Dr. Silver

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Conclusion

Conclusion

We have to say Kudos to Noctua for designing a great thermal compound. It seems that the NT-H1 came in with a bang and seated itself into a very comfortable 2nd position overall in our testing. Since we have used averages, the temperature differences are a bit less pronounced so a difference of half a degree is quite impressive to say the least. Is that half a degree useful? Well if you are pushing to reach the top overclock on your CPU/GPU, you are going to need it one way or another.

As we have said before, while we do not like to bring the names of competitors into our conclusions, it is extremely hard not to draw parallels between the top three compounds in these tests. Even though the MX-2 stays at the top of the heap in terms of overall performance, the Noctua NT-H1 keeps up very well. Performance wise, it is quite comparable to OCZ's Freeze compound and can be found for about the same price as well.

So, are there any negatives about the NT-H1? The only one that we can really think of is the fact that its availability here in Canada is a bit sketchy. Where the OCZ Freeze and the MX-2 can be found at almost every retailer, like all of Noctua's products this compound is a bit hard to find.

As we mentioned in the beginning of this review, some people were very skeptical regarding the new Noctua TIM but now that we have seen this compound with our own eyes, there is nothing left to do for us but to praise every one of its facets. Its ease of use and the fact that it is a non-curing, non conductive paste, is exactly what we want in a compound. An even better aspect is that this paste is quite inexpensive for the amount of compound you get.

It seems like lately, all of the newer thermal compounds we have tested perform extremely close to one another. The NT-H1 is no different since it performs well but what really stands out with this product is how easy it can be cleaned from your processor. This is just another in a long line of high-performance Noctua products and once again we have to say that Noctua really should be proud of themselves.


Pros:

• Excellent Performance
• Very inexpensive at some locations
• Not electrically conductive
• Easy to clean off
• Suitable for Compressor Cooling
• No Curing Time

Cons:

• Packaging should be designed a little better, security wise that is
• Availability


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Thanks to Noctua for providing us with this thermal compound
 
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