Noctua NT-H2 Thermal Paste shootout. Does SFF benefit?

3lfk1ng

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Jun 3, 2016
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Huge thanks to Noctua for sending us a review sample of their new NT-H2 thermal compound. Please let us know what you think below!

Noctua’s latest NT-02 thermal paste has been available in retail channels for a few months now but after playing around with it, I’ve been reluctant to post this review. Not because Noctua’s proposed gains are in any way false, but because it doesn’t appear that the small form factor community can measurably benefit from its usage.
Check out the review here.
 

Boil

King of Cable Management
Nov 11, 2015
941
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Interested in the "more to come later" regarding the thermal pad...

Also hoping for some review info in the Thermal Grizzly Carbonaut thermal pad(s)...!

Thanks...!
 

Valantar

King of Cable Management
Jan 20, 2018
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477
No Gelid Extreme? I'm gutted. ;)
Not sure why the wink there, but that's the one I was missing :p I've gone from GC Extreme (a lot of stuff previously) to TG Kryonaut (main desktop, laptop repaste) to NT-H1 (secondary gaming rig, came with the cooler), and I've been very happy with all three.

I'm just glad we're past the days of diamond-based "pastes" that needed a soak in boiling water to come out of the syringe at all. Those were not the days, that's for sure.
 
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3lfk1ng

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Yea, sorry to disappoint. You can bet that with results like what was seen in the review, I don't plan to add more pastes to the review. This is no fault to Noctua at all either. I'm sure that if I still had my Threadripper, this paste review would have shown slightly better results under a 240/280mm rad or the Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3.

However, for our reviews, we do our best to keep the hardware specifications(especially case size) as close to the hardware specifications that our community would be using. This helps to illustrate what our community could expect from using the hardware we cover. This is the sole reason why we don't use open test benches for our testing.

In conclusion, it seems that no matter the paste, when you're trying to keep everything cool under 10 liters, the interface material, provided it's a paste, doesn't really matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
 
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NateDawg72

Airflow Optimizer
Aug 11, 2016
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I second a review on the Carbonaut thermal pads 🙂 I haven't heard who is the OEM for those and Thermal Grizzly isn't selling them in the US as far as I've seen (yet), but overclockers.co.uk has them.

The IC Graphite pads are OEMed by Panasonic, and you can buy larger sheets of the stuff on digikey/mouser/etc and cut it up to the sizes you need :D It's very nice not having to wipe up paste any time you have to adjust/remove a heatsink.
 

Valantar

King of Cable Management
Jan 20, 2018
645
477
Yea, sorry to disappoint. You can bet that with results like what was seen in the review, I don't plan to add more pastes to the review. This is no fault to Noctua at all either. I'm sure that if I still had my Threadripper, this paste review would have shown slightly better results under a 240/280mm rad or the Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3.

However, for our reviews, we do our best to keep the hardware specifications(especially case size) as close to the hardware specifications that our community would be using. This helps to illustrate what our community could expect from using the hardware we cover. This is the sole reason why we don't use open test benches for our testing.

In conclusion, it seems that no matter the paste, when you're trying to keep everything cool under 10 liters, the interface material, provided it's a paste, doesn't really matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
Not disappointed at all - after all, it's pretty well known at this point that all high quality thermal pastes perform within a handful of degrees of each other, and I really appreciate the SFF point of view. It makes perfect sense that the paste is less important the lower the thermal load, but verifying that in a restricted use case is important nonetheless. I also think it's good that you're using a test platform with a good mounting system like Noctua's to ensure equal mounting pressure across repastes. Of course there's an argument to be made for a second testing platform with far higher power, but results for something like that (albeit likely also in a large case or on a test bench) can be found elsewhere, and be used to form an opinion for the relatively few building SFF HEDT rigs. For the rest of us, this is exactly what we need :)

I also like seeing results for the graphite pad, especially as other reviews I've seen of similar products have shown them to be sub-par - but usually in use cases with more power or better airflow. It's good to know that something like that can actually be used.
 
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rokabeka

network packet manipulator
Jul 9, 2016
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cool test, thank you.

is there a chance we can have a measurement of the same system without any thermal compounds, too?
this test made me really curious. when I assemble my machines with low power CPU (and/or oversized heatsink) I typically do not use any paste to avoid mess and not to be worried about the dry-out. but I have to admit, I swap CPUs and heatsinks probably a bit more frequently than average.

having the thermal pad in the test was a great idea, expected it to be much worse. in sff world where its thickness might be unwanted but also pleasant if the measures went a friction of mm off :)
 

NateDawg72

Airflow Optimizer
Aug 11, 2016
319
243
having the thermal pad in the test was a great idea, expected it to be much worse. in sff world where its thickness might be unwanted but also pleasant if the measures went a friction of mm off :)
That thermal pad is almost paper-thin, the thickness doesn't affect SFF 🙂 it is a graphite thermal pad
 

Valantar

King of Cable Management
Jan 20, 2018
645
477
cool test, thank you.

is there a chance we can have a measurement of the same system without any thermal compounds, too?
this test made me really curious. when I assemble my machines with low power CPU (and/or oversized heatsink) I typically do not use any paste to avoid mess and not to be worried about the dry-out. but I have to admit, I swap CPUs and heatsinks probably a bit more frequently than average.

having the thermal pad in the test was a great idea, expected it to be much worse. in sff world where its thickness might be unwanted but also pleasant if the measures went a friction of mm off :)
Wait, what? You normally use no form of thermal interface material on your CPUs? What wattages are those CPUs, and how much do they throttle under load?

Edit, less of a knee-jerk reaction: seriously, not using TIM of any kind is a terrible idea. Unless you lap your CPU and coolers, there are going to be significant air pockets between the cooler and IHS.
 

rokabeka

network packet manipulator
Jul 9, 2016
197
227
Not a chance! I love my hardware too much to perform such a heinous crime.
I would be satisfied with an idle temperature :p

I understand the reactions :) and sorry if I hurt many people's feelings.
but let's assume just for a second my ultimate goal is not to fry every single system I build.

In case of a high density box like my two builds in S4M-C I obviously use thermal paste (in both cases Noctua).
I have a few dual socket motherboards with 2011 and 2011-v3 sockets. they either built into well ventillated server cases or just sitting open air. I have never studied whether server CPU heatspreader is better than desktop CPUs or socket 2011 with all four corners screwed are better than most desktop mounting kits or it is something else. but e.g. a set of e5-2648L CPUs (70W) were pretty happy under full load without thermal paste (Dynatron cooler up to 165W).

I realized it after many heatsink and CPU swaps, I always applied thermal paste, cleaned up both the CPU and heatsink (I wish I had Noctua's cleaning wipes also shown in this review) and once just in order to verify some BIOS settings I assembled it without the paste. yes, temperatures were higher but never reached the critical value (95C).
 

NateDawg72

Airflow Optimizer
Aug 11, 2016
319
243
I realized it after many heatsink and CPU swaps, I always applied thermal paste, cleaned up both the CPU and heatsink (I wish I had Noctua's cleaning wipes also shown in this review) and once just in order to verify some BIOS settings I assembled it without the paste. yes, temperatures were higher but never reached the critical value (95C).
Panasonic's Soft PGS pads (aka IC Graphite) sound like they would be perfect for you. No mess to clean up / reapply. You can buy large sheets and cut it up as needed. You seem to be okay with no paste but I can't help but recommend an actual thermal interface, especially if you end up with a heatsink that isn't so overkill and don't want paste.
 
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ShamedGod

Average Stuffer
Apr 21, 2019
86
42
Thermal Paste was always a part of PC building I disliked. So when planning my A300 build I thought I'd try the IC Graphite pad. It worked fine with the 2400G but upgrading to the 3400G saw a lot of thermal and power delivery issues that strongly affected performance. I decided to take the machine apart and replace the IC Graphite pad with the NT-H1 paste provided with the NH-L9a. That resulted in the 3400G boosting for longer, at a higher frequency, and staying at a 100Mhz higher stable frequency during stress testing.

The NH-L9a is rated for 65W TDP but the Ryzen processors will boost up to 88W stock. In this case using a higher quality TIM made a difference.