Heat builds up on computer processors during heavy loads like mathematical processing, CAD applications, and video rendering. Excess heat can cause system performance problems and failures, so it's critical to get rid of it. To maximize heat transfer from the CPU to the heatsink, you need a thermal interface material like Evergreen Technologies’ TherMagic. TherMagic is a suspension solution made of viscous silicone oil and a highly conductive thermal transfer material. I recently tested TherMagic.
Why you need it
According to Evergreen Technologies, "Imperfections in computer processor and heatsink surfaces inevitably trap a small layer of air…which then acts as a thermal insulator and impedes extraction of the waste heat." The scientific theory behind this concept is solid. Whenever dissimilar materials are exposed to each other at elevated temperatures, there is an almost certain expansion of the surface areas of the two materials.
When you use a standard silicone grease formula as a thermal interface, the surface area expands and the silicone sticks to the raised areas of the two surfaces, causing air pockets that trap heat. TherMagic retains the ability to penetrate surface imperfections when heat builds up. Because TherMagic covers the surface of the heatsink more thoroughly, it's theoretically a better conductor of heat than other products of its kind.
Testing methodology and hardware
Before I began my testing, I removed the old components from my test systems and cleaned the surfaces using the manufacturer-recommended isopropyl alcohol (you can also use acetone) and a lint-free cloth to make sure there was no residue or dirt. Then I applied a thin layer of TherMagic directly to the area of the heatsink that comes in contact with the CPU core.
Caution! Handle with care
Remember to handle electrical component by the edges only. Avoid touching the solder joints and other connections. Make sure you are grounded before cleaning the processor since static electricity can do irreparable damage to the CPU core and other components.
The first system I tested contained the following hardware:
- Diamond Multimedia Micronics C200 motherboard
- AMD K6-2 500-Mhz processor
- Generic ATX case
- nVidia 32-MB video card
- 128-MB PC100 SDRAM
- Western Digital 30-GB HDD running Windows 98 SE
- Thermal cooling fan
- LiteOn 16X DVD drive
I used a program called CPUCool as well as external thermometers to test the ambient temperature inside the case when the computer was turned off (73 degrees F), the temperature of the processor socket when the computer was running using the old thermal interface material (98.75 degrees F), and finally, the temperature of the processor socket when the computer was running using TherMagic (95.6 degrees F).
The second system I tested contained the following hardware:
- Soyo SY-5EH5 v1.3 motherboard
- AMD K6-2 450-Mhz processor
- Generic AT case
- Creative Labs 3Dfx Banshee 16-MB video card
- 128-MB PC100 SDRAM
- Maxtor 20-GB HDD running Windows 2000 Pro
- Turbo fan heatsink and fan
- Delta 12X DVD drive
- 40X Memorex CD-ROM drive
- USR 56K EXT modem
- Crystal SoundFusion™ CS4281 PCI sound card
The ambient temperature of the interior of the case when the second system was switched off was 70 degrees F. The temperature of the processor socket when using the old product and running under a normal CPU load was 99.5 degrees F. When using TherMagic thermal interface and running a normal CPU load, the temperature of the processor socket was 96.3 degrees F.
Heavy CPU load tests
I proceeded to test both of the systems using Checkit diagnostic software as well as BCM diagnostics. The latter program allows you to run concurrent simulated applications such as CAD, word processing, spreadsheet calculations, and video rendering. The temperature of the first system's processor socket under a simulated heavy CPU load was 101.2 degrees F using the old thermal product and 96.4 degrees F with TherMagic. The second system turned in test results of 100.7 degrees using the old thermal product and a respectable 96.1 degrees F with TherMagic. Clearly, TherMagic is more effective at transferring heat than the other thermal interface material.
TherMagic ships in a syringe-type applicator with a cap to seal it. The manufacturer claims 25 applications for the tube. I tried several applications of the product and this seems to be a reasonable number. The manufacturer also recommends spreading the material as thinly as possible on the surface to be protected. You can apply it to the heatsink or directly to the CPU core. The only thing that was a little inconvenient was the tendency of the product to be a little sticky and slightly congealed. The average price for TherMagic is approximately $6.99.
I've used several different brands of thermal heatsink compounds in my work over the last seven years. I really believe that TherMagic is better than all the others I've used. TherMagic's thermal properties don't seem to break down or dissipate, even under heavy loads. I highly recommend TherMagic to anyone who is installing a new CPU or who just wants better heat protection.