You will know how good the best thermal paste works when you don’t even notice it working. Thermal pastes or compounds are for making sure that there are no air gaps between the processor and the heat sink; this ensures that the heat from the processor dissipates quickly and evenly. Although it is possible to not use a thermal paste, but the likelihood of the processor failing due to overheating is bigger.
But before we go to the factors of consideration for the best choice, let’s first highlight the five best products on the market.
Arctic Silver 5 - AS5 3.5G
Arctic Silver 5 is best for high-end gaming machines and it is one of the thermal compounds best sellers in the market.
ARCTIC MX-4 Thermal Paste
With this product you get the best thermal compound cooler for its low price tag.
This thermal paste is best for mid-range PCs
Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste
This is product suitable for mid to high-range systems
Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme Thermal Compound
Gelid Solutions is now offering the best thermal paste that you could ever find in the market
Before you even start assembling your gaming rig, you need to learn how to choose a good thermal compound so you won’t be wasting thousands of dollars of your money just because your processor burst into flames.
Types of thermal compounds
1. Metal-based thermal pastes
These thermal pastes are usually grey in color and, as the name suggests, contain bits of metal suspended in the paste. The metals used in these kinds of thermal pastes are usually aluminum or silver.
Compared to the other kinds of thermal compounds, the metal based pastes are the best when it comes to dissipating heat. However, since metal does conduct electricity, if you spill even one drop of this thermal paste on the pins of the processor, it will cause a short circuit. In addition, metal-based thermal pastes are more expensive than the other types.
2. Ceramic-based thermal pastes
These thermal pastes are usually white or light-grey in color, and of course they contain fine ceramic powder suspended in a silicone paste. Usually, the main ingredients of ceramic pastes are aluminum oxide and zinc oxide, but the cheapest, and most popular, thermal pastes contain silicone dioxide.
The thing about ceramic pastes that make them somewhat better than metal-based thermal compounds is that ceramics do not conduct electricity. Even if you got sloppy and managed to squeeze a huge glob of the thermal paste on the motherboard you can be sure that there will be no short circuit happening.
However, ceramic-based compounds do not dissipate heat as well as the metal-based ones, but they will do if you will only be using your computer for everyday tasks and some mid-range gaming.
3. Carbon-based thermal pastes
Carbon-based thermal compounds are arguably the best thermal paste that money can buy. These thermal pastes may be a bit hard to come by, and they are also quite expensive, and you will learn why a little later.
Carbon-based pastes are the favorite of PC enthusiasts, especially those who like to overclock their processors. These thermal pastes contain different kinds of stuff like carbon dust, graphene oxide, and there are even some that contain real diamond dust; this is why carbon thermal pastes are also the most expensive of the three.
Even though the price tag is quite high, carbon thermal compound offers the best of both worlds; it has the same heat dissipating properties (if not more) of metal-based pastes, and they are also non-conductive like ceramic pastes. In addition, carbon-based thermal pastes also last longer, eight years in fact. Compare that to the average lifespan of metal and ceramic-based compounds, which you have to replace and reapply every two years.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Thermal Paste
Now that you know how thermal pastes work, you should also know how to choose which one of them is right for your needs.
1. What will you be using the computer for?
If you are building a high-end gaming machine, or if you are planning to do some heavy-duty video editing and animation on your computer, expect that the processor would most likely be working at full capacity all the time. This will of course cause it to heat up quite a bit, so you need a thermal paste that can handle that kind of heat load; choose metal or carbon-based thermal pastes in this case.
On the other hand, if you are building a PC that you will use for normal, everyday stuff like browsing the internet, watching videos, and maybe some mid-range gaming, then ceramic-based ones are the best thermal paste choice for you.
2. Are you an experienced builder?
If this is your first time building a PC, then the chances of you getting too eager with the application of thermal paste is pretty high. If you’re a bit of a klutz, and you just know that you will be splattering thermal compound all over your motherboard, then use the non-conductive thermal pastes like ceramic or carbon.
3. How much are you willing to spend?
If you have already went through all the effort saving enough money for a high-end gaming PC then you should not skimp on the quality of your thermal paste. The threat of overheating is real in these thousand dollar, realistic graphics, intensely high framerate, extremely powerful machines, so spending a couple more bucks extra to get the best carbon thermal paste should be a no-brainer.
However, if you are on a tight budget, and you aren’t really using an ultra-powerful processor, then a metal-based (specifically aluminum) thermal paste is the way to go.
Top 5 Best Thermal Paste Reviews
To give you an idea on the different brands of thermal pastes available, and what advantages they have over each other, here are some of the highly recommended and supposedly best thermal pastes on the market.
Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G Thermal Paste
Arctic Silver is one of the leading manufacturers of thermally conductive compounds and adhesives in the world. When you search online for thermal pastes, this company will most likely be at the top of the list.
Arctic Silver 5 is best for high-end gaming machines as it is one of the most efficient thermal compounds currently available. Even if you aren’t building a gaming rig, but you expect that your processor will be under a huge load constantly, then this is the best thermal compound that you can get.
Arctic Silver 5, contains 99.9% synthetic silver, which means it can conduct heat efficiently, but it will not do so with electricity. This blurs the line between metal and ceramic-based thermal pastes, as the Arctic Silver 5 takes away the one thing that ceramic pastes have over them.
- Efficient heat conduction
- It does not conduct electricity
- The silver particles are permanently suspended in the silicone gel and they will not separate or settle to the bottom at all
- It takes a bit of time to cure and achieve maximum performance
- It is a bit expensive at almost $6 for a 3.5g tube
Arctic Silver 5 is the best thermal paste when it comes to value for your money; it conducts heat well and it is non-conductive. Regardless if you’re building a high-end PC or not you should put this product on your shopping list.
ARCTIC MX-4 Thermal Compound Paste
Arctic is a relatively new company, as they got their start in 2010. However, the company quickly climbed the ranks and became one of the top companies that offer thermal conductive materials.
If you are looking for a carbon-based thermal paste for keeping the processor of your high-end PC cool, then you will surely be content with the performance of the Arctic MX-4 thermal paste. However, you will be spending quite more for a tube of the stuff.
The Arctic MX-4 is one of the most popular thermal compounds that the company has to offer. This thermal paste contains really fine carbon particles that provide the MX-4 with improved thermal conductivity and makes it non-conductive to electricity.
- High Durability - MX-4 can last for a very long time. After applying it once you may not need to replace it again since it can last up to 8 years, which is usually far longer than the average lifespan of most desktop computers.
- Better than Liquid Metal - The ARCTIC MX-4 thermal compound is composed of carbon micro-particles which lead to an extremely high thermal conductivity. It guarantees that heat generated from the CPU or GPU is dissipated quickly and efficiently.
- It is easy to apply - even absolute beginners do not run the risk of over application as this paste has very uniform consistency.
- It is quite expensive at almost $10 a tube.
- It does not come in smaller tubes, which is a pain since you will only be using it once anyway.
The Arctic MX-4 is clearly one of the best thermal paste that money can buy. Even though the MX-4 is on the expensive side, it’s performance and longevity more than makes up for it.
Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound
For more than ten years, Noctua has been producing some of the best thermal cooling products in the industry. The NT-H1 is one of their most popular, and most effective thermal paste.
This thermal paste is best for mid-range PCs as it does have respectable thermal conductivity, but it does not have the same efficiency as some of the higher-end thermal compounds.
The NT-H1 is some kind of hybrid compound that combines the properties of metal-based and ceramic-based thermal pastes, and it does improve on both thermal pastes, but not that much.
- Easy to apply because of its uniform consistency
- The hybrid compound does provide maximum heat conductivity
- Low viscosity means you don’t have to spread the paste on the processor at all, it will spread on its own
- Not as efficient as the other thermal pastes on this list; more suitable for mid-range builds
Although many people swear to the effectiveness of the Noctua NT-H1, there are some people who have complained that it did nothing to keep the temperature of their CPUs and GPUs down; some even said that their processors got fried. However, it may just be from incorrect application of the thermal paste.
Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste
Cooler Master is one of the pioneers when it comes to making thermal compounds, having been in business for more than twenty years, and yet they are still one of the most trusted brands in the industry. Cooler Master’s High Performance thermal paste is one of their first product offerings, and it is still one of their most popular thermal compound to date.
The Cooler Master high performance paste is suitable for mid to high-range systems. Its high heat conductivity allows CPUs and GPUs to perform at their absolute best.
The Cooler Master high performance thermal paste contains different kinds of metal oxides suspended in a silicone gel. This gives the thermal paste optimal heat absorption and allows the chip to cool considerably faster.
- The Cooler Master has a wide range of temperature applications.
- The consistency is uniform and will not bleed onto the pins or on the motherboard.
- It comes with an easy to use applicator for even application
- The included template does not really fit on all chipsets
- The thermal paste only lasts two years
Cooler Master is already an icon for many experienced PC builders, and the company’s longevity is a clear sign that their products are of high quality. The Cooler Master high performance may not be the best thermal paste out there, but it is high on the list.
Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme Thermal Compound
Gelid Solutions is now offering the best thermal paste that you could ever find in the market. It comes in a very simple package. It has almost all the specifications a premium thermal compound has – non-corrosive compound, no curing, non-electrical conductive, no bleeding, etc. Aside from that, the thermal compound has the ultimate heat conductivity included in its features.
- Provides the ultimate solution to heat conductivity.
- User-friendly features
- Non-corrosive, non-toxic and non-curing
- Has excellent cooling performance
- Does not come with a burn-in period
- Quite costly
- Ability to last still needs to be tested
However, take note that there is no reason for you not to be satisfied with the GC-Extreme Thermal Compound TC-GC-03-A from Gelid Solutions. Being one of the most prominent and reliable providers of thermal compounds, Gelid Solutions continues to impress the public with this new offering. The fact that it is easy to spread and apply plus it has lots of user-friendly features makes it worth the investment. It is also designed to improve the performance of your PC and promote higher cooling capacity.
Thermal pastes and compounds may look like the most insignificant part of the whole PC building process, but they are actually the key to the longevity of your system. If you don’t want your CPUs and GPUs to fry because of overheating then you need the best thermal compound that you can afford.