If you’re spending a lot of time inside, your computer and game systems may be pressured to perform more. Since both your job and entertainment could depend on working machinery, thermal paste may be an important product for you to be knowledgeable on.
Many people run their CPUs and GPUs into the ground by ignoring their basic heat dissipation requirements. Thermal paste is a readily available product used to keep processors from overheating and becoming damaged.
It is already installed in your machine when you buy it but evaporates over time. Knowing what kind of thermal paste you need to install when this happens and how the type of processor can affect this decision is integral to maintaining the proper working conditions of your PC or game system.
Use this review series to find the best brand of thermal paste for your needs.
The subsequent buying guide will help you compare the main features in any brand of thermal paste so that you can decide which you need to keep your machines working.
Best Thermal Paste Reviews
One of the biggest usage issues with older brands of thermal paste and even the Arctic MX-3 to a certain extent is that they were too viscous.
In other words, their texture was stickier and thicker and didn’t flow as well, making it harder to work with. The Arctic MX-4 is our top overall pick for thermal paste brands to buy in 2020 firstly because it has the perfect texture.
This gives you control over your supply and helps your ability to spread it without getting any on your circuit boards. However, this is not the danger that it is for other thermal compounds because Arctic MX-4 contains no metal particles – it’s a carbon micro-particle formula instead. This means that it won’t conduct and short out your system if it touches a metal pin or circuit board.
If you prefer to spread the paste manually, you’ll be pleased by the Arctic MX-4’s consistency.
Arctic MX-4 thermal paste keeps load and idle temperatures steady with its dense formula and high thermal conductivity.
With a consistency that’s easy on beginners, conductivity performance that would satisfy even the pickiest frequent users, and a mid-range price makes the Arctic MX-4 Thermal Compound Paste the number one choice to buy in 2020.
- Perfect consistency for manual spreading
- Carbon micro-particle formula superior in longevity to metal and silicon products
- Stable, metal-free consistency
- Environmental packaging
- Forms a “tail” when squeezed from the tube that you have to press down to prevent air from getting trapped under the heating cover
Noctua lists 150 awards and recommendations on its store page for this pro-grade thermal compound paste. The Austrian company hasn’t been a frontrunner for that long, but it’s quickly stacking up to the industry’s major players.
Noctua thermal paste is advertised as pro-grade material, not for novices. It doesn’t require a long burn-in time and is advertised as a match for people who are looking for a thermal paste that will last them for a long time, not just a few months.
It’s so ahead of the game that it will work with compressor builds as well. If you upgrade your tech, you can still use Noctua to improve your machine’s heat dissipation system.
Noctua thermal paste has the typical syringe delivery system but its consistency is thicker than some brands, meaning it won’t slip around as much.
It’s a little lower in price than some brands on the market, but not the cheapest around.
Its pro-grade composition speaks for itself, however, as does its 3.5g pack (good for up to 20 applications, depending on the CPU size).
Being grease-free and non-conductive means that you won’t have to worry about mess or about shorting out your circuit boards because of metal particles.
- Pro-grade formula
- 3.5g container
- Listed storage capacity is 3 years in the container and 5 years on the CPU
- Easy installation, no cleaning alcohol required
- Viscous consistency isn’t for everyone
The OEM specifications combine performance and durability in the IC Diamond thermal compound, which is relied on by major organizations in the defense sector. If IC Diamond is good enough for sensitive naval electronics, it should be good enough for your CPU.
Its high particle density slows the loss of fluid, making it last longer than off-brands. For CPUs, GPUs, and thermal battery management, IC Diamond Thermal Compound is trusted by professionals and consumers alike.
It’s made of 92% synthetic diamond, a natural thermal superconductor that is not electrically conductive, so you don’t have to worry about it shorting out your system.
The premium, pro-grade material in IC Diamond Thermal Compound comes with a premium price, but a thermal paste trusted by aviation and naval industries should be enough for your PC’s heat dissipation needs.
- Synthetic diamond composition
- Non-electrically conductive
- Trusted by aviation and naval industries
- Pricier than other brands
With more than 6.5W of thermal conductivity, the HY-883-4g thermal compound is a top option for a low price, making it our budget pick on this list.
This compound is free of odor, low on oil content, non-toxic, and perfect for your chipsets, CPUs, and LEDs.
The nano-particulate composition of this thermal compound ensures that it’s not electrically conductive.
Those that want top heat transfer and dissipation performance from their thermal compound should consider this the cheapest high-performing thermal compound on the market.
- Odorless, non-toxic thermal compound
- Competitive thermal conductivity
- Non-electrically conductive
- Budget price
- Doesn’t last as long as more expensive brands
This CPU thermal compound is perfect for gaming and computer enthusiasts that plan on running lots of applications and expect high-performing cooling systems. The premium zinc oxide formula is one of the more effective available (5.0W).
Uniquely, the Corsair Thermal Compound Paste includes a stencil and spreader that makes it much easier to apply the thermal paste to the desired area without wasting any, getting any on the circuit boards, or making a mess.
This is a low-viscous thermal paste that is better for more delicate machinery with more microscopic thermal transfer channels to fill.
It’s non-conductive and non-volatile to keep you safe, as well as guaranteed to last for years without reapplication.
- Premium formula
- Included stencil and spreader
- Low-viscosity composition
- Mid-range price
In order to choose the right thermal paste for your needs, use this buying guide to compare the main features of every brand.
Prioritize what’s important to you so that you can match the compound to your equipment and your experience level.
The composition of the thermal paste you buy greatly influences the effect it will have on your computer or gaming applications. Thermal compounds used to be made of conductive metallic silver or aluminum particulate mixes.
The danger with these was that getting any on your consoles pins or circuit board could short out and ruin the CPU or GPU.
Today, thermal compound pastes can be completely non-metallic, such as those made of carbon micro-particle formulas. The ones listed in this buying guide are non-conductive to keep you and your hardware safe from electrical overloads.
The formula you buy should be non-volatile, as well as non-conductive.
Though you want the paste to be electrically non-conductive, you want a high thermal conductivity rating, which is the metric by which you can tell how reliable and versatile the paste will be so you can get the product that will keep your system safely running for as long as possible.
Look for carbon-based formulas to ensure the best thermal conductivity and the least electrical conductivity.
Different formulas have different consistencies, often listed as viscosity, which refers to how easily the compound spreads.
Many novice repairs could be easier with a more viscous formula, which could give you more control over where the paste spreads.
Whether you intend to spread the paste manually or use it straight from the tube makes a difference in the viscosity that you need.
This also affects the density of the paste that you need. Density will affect how well the paste spreads through the CPU. Keep in mind that liquid thermal paste may have a lower density, which makes it harder to apply to the system.
Choose the right consistency for your experience level but also for the paste’s ability to spread through the CPU without damaging it. This is where conductivity could factor in as well since pastes of lower viscosity are more sensitive to being overused.
They can spread to the circuit board if you overdo it.
Thermal Design Power
The thermal design power refers to how much power your machine’s processor is going to use, which can be used to calculate how hot it will be while running. The higher the thermal design power, the more heat needs to be dissipated by the thermal compound that you buy.
You can directly compare the listed heat dissipation rate of the thermal compound you buy to the thermal design power of your machine.
These numbers will tell you which paste can handle the load of your machines.
Keep in mind that if the cooling system on your PC or gaming system can’t handle the load of your processing needs, a thermal paste solution won’t help.
Before you consider that heat dissipation due to inadequate thermal paste could be your problem, you need to make sure your cooling system can handle the processor’s thermal design power.
Many formulas can be greasy, which not only makes more of a mess but can also be harder to spread and may leave streak marks. For your comfort, you also want to find a formula that has no odor.
The size of the bottle of thermal paste you buy affects the longevity of your sample, but it should also be considered with the product’s shelf life in conjunction with your needs. If you know that you’re going to apply the thermal compound to multiple applications, you don’t need as long a shelf life, or a compound that lasts as long within the system.
If you’re a novice that only has one processor to worry about and doesn’t want to open up their hardware frequently, finding a thermal paste with a long shelf life should be your priority.
Thermal paste compounds are now very inexpensive.
However, since a good PC or gaming system needs a thermal paste replacement once a year and people experienced in improving their systems may be pushing the processors harder to compensate for their workload, you may have to buy thermal paste frequently for multiple applications.
Since there is a difference in price, however small, check out our budget picks on the review list if the price is a priority for you.
PCs and gaming systems come with thermal paste installed.
The compounds in your system that improve heat dissipation are important to prioritize, particularly if you plan on putting your processors under heavy load.
How to choose the right thermal paste for your hardware depends a lot on your experience. Low-density compounds are more like liquid: they’re easier to spread but also easier to get on the circuits.
Some have metal components but most sold nowadays are non-conductive in terms of electricity. Just make sure the one you buy has a long shelf life and enough content to suit your needs. Compare the dissipation capacity to your processor’s thermal design power to find the paste powerful enough to keep your hardware cool.
Our top pick, the Arctic MX-4 Thermal Compound Paste, has all of this, which is why it’s an industry leader in thermal pastes. It’s not the cheapest on the list, so those with more experience who know that they’re going to go through it may want to budget lower.
Whichever you choose from this list, however, you should be able to keep your hardware cool and long-lasting.