Arctic Silver 5
Arctic Silver 5 is a silver based high density thermal compound that is designed to conduct heat away from the processor (or GPU, Northbridge, etc) and into the heatsink. It is made using 99.9% pure micronized silver. Since silver has a natural ability to transfer heat, the end product is a very effective material that has been proven time and time again.
The consistency of AS5 is silky and smooth and application is simple. It doesn't gunk up when you are applying it so you don't have areas that get too little protection. Due to its properties, however, it is most effective when it has had the chance to set. While I have always used a 3-day rule of thumb, the Arctic Silver website indicates it could take as much as 200 hours (just over 8 days) to properly cure.
Even with this caveat, this product has become the defacto standard by which many enthusiasts use as a comparative example for all other compounds hitting the market. With this concept in mind, we will be using it as a baseline for our testing in just a bit.
Arctic Cooling MX-2
Arctic Cooling is a relative newcomer to the realm of thermal compounds. They did come out with a MX-1 product a while back, but results were not very impressive. When they sent us their MX-2 compound to test here at TweakTown, we were more than a little impressed with the performance levels of this new kid on the block. Even when testing under a TEC cooler, the results were a good deal better than the Arctic Silver 5 we used as a comparison tool.
The MX-2 is just a bit thicker in consistency than the AS5 and is also completely nonmetallic. This ensures a very smooth spread of the material over the protected area and has the added benefit of being non-conductive where electricity is concerned. This means that if you get a little dab on the tracings of your video board, you won't have to worry about a short.
Another advantage of the Arctic Cooling compound is the lack of a requirement to allow the TIM to cure before it is capable of providing full thermal protection to your components. This means you can go from installation to full overclock and not having to worry about your goop setting. It is already fully protected from the instant you mount the heatsink.