Arctic Cooling ARCTIC MX-2 & MX-3 Thermal Paste Review

By | October 7, 2009

arctic-mx2n3

Introduction

Creating a perfect cooling setup is often all about the cooler, chassis and fans with users spending a great deal of money to not only acquire high end heatsinks and thermal designs but also to keep the noise levels down. The little things, such as thermal paste, are often wrongly overlooked. The contact between the CPU and base of the CPU cooler is a very important one and so the right paste is a must have to ensure that heat is effectively transferred from one to the other and also to fill up ay grooves in the cooler’s base (often found with H.D.T. technology).

Arctic Cooling are a specialist when it comes to cooling and their latest two thermal compounds, aptly named ARCTIC MX-2 and ARCTIC MX-3, aim to achieve great performance at a reasonable price. Let’s take a closer look…

ARCTIC MX-2

arctic-mx2

Features

  • High Thermal Conductivity
  • Low Thermal Resistance
  • Non-Electrically Conductive
  • Non-Capacitive
  • Non-Corrosive
  • No Curing
  • No Bleeding

Specifications

Viscosity 850 poise
Density 3.96 g/cm3
Net weight 30g
Durability 6 years

Description

“ARCTIC 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 the major factor.”

Overview

The MX-2 paste is packaged in a small white box; it’s a simple but effective design with the features and specifications displayed on the sides.

mx2-packaging

The back sees a small graph professing MX-2’s performance to be greater than that of many other significant thermal compounds including Arctic Silver 5.

arctic-mx2-back

The tube size is pretty massive containing 30g of MX-2 which should be plenty for countless applications. The large syringe has just a few details printed on the cover and a black cap to prevent the compound from drying out.

The paste itself is light grey in colour with a smooth and slightly runny consistency which should make it very easy to apply to the IHS atop a processor.

ARCTIC MX-3

Features

  • High Thermal Conductivity
  • Low Thermal Resistance
  • Non-Electrically Conductive
  • Non-Capacitive
  • Non-Corrosive
  • No Curing
  • No Bleeding

Specifications

Thermal Conductivity 8.2 W/mK
Viscosity 875 poise
Density 2.32 g/cm3
Net weight 4g
Durability 8 years

Description

“As an upgraded version of the award-winning ARCTIC MX-2, the performance of the ARCTIC MX-3 outranges other well-known thermal compounds clearly. This new compound is composed of carbon microparticles which lead to an extremely high thermal conductivity – 8.2 W/mK. It guarantees that heat from the CPU or GPU can be dissipated quickly and efficiently.”

Overview

The MX-3 compound is packaged a little different from the MX-2, within moulded plastic with a card backing giving rise to numerous details such as the full list of features and highlighting the 8 year durability – this compound certainly has a long shelf life, not that there’s anything to really go wrong with thermal paste.

The back has even more information including the specifications and a small graph showing lower temperatures than both stock and MX-2 compounds.

The paste is contained within a small syringe; a silver exterior displays the Arctic Cooling logo and name of the compound.

A total of 4g of the compound is included which is a bit less than many competitors but should be enough for a considerable amount of applications. Of course, as with all new compounds, MX-3 is non-corrosive, non-bleeding; electrically non-conductive and a host of others which ensure the paste isn’t going to cause any problems if accidently spilled on to the motherboard.

The consistency of the paste is quite thick, much different from the MX-2 compound, and with its grey colour is resembles the Noctua NH-U12P compound somewhat.

Testing

The Test Setup:

Processor Intel Core i7 C0 920 @ 2.67GHz
Motherboard Asus P6T
Graphics Card XFX 1GB Radeon 4870
Memory OCZ Gold Triple Channel PC3-10666 @ 1333MHz, 9-9-9-24 @ 1.65v
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB
Power Supply NOX Apex 700W
Enclosure Cooler Master ATCS-840
OS Windows Vista 64-bit

Methodology

The way in which testing is carried out on thermal compounds here at Verdis Reviews is very similar to cooler testing; we take an average temperature reading of the CPU under both idle and load states.

Each sample is given a three day burn-in even if it is not required to ensure all tests conducted are on an even playing field. The cooler employed for all testing will be the Noctua NT-H1

For idle testing, the test setup is left resting for half an hour and then a representative reading is taken using Core Temp by averaging the each individual core temperature. For load testing, large FTTs on Prime95 is run for 20 minutes loading the core to 100% load and temperatures are once again recorded in the same manner.

The ambient temperature was 18 degrees Celsius and for comparison purposes we will be using a number of different compounds.

Results

The results make for impressive viewing with the MX-3 compound coming out on top for both stock and overclocked settings. Thermal paste comparisons are often close run things with the best compound only a degree or so lower than its nearest rival but with the i7 920 at 3.60GHz, the MX-3 knocks 2 degrees off the impressive NT-H1 paste which is a more significant decrease and thus underlines the impressive nature of Arctic Cooling’s latest product.

In regards to the MX-2, it’s more evenly matched with NT-H1 scoring almost exactly the temperatures under both idle and load settings which is no mean feat.

Price
Clearly, the MX2 30g tube is going to cost much more than the 4g tube of MX3 due to the greater volume. The come in at about £15 and £7 respectively and so in terms of £/g the MX2 offers a much better price at 50p per gram compared to £1.75 per gram of the MX3. Either way, a tube of MX02 or MX-3 isn’t going to break the bank.

Conclusion

Performance wise there was only one winner, with the MX-3 compound a clear degree or two ahead at both stock and overclocked settings. This is very impressive as the paste was able to outperform Noctua’s NT-H1 – a highly reputable product.

Some enthusiasts may be put off by the lack of a spreader but in our opinion this isn’t a problem as we are not a fan of the hard plastic spreaders anyway.

Both pastes were easy to apply and so there were no problems here and so the only other factor that plays a major part is price. Again, neither tube is exactly expensive but the 30g MX-2 tube will inevitably offer a better £/g ratio but it depends on how many applications you need the paste for.

So there we have it, two very impressive products from Arctic Cooling. Both pastes are very good but if it was our money, we’d have to go for the MX-3 simply due to its superior performance.

ARCTIC MX-2

Pros

  • Good Performance
  • Large tube
  • Easy to apply
  • Good £/g ratio

Cons

  • Slightly higher temperatures than MX-3

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ARCTIC MX-3

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Easy to apply
  • Good overall package

Cons

  • A little more expensive than MX-2

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Thanks go to Arctic Cooling for providing the thermal paste for review.

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