Best Thermal Paste of 2018 – Buyer’s Guide
Whether you’re building your gaming PC for the first time or the second time or the twenty it time, you likely know how important thermal paste is. Thermal paste is the liquid that goes between your CPU, and it’s cooler. It doesn’t matter what kind of CPU cooler you have, with fans or a water cooling CPU; if your thermal paste is low-quality or applied incorrectly, then it will not work.
Thermal paste is that gray/silver compound that you put on top of the processor before you place the cooler. Thermal paste isn’t just used for desktop CPU’s. Many gamers use it to re-grease their laptop graphics cards or install a little extra cooling on their gaming machine.
Whether you already know what is a thermal paste and how to use it. In this article, we will overlook what is thermal paste, how to use it and a couple of my recommendation of the best thermal paste on the market.
Editor’s Pick: Our big winner here is the Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G Thermal Paste. I choose this one for its performance VS. Price quality. This one is made out of 99.9% pure micronized silver. Meaning it is highly thermally conductive, perfect for cooling off my CPU. On top of that, it does not conduct electricity, ideal for a clumsy guy like me.
What is thermal paste?
Thermal compound is a sticky paste placed directly onto the CPU or other integrated circuits for a more direct heat transfer between the chip and the heat sink. The thermal compound also prevents air gaps from forming between the CPU and heatsink. This compound is an inexpensive solution that gives great results.
Do I need thermal compound for my CPU?
Yes, you do, when you’re building your first gaming PC, most people wonder why they need to put thermal paste before installing the heatsink. The thermal paste (along with your computer’s fans) is what helps direct heat away from the CPU. Without this compound, your CPU may overheat, possibly causing multiple problems.
It happened to me recently, my computer was getting slower by the day, and I had no clue why. I started monitoring the heat inside of my PC, and I saw that the CPU temperature was going through the roof. So I decide to replace my CPU fan and get a new thermal compound and voila, the temperature was back to normal.
How do I clean thermal compound from the CPU and heatsink?
If you wish to clean your CPU and heatsink, there’s an easy technique to follow. To remove thermal paste, apply a small amount of high percentage isopropyl alcohol to a paper towel and rub gently. If you’re changing heat sinks or overclocking your PC and need to apply a new layer of thermal compound make, sure to remove this pad first.
How do I apply or reapply thermal compound to the CPU?
Applying thermal paste is not very hard, you should not worry, but there are steps to follow. Always clean first before applying, as mentioned above, when it’s clean you can start applying it. The most common mistake beginners do, they put too much thermal paste on the surface of the CPU.
When it comes to thermal compound, less is better than more. There are some methods you can apply it, but which ones are the best? Below I have compiled the best ways to use thermal compound and a video to show you more in details.
The Pea Method
Probably one of the most popular method when applying the thermal paste. Place a pea-sized amount of thermal paste on the IHS of your processor or graphics card and then mount your cooler. This method is straightforward, that is the reason it is one of the most popular methods.
Vertical Line Method
Another really easy one, mostly used on Intel CPUs, the vertical line method is done simply by squeezing a small amount of the paste and then slowly drawing a vertical line (do not go beyond the surface of the IHS). Easy method, requires a little bit more dexterity than our previous method.
Another very easy method, this one requires you to make a small circular motion to apply the compound. Do note that the circle should be thin so as to not put too much thermal paste on the IHS. As mentioned above it is not good to apply a significant quantity of thermal paste.
There is a lot of other techniques that exist to apply thermal paste. You can view them here at PugetSystems. I only listed the three most popular ones.
Here is a great Youtube video from Linus tech tips about the different thermal paste applying methods.
Before we go into my product recommendations, here are some quick tips when it comes to thermal paste.
- Do not apply with bare fingers: Do NOT use your bare fingers to apply the compound as it contains oils and other substances that can cause issues. If you do need to use your finger, cover it with plastic or use a glove.
- Do not abuse on the amount of paste: As I mentioned above, putting to much thermal paste is not good, as the excess thermal paste acts as an insulator. Therefore, it retains heat rather than dissipating it.
- If it’s your first time, watch videos online: We all started somewhere, it can be scary, especially if you’ve never played inside a computer before. Don’t hesitate to go read article like this one or go watch tutorial videos on Youtube.
- Make sure you don’t spill thermal paste: This is very important when applying thermal compound on your CPU, you need to make sure not to spill it onto your other components. Because some thermal pastes are electrically conductive and it can short other electrical components.
Best Thermal Paste of 2017
To start off our list, one of the most popular picks on Amazon, the Arctic MX-4 Thermal Compound. This one is very popular for many reasons. First of all, it is very easy to apply, even for beginners. The reason it is so easy to use is that it comes with a syringe tube, making it very easy to apply on your CPU. Perfect to avoid voids between CPU and cooler.
This thermal compound is composed of carbon micro-particles which lead to an extremely high thermal conductivity. This product guarantees that heat generated from the CPU or GPU is dissipated quickly and efficiently, even under heavy heat. If you’re a overclock enthusiast, then this thermal paste is a great option for you.
This compound does not contain any metallic particles so electrical conductivity would not be an issue. This is great because if you spill some thermal paste that contains conductivity and it falls on your other PC hardware, it could break them. Unlike some other thermal paste that contains silver or copper.
This thermal paste offers an incredible 8-year durability, yes you read that correctly 8 years. In contrast to metal and silicon thermal compound, the performance of the thermal compound cooling paste does not compromise over time.
Overall, like I mentioned above, the Arctic MX-4 is very popular for the reasons I stated above. If you want a great thermal paste at a good price then this is one of the best you can find on the market.
|Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste - (HTK-002-U1)||Check Price|
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the 2021-10-19 at 21:08 and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
You might have already seen the name Cooler Master before. This brand creates a lot of computer hardware, from gaming cases to power supplies, to PC fans and now thermal paste. As you may expect, the Cooler Master thermal paste offers great performance.
Unlike our last pick, this thermal compound is metal base, that means you have to be careful not to spill it on your other PC components as it can “short” them and break them. Despite that, the metal-type paste contains some metal oxides that are proven to remove heat from one source ( from your CPU to the cooling fans).
Similar to our last pick this one comes with a syringe tube. Making it very easy to apply, even for beginners, you will have no problem applying it using the techniques shown above. It also includes a spreader so you can spread the thermal compound evenly on the surface, it is not necessary, but still great to have.
When it comes to performance this one is on par with most of the ceramic-type thermal pastes, although for a metal-based one, it underperformed by a couple of degrees. It’s not a big problem, but it is important to keep it in mind.
Overall, this thermal compound is good. It is very easy to apply and very easy to clean. On top of that, it offers a good performance and you have enough paste to use it multiple times. The only flaw I found is the fact that it is not the best paste when it comes to overclocking, you might want another option if you overclock.
|Noctua NT-H1 3.5g, Pro-Grade Thermal Compound Paste (3.5g)||Check Price|
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the 2021-10-19 at 20:38 and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
You might have already seen this company name, especially if you build a lot of gaming PC. Noctua is a top-rated company when it comes to creating air coolers. Since they are in the cooling business, they decide to create thermal compound.
The Noctua NT-H1 consists of a hybrid compound of different micro-particles, which has been specifically optimized for use in PC environments. Thanks to its extremely low thermal resistance as well as excellent pliability and spreadability, making the NT-H1 an excellent option for gamers.
This thermal compound spreads very well under pressure, meaning you don’t need to smear it over the heat-spreader. This reduces the time spent on the installation process and the consumption of paste, meaning you can save some paste for another occasion. You can put a drop of compound using the “pea” method on the center of your CPU and voila.
Another significant feature is it’s not electrically conductive. So if an accident happens and you spill some on your other PC components you will not create a short amongst your hardware, you will just have to clean them up. NT-H1 is suited for use with aluminum and copper coolers.
Even though the thermal compound is thick and dry, I am quite surprised that the Noctua NT-H1 is easy to clean using a 70% Isopropyl alcohol. The Noctua NT-H1 can be used for several years without any problems, thanks to the compound’s exceptional curing, dry-out und thermal cycling characteristics.
Ultimately, whether you’re going to use this on your next CPU or GPU, the Noctua NT-H1 is a very good choice when it comes to thermal compound, it’s performance are one of the best on the market.
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the 2021-10-19 at 21:18 and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Next on our list the Arctic Silver 5, not to be confused with our other pick, the Arctic MX-4, both are a completely different brand. Now that we got that out of the way, the AS5-3.5g is another very popular thermal paste amongst the PC builders enthusiast. In fact, this thermal compound has been around for several years, and it’s still one of the best on the market.
Why is the Arctic Silver 5 so famous? One of the reasons might be because it contains 99.9% pure micronized silver. Meaning it is highly thermally conductive, it is one of its main selling points given that the performance of this thermal paste is incredible.
The Arctic Silver is considered a ceramic type of thermal paste, despite the main ingredient. That means this thermal compound is not electrically conductive, which I love because I’m a clumsy person and I might spill some paste in my PC. That could lead to creating electrical shorts among my hardware.
The As5-3.5g will ensure the best physical contact between the heatsink and the CPU core. Will not separate, run, migrate, or bleed. Making it a very good option for the price. Unfortunately, like all thermal pastes, this one will require a couple of hours or days to fully unlock it’s potential. It’s not a big flaw, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Overall, if you want an easy to apply, high performing and inexpensive thermal compound then this is the right option for you.
|Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra 100% Metal Thermal Interface Material||Check Price|
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the 2021-10-19 at 20:58 and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
The last but not the least of our list, the Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra Thermal Paste. This compound offers fantastic performance. Unfortunately, this one might be hard to apply and spread. However, if it is applied correctly, this paste will seriously drop your CPU temperature.
The Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra is a metal-based thermal paste and is made of different metals such as Gallium, Rhodium, Indium, Silver, Zinc, and Bismuth. All of these metals are highly thermal conductive which will do wonders when it comes to the cooling performance of your CPU.
That might be the reason why this thermal paste is one of the best performings on the market. Like I mentioned above this thermal compound will substantially lower your CPU temp compared to our other pick. Like I noted above, even though this paste performs at a high level there’s one big flaw.
The application process is very different from our other picks. Other thermal paste only takes a small amount and voila, but the Collaboratory is a three-step process.
First, you need to clean the surface of the CPU or the GPU with a 70% Isopropyl alcohol, don’t forget to put gloves on. The second step you need to use a cleaning pad to further clean the surface of the CPU or the GPU. This is to ensure that there are no impurities before applying the thermal compound.
The third step, you will have to apply the thermal paste evenly using a brush. On top of that, this is a metal-based thermal paste, that means it conducts electricity. so you have to be very careful not to drop it in your PC, as it might “short” your other electronics.
Overall, despite it’s high price, this thermal paste is amazing, it will offer you a serious temperature drop in your PC.
This concludes our list of the best thermal paste. As you may have seen, thermal paste is a must when it comes to cooling down your CPU. Your CPU/GPU cooler might not come into close contact with the Integrated Head Spreader. That might be caused by the design of the cooler.
Meaning it leaves microscopic gaps that create problems with heat dissipation as these gaps create air bubbles that make hot air harder to remove. This is the reason you need thermal paste, it fills in those gaps nicely and coupled with its heat conductive ingredients, is a perfect accessory for your cooler since it maximizes heat dissipation.
I hope our guide and recommendations have helped you pick the right thermal paste for your gaming machine. Do not forget to leave us a comment in the section below.