Arctic Silver 5 is still one of the most popular thermal pastes

Buyer beware: The brand Arctic Silver is not the same as Arctic. Due to the unique shape and sizes of the particles in Arctic Silver 5’s conductive matrix, it will take a up to 200 hours and several thermal cycles to achieve maximum particle to particle thermal conduction and for the heatsink to CPU interface to reach maximum conductivity.

Usage of thermal pastes

This period will be longer in a system without a fan on the heatsink or with a low speed fan on the heatsink. On systems measuring actual internal core temperatures via the CPU’s internal diode, the measured temperature will often drop 2C to 5C over this “break-in” period. Arctic Silver 5 does not contain any silicone. With the top quality thermal paste you can make sure your CPU is running at its peak performance no matter what data load you throw on it. Let’s take a look on this simplified image first. This is one of the few pastes on the market that still sports silver as an ingredient. This break-in will occur during the normal use of the computer as long as the computer is turned off from time to time and the interface is allowed to cool to room temperature. The suspension fluid is a proprietary mixture of advanced polysynthetic oils that work together to provide three distinctive functional phases.

Thermal paste application on CUP surface

Arctic Silver 5 on CPU heat sink

You can see a cut image of a CPU and the cooler on top. However, it shows its age and does not keep up with the best pastes out there today. Once the break-in is complete, the computer can be left on if desired. As it comes from the syringe, Arctic Silver 5’s consistency is engineered for easy application. Greatly enlarged you will notice that the surface of CPU IHS and cooler are pretty much rough even though it looks very flat with the naked eye. A heat sink thermal compound is essential to make sure that the surface of the CPU and heat sink are tightly touching each other for the best level of heat dissipation. Based on its performance, it seems overpriced. After testing it spread and beaded, I can tell you I always get a bit better temperatures when it’s spread. During the CPU’s initial use, the compound thins out to enhance the filling of the microscopic valleys and ensure the best physical contact between the heatsink and the CPU core.

Preferred heat-sink types

The spaces between CPU and cooler have to be filled with thermal paste to improve the thermal conductivity. With the dawn of high performance processors, cooling demands have vastly increased. It’s very thick and really requires a lot of pressure to spread a bead so I believe spreading it with a credit card helps the situation with more points of contact, even if there are air bubbles. What if you go for a CPU paste for the purpose of cooling the surface of your processor? which one to choose? 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. That’s why the thermal pastes are liquid and ideally never dry out. Modern microprocessors need to be adequately cooled, or they face performance problems and a gradual loss of stability.

Performance on cooling the CPU surface

The best thermal paste brand for CPU cooling
The Arctic Silver company was founded by Nevin House in 1999. Those pads melt each time they get hot then re-solidify when they cool. Most vendors guarantee about 2-5 years of usage between CPU and cooler. While heatsinks and waterblocks are what many consider the essence of a computer cooling system, an equally important yet often overlooked component of a satisfactory cooling system is thermal interface material. Headquartered in Visalia, California, USA, House’s original product was a custom modified version of HP’s Turbocooler heatsink design from servers and workstations. The viscosity changes that Arctic Silver 5 goes through are much more subtle and ultimately much more effective.) Arctic Silver 5 was formulated to conduct heat, not electricity. (While much safer than electrically conductive silver and copper greases, Arctic Silver 5 should be kept away from electrical traces, pins, and leads.

Arctic Silver 5
Thermal Conductivity 9.0 W/(m*K)
CPU Water Cooling, High Pressure 33.0 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, High Pressure 37.2 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
CPU Air Cooling, Low Pressure 37.7 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
GPU Cooling 69.5 ΔT (22 °C ambient)
Electrically Conductive No (but unlike most silicone-based pastes, it is not a real insulator either)
Viscosity 6 (1-10, lower numbers mean easier to use)
Ease of Use 4 (1-10, higher numbers mean easier to use)
Application Hints The paste can be spread more easily if you warm it to 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit in a pot of water, sealed in a water-tight pouch.
Price (approximate) $7 (3.5 grams)

CUP cooling system structure

After this time you should change your thermal paste in case you still have your system after this time. Thermal interface material fills in the microscopic pores between the processor and heatsink. That experience led to research in thermal compounds, and their material composition.

While it is not electrically conductive, the compound is very slightly capacitive and could potentially cause problems if it bridges two close-proximity electrical paths.) And if you go for the best thermal paste out there you can find only a few recommendations in this field. Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound is a High-Density Polysynthetic Silver Thermal Compound. The majority of the thermal pastes are made of different silicones, oils and additives like silver, aluminum, ceramic or diamonds to transfer the heat and are usually not electrically conductive. Without thermal interface material, performance and reliability suffer. House experimented with silver based solutions, and success with improved formulas led to a change in business focus, to thermal interface compounds.

How Important is less heat for CPU

Best CPU paste helps cooling down the generated temperature
With its unique high-density filling of micronized silver and enhanced thermally conductive ceramic particles, Arctic Silver 5 provides a new level of performance and stability. Only liquid metal pastes are different. While thermal interface material can come in many different varieties – such as pads, epoxies, and pastes – the most common and effective is thermal grease. A succession of silver formulations were its leading products in the mid-2000s, as is the current Arctic Silver 5. Available at Arctic Silver resellers worldwide. Liquid metal is electrically conductive and made out of a special metal alloy which contains gallium, indium, rhodium, silver, tin and bismuth. One of the most effective thermal compounds out today comes fresh off the lines at Arctic Silver Corporation – Arctic Silver 5.

Other developments include ceramic (non-conductive) compounds as well as thermal interface epoxy adhesives for use where permanence is desirable, or where no other heatsink attachment method is available. Arctic Silver 5 is the reference premium thermal compound. Liquid metal is quite hard to remove and must not be used with aluminium coolers such as the Intel-Boxed-Cooler. Arctic Silver 5 is one of the latest, most advanced, and best performing thermal greases available on the market. Arctic Silver 5 is optimized for a wide range of bond lines between modern high-power CPUs and high performance heatsinks or water-cooling solutions.

Warning on using thermal pastes

cooling CPU with a thermal paste
Otherwise it will damage the aluminium and eventually your CPU. Sold in 3.5 or 12-gram packages, Arctic Silver 5 can be used on five to 40 processors, depending on the size of the processor and the amount you purchase. If you plan to use liquid metal it’s very important to apply only a very small drop. The compound consists of 3 different silver molecules, sub-micron zinc oxide, aluminum oxide, and boron nitrate particles suspended in polysynthetic oils.

  1. they only tested it with 1 heatsink.
    • Was the stock HS with a more lapped surface?
    • how do these compounds perform with a better HS?
    • how do these compounds perform with an Athlon64 or a Pentium?
    • how were the compounds applied?
  2. did they apply it to the CPU, or the HS, or both?
  3. did they put a dab in the middle and let the pressure spread it out?
  4. they tested 3 processors, but they are all Conroes
  5. they are all pretty much the same processor and will have very similar heat outputs
  6. did they allow an adequate “burn-in” period for each compound to completely fill in the cavities?
  7. did the spread it evenly with a straight-edge?
  8. did they spread it on with their fingers (in plastic)?
  9. and finally, what did they use to measure these temps?

I recommend to use a cotton swab to spread the liquid metal. The particles increase thermal performance and long- term stability of processors. Be careful though to not touch any other parts of the mainboard and/or CPU socket. The compound is designed for easy application from the tube, and increased performance after application. Also, Shin-Etsu has [for a long time] been know to have [slightly] superior thermal compounds in certain applications. that doesn’t mean that it’s a better all-around compound, but in certain applications it can slightly outperform AS5 and other high-end compounds.

During the first few thermal cycles – the process of compound heating and cooling – Arctic Silver 5 will thin out over the processor and heatsink, filling in microscopic valleys and eliminating imperfections. I’m not saying that either one is better than the other, just that each one may outperform the other depending on how it’s applied and what it’s used on.

The differences between thermal pastes

After the compound has thinned, it will thicken until it reaches a final consistency after 50 to 200 hours. Once Arctic Silver 5 has arrived at its final consistency, the drop in temperature is quite noticeable; often two to ten degrees Celsius. This drop in temperature will yield better overclocks and improve system stability and longevity. Arctic Silver 5 is Arctic Silver’s premier paste. It’s a thick, dark gray paste that thins well with pressure.

High quality thermal pastes are not always available

It comes in two sizes, 3.5g and 12g, typically priced at $8 and $20ish, respectively. Those aren’t great prices in terms of cost per gram or entry cost (cost of the smallest possible quantity), but this is their flagship. AS5 is capacitive, meaning it cannot be used in any scenario where it could possibly get on a traces or SMD components. Arctic Silver Ceramique is Arctic Silver’s old general-use paste. It’s a thick, white paste that thins well with pressure.

Arctic Silver 5 Rating on high-end systems

It comes in two sizes, 2.5g and 22g, typically priced at $5 and $12, respectively. Those are really good prices in terms of entry cost and cost per gram with the largest syringe. Ceramique has been EOL’d. Arctic Silver Ceramique 2 is Arctic Silver’s update of Ceramique. It’s a general-use paste that is thick and white but thins well with pressure.

It comes in two sizes, 2.7g and 25g, typically priced at $5 and $12, respectively. Those are really good prices in terms of entry cost and cost per gram with the largest syringe. For all three contact “settings” I use a Koolance CPU-360. I’ve chosen the CPU-360 due to its great mounting system (although I’ve modified all three blocks’ mounting systems) and because it’s pretty easy to add slight modifications. At the “Poor” end of the spectrum, I have a stock CPU-360r1.2 with extremely low mounting pressure; the stock CPU360r1.2 has a somewhat irregular base and when paired with low pressure, TIM does not spread into a thin layer particularly well.


For the “Moderate” contact setting, I’ve taken a CPU-360r1.1 and reduced some of the internal structure so that there’s absolutely no bow. With pressure in the center of the base the block can actually become slightly concave as the o-ring compresses, but with only moderate mounting pressure the base seems to stay perfectly flat.

As for “Great” contact, I might have gone a little overboard; no block on the market has contact this great. I’ve modified a CPU-360r1.2 to have a thicker midplate with a compressible layer and the result is a pretty extreme bow that flattens with mounting pressure. And there’s a lot of mounting pressure. The result is impressive; with low viscosity pastes, it looks like there isn’t even any TIM on the center of the CPU when taking the mount apart. Even with viscous pastes the resulting layer is extremely thin.

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