The Best Thermal Pastes – 2019
Thermal paste is used between a computer processor and the heatsink to help heat transfer. New computer builders tend to spend a lot of time choosing a CPU and choosing a heatsink and fan but not much time selecting their thermal paste. Given how important this modest component plays in cooling your PC, that’s a mistake. That’s why we have put together this list of the best thermal pastes around in 2019.
Thermal paste is applied directly onto the CPU die and should cover the entire top surface evenly. It’s job is to keep the two metals of the CPU and heatsink separate, fill any air gaps between them and help heat transfer between the two. The more efficient the heat transfer, the cooler your CPU will run.
You can use it on your GPU too but modifying your graphics card cooling is not for the faint of heart!
The best thermal pastes you can buy
Your choice of thermal paste can drastically influence how hot your CPU will run. That’s how important it is!
Here are five of the best.
Arctic MX-4 is the thermal paste I choose most of the time. It’s easy to use, inexpensive and has excellent thermal properties. The syringe makes it easy to apply evenly and tidily and the cap stops it drying out. For everything aside from overclocking, this paste delivers good cooling and is not electrically conductive thanks to its carbon base.
Arctic Silver 5
Arctic Silver 5 is another thermal paste I use for overclocking. It is made of 99.9% micronized silver and is a very high performance paste. Slightly more expensive than MX-4, this paste has a similar syringe design and offers great performance and ease of use.
Arctic Silver 5 performs better but requires a little more care. Due to the composition, it needs some bedding in time before serious overclocking. Apply the paste, build your rig and leave it idling for a couple of hours without overclocking it. Installing your OS and setting everything up should be time enough before you begin testing it.
Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound
Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound is another top performer. It requires a little more care in its application as it is thicker than these other pastes. In return, it can keep your CPU seriously cool whether using standard clocks or overclocking. Noctua has a great reputation in fans and heatsinks and this thermal paste is an excellent addition.
It uses the familiar syringe design but the paste is thick so needs to be applied carefully to get it even. Once done, you could reasonably expect a degree or two improvement over MX-4. There is less in a syringe than MX-4 for slightly more cash but it still offers excellent value.
Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut
Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut is another worthy member of this list of the best thermal pastes you can buy. It is expensive but performs exceptionally well. It apparently has one of the highest thermal conductivity ratings possible and can lower running temps around one degree over these others.
The syringe and paste are standard fare and will spread easily. The downside is that this compound is electrically conductive so you need to apply with care and make real sure to clean up afterwards. Otherwise, this is a top buy.
Cooler Master MasterGel Maker
Cooler Master MasterGel Maker is the result of another top cooler manufacturer offering quality accessories. As the name implies, this is more gel than paste and apparently contains ‘nano-diamonds’ which get into the tiny imperfections on metal surfaces for maximum conductivity. Whether that makes a difference or not is still up for debate but the paste is easy to use and works well.
The syringe makes for easy application and the paste will go on easily. The pack also contains a cleaning cloth to help you keep things tidy.
Applying thermal paste
When using thermal paste, more is definitely not better. You ideally want a thin layer that evenly covers the entire CPU die. Application methods vary between users but I find adding a pea-sized dot of thermal paste at the center of the CPU and then pressing the heatsink down onto it will provide an even spread.
Look carefully around each edge of the heatsink to make sure the gray or silver paste is visible all round and you should have even coverage. If you’re not sure, try not to lift the heat sink up as it will pull the paste into peaks and could compromise coverage.
You could also use a small piece of cardboard or the plastic case your CPU came in to spread the thermal paste before applying the heatsink. Either way, as long as the paste is thin and even, it should perform.