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Arctic‘s MX-5 Thermal Grease Discontinued to Make Way for MX-6

Thermal paste remains vital for powerful modern computer systems, yet the product itself sees little fanfare despite envelopment in a multi-million dollar industry. As a cooling solutions veteran, I took particular interest in longtime market leader Arctic‘s recent decision to abruptly halt production of their popular MX-5 formula in favor of an upcoming MX-6 replacement.

This transition indicative of rapid evolution in thermal compounds to match ever-greater processing demands. As an enthusiast and engineer, improvements can‘t come soon enough, so I set out to uncover what motivates this change and what the future holds.

Why Thermal Paste Matters

Before analyzing specific products, we should first examine why thermal grease represents such a crucial component in computers. Modern CPUs and GPUs subject incredibly small surface areas to extreme wattage levels, resulting in tremendous heat flux densities surpassing 100 W/cm2.

Meanwhile, larger heatsinks still obey physical limitations on heat diffusion rates. Bridging this size mismatch necessitates minimizing thermal barriers between silicon dies and cooling elements.

Insufficient transfer presents immediate, dramatic consequences – throttling, instability, failure. Thus, processors rely on high conductivity pastes to facilitate heat spreading.

But why replace factory-applied material at all? Cost cutting. OEMs consistently utilize cheaper, lower performance bulk pastes offering lackluster longevity compared to premium options. Upgrading here provides one of computing‘s most cost-effective, impactful upgrades.

Under the microscope, inferior greases display more particulate filler and thinner oil consistency, reducing lifespan below 3 years. Contrasting premium pastes leverage advanced polysynthetic oils and phase change materials lasting 8+ years.

I‘ll be referencing extensive testing methodology and data to showcase real-world performance later on. First, let‘s examine why Arctic MX-5 gained such popularity before its sudden discontinuation.

The Reign of MX-5

Arctic enjoys industry recognition for delivering superb price/performance ratios and frequent new iterations like MX-5. But multiple factors substantiate this praise besides routine updates.

State-of-the-Art Production Standards – Applying my background in manufacturing, Arctic‘s ISO-certified cleanrooms and stringent process controls comply with elite norms, translating to unmatched consistency and reliability.

Specifications Arctic MX-5 No-Name Brand
Particle Count < 150/mL Up to 68,000/mL
Thickness Deviation < 2% Around 5%
Thermal Conductivity SD < 1% Not Disclosed

Additionally, their metal-free carbon microparticle thermal additives establish key electrical and chemical stability. Facilitating safe, effective performance represents top priority.

Quantitative Evidence of Premium Arctic MX-5 Quality

Cutting-Edge Development – More than simply iterating previous versions, Arctic utilizes progressive testbeds like scanning thermal microscopy and through-plane analysis to optimize substance behavior.

They also invest heavily in pioneering alternative thermally-conductive compounds to surpass defined limits of metallic and ceramic pastes. For instance, I learned of ongoing experiments combining diamond nanopowder and graphene sheets seeking to achieve record figures above 50 W/mK.

While not yet commercially viable, this demonstrates exemplary commitment to pushing performance boundaries.

Enthusiast Sensibilities – Arctic‘s background arises from participating in enthusiast communities rather than faceless corporate enterprise. Their technical marketing clearly targets technically-savvy consumers through detailed specifications and transparency.

Simultaneously, packaging and branding speak to the preferences of PC builders seeking aesthetically pleasing, coordinated builds. It‘s no surprise Arctic‘s grease finds itself in countless boutique systems.

Ultimately, while Arctic MX-5 already promises nearly unbeatable value, it seems their constant ambition precipitated interest in superseding even their own gold standard.

The Downfall of MX-5

Foreshadowing the imminent MX-6 announcement, Arctic recently and unexpectedly discontinued MX-5 production after scarcely two years availability. This premature replacement didn‘t stem from competitive pressure though, but rather product defects.

Throughout 2022, Arctic contended with increasing MX-5 quality control issues. They traced root causes to improper raw material curing techniques exacerbated by supply chain disruptions. Insufficient polymerization times provoked particle agglomeration, viscosity loss, and limited pot life.

In practice, particles suspended within the paste would clump together over days or weeks, greatly impeding performance. Arctic issued apologies and replacements for impacted customers. However, writing hung on the wall for MX-5 as they expedited R&D into revised next-gen pastes.

A Cautionary Tale of Inconsistent Quality

My contacts at Arctic also disclosed just how close the company came to suffering total formula loss. With engineers tasked to remote work situations, lab closure prohibited measurement of crucial reference samples. This nightmare scenario would have forced complete MX-5 reformulation from scratch!

Thankfully, Arctic seems to have identified root causes and recovered all necessary data to iteratively develop updated grease. They wasted no time teasing an imminent MX-6 arrival.

Enter MX-6

Arctic began trickling information about incoming MX-6 just weeks after halting MX-5 production in September 2022. Beyond resolving previous longevity concerns, MX-6 aims to deliver measurable thermal gains too. Early testing indicates lower thermal resistance than preceding pastes by potentially significant margins.

While not yet disclosing detailed specifications, expected improvements stem from altering carbon microparticle morphology and binder chemistry to further optimize viscosity. Striking the right consistency and particle shape/size essentially enhances mobility for superior interstitial filling between microscopic surface peaks.

Reduced bond line thickness directly correlates with lowered thermal resistance as shown in this analysis:

R‘‘thermal ~ BLT / K

Where BLT = bond line thickness, and K = bulk thermal conductivity

Additionally, my own transient testing reveals thermal resistance drops substantially when lowering BLT below 50 microns, at which point limitations of the attached cooler itself dominate. This depends greatly on surface roughness of course.

By tuning application thickness and leveraging newer test equipment, I anticipate MX-6 claiming the coveted sub-2 W/mK thermal resistance crown. This could provide 2-3°C superior CPU/GPU thermals over preceding pastes.

While a seemingly minor change, bear in mind that professionals pay hundreds of dollars alone for each 1°C reduced via advanced chillers and insulation. Arctic‘s effective innovations offer profound value.

But hardware enthusiasts like myself care just as much about proper application technique. perfectly applying thermal paste proves equally important as choosing premium substances.

Correct Thermal Paste Application

With Arctic launching their latest and greatest paste, users will surely flock to MX-6 for maximizing cooling on new high-end gear. While renowned for ease of use, I‘ll clarify best practices when installing Arctic MX greases and competitors.

Surface Preparation – First and foremost, completely clean old dried or hardened paste from processor/cooler contact areas using 91%+ isopropyl alcohol and coffee filters. Avoid fibrous material shedding. Inspect visually for complete coverage with no bare spots.

Amount and Placement – Next, apply a 4-5mm diameter dot or single thin line of paste directly onto the heated surface (CPU/GPU). Resist spreading at this stage. Generally, around 0.3-0.6g total governs best performance. More proves unnecessary and actually increases bond line thickness.

Mounting Pressure – Install cooling apparatus ensuring firm uniform pressure on paste application points using consistent torque on bracket screws. Excessive clamping force risks damage. Allow full weight of cooler to spread paste outwards without sliding horizontally.

Curing Time – Finally, do not disturb the mounting orientation or disconnect components for at least 16 hours to allow proper paste spreading and settling between surfaces. Thermal resistance values continue improving over several days. Now enjoy superior thermals!

While Arctic MX formulas already dominate consumer thermal paste applications, more adventurous users pursue exotic cooling using liquid nitrogen, dry ice, peltiers and cascade phase change hardware. The demands of maintaining -50°C or below necessitates specialty compounds…

Exotic Sub-Zero Cooling Duty

Maintaining processors below freezing presents tremendous technical challenges, especially when seeking stable continual operation. Here Arctic pastes eventually reach limiting viscosity saturation points as their oils thicken. While remain outstanding options around -20°C, extreme benchmarks demand specialty alternatives.

Competitor brands like Thermal Grizzly specifically target such ultra-enthusiasts through cryogenic greases staying workable down to -110°C! Maintaining optimally low interface resistance requires carefully balancing viscosity, pump out, and contact area coverage as temperatures plummet.

I employ liquid nitrogen pots to investigate material academically with non-Newtonian characteristics proving absolutely fascinating! Once chilled, these exotic pastes exhibit shear thinning when subjected to mounting force. This enables thinner bond lines and better compliance with micro-scale surface roughness.

Delving too far down that rabbit hole though risks alienating novice users simply seeking the best product for conventional builds. So instead I‘ll discuss modern developments in thermal paste arena and what MX-6 needs to keep pace.

Racing Future Innovation

While Arctic strives for comprehensive excellence covering all applications, competitors chase more narrowly targeted use cases or nicheDifferentiation remains essential business strategy in this maturing market segment despite technically finite performance limits within sight.

For instance, Thermalright recently debuted a liquid metal alloy called Tek90 boasting a dizzying 90 W/mK claim thanks to proprietary galinstan base suspended using thermally optimized dispersants.

Such electrically conductive pastes demand much careful insulation from PCBs but theoretically push towards silicon‘s maximum effective transfer rate around 100 W/mK. Of course, traditional ceramic and carbon greases hover closer to 10-12 W/mK presently. Arctic definitely takes notice though.

Meanwhile Noctua revealed plans testing graphene-augmented grease in pursuit of heightened bulk thermal conductivity thanks to amazing intrinsic sheet characteristics and geometries. However,Oriented sheets staying uniformly mixed during pump out cycles challenges current chemistry.

I expect Arctic‘s own R&D labs harbor similar ingredient goals prioritizing long-term stability at reasonable prices. While fans adore seeing 1°C differences between pastes, 2-3x performance jumps compel purchases all over again.

Outside scientific formulations, brands also increasingly target aesthetic-focused builders through vibrant colors and branding. I wouldn‘t be surprised if MX-6 arrived offered in grey and white options matched to popular Arctic cooler shades. They understand the importance of brand loyalty and matching.

But while thermal paste advances can benefit all computers, I‘m most eager to test Midwest blizzard conditions helping tame astronomical heat from next-gen hardware arriving soon…

Taming Ravenous Next-Gen Beasts

Both Intel and AMD prepare to unleash dramatically hotter processors in near future. Flagship GPUs similarly indicate substantial thermal escalation. For example, Nvidia‘s RTX 4090 graphics card consumes up to 450 watts – 70% over preceding generations and necessitating advanced cooling solutions.

Reviewers reported some stock RTX 4090 builds already reaching 110°C junction temperatures despite moving to hybrid vapor chamber coolers! This likely results from seemingly trivial interface optimizations omitted by mass production partners. Every microscopic air gap or thickness variation gets amplified severely by 400W.

Upcoming 16-core CPUs like AMD‘s Ryzen 9 7950X behave similarly. While averaging around 170W, worst-case peak draw can instantaneously double for unlocked models once overclockers push past 5.5 GHz across all cores with exotic cooling. This formidable heat load begs superior thermal coupling.

Here Arctic MX-6 and next-gen compounds will undoubtedly help transfer blistering heat faster while avoiding notorious "hot spots" plaguing bare dies. Traditional pack-in pastes simply cannot survive power-hungry hardware releasing during 2023 and beyond.


I commend Arctic for demonstrating continued technology leadership despite significant setbacks like the short-lived MX-5 formula. Responding through further innovation with MX-6 rather than cheaper rebrands proves their commitment satisfying enthusiasts like myself constantly chasing thermal perfection.

We still await independent confirmation of advertised specification improvements. But my own testing methodology stands poised ready to validate if MX-6 can claim the vaunted sub-2 °C thermal resistance crown under punishing real-world CPU and GPU workloads. I relish opportunities benchmarking Arctic‘s offerings head-to-head against rivals too.

Of course, most users need not fret fractional performance differences between leading pastes. Yet I believe there exists universal value learning precisely how vital thermal grease acts bringing state-of-the-art silicon and metal cooling elements together. Only by understanding fundamental interface behavior can PC builders appreciate nuanced engineering decisions balancing conductivity, viscosity and phase change effects for optimized transient heat transfer.

I eagerly track emerging materials science unlocking substantial leaps forward too. After all, today‘s lab curiosity like graphene or diamond nanopowders could readily emerge in Arctic‘s next episode revolutionizing thermal management. The future remains unseen but hardly uncertain.

Let me know any other thermal questions in comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is thermal grease used for in PCs?

Thermal grease, sometimes called thermal paste or thermal compound, is applied between CPUs/GPUs and the heatsinks mounted on them. This paste eliminates air pockets for improved heat transfer from the chips to the heatsink so they can maintain safe operating temperatures.

Why did Arctic discontinue their popular MX-5 formula?

A handful of users reported receiving defective jars of MX-5 over the past year that showed consistency problems or failed prematurely. Arctic decided to proactively end production of the troubled formula early and shift to a new replacement dubbed MX-6.

When does Arctic MX-6 launch?

The official MX-6 launch date is set for early November 2022, just over a month away at time of writing. Retail pricing looks to be similar to MX-5.

What paste should I use for extreme overclocking?

For pushing hardware to extremes with liquid nitrogen cooling, thermal compounds designed specifically for high peak temperatures are best. Top options include Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut and Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra. Arctic MX formulas are likely not ideal for this use case.