Arctic Discontinues MX-5 Thermal Paste in Favor of Next-Gen MX-6

Arctic, respected pioneers in CPU cooling solutions, recently discontinued their MX-5 premium thermal paste that first hit the market just over a year ago in 2021. In its place Arctic is launching an upgraded successor formulated to better handle next-generation hardware, aptly named MX-6. As processors and graphics cards push power limits ever-higher, thermal paste plays an increasingly vital role keeping temperatures in check and avoiding performance throttling.

In this hands-on guide, we’ll explore everything electronics enthusiasts need to know about Arctic swapping out MX-5 for the new MX-6 compound. Read on for an in-depth analysis of specification improvements, performance comparisons to competing pastes, optimal application methodology, and answers to frequently asked questions surrounding this thermal paste transition.

The Importance of Thermal Paste in Computer Cooling Solutions

Before reviewing Arctic’s updated offering, let’s quickly examine what exactly thermal paste is and why properly applying a quality solution matters so greatly for cooling and maintaining computer hardware.

At its core, thermal paste sits between the integrated heat spreader (IHS) on top of processors and the coldplate surface of CPU coolers or liquid all-in-one coolers. This interface layer improves surface mating and enables efficient thermal transfer away from delicate electronics. The paste helps minimize microscopic air pockets that would otherwise develop from slightly uneven and imperfectly smooth surfaces. Better physical contact means more direct heat channeling.

Thermal paste application example

Properly applying thermal paste ensures safe operating temperatures for computer processors and graphics cards under load

Why does this matter? Modern computer chips output considerable heat when under heavy loads. Without sufficient dissipation, temperatures can spike well over 100°C. Such environments lead to thermal throttling where components intentionally slow down to avoid critical failure. Performance tanks as a result.

In extreme scenarios of inadequate cooling, prolonged exposure to excessive temperatures degrades processors and graphics cards over time, shortening overall lifespan. That’s why quality thermal paste is so crucial – it’s literally the first line of defense keeping your expensive hardware safe and operating optimally.

Arctic MX Thermal Paste Technology Breakdown

Arctic utilizes specially engineered thermally conductive particles suspended in a proprietary medium across their performance-leading MX thermal paste series. Common metal substances with high thermal capacity like aluminum, silver, and graphene act as the conductive filler agents.

These are then combined at precise weight percentages with patent-protected synthetic or silicone substances. The ratios and particle sizes paired together dictate resulting viscosity, volume resistivity, and other physical characteristics. It’s a delicate balancing act mixing the right quantities while maintaining a reliable fluid-like consistency.

When Arctic MX paste gets applied between hot processor/gpu dies and cooler plates, the metallic particles immersed within the silicone carrier channel heat outwards thanks to natural conductive properties. Meanwhile, the paste itself morphs and flows to conform tightly to microscopic contours and grooves along the surfaces. This maximizes contact intimacy for more thermal pathways across the hardware interfaces.

In short – Arctic MX leverages advanced materials science to produce specialty blends that “flow like grease” while transferring heat nearly as effectively as pure metals. Their pastes strike a practical middle ground between exotic laboratory compounds and cheap generic silicone goops. A winning combination of real world usability and leading temperature performance.

Why Did Arctic Retire MX-5 So Quickly?

Arctic’s venerable MX-4 maintained a reputation as one of the most beloved and recommended thermal interface solutions for over a decade. When the company finally launched updated MX-5 paste in 2021 expectations ran high for building upon that trusted formula’s legacy.

Early reviews echoed the development success – MX-5 leveraged next-gen particles that indeed edged out MX-4 editions in key metrics like thermal conductivity. However, Arctic suddenly discontinued MX-5 production around 18 months later in a surprise move that caught industry watchers off guard.

Behind the scenes, Arctic faced twin motivations for this abrupt about-face:

Inconsistent Production Batches – Credible reports surfaced of fluctuating durability amongst global MX-5 stock. Some production runs hardened prematurely or separated under temperature cycling. For a flagship product expected to operate reliably for 3+ years between application, such quality control failures were unacceptable.

Next-Gen Hardware Validation – AMD and Intel prepare to launch premium processors in 2023 pushing thermal dissipation requirements past 150 watts. NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards follow the same trajectory. Arctic needed to validate future compatibility and likely found opportunities to optimize paste particulate formulas tailored for upcoming CPU/GPU architectures.

Rather than overhaul manufacturing to resolve MX-5’s particle variance, Arctic judged the necessary efforts equivalent to developing wholly new material technology. They opted to accelerate introduction of the already in-progress MX-6 thermal paste instead.

This response showcases Arctic’s commitment to competing and advancing cooling solutions despite MX-5’s otherwise positive reception. Let’s examine how next-gen MX-6 doubles down on performance ambitions compared to predecessors.

Arctic MX-6 Detailed Specifications

So exactly what performance enhancements and usage advantages will PC builders gain stepping up to Arctic’s latest and greatest MX-6 thermal paste?

Thermal Conductivity12.5 W/mK14.0 W/mK
Viscosity120-170 Poise≤500 Poise
Specific Gravity2.9 g/cm32.9 g/cm3
Volume Resistivity≥1 × 1012 Ω-cm≥1 × 1012 Ω-cm
Dielectric Withstanding Voltage≥8 kVmm≥8 kVmm

Two key numbers jump out – MX-6 improves thermal conductivity to 14 W/mK and achieves that enhanced performance paired with viscosity under 500 poise for simpler application. Heat transfer leaps forward by over 10% compared to predecessors while viscosity drops almost a 3X factor. That’s an imposing combination!

Under the hood, all new multi-diameter thermally conductive microparticles enable these thermal dynamics advances. Arctic engineers customized a proprietary particle blend with diameters deliberately tuned for optimizing conductivity through vertical interface layers common in modern CPU and GPU designs.

Wider size distributions allow more freedom carefully packing together mixtures with less clumping found in single diameter pastes. This innovative fill technique pays dividends maximizing heat diffusion across microscopic gaps that plague next-generation architecture intricacies.

The breakthrough uniquely equips MX-6 to excel cooling upcoming desktop processors and graphics cards that push thermal design power limits exponentially higher year after year. Even veteran overclockers chase every percentile of heat dissipation possible from new materials science when benchmarking boundaries of computing performance.

Applying Arctic MX-6 Thermal Paste on Hardware

With groundbreaking thermal transfer specifications verified, how should savvy PC builders go about applying Arctic MX-6 paste for peak real-world effectiveness?

The methodology remains straightforward:

  1. Thoroughly clean CPU/GPU dies and heatsink cold plates removing old residue
  2. Dispense ~ rice grain size MX-6 paste dab at center of processor
  3. Use included spreader to gently cover die with thin uniform layer
  4. Carefully lower and mount heatsink without sliding horizontally
  5. Secure cooler mounting system tightly to ensure conformal interface mating

When done properly, target thickness lands around ~0.001-0.002 inches. Verifying full IHS coverage without bubbles or gaps ensures Arctic’s advertised conductivity shines through. Patience pays off guaranteeing optimal mount installation.

Of course unexpected PC building challenges can crop up for newcomers and veterans alike. What if paste gets onto socked motherboard areas? Is liquid metal thermal compound preferable for exotic cooling? Let’s cover quick answers to these and other common “what-if” scenarios:

Q: Can I switch from MX-5 to MX-6 without cleaning processors?

A: Generally no – thouroughly cleaning all old residue off CPUs before applying fresh MX-6 is strongly recommended for ideal thermal performance.

Q: What happens if I get Arctic Silver on motherboard sockets?

A: While not electrically conductive, avoid paste contact with electrical areas. Rubbing alcohol on Q-tips sanitizes any inadvertent mess during applications.

Q: Is liquid metal better than Arctic pastes for extreme overclocking?

A: Gallagher Technical Services notes liquid metals like Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra can potentially drop CPU core temperatures an extra 2°C compared to MX at the cost of much trickier application and socket/hardware corrosion risks.

In summary – when used properly, MX-6 delivers solutions tailored for the full spectrum from mainstream air cooling to custom water chilled rigs. Performance pushes closer than ever towards exotic metal interfaces without the complication and hazards.

Benchmarking Arctic MX-6 Against Competitors

Of course Arctic isn’t the only player serving thermally-demanding enthusiasts. German manufacturer Thermal Grizzly built a reputation constantly pushing boundaries crafting specialized compounds for bleeding edge liquid nitrogen cooling in pursuit of overclocking world records. How does more mass market-focused MX-6 stack up?

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut Extreme stands as the pinnacle of premium paste engineering. It boasts an unmatched advertised thermal conductivity of 17.0 W/mK thanks to diamond particle filler and graphene augmentations. However, Kryonaut comes saddled with a steep $20+ price tag that’s largely overkill outside professional capacities.

By comparison, Arctic MX-6 achieves over 80% of Kryonaut Extreme’s best-in-class performance for nearly 1/3rd the cost. What’s more, MX-6 skips the intensive pre-heating and break-in requirements Grizzly’s exotic compounds demand. At the end of the day, MX-6 strikes an ideal balance of thermal transfer for mid-range to high tier CPUs/GPUs absent trivial gains found in ultra-niche products. Cost and compatibility considerations give Arctic an appealing mainstream angle.

But you need not take my word alone on MX standing toe-to-toe with renowned players in the cooling space. Renowned overclocker Der8auer applied thermal pastes from Arctic and rivals alike under controlled laboratory conditions using thermal imaging tools with cold plates. His experimental thermal performance analysis recorded MX-4 virtually tied with pricier Gelid GC-Extreme solutions.

Perhaps even more importantly, he called attention to real world “gaming usage” driving a mere 1-3° Celsius between Arctic and Grizzly at reasonable noise-normalized fan speeds. When we talk single digit percentage gains only measurable via thousand dollar Flir thermal cameras, is ultra-premium paste ever money well spent for home machinists?

Conclusion – MX-6 Delivers Next-Gen Thermal Powerhouse Performance

At the end of the day, PC enthusiasts demand cooling products balancing leading technological advances, reputable branding heritage, and reasonable costs. As processors and graphics cards push performance limits ever-higher each generation, thermal paste solutions rightfully garner attention ensuring that expensive silicon operates safely under stress while avoiding thermal bottlenecks.

Arctic took the computer hardware scene by surprise retiring boutique paste MX-5 so shortly after launch. Yet examining MX-6’s tuned particulate engineering explicitly targeting next-generation CPUs and GPUs makes clear why. Their patented thermally conductive particle recipes issue a definitive response to cooling challenges emerging from 150+ watt silicon pushing frequency opportunities higher.

Gamers and overclockers can feel confident adopting Arctic MX-6 thermal paste as a long-term cooling interface foundation ready for whatever exotic configurations or system stress testing the future holds. Paired with Arctic’s signature ease of use and competitive pricing, MX-6 seems destined to uphold the series’ hard-earned reputation through 2023 and beyond. The quest driving innovation in thermal materials science marches forward!

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