If you have used thermal compounds in the past, you would say the best thermal paste is either the Thermal Grizzly or Arctic Silver 5. And really it was as simple as that, but any more. Since the market had a low competition, a large number of TIM manufacturers have sprung up. Not all of them are producing good thermal gunk, but there are more companies making quality products too. Thus, more options for you to choose from.
For those who are delving into these beauties for the first time, let us orientate you. Thermal paste or thermal gunk is the liquid used between the cooling mechanism of your PC and your CPU or GPU. The idea is to get the temperatures down by as much as possible.
Best Thermal Paste Variants Tested to Cool Down Your CPU and GPU
Among the many choices, you will first have to decide which type of heat sink compound you are looking for. If you can assure safety while using capacitive ones, you could pick the more efficient liquid metal thermal paste. Otherwise you could also skip the silicon and carbon-based ones for the more popular ceramic thermal paste.
We don’t consider adhesive pastes are any good so we haven’t included any. We would have but our more hardcore readers are also the ones that are into upgrading their rigs often. So it wouldn’t make sense if we suggest using something that would cause problems when the heatsink or the GPU itself needs to be replaced.
Oh and don’t forget to read the Buyer’s Guide at the end. We have also included a step by step guide on how to apply thermal paste on your CPU or GPU. Trust us it is simpler than it sounds.
Best Metal Thermal Compound
Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut
Unreal Conductivity in Metal Thermal Pastes
While it is a metallic paste, it has at least six times the thermal conductivity of the second best option. So in short, if you want a pro-level heat reducing solution for the gaming rig, this is it.
Best Non-Capacitive Thermal Compound
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut
Thermal Grizzly Tops It All!
If you don’t want to take the risk with metal-based thermal compounds, Thermal Grizzly has still got you covered. With the Kryonaut, you don’t risk any spills that will hurt, and despite the ceramic base it reaches 12.5W/mK Thermal Conductivity.
The Arctic Silver thermal paste is here more because of how tried and tested it is. It is true that in the years so far it has done better than most of the other thermal gunk sticks. Yet the latest alternatives have more to offer, and honestly, the Arctic Silver 5 came last in our list of top 5.
Despite that, you are looking at temperature differences of 3 to 12 degrees depending on your usage and conditions. In technical terms, the promised thermal conductivity of the paste is at least 6.0 W/mK. Which, among non-metal based thermal pastes is pretty good. But does that make it worthy of being called the best thermal paste or not is a debate?
Unless of course, you are using the metallic Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut that shoots to 73 W/mK!
All this is made possible by the high-density poly-synthetic silver which is used in the Arctic Silver 5 alongside sub-micron zinc oxide and aluminum oxide. On that point, it is notable that although the gunk is silver based, it is still counted among the ceramic based thermal pastes.
Nonetheless, what matters to a non-technical buyer is that as a result, it is 88 percent conductive. For the first time users, this means you should be very careful while applying the paste on your rig. Any spilled drops might result in the circuits getting short.
- Good Value for Money
- Tried and Tested
- Lasting Effects
- Takes Its Time To Settle
Much higher than the 6W/mK of Arctic Silver 5, Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut claims a thermal conductivity of 12.5 W/mK! Not only that but in comparison to dozens of other products it stood short of only a Coolaboratory model and the Conductonaut. The latter of which is, not only the best thermal compound but, also made by Thermal Grizzly.
Among ceramic TIM solutions, this is the most non-conductive. But it also has an asking price for it. The Kryonaut is possibly the most expensive of our lot. That hurts more given that it has such a small quantity of thermal paste.
Applying thermal paste is further made easy with the plastic tip that is included in the pack. And once you have applied the CPU paste, be sure to be impressed. The Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut can take the temperatures 4 degrees lower than the Arctic Silver 5.
In comparison with another ceramic thermal paste by Thermal Grizzly, the Hydronaut, it is not only cooler but also cheaper!
- Thermal Grizzly Maintains Quality
- Lasts Much Longer
- 12.5W/mK Thermal Conductivity
- Pricey Product
- Less Quantity
The first issue with this brand is their name. Since the Arctic Silver thermal paste is so popular, it is easy to be confused as one of their products. But that is not the case. Arctic MX-4 was the first carbon based CPU paste we tested, and also the only one getting to the top five.
Thanks to the non-conductive material, the MX-4 is 100 percent non-conductive, hence safer to use. To top that up, the company packs it in a very handy syringe that makes the thermal paste application a walk in the park. Yet, if you want to be guided on how to apply thermal paste, we have the answer waiting for you in our FAQ section.
In terms of thermal conductivity, though, the MX-4 is not as cool as the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut. But you might also be fine with its 8.5W/mK if you are not living in a too hot region. What makes it a winner is the life span. Although manufacturers boast of an eight-year life once applied, we would settle for a lot less.
When you are actually holding it, you will see how it is exactly four times in quantity as the Kryonaut. With the quality and quantity they are offering, we think the asking price is justified.
- Great Quality Carbon Base
- 100% Non-Conductive
- Long Life
- Price Point
Another contender for the best thermal paste you can buy right now is the tongue twister called Noctua NT-H1. To summarize it for you, it is as solid as its name is hard to remember. We are not talking about high-end cooling capabilities here, but a long lasting, reliable and solid performance that resonates with the price.
The Noctua NT-H1 can reduce the temperature of your CPU or GPU by about over 10 degrees at its best day. While this is less than some of the other options given here, it translates into your rig running at or below 60 degrees while gaming. That is better than acceptable for its 8.5W/mK thermal conductivity.
We found that it is one of the more viscous thermal pastes during our tests. As a result, little or no setting time was required after the heatsink and the CPU were screwed back. This also has a drawback. When you finally decide to move on from either the heatsink or the CPU, removing thermal paste of this viscosity is a task!
The value for money element also goes in its favor since it is cheaper than the Arctic MX-4 despite a greater quantity. On that front, it is possible that you will not use all of it at once. Even if that happens, you can easily store it for two good years without worrying about expiry.
- Good Quantity
- Durable and Reliable
- Great Viscosity
- Not the Lowest Temperatures
As we said earlier, the only problem with metal based thermal pastes is that they can conduct electricity. And mishaps can result that could ruin your motherboard’s wiring. If that was not the case, the Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut would have been the best thermal paste in all categories.
For instance, we have been debating whether 12W/mK is good enough or not while the Conductonaut promises 73W/mK! The only other name among metal thermal pastes that competes with it is the Coolaboratory Liquid Ultra. Although it also fails.
You can understand this product is specifically for overclockers who are not going to spare their rig any breathing space. So even if you already have issues with using metal pastes, you might also not need it in the first place.
In case you plan on getting the best that the market has to offer, make sure you have the expertise required for its application. Not only will you need to use isopropyl alcohol to extra clean the surface, but also spread the paste using a brush as even as possible.
- Best Thermal Paste For Overclockers
- Great Metal Base
- High Price
- Conductive Material
- Not To Be Used With Aluminum
We will answer those two questions one by one. Also called thermal compound, this is a grey paste (in most cases) that is used to dispense heat from your processor and GPU to the heat outlet of your computer. It is applied between the CPU and the heatsink and is expected to decrease temperatures by around 10 degrees.
Whether you need it or not is a question related to the usual temperatures around you. If you live in a cold region you are not going to need one. But if you experience hot summers or generally high temperatures, your rig might need some help in cooling down.
Which thermal paste should I use and which one to avoid?
The choice between metal based pastes and ceramic-based ones is dependent on personal choice. But using adhesive pastes is a strict no. You need to avoid all pastes that are adhesive because they will cause trouble when you want to make replacements.
As far as metal pastes are concerned; they are better at reducing temperatures but they are also capacitive to electric currents. So any drops slipped on the wrong parts can cause bigger problems. Ceramic and carbon-based ones are a different story, although they aren’t as good at reducing heat levels as a metal. Some of the best thermal paste products out there are ceramic based, nonetheless.
How to apply thermal paste?
It might appear like a big task but it is simpler than it sounds. Moreover, it is the same process whether you are using it for the CPU or the GPU, here it goes:
One: Unscrew the CPU / GPU from the heatsink / fan.
Two: Use alcohol and a lint free cloth to clear out the base of the CPU as well as the heatsink.
Three: Dry it out.
Four: Place one dot of the paste onto the CPU / GPU (no need to spread it).
Five: Quickly but carefully place the heatsink back and screw it tight.
Finally: Buy the best thermal paste like the Thermal Grizzly or the Arctic Silver 5 to keep the CPU / GPU cooler and for longer.