Maingear Debuts New Thermal Interface Material: Meet the T1000

Maingear Debuts New Thermal Interface Material: Meet the T1000

It's been a long time since we saw much innovation in thermal interface materials. Back ten years ago, when OEMs tended to use pads made from camel hair, companies like Arctic Silver burst on the scene with compounds that offered significantly improved performance compared to stock solutions. As CPU TDPs increased and die sizes shrank, manufacturers began offering better thermal pastes by default and the buzz generally quieted down. Claims that adding diamond dust improves thermals, for example, are based on remarkably poor physics and exploiting a margin of error.

Today, Maingear has launched what they claim is a genuine advance over existing thermal pastes. The Epic T1000 kit uses a PCMA (phase change metal alloy) as an interface material between CPU and heatsink. Unlike a standard paste, which is (hopefully) applied with a razor or other straight-edge, Maingear's T1000 is a transparent wafer at room temperature that one lays over the CPU before attaching a heatsink.

The problem with conventional pastes is that their efficacy is limited by the need to suspend a heat-conductive substance in a semi-liquid base that won't dry out, isn't electrically conductive (or at least, not much), and won't seep out from between CPU and heatsink if the chip is oriented vertically. In theory, the T1000 is a solution to these problems that offers superior performance and is easy to apply.



Maingear is offering the kit in three flavors. The AMD and Intel Socket LGA1156 options are both $19.99; the LGA2011 kit is $29.99. The difference in price isn't just because LGA2011 is a more expensive chip -- the CPU itself is significantly larger than standard Sandy Bridge parts, and requires more contact material.

The Package, Product Limitations

The T1000 solution is not compatible with heatsinks or blocks that don't cover the entire chip, including those that use a copper slug or series of embedded heatpipes to contact the die. As people who make a habit out of not reading the instructions, let us caution you, in this case, you'll want to give the included paperwork a read-through. The gloves and cleaning fluid aren't optional; in order for the phase change alloy to work properly, the surfaces need to be free of oil and prepared.



Maingear has done a good job as far as how they package the solution; the $19/$29 kit comes with gloves, excellent documentation detailing every step of the installation process (and explaining the improvements), and plenty of cleaning fluid. The only thing missing is the drink you might want for the next part of the process.

Installation

The thing about phase-change materials is that they have to hit a certain temperature in order to work. Maingear's documentation notes that the PCMA "is highly thermally resistive without a complete reflow. Failure to perform the exact reflow procedure may result in unacceptable thermal performance." The solution? Configure a thermal monitor, run a program like Prime 95, unplug your CPU fan and wait.

The company's documentation describes the process and how temperatures will change over the following 3-4 minutes. It's a good thing they do, because even knowing all about Intel's thermal monitoring hardware, watching a CPU tick along at 90-95'C is hard to take.

Test Results

We used the Noctua DH-14 from our recent review for this round of tests and evaluated at both stock speeds and in an overclocked configuration.



Our tests show a noticable improvement from Maingear's T1000, even accounting for a reasonable margin of error. At $19.99 / $29.99, the T1000 kit costs as much as a cheap third-party heatsink -- and there are only two shims in each package. If you frequently swap heatsinks or chips, this isn't a solution you'll probably want to use. If, on the other hand, you're chasing either a near-silent system or a best-possible overclock, it might be worth a look. As CPU TDPs increase, its become increasingly important to optimize every step of the process, and Maingear's product definitely moves the bar upwards on that score.
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Ladies man FTW!!!! This is really cool, no more worrying if you put on the correct amount or if it spread evenly.

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Holy crap that is a wicked cool setup :) and it is pretty sweet that it sounds like they will be selling them to system builders as well... Hopefully I can go visit their factory at some point and see how the pros do it.

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Hang on, this is just an Indigo Xtreme thermal kit repackaged. Even the purple gloves and small bottle of acetone is identical in EVERY respect.

The ONLY difference are a couple of logos and the plastic protector around the TIM is a different color.

I've been using the Indigo Xtreme TIMs in my own PCs for well over 9 months to spectacular results much better than this article implies.

This Maingear product is nothing but either a blatant rip off or simple rebranding.

Here is my own experience with it on my 2nd PC in July of LAST YEAR: http://tinyurl.com/6nu546z

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@Zybch it looks very similar but it does not appear that Indigo Xtreme has a Socket 2011 version available.

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Nah dude. Its the same thing. Even the plastic packaging and cleaning cloth are identical, just a different logo in the insert card.

Even the manual/install sheet are exactly the same apart from a logo change, same for the hard plastic holder for the TIM itself.

Even the boilerplate description and specs on the Maingear website are identical to the Indogo Xtreme ones.

Don't get me wrong, its good that this kind of thermal solution is gaining support, but its an outright lie to say or imply that Maingear is the first to develop this when its been beaten by a year by another company whos products Maingear has either blatantly copied or at the very least just rebranded.

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Indeed.

Even though Maingear didn't invent the thing; they do make good computers and I'd be willing to buy it for my Maingear system to support them despite the fact that they're rebranding a similar cooler; they're just that good!

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We own the rights to IX now.  We helped with the development of the Socket 2011 variant.  We felt like partnering with them would help them market the product better and be faster on the turnaround when it came to new sockets because of our close partnerships with AMD and Intel.  ;)  And yes, I do think Joel should have gotten better temps.  My guess is that he didn't achieve 100% reflow.

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Thanks for the clarification.

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"OEMs tended to use pads made from camel hair"

is that really true? how long ago was this and what on earth made that seem like a good idea?!

Maingear is really pushing forward, their no longer assembling others components in their own cases but starting to create accessories as well?

I think its really impressive that a custom computer boutique took the time and money to invest in engineering and design such a well made product in terms of performance, accuracy to its claims and ease of installation.

This really shows the quality that goes on at the place due to the amount of time and effort invested into a new venture, imagine what goes into the core of the company and what they primarily do.

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