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Sony Hardware Technology

Sony's Thermal Sheet Good As Paste For CPU Cooling 195

An anonymous reader writes "Sony has demonstrated a thermal sheet that it claims matches thermal paste in terms of cooling ability while beating it on life span. The key to the sheet is a combination of silicon and carbon fibers, to produce a thermal conductive layer that's between 0.3 and 2mm thick. In the demonstration, the same CPU was cooled by thermal paste and the thermal sheet side-by-side, with the paste keeping the processor at a steady 53 degrees Celsius. The sheet achieved a slightly better 50 degrees Celsius. The actual CPU used in the demonstration wasn't identified. Sony wants to get the thermal sheet used in servers and for projection units, but I can definitely see this being an option for typical PC builds, too. It's certainly going to be less messy and probably a lot cheaper than buying a tube of thermal paste."
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Sony's Thermal Sheet Good As Paste For CPU Cooling

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  • isn't the advice to have rather less than 2mm paste between the chip and heatsink?

    • Re:thickness (Score:5, Informative)

      by BradleyUffner ( 103496 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:15AM (#40674067) Homepage

      isn't the advice to have rather less than 2mm paste between the chip and heatsink?

      2mm of thermal paste is WAY too much and will most likely be less effective than no paste at all. Ideally there should be no visible paste at all after the heat sink is applied. The paste's job is only to fill in the tiny air gaps made by the imperfections in the "flat" contact areas.

    • Re:thickness (Score:4, Informative)

      by somersault ( 912633 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:26AM (#40674217) Homepage Journal

      That was in reference to the sheet, not the paste. Presumably the same thickness rules don't apply there.

    • Better yet, get lapping that mofo to a point where thermal paste actually impedes thermal conduction!!
      • by RMingin ( 985478 )

        Problem is, you can lap the heatsink, you can't lap a die. If you're dealing with an integrated heatspreader plate, as most modern CPUs do, you can lap, but you throw warranty completely away when you do. It's all kinds of lose-lose.

        On the other hand, with Intel switching from solder to paste to join the die to the IHS on Ivy Bridge, it means you have yet another non-optimal layer to deal with. We're fixing the wrong problem.

        • On modern flip-chip packages what you see is the back of the die so I don't see any reason why you couldn't lap it.

          • by RMingin ( 985478 )

            Actually, if you're looking at a bit of metallic-looking glass, you *are* looking at the die. Front or back, there's very, very little scrap material. Lap more than the tiniest fraction of an inch, and you're lapping off circuit.

    • Maybe better than paste for manufacturing in situations where excessive amounts of paste is applied and acts as an insulator. Builders would probably want to apply the correct amount of paste.
    • The "between 0.3 to 2.0mm thick" part of the summary is talking about the new thermal sheet, not traditional thermal paste.

      • by phayes ( 202222 )

        and the problem is that TFA is useless fluff devoid of any details on how the paste was applied.

    • As others have said, 2mm doesn't apply to the paste. But anyway this is exactly why a sheet would be so much better. No more fretting about "do I have too much paste?" or "do I have too little paste?" or "I just had to pull the heatsink off again because I didn't line it up right the first time, do I need to start over and reapply paste?". Thermal paste is a messy PITA.
      • There's a major manufacturer already using pads for their motherboards. It ships with laptop motherboard replacements. It's a pain-in-the ass to work with, peels from the backing tape badly, and is a lot LESS convenient (for me) than thermal goo.

        • I don't doubt for a second that you could take a pad / sheet / whatever that sucks (much) worse than thermal paste, but if you had one that performed as well (or better, or maybe even only slightly worse) than thermal paste, then I think the convenience and the removal of guess work would make it worthwhile for a lot of people. Especially people that only play with thermal paste once in a great while.

          I don't know whether this is it or not.

      • by phayes ( 202222 )

        Correctly applied paste is superior to thermal pads until proof to the contrary is given. TFA is useless in this regard as no details are given on how the thermal paste was applied.

        Applying paste correctly may be a small PITA but it pays off better thermal performance & isn't something one needs to do often unless you are a serial system builder/tweaker. Even having a longer lifespan for the pads is suspect as the only machines I have ever had problems with in this regard were some servers that had been

        • by afidel ( 530433 )
          Well, this isn't "proof" but when I worked at Cisco I know we used a thermal pad for the extended range products because it had superior transfer properties to the available paste compounds. The pad used was kind of a big deal because it was a) expensive, and b)single source which was a major no-no at Cisco requiring executive VP level signoff.
          • by phayes ( 202222 )

            For stuff like Cisco gear that gets left in a cabinet for years, I'd find it more likely for pads to be used in spite of poorer themals but for longevity because they never need to be changed. Every comparison I've seen where pads win was for life cycle costs & not for superior thermals unless the paste was handicapped by poor application.

            • by icebike ( 68054 ) *

              Like anyone ever changes paste!
              It just does not happen in the real world until you find the device suffering overheating issues.

              You seem to be arguing from the basis that there is something better than pads, and that fact alone out weighs the mess, the fact that paste dries out, and gets pumped out from where its needed.

              That's just a silly line of argument. The solution chosen need only be good enough, it doesn't have to be the best available. And any solution that requires routine maintenance in a consum

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Less? Yeah. Generally the rule of thumb for thermal paste is 'pea sized' unless it's a large die. But since this is a thermal sheet it doesn't matter too much since it's acting as a thermal conductor between the two objects. The real question though is, what are they using as a filler for the air between the die, and the heatsink. That's the real problem.

      • Less? Yeah. Generally the rule of thumb for thermal paste is 'pea sized' unless it's a large die.

        Pea?! Grain of rice at the most; long grain if there's a heat spreader.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Rice is pretty tiny, you're not even covering 30% of the spreader to heatsink. Tell me, how's that working out for you in terms of thermal efficiency?

  • by Higgs Bosun ( 2676655 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:06AM (#40673935)

    ...from another manufacturer. Nice to have but not vital, so sorry Sony, you don't get my money.

  • Cost of paste? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:07AM (#40673955)

    >> probably a lot cheaper than buying a tube of thermal paste

    Normally these come free with the cooling fan IME. Otherwise, a tube of paste is like $5.

    >> key to the sheet is a combination of silicon and carbon fibers

    Paste MIGHT be cheaper.

    • "Sony" and "cheaper than" is usually an oxymoron.

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:07AM (#40673957) Homepage Journal puts a rootkit on your machine, too.

    • Re:not to mention (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:34AM (#40674321)
      Eh why is this modded down as Troll? It's relevant to any Sony discussion.

      People remembering things like the Sony rootkits is a GOOD THING. It makes other companies that might have done the same thing say "wow, Sony did that and destroyed whatever good name they might have had, even years later lots of people remember that and STILL don't want to buy from them. Say, we better not make the same mistake because we want more sales, not less".

      You think corporations get away with too much? You want to keep them in line? This is one good way to do that. It's one of the few you can do yourself. Most others require a politician who's not completely corrupt.

      It's like so many of you can't handle life or something. You want to live in a fluffy-bunny fairytale world where there is no such thing as a legitimate complaint. So you down-mod all complaints with no regard for legitimacy. Because that'll make it just go away, right? There really are people this stupid and shallow and short-sighted. You can tell because they always defend some corporation that acts like a bully and act offended that people don't like that. I believe this kind of idioicy occurs more than I believe Sony hires shills.
      • Re:not to mention (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @12:13PM (#40674787)

        Just because Sony is making the thermal sheet does not make a whine about Sony's rootkit at all ontopic. The moderation was correct and justified.

        Unless this thermal sheet is going to be phoning home, it's not at all relevant and detracts from the quality of this discussion.

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          Either that or the person doing the modding has no sense of humor...

          but who am I to judge?

        • No, it was not correct. The correct moderation for an off-topic post is.... drumroll please..... OFF-TOPIC.

          Troll is not off-topic is not flamebait is not overrated. They all have their use and they are not necessarily compatible or redundant..

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        People remembering things like the Sony rootkits is a GOOD THING

        I don't know about you, but my memory is good enough to not have to be constantly reminded in almost every Sony related article to remember about the rootkit thing or other Sony screw ups.

        Moderation, bro. Remind me once in a few, sure. For the record, the GP/Op was funny (as of this writing he got the funny mod). Your post, however, is killing that fun.

        It's like so many of you can't handle life or something.

        I don't know about you, but to me, being able to handle life includes being able to handle a few random strangers modding some comment on the Internet as "tr

      • Exactly. The big corps these days talk about "brand recognition" and "proper brand alignment" [] and even employ *shudder* Chief Brand Officers []. They put The Brand and The Image first now; we have to remind them that the best way to build a strong brand and a sterling image is not being an asshole.

      • Re:not to mention (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SilenceBE ( 1439827 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @12:41PM (#40675099)
        People remembering things like the Sony rootkits is a GOOD THING

        But it is strange when Sony Ericsson helps out custom rom builders for Android you get the meme "yeah but this is a joint venture, this isn't Sony", but when another joint venture Sony-BMG does install a rootkit it is Sony.

        So I find it very hard to follow that logic (although this is slashdot after all) or it maybe that the world isn't that black and white as some like to make it.
      • Re:not to mention (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @12:52PM (#40675251) Homepage

        It's relevant to any Sony discussion.

        No it's not. It's one thing to hold past grievances against a company that have wronged you. It's your choice to not do business with them. However, you shouldn't have a bias against a product that has absolutely nothing to do with prior products of dubious functionality. This is a THERMAL PAD, not a root kit. There is no relevance here.

        • by phayes ( 202222 )

          Please give a better way of making sure that corporations do not ride roughshod over our rights because it seems to me & indeed most of the population on slashdot that making sure that Sony gets dinged for this horrendous lapse each and every time it comes up on slashdot & indeed IRL is what in part what is making sure that neither they nor anyone else attempts to abuse us as Sony did.

          Letting bygones be bygones does not work in an environment where Sony & their allies are pushing for the abolit

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @12:09PM (#40674725)

      Sony: Putting sheet in your computer since 2005!

  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:07AM (#40673959)
    Thermal paste for a typical CPU installation runs in the pennies, but you do have to buy a whole tube. I'll bet you a dollar this sheet for a single CPU install runs in the dollars. This is Sony we're talking about, they need profitable revenue to offset their sinking Blu-Ray-PS/3 ship, among others.
    • by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:14AM (#40674047)
      I don't know about the rest of you but I have to buy a new tube every time I have a new CPU, the old tube always disappears.
      • Yea same for me, but look at a commercial shop that deals with servers or retail computers.

      • I don't know about the rest of you but I have to buy a new tube every time I have a new CPU, the old tube always disappears.

        I used Arctic Silver 5 on my Q6600 rig five years ago. I used the same Arctic Silver 5 when I upgraded the cooler to a Corsair H70 two years ago, and when I upgraded to Sandy Bridge earlier this year.

        What you need is a sewing box []

        • What you need is a sewing box []

          Ya, I've got Stanley rolling case [] where I store all my computer parts, only cost $20, and has plenty of room for all my accessories, tools, and parts. Easily mobile for house calls, plus it has a swivel-out drawer for screws where I can organize all the different little shit that comes with most components these days. I haven't lost a screw since. Highly recommend something similar; plus it sure beats using old parts boxes for storage like most people do...

      • I have to buy a new tube every time I have a new CPU, the old tube always disappears.

        Personally, I've never lost a tube of thermal compound. Being disorganized has much more significant consequences than just a few dollars on thermal compound, so I recommend you work on that.

        One alternative would be to just buy on-time use blister packs: []

      • I don't know about the rest of you but I have to buy a new tube every time I have a new CPU, the old tube always disappears.

        Not everything that looks like toothpaste is, in fact, toothpaste.

      • by eth1 ( 94901 )

        I don't know about the rest of you but I have to buy a new tube every time I have a new CPU, the old tube always disappears.

        Well, that's what happens when you buy DRM'd thermal paste. There's no guarantee it will be available the next time you need it. I'm sure since these sheets are from Sony, they'll have similar problems... Heck, they'll probably remove themselves from between the CPU and heatsink if they can't phone home when you power up the computer.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        I don't know about the rest of you but I have to buy a new tube every time I have a new CPU, the old tube always disappears.

        Ah, you're married!

        Back on track, if this sheet is so great, someone will grind it up and make it into a paste, for even better effect.
        Unless the carbon makes that impossible, i.e. tough sheet.


    • When ever I read about Sony, I recall this one: []

      Special 'screw', indeed.
    • How is bluray or the ps3 sinking? the ps3 is rapidly catching up to the 360, and blu-ray is the industry standard now. What is killing sony was their TV division, and model saturation.
  • ...but can it be reused? Can you put it on an entirely different processor after being used? If so, then it would definitely be worth the money... if it were made by somebody other than Sony, that is.
  • Does that really work? I've heard reports that thermal paste isn't normally very important.....I'm about to install a new processor, and I've been wondering about that.
    • Re:thermal paste? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hughJ ( 1343331 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:17AM (#40674089)
      Paste of some kind is extremely important. New retail CPUs with stock heatsinks though usually come with some sort of paste pre-applied onto the base of the heatsink.
    • I've heard reports that thermal paste isn't normally very important.....

      I would have thought [anything] would be better than nothing,
      but apparently chocolate makes for a really bad thermal paste []

      • How about Blu-Tack? Cause while I've been disassembling some laptops, many times the thermal pads have had a similar feeling (and even color) to it. According to Wikipedia, Blu-Tack has a flash point of 93C/200F, at which it releases carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapour, oxides of nitrogen, and toxic fumes. So it maybe it would be just a bad idea. But its thermal properties would be a fun test.
    • Re:thermal paste? (Score:5, Informative)

      by gblackwo ( 1087063 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:20AM (#40674135) Homepage
      Yes, definitely.

      It improves heat conduction by filling the small surface defects that would create miniature pockets of air. Air is a very good insulator, and very poor at conducting heat.

      There is a noticeable difference, you can research it further, but as cheap as a tube of thermal paste is, why not spend an extra couple bucks on your shiny new processor?
    • Put one together without it, and let us know how it turns out on the machine you have to build afterwards.
      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Plenty fine here since I lap all of my heatsinks and tops of CPU die casing, and use a lapped copper shim as the go-between contact.

        Thermal paste? Not needed here!

    • Proper thermal paste usage can mean the difference between silence and a loud fan at load. Your CPU will probably be fine either way, but thermal paste is definitely nice if you like to keep a quiet PC.

      I'm mainly curious to see what kind of thermal material they used. If they compared it with that gummy pad or cheap paste that typically comes on CPUs, it doesn't mean much. That stuff will keep your CPU from overheating, but it can't hold a candle to one of the aftermarket brands like Arctic Silver. Beat tha

  • by firewrought ( 36952 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:14AM (#40674045)
    and "Behold!" cried the archangel, "Sony has done something cool. Tremble with fear all ye nations...."
  • Meh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Antony T Curtis ( 89990 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:16AM (#40674073) Homepage Journal

    3M has had a thermal sheet which has outperformed paste for more than 10 years already.

    How is this news?

  • Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:19AM (#40674117)

    It always seemed to me that applying paste was more of an art than it should be.

    This looks like it would be a more repeatable process.

    • by bmo ( 77928 )

      It always seemed to me that applying paste was more of an art than it should be.

      It's only an "art" to those who just can't leave well enough alone.

      Put blob on CPU. No, don't effin' spread it. Put heat sink down. Clamp. Done. Don't worry that you don't think it will spread. When the CPU heats up, it'll spread more.

      This business of "spread it thin with a credit card" and other such nonsense only introduces air bubbles. There is a rather popular youtube video with annoying audio that demonstrates exactl

  • by digitalsolo ( 1175321 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:23AM (#40674177) Homepage
    So, does it outperform the high end pastes, like Arctic Silver, or the cheap crap that comes with the 9.99 heat sinks?

    There is a margin at least as wide as the one they list between those two substances. If the paste they tested against is anything like the garbage that goes in a PS3 from the factory, I'd expect mud and spit would heavily outperform it.
    • I imagine this is more for mass produced PC's/cpu's. They tend to use globs of cheap ceramic paste, as it's faster and cheaper and 'good enough' to keep things running.
  • by Chas ( 5144 )

    probably a lot cheaper than buying a tube of thermal paste

    Are you on drugs? This is SONY we're talking about. They're right up there with Apple for "We'll slap our logo on some old, shoddy crap and charge three times the going rate!"

    Seriously though, I'd want to duplicate their test setup before I believe their numbers. TIM pads may have superior lifetimes, but pastes tend to have superior surface coverage.

  • fyi on thermal tabs (Score:5, Informative)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:27AM (#40674235) Homepage Journal

    Answering several commenters above and adding some more information as well...

    1. Apple tried this out from about 1997 to 2002 in their G3 and G4 laptops and some of the desktops. They tried a variety of "thermal tabs". They worked ok. Sometimes they're quicker to put on, other times they take more time. Some were brittle. They should be available from a variety of sources at this point, not just Sony. They were also used on some of the G5's and mac pro CPUs. They tried quite a few variations over the years, and the most recent on the early mac pros were considered highly hazardous materials and we were advised to wear gloves when handling them and to not let them be exposed to air for any length of time. They may still be using them but the procs come attached to the heat sink so I don't have to handle them directly. All the products I lift heat sinks from have been using regular compound for the last several years. So I assume they figure the tabs are good for manufacturing time but not the best idea for field-repair. They may have been using 3M as a supplier, I don't know.

    2. They were more expensive than thermal compound but easier to store a bunch of them in a small box/envelope.

    3. I tried to reuse them and mostly failed. They tend to bond to either the heat sink or the die, or both, and get torn up pretty bad when you lift off the heat sink. Usually have to scrape the bits off both surfaces with a plastic spudger before using a new one. Makes taking things apart for test swapout or inspection a bit more of a hassle and a little more expensive.

    4. one advantage they had was no spillover. A few systems I've worked with wouldn't tolerate heat sink goop spilling too far over to the ballast resistors or caps mounted near the die on the package. For those you had to be very careful about how much compound you used so it wouldn't squish out and touch something it shouldn't and generate some capacitance that would cause wonky behavior from the cpu. These are idiot-proof that way for the most part. I've also been told about problems with getting an air bubble in with the compound and creating a pocket over the die with no compound on it - I've never had that happen to me personally but I've seen the effect a few times. This isn't possible with the tabs. I've also read cautions for not applying too much compound, as though if you put on too much it wouldn't squish out enough and would create too thick of a layer of compound between die and heat sink but I don't think that's likely to happen considering the viscosity of the compound and the torque of the heat sink.

    5. Occasionally we'd get tabs that were the exact size of the die, or a little undersize, and those caused problems getting them on right with full coverage. I also watched a tech forget to replace the new tab, with the expected results, so you may run into a few oops moments when changing your technique.

  • Four out of 5 first graders rejected the sheets after a head-to-head taste test.

  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @11:39AM (#40674385)

    I bought a $3 tube years ago and I still have plenty left. You're only supposed to use a dot the size of a BB. If you smear it all over the CPU you're doing it wrong - aside from the mess, that's guaranteed to create air pockets.

    (The cheap stuff is fine too. The expensive stuff may conduct heat better, but the layer of goo is so thin that it's only a fairly small percentage of your heat resistance.)

    Still, these pads are interesting. It looks reliable and less prone to noob mistakes. Too bad it's Sony.

  • 1. Temperatures across the same model CPU can vary wildly even with the same cooler/paste.
    2. It's not unusual to see different cores on CPU's having up to a 10C difference in temperature even.
    3. Software hardware monitors are notoriously inaccurate.
    4. Combine 1-3 and the thermal reading done in software from this article means exactly nothing at all.
    5. 50C idle is flat out *horrible* for a desktop or server.
    6. No information is given on the thermal paste used for the comparison. Maybe they used cheese in a

  • I remember putting together an intel system long ago, the "thermal paste" was roughly equivalent to a piece of double sided sticky tape. I guess whatever was contained in the tape would melt and fill in the cracks similar to paste. This was during the Celeron 300 or Pentium 4 era, if I recall correctly.

  • with the paste keeping the processor at a steady 53 degrees Celsius. The sheet achieved a slightly better 50 degrees Celsius.

    That's great for Europe and other "metric" countries, but how cool will it keep the chip in the U.S.?

  • OK, so they got 3C better than the paste in the demo. Was it the cheap stuff you'll get from a no-name OEM or did they run it against something higher quality, e.g. Arctic Silver []. Because I usually get more than 3C just by switching paste types.

    Don't get me wrong, this may very well be better for Sony for their PS4's or TV's or whatever, and if it's better than cheap paste and easier to handle, great. But outside of factory customers, this probably isn't very interesting.

  • After getting the infamous YLOD on my 60 GB PS3 for the third time, I'm pretty wary of any heat dissipation product put forward by Sony right now...

    (Or anything else that has "Sony" written on it, but this in particular.)

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors