Most enthusiasts put a lot of thought and consideration into the heatsink strapped to their system's CPU and GPU. The market is flooded with options in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and we're usually looking for something with excellent cooling performance and quiet noise levels. But what about the interface between those chips and the hunks of metal trying to dissipate the heat they generates?
I suspect that a lot of folks simply use a dollop of whatever goo comes with their cooler. As with heatsinks, however, there's no shortage of aftermarket alternatives from which to choose. X-bit labs has rounded up 26 of 'em in an epic comparison of thermal interface materials. In addition to exploring how easy it is to apply and remove each compound, the site tested the performance of all 26 with an overclocked Cayman GPU. It also probed the performance of several compounds with an overclocked Core i7-980X Extreme CPU.
There's more difference in GPU temperatures than one might expect. The best solution kept the Radeon more than 13°C cooler than the least effective compound. Even more surprising is the performance of different compounds from the same manufacturer. Thermaltake's TG-1 offers the second-lowest GPU temperatures, but the company's TG-2 compound runs the GPU 12°C hotter. That gap shrinks to 5°C with the CPU, which is still quite substantial.
The only thing missing from X-bit labs' analysis is a look at how other household staples fare under similar conditions. Thankfully, Dan's Data has everything you need to know about using toothpaste and Vegemite as a replacement for thermal compound.