Applying thermal paste to a CPU before dropping a heat sink on it isn't too much of a pain in the butt, but you have to do it carefully; as pretty much everybody reading this site probably knows, air bubbles and uneven application can affect cooling performance. What if you didn't have to worry about applying thermal paste? Crazy talk, I know, but during last week's Techno-Frontier convention in Tokyo, Sony Chemical & Information Device Corp was showing off a thermal sheet that it said has the same thermal conductivity of traditional paste.
Most system builders who even know about thermal sheets -- such as Sony's own EX50000 -- scoff at the idea of using them, as they simply don't work as well as pastes, even though thermal sheets are thin and flat, bubble-free, longer-lasting and easier to apply. Sony's prototype EX20000C sheet is only 0.011 to 0.078 inches thick and conducts heat as well as paste thanks to its unique design, which Tech-On! reports is basically just silicon jam-packed with carbon fibers.
At the convention, Sony showed off the Ex20000C's ability to cool down CPUs using a side-by-side comparison of identical, yet unnamed processors; one used the EX20000C thermal sheet, while the other used a traditional (yet also unidentified) thermal paste. The thermal sheet actually kept the CPU 3 degrees (Celsius) cooler than the thermal paste. (Pictured above)
Intriguing, sure, but the EX20000C is still just a prototype. Would you consider using a thermal sheet if it conducted heat as efficiently as paste? (If not, you should check out our thermal paste showdown to see which compound you should be using.)