I have tried, tested, and OC'd using pretty much every method. AS5 has a guide that recommends using a vertical line for quad-core CPUs such as the i7. I have done the pea/bb dot, self spreading it on the CPU, vertical line, and horizontal line on both my i7 960 using a NH-D14 and an older X6800 using a therm. frio. Every method (after a good break-in period) ended up being almost identical. As long as you do each of these right and know how much paste to use ur gonna get the same result...
Just do what you find to be the easiest.
+1, I've done the same and came up with the same results using various TIM.