$1 vs. $10 Reusable Thermal Pad Benchmarks: No-Name, IC Diamond, & Carbonaut

published on August 2, 2020

When we were in taiwan back in march we stumbled across a shop in guanghua the digital plaza there that had all kinds of thermal interfaces half of the store was dedicated to fans of all sizes all the way down to 10 millimeters

And the other half was dedicated to cool purpose-built pcbs and thermal pastes and pads we bought our fan power board that we've been using for testing there and it's been the best 280 new taiwan

Dollars we've ever spent or about 950 us we also bought this the t-68 30 by 30 thermal pad for 30 ntd it's about a dollar us tactically it's it's a dollar and two cents so sorry for the

One dollar thermal pad click bait because it's two cents extra but we're testing it today against ic's diamond graphite thermal pad which is a about a 10 solution for a similar size

And again thermal grizzly carbonate was about 13 for the same size and thermal paste and we're doing all this on our heavily controlled thermal test vehicles that we engineered recently before that this video is

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Freezer 2 series is focused on high throttle performance and value featuring a blackout design and including a vrm fan mounted on top of the pump block to help provide airflow over neighboring

Vrm heatsinks arctic has also started selling its p-12 120 case fans learn more at the links in the description below we bought a bunch of other cool

Thermal related products there as well so just stuff related to cooling and some of those included some thicker versions of this pad that we're looking at today which came in this packaging and that

Was all there was to it which part of the one dollar cost too it's not a sheet of cardboard and a clam shell and all the branding that you get with ic and their graphite thermal pad but

It still does the job and that's what we're looking at today now the thicker one will be interesting we also have uh the full panasonic sheet which is actually the supplier for what i see

For innovation cooling's graphite thermal pads and one thing we're not sure about is which supplier this came from we don't know if it's panasonic it doesn't really seem like it

And uh it doesn't have any branding on it so this thing we were unable to identify what the product actually is called we're going with t68 just because that's what it says on the packaging

At least in in letters and numbers the rest of them just say 30 by 30 by 0025 for the sizing and that'd be the thickness at the end and then we've also got what appears to be a serial number but

That returns nothing when you search it in google we also looked into the characters on it the chinese characters don't reveal anything either so uh we'll get a close-up of the packaging but it just as far as we can tell it just

Says eat baujuan which is just like one per package or one bag uh it says shoji which is the price so 30 that's what that number is not the millimeters numbers though that's at the

Top it also has the name of the shop on it which we're happy to shout out you should definitely check it out if you're ever in taipei or you live there it's on one of the top

Two floors of guanhua digital plaza and the shop is called miya the enzo poo so they're in one of the top floors highly recommended though go check them

Out uh so yeah from what we can tell there's no branding as to what the product is on the package maybe the shop cuts it from some supplier and packages it we don't know so anyway this makes it hard to identify

What we do know is a couple of other things about the thermal pad market first of all panasonic is a major supplier and they supply icspad there's the pgs solutions out there you

Can look those up on digit key if you're interested there are several types of graphite pads by panasonic they vary primarily in thickness and then innovation cooling rebrands these

Into its icy diamond graphite thermal pads that you've seen on the market for a while now and those numbers are tweaked a little bit so the thermal conductivity can get tweaked

From brand to brand because it's technically measured in different ways so you can make the number into different things the uh differences otherwise are mostly the gamer brand

That i see has stuck on their patch now thermal grizzly's carbonate solution is different still than both of these significantly it's basically a cloth and we have some scanning electron microscope photos from

Last time when we reviewed the carbonate pad from johannes vanner who did the photography for those and we'll show those again but they're different significantly between icy diamond and carbonate this one that

We bought for a dollar is different still it's not as different but the surface texture feels different the ic one is grittier it's hard to explain through a camera

Obviously but it's a little bit grittier it has a different texture profile to it when you look at it and that's about all we know we don't have a thermal conductivity number we're

Going to assume based on the testing we've performed that the one dollar sheet we bought is lower so we're going to run with that for this content and otherwise uh all we know is the size

Of it so before we get into some of the testing we want to talk about thermal conductivity a little bit four thermal conductivity there's a lot of different numbers out there for it

You'll see different pads claiming things like 1900 watts per meter kelvin for example or 37 watts per meter column 20 watts per meter kelvin for a lot of the panasonic

Stuff and within a brand normally you can compare those numbers intrabrand that's okay but once you start comparing like a thermal pad to a thermal paste

Or better more appropriate still would be one thermal paste to the next it becomes kind of misleading because the companies can do the test in different ways just like you can for fan cfm

And produce a different number now if everything's tested the same way that's fine but it's not and so it's not fair to talk about like this pace 12 watts per meter kelvin and this pads

20 watts meter kelvin ergo pad is better that's not really how it works there's a lot more to it you want the thinnest interface possible but you still have to make contact and that's a potential weak point

For the pads we're reviewing today because they can't really conform in quite the same way that thermal paste can and the uh minimum thickness on thermal paste is

Always going to be lower than the minimum thickness on these pads at least so that's going to help them a lot the pace a lot in testing uh we've already reviewed a couple of pads we have a lot of testing notes in those

Videos but we're using our dummy heater setup we'll show some footage of it and this is a carefully engineered solution that is highly precise it produces almost the same exact numbers every single time

And it's more precise than a real world test bench would be so it's good for thermal interface testing let's get into it we'll start with full torque testing and then look at performance against an unflat cold plate

On the a500 and then we'll look at lower torque settings we'll go from 95 watts up to 270 watts here remember that the delta t over ambient value will obviously increase as the heat load increases but also the

Delta between the pads and paste will increase as the heat load increases we'll start with 95 watts this is similar to stock performance on most r5 or r7 cpus

And the pre-10 series intel cpus the thermal paste sets our baseline at 64 degrees celsius over ambient with carbon knot about 1 degree warmer and i see diamond's graphite throttle pad a bit warmer than that

The one dollar throw pad that we bought in taiwan runs 851 degrees so it's about 22 degrees over a good throttle paste that's actually really good performance for this kind of heat load considering

Anyone on enough of a budget to want a one dollar reusable graphite pad is probably not running heavy overclocks we'd be fine with using this on a refurbished system or a budget class computer it's not

Great but if it requires this type of setup that we have to find a repeatable and precise two degree difference then we'd say it's probably good enough for most used cases but

Most specifically that'd be the lower power refurbs that just need some life breathed into them here's the 150 watt chart we're keeping the scale the same so that it's easy to visualize the change in bar length

This would be similar power consumption to an r9 3900x and about 20 watts over the i9 10900k with mce disabled and within the tau limit in this test the one dollar pad is

Starting to lose more ground it's now 36 degrees warmer than the baseline paste 24 degrees warmer than carbonade and 14 degrees warmer than the icy diamond graphite pad

Here's the gap growing again 200 watts is about what the 3950x runs when it has a simple all-core overclock although obviously the die layout is different on ryzen the hierarchical scaling should be about the same for

Different compounds the intel i9 10900k when boosting under tau will hit about 200 watts when run at reasonable auto voltages on better boards so that's about where we're looking in

This one the one dollar pad is now 49 degrees celsius warmer than hydrant which is 1256 degrees warmer than ambient as baseline the paste is pulling away from the thermal pads at this point

Where we see a wider gap between carbonate and the paste than any one pad to the next ic diamond is 33 degrees warmer than hydronaut while the one dollar pad is 16 degrees warmer than the icy diamond graphite

Thermal pad that's awfully close to the 10 solution that we previously tested considering how low this one cost 30 ntd is pretty damn good for this here's the last one before we go to the a500 air cooler with its imperfect plate

270 watts up now with the clc360 has us comparable in power consumption to the 10900k when boosting for 56 seconds under tau with poor auto voltage configurations that also be similar to a manual

Overclock with a higher end cooler at this heat load pace is now 55 degrees cooler than a one dollar pad we are clearly seeing the scaling that benefits pace as the heat load increases here

The one dollar pad is about 17 degrees warmer than the innovation cooling diamond graphite pad with a three degree warmer temperature than carbonate the 55 degree gap against paste is

Significant and would be equivalent to the gap created from a good cooler to one step down so pace remains the preference for a higher heat load transfer efficiency

But our one dollar pad for its cost did admirably overall we're impressed for the price to performance before we get into the corsair a500 results we need to share two important pieces of information

First of all here's a photo of how the ic diamond graphite thermal pad looked after used with the a500 despite being reusable the knife-like non-flat heat pipes did a number on the icy diamond pad

When mounted under the a500 the carbon not pad also eventually got torn up from the solution secondly here's a chart of the surface flatness from a recent review the reason we're using the a500 here as

We've said before is because corsair as shown in this chart has inadvertently made an excellent tool for testing imperfections and cold plates as they correspond to the change in

Thermal interface we would normally have to pay a machine shop a lot to get a tool like this made but corsair sells it on the market for anyone to use this on flat surface can change the stack a little bit because

Now we have two key points to consider one is the thickness of the pad which will matter a lot in areas where contact is poor and the other is the true reusability of the pet here's the 95

Watt a500 chart in this one the one dollar pad and ic diamond have now become functionally the same the unsmooth corsair plate is benefiting the one dollar pad that we bought which survived the mount better than the

Ic diamond pad that got sliced by the cooler we don't have a tool with the precision to really gauge the thickness here it's tough to get a reed with calipers and we tried feeler gauges but the two

Appear to be roughly the same thickness if you have suggestions on tools that we can add to the arsenal to get this level precision next time please post them below so we can pick them up the calipers are a tough read

Because the thermal pads don't have a sticky side like traditional throttle pads do and they sort of float upwards they appear to both be 0025 millimeters thick although we've seen some people

Online say the ic diamond pad is 00125 millimeters thick it comes from panasonic ultimately and they make a few different sizes so we're not a hundred percent sure because ic diamond doesn't specify it on

Their product sheet either way if it is the smaller of the numbers then maybe that could explain some other performance gap we're seeing we think it's more about how the ic diamond pad handled the knife-like

Mounting though either way the difference is negligible and the ic diamond and one dollar pads are basically the same they're both about one degree worse than the paste or the carbonate

Solutions at 150 watts the one dollar pad pulls ahead more now at 1781 degrees celsius over ambience or about 1 degree warmer than the carbonate pad and about 2 degrees warmer

Than paste icy diamond is 1838 here at this point the trend is maintaining and clear the 1 pad has worse conductivity but it seems to have better contact with this particular cold plate

Up to a point that'll benefit it but not forever at 200 watts we see it's one degree cooler than the ic pad or 26 degrees warmer than paste finally it flips back the other way at 270 watts the one dollar pad starts to

Tip and runs about one degree warmer than the ic solution we validated these numbers a few times on each pad and it was repeatable the poorer conductivity of the cheap pad is now worth more

In weight for performance then it's better contact with this particular cold plate the pace runs about 57 degrees cooler next up is torque settings tested with the evga clc 360 again

As soon as we started loosening the screws thins dipped south for the one dollar pad reducing torque to 045 newton meters had temperature climbing to 229 degrees over ambience

Or about 54 degrees over the paste that's consistent so far with the earlier results at 024 newton meters the one dollar pad went to 23 degrees then 29 degrees at 015 newton meters

Which is now 5 degrees warmer than the icy diamond pad and 10 degrees warmer than the thermal paste at a ridiculously low screw torque of 0011 newton meters which is so low that you could nearly breathe on the screw to

Loosen it we're at 46 degrees on the one dollar pat that's 14 degrees over the icy diamond pad and about 25 degrees over the pace which fared best of all in this test due

To the nature of a paste that squishes around as needed rather than a pad which obviously can't relocate itself if there's a gap bigger somewhere else you'll never use this torque in a

Computer so all this does is help illustrate that mounting pressure matters a lot for these quote-unquote reusable thermal pads but this may be more relevant in applications where mounting pressure is

Low that's not in desktop computers but they're certainly out there and if you're trying to use this somewhere else outside of the diy pc space

It's something to consider concluding then at a dollar it's so to recap the ic stuff we basically ended the ic diamond thermal pad review by saying look this thing's not friggin magic it's

Not like as great as everyone thought it was when it was reviewed a few years ago uh on mass by people and it said it's fine but we would still default the thermal pace that was our conclusion we said

We'd go with thermal paste one of the reasons is it's objectively better and that's the main reason now that said as we've stated twice now there are a lot of good reasons to buy the thermal pads

It's just you shouldn't be buying it because you think it's going to be better performance because it's not it's not how it works but they could be useful for things like refurb shops where you're just trying to

Swap stuff and get something running quickly do some troubleshooting you can throw a pad on there boot it make sure it works within reason you're not doing like severe thermal stressing or overclocking

With it so a pad is fine for that just to make sure the system works and not have to deal with paste all the time you could buy it for throwing into a system that you're building or buying for

Someone who's never going to maintain it it's going to be in deployment for 10 years you're working with a small business or something and they don't really need much other than a web browser maybe you throw one of these in

There and then it's hands off no maintenance needed uh other than when they inevitably infect it with viruses so that's another good use case for the thermal pads coming back around then

From the general conclusions with these pads as a whole and back to this one if you can find it it's awesome uh it's not the best we'd still default to thermal paste you likely have it

Coming with coolers if you're buying aftermarket even stock ones often include paste pre-applied so you might as well just use it in that case but we don't know how this thing ages

Presumably it would be about the same as the other two solutions because it's a solid object but we're not really sure we don't we don't know if it's going to age as well it's a little bit more durable than the

Ic pad which might be a bad thing thermal in some ways but certainly favored it in the reusable marketing angle that both these take or all three if you include carbonate which is a little which is

Certainly less reusable than the other two but for the one dollar bad if you can find it grab it uh it's great for just quick troubleshooting testing

Seems to work fine it's a dollar there's no packaging associated with it so we're really impressed with how it performed uh and definitely gonna grab some more next time we go back to taiwan whenever we're

Able to again because we'd like to take some home for uh for future use for testing when we're just assembling things for a short period of time and then taking it apart the same day

If it's not something thoroughly sensitive so pretty cool that's it for this one thanks for watching subscribe for more you can catch the other reviews of this type of stuff in the links in the description below

Or you can go to storecamerasnexusnet to support us directly by buying things like our mod mats our mouse pads and our shirts or you can go to patreoncomgamersnexus for behind the scenes videos

Thanks for watching we'll see you all next time you

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