Asus has announced it will switch from regular thermal paste to liquid metal in an attempt to deal with the tremendous amount of heat poured out by modern mobile CPUs. This isn’t an issue unique to Intel, though that company’s issues with high power consumption in its top products have drawn more attention in comparison with AMD of late. AMD’s top-end Ryzen 4900 HS CPUs can kick out some powerful temperatures as well; skin temperatures on the latest Asus ROG G14 with the AMD Ryzen 4900HS can hit 125F and the CPUs themselves run at roughly 80C.
We haven’t tested any of Intel’s 10th Gen mobile CPUs yet, but we can safely assume they aren’t going to buck any trends considering they support frequencies of up to 5.3GHz and eight cores. It’s true that binning can be used to ensure that only the best chips make it into the highest frequencies, but Intel’s top-end HK CPU comes up with 2x the tau, meaning it can spend 2x as long at full power and a PL2 of up to 145W. Stuffing 145W of CPU horsepower into a laptop is practically certifiable in anything below a desktop-replacement, and even then, that’s a lot of heat to handle, particularly if the rig has a discrete GPU as well.
Asus is partnering with Thermal-Grizzly and will use Conductonaut in its upcoming line of laptops. Conductonaut is based on a mixture of tin, indium, and gallium with a thermal conductivity rating of 73W/mK. That’s substantially higher than you’d typically find off other thermal pastes, which typically have a much lower thermal conductivity rating. It’s not nearly as good as a solid material like copper, but the entire point of a thermal paste is to fill the microscopic air gaps that exist when the surface of the cooler is mounted on the CPU or GPU die. This is why you sometimes see articles on the merits of using Vegemite, peanut butter, or other decidedly non-standard substances as thermal pastes.
While this shouldn’t be an issue for anyone buying a laptop, we’d like to take a moment to remind you that because Conductonaut contains gallium, it’s catastrophically destructive to aluminum and cannot be placed in contact with it. Not many people are going to need this sort of warning, but if you’re the kind of enthusiast who promptly takes a laptop apart to regrease it and improve the baseline cooling, be aware of what you’re dealing with and take precautions accordingly.
Typically, substances like Conductonaut are hand-applied and rather fiddly to work with, but Asus has developed a process for applying the product via machine, shown in the video above. Switching to liquid metal can cut temperatures by 10-20C according to Bit-Tech, which should directly improve factors like fan noise and total time spent in boost. Bit-Tech reports that the feature will only be used on Intel laptops for now, due to the physical arrangement of components immediately around the die on AMD versus Intel CPUs.
This is another one of those improvements we wouldn’t be surprised to see everyone adopting in the not-too-distant future. As it becomes harder and harder to scale silicon, companies are responding by optimizing everything else. Everything from chiplets to the recent advances in 3D interconnect technology and now, the adoption of liquid metal paste, is a way of adjusting to the reality that even modest performance improvements now come with huge power penalties.
Note: Do not confuse Conductonaut with the similarly-named (nonexistent) product “Conductonaught” unless you really enjoy the smell of burning silicon.
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