Question Odd Reviews For Thermal Interface Material -- 2020 and 2021


Jun 30, 2004
I can't remember exactly when I began to use micronized diamond paste on lapped bare-copper processor caps -- probably around 2007.

I actually bought a vial of diamond powder for $100 and mixed my own paste briefly, before buying Innovation Cooling "IC Diamond".

It spreads like wet concrete cement -- a minor drawback.

We've seen the emergence of several liquid metal formulations, with Gallium and/or Indium ingredients. Silicon Lottery uses Thermal Grizzly Conduct-o-naut for re-lidding in its $40 de-lidding service. Of course, they use a "liquid-tape" insulator under the processor cap to protect CPU components around the processor die, since these liquid metal formulations are electrically conductive.

Coollaboratory and one or two other sources offer similar liquid metal TIMs. And there persists the same problem with them: if the stuff gets on your motherboard, it can spell disaster without a meticulous clean-up. Further, the liquid metals will corrode aluminum, may cause deterioration of copper (for lapped processor caps). Some heatsink bases have both aluminum and copper surfaces.

I wanted to come up to speed since building my (sig) Skylake system four years ago, when I merely used more IC Diamond to install my Grand Macho cooler.

So I found this review at Tom's Hardware: Thermal Paste Round-up -- 85 Products Tested, which is still a four-year-old comparison review. The bar-chart comparison is immediately visible in the review, but not so readable until you click the "zoom" button.

It shows that the liquid metal products offer only a 1C-degree improvement over some other products -- particularly the IC Diamond.

My Skylake processor was lapped. I removed all the nickel plating. In some thread I posted around 2010/2011 regarding a Sandy-Bridge computer-build, I had done some experiments to show that lapping the processor cap can reduce temperatures by 2C degrees. Of course, the measurements and results depend on the thermal power generated by the CPU, but I think I was investigating Intel cores with 95W TDP's.

Again, I found several comparison reviews featuring maybe only 10 or 12 products: XBit-Labs , Nerd-Techy , CSGO-Pedia are only a few. Check again, but none of these latter reviews give any mention to IC Diamond. There is a CoolerMaster MasterGel Maker product which contains nano-diamond, but you'd think someone other than Tom's Hardware would feature the IC Diamond product.

But Tom's Hardware is good enough for me, with a comparison of some 85 TIMs. I still have a good part of a tube of IC-Diamond 24, and if it's not too dried out to squeeze a blob from the syringe, I guess I'm going to use it again.

For the generations of CPUs I'm using after Sandy Bridge, I submit them to Silicon Lottery for the $40 delid-relid service. You can purchase a $40 tool to do your own de-lidding, but I'd rather pay someone who's done it 10,000 times.

If anyone has any other "intelligence" about TIMs, please comment.

Also, I was wondering about an idea I had. Suppose one were to use an IC Diamond "dam" of paste along the edge of the processor cap, and apply Conduct-o-naut or Liquid Ultra on the center of the IHS. Would not that reduce the risk of liquid metal getting loose on the motherboard?

It's just an idea. It doesn't seem to me that 1C degree is worth it. And actually -- in reviews I read five years ago, the performance spread between liquid metal and diamond paste was more like 2C degrees. But then again -- the lapping of the processor cap would yield the same result.