When it comes to PC Cooling, enough attention is paid to the coolers, which is obvious. But thermal pastes and thermal pads play a critical role as well. After all, it is the thermal paste that will be conducting a thermal transfer from source to the cooler. Thermal paste is of paramount consideration when it comes to the effective cooling of the main components like CPU, GPU, PCH, and any other chipset. There are multiple factors contributing towards the optimal performance of the given thermal paste over the period of time like its thermal conductance, viscosity, operating temperature range, make-up, electrically conductive, cure time, etc.
Well, to be honest, I was not expecting to see a new thermal paste from ARCTIC given their MX-5 thermal paste release a couple of years back. In our testing of MX-5, there was not a substantial difference between the ever-popular MX-4 and MX-5 at that time. I think it was 0.8°C or something. I wanted to test the MX-4, MX-5, and MX-6 in this content but given my continuous run of poor health, I only managed to pitch the new MX-6 against our standard test bench thermal paste Noctua NT-H1.
It is important to pay attention to the packing quantity of the thermal paste when comparing the price. ARCTCI has sent us a couple of 4gm pack. This thermal paste is also available in 2gm and 8gm packs. Since we are comparing this thermal paste against Noctua NT-H1 so we have included its pricing as well.
|Thermal Paste||Quantity||Price||Price per gm|
|ARCTIC MX-6||2gm||€ 11.99||€ 5.99|
|ARCTIC MX-6||4gm||€ 13.99||€ 3.49|
|ARCTIC MX-6 + MX Cleaner||4gm||€ 14.99||€ 3.74|
|ARCTIC MX-6||8gm||€ 17.99||€ 2.24|
|Noctua NT-H1||3.5gm/10gm||USD 9 / USD 15||USD 2.57 / USD 1.50|
We have taken NT-H1 pricing from NewEgg whereas the ARCTIC prices are taken from their website. We can see that higher capacity packs offer more value compared to lower capacity. Since we are testing a 4gm pack with MX Cleaner, it is costing € 1.00 on top of the 4gm pack without MX Cleaner. At the time of this writing, a Euro is doing 1.08 US dollars in trade. Using this info, we can see that MX-6 4gm pack would cost 16.13 dollars making it 4.03 dollars per gram. 3.70 dollars per gram would be for a basic 4gm pack. Even then, Noctus thermal paste is costing less. Pricing alone would not tell anything and this is where the performance of the thermal paste would come into the equation to give a full answer.
The paste and MX Cleaner are shipped inside a paperboard box finished in ARCTIC theme. This is a 4gm pack that comes with 6x MX Cleaner wipes.
There is a scan label that will take you to the ARCTIC website for the user manual. There is a video showing the application of the thermal paste on that page.
Here is a statement from ARCTIC about MX-6. “With its improved composition, the ARCTIC MX-6 has a measurably lower thermal resistance than the MX-4. The basis for calculation is the temperature difference between the cooler base and the heat source (in C) in relation to the applied heat load (in W), which also results in the unit C/W. The higher the thermal resistance, the worse the heat can be transferred through the TIM layer. Thermal insulators, as an example, therefore always have a particularly high thermal resistance, while thermal interface materials usually have a particularly low one.”
The paste is supplied inside a tube with a teal color sticker overlay.
There are 5 small size holes on the sticker overlay showing the remaining thermal paste inside the tube. This visual presentation would make it easier for the user to know how much paste is left inside. Don’t be surprised to know this tube is not fully filled with 4 gm paste. We can see the tip of the handle at the end of the fifth hole. Seems like ARCTIC is using the same tube for the 8gm pack as well. Nothing wrong with saving costs.
ARCTIC does not indicate or mention the thermal conductivity rating of its thermal pastes. Noctua also does not provide this information. The viscosity of this thermal paste is 45000 Poise. Doing the conversion, you would get 4,500,000 mPa.s. This thermal paste has crazy high viscosity. Higher viscosity would mean that the thermal paste would not bleed or disappear quickly. The operating temperature range is -50~150°C. The breakdown voltage is mentioned to be 7.5 kV/mm, however, breakdown temperature and voltage are not mentioned. The volume resistance is 1.8×1012Ω-cm. the density or specific gravity is 2.6g/cm³. The ARCTIC MX-6 has a gray color like the previous generations. This thermal paste is not electrically conductive and it is not capacitive either. It is a carbon filler-based thermal paste and reaches its maximum performance without burn-in. Simply speaking, this thermal paste is mentioned to have no cure time and you would instantly get the result that would otherwise come after the paste has completed cure time. ARCTIC has mentioned that this paste is using Silicone gel for optimal distribution through high mounting pressure. ARCTIC has mentioned that due to the high viscosity of this thermal paste, it does not leak due to Pump-Out effect.
Speaking of the properties, this thermal paste is:
- Non Conductive
- Non Capacitive
- Non Drying
- Non Bleeding
- No Cure Time
ARCTIC has mentioned that this thermal paste is suitable for many applications like direct die applications, graphics cards, console chips, and laptop chips.
MX Cleaner is a 100% biodegradable wipe to clean the surface of CPU and other chips for easy and complete removal of the thermal paste and its residue. Each wipe is provided in a separate sealed container to ensure a longer shelf life.
The above picture shows the backside of the wipe container.
The wipe is made of 100% Limonene extracted from citrus essential oil. This would mean that these wipes don’t have alcohol or benzenes as this substance is used in industrial applications for cleaning as it is effective and gentle on metals and alloys.
However, there is a catch to it. These wipes have very strong and unpleasant smell that doesn’t go away instantly. ARCTIC is not adding or mixing any artificial flavor for the fragrance to alter this smell. Each wipe is 115x115mm.
Now coming to the main point of this article, the following configuration is used for thermal paste testing: –
- Intel i7 10700k [5.0GHz at 1.350V]
- MSI Z490 TOMAHAWK
- Noctua NH-D15 Chromax.Black
- T-Force NightHawk RGB DDR4 16GB @ 3200MHz CAS 16
- Colorful iGame GeForce GTX 1050Ti [For Display]
- Addlink S70 256GB NVMe SSD [For OS]
- bequiet! Straight Power 11 850W Platinum PSU
- Praxis Wetbench
Following testing methodology is used for the thermal paste testing:
- Intel core i7 10700k was set to run at 5.0GHz on all cores using 1.350V.
- The chip was drawing power of nearly 182W on the package.
- A graphics card with a much higher heat load or the HEDT/EPYC CPUs with large surface areas are better candidates for thermal paste testing.
- Thermal pastes were spread evenly on the CPU IHS.
- A test run of 30 minutes was done using Cinebench R23.2 on stock settings first.
- PC was powered off for a minimum of 30 minutes after a stress test run. This would allow the completion of the thermal cycle with hot and cold runs giving the thermal paste some time to reach its near-optimal condition.
- The System was idle for 10 minutes before taking the Idle temperature values.
- A stress run of 30 minutes was done using Cinebench R23.2.
- CPU Package Temperature is taken as a reporting value.
- Ideally, we would have wanted to do 3 tests as a minimum for a single thermal paste and show the average of these three runs. I am recovering from a total hip replacement surgery and slowly resuming the testing hence only one test result is used
- The fans of the air cooler were set to run at their full speed for which the settings were made in UEFI/BIOS.
- HWInfo64 was used to monitor the sensors.
The above picture shows a thermal paste. This paste is not easy to spread in my opinion unlike MX-5 or even Noctua NT-H1.
Please note that not every run of the stress test may yield the same result. This could well be due to many factors like mounting pressure, thermal paste application, and varying ambient temperature. Not to mention the silicon differences even among the same category of chips. Hence, it is pertinent to mention the testing methodology along with the specifics. Each time the even spread of the thermal paste was verified and where the thermal paste spread was not even or gives the impression of a tear or a poor application, the result was dropped and the new test with correct spread was repeated. This is done to ensure the validity of the data.
In case you are wondering why I did not use a new platform like AMD Ryzen 7000 series or Intel 13th generation platform, the issue with new platforms is their high thermal density. AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPU will hit 95°C which is by design whereas the Intel SKUs run warm even on stock settings. This makes it difficult to test the coolers and thermal pastes the old traditional way. The only way around is to see for how long a given cooler can maintain the operating frequencies before hitting thermal junction or what score a cooler gives in software like CINEBENCH R23.2. Cutting it short, we stick with the 10th generation platform so that we can test using the traditional way.
Let’s take a look at the results.
Well, the ARCTIC MX-6 lowers the temperature by 1°C over the Noctua NT-H1. I would hardly declare it as a winner.
ARCTIC has released a new thermal paste named MX-6. Honestly speaking, I was not expecting the new thermal paste to be out that soon taking over the ever-popular MX-4 and less-popular MX-5. But, will this paste be able to actually take over the MX-4? That is a million-dollar question. The MX-6 is termed an Ultimate Performance Thermal Paste by ARCTIC. This thermal paste is available in three size packs including:
Then there are packs with 6x MX Cleaner swipes or wipes as well. We have tested the MX-6 4gm pack with MX Cleaner. This thermal paste is:
- Electrically Non-Conductive
- High Viscosity
- Non Capacitative
This thermal paste is based on Carbon filler nanoparticles and is using silicone gen for optimal distribution requiring high mounting pressure. ARCTIC does not provide the thermal conductivity ratings of its thermal pastes and the MX-6 is no exception to that as well. This thermal paste has a high viscosity rating of 45000 Poise (4,500,000 mPa.s). This would mean it will not bleed out and dry that soon. The operating temperature range is -50~150°C. The breakdown voltage is mentioned to be 7.5 kV/mm, however, breakdown temperature and voltage are not mentioned. The volume resistance is 1.8×1012Ω-cm. the density or specific gravity is 2.6g/cm³. The ARCTIC MX-6 has a gray color like the previous generations. ARCTIC has mentioned that due to the high viscosity of this thermal paste, it does not leak due to Pump-Out effect.
You can use the blob method or can even spread this paste but I have found that this paste is not easy to spread compared to MX-5 and NT-H1. But this is not that big of a deal. ARCTIC has provided 6x MX Cleaners with this thermal paste. You can also buy a simple pack without these wipes. MX Cleaner is a 100% biodegradable wipe to clean the surface of CPU and other chips for an easy and complete removal of the thermal paste and its residue. Each wipe is provided in a separate sealed container to ensure a longer shelf life. The wipe is made of 100% Limonene extracted from citrus essential oil. This would mean that these wipes don’t have alcohol or benzenes. However, there is a catch to it. These wipes have very strong and unpleasant smell that doesn’t go away instantly. ARCTIC is not adding or mixing any artificial flavor for a fragrance to alter this smell. Each wipe is 115x115mm.
The MX-6 4gm with 6x MX Cleaners will cost you € 14.99. The simple pack without MX Cleaners would cost € 13.99. We have taken these prices from ARCTIC website at the time of this writing. We have compared this thermal paste against our standard test bench thermal paste Noctua NT-H1. Noctua thermal paste is costing less than ARCTIC MX-6. Our testing has shown that ARCTIC MX-6 has hardly a 1°C temperature drop compared to the NT-H1. This is definitely not a deal breaker. This thermal paste is suitable for regular use.