Before we dive right in to our list to find the best thermal paste we thought it would be useful to go over some basics.
If you’re wanting to skip this stuff and get right to it, use the table of contents below to jump to the section you want.
Table of Contents To FInd The Best thermal Paste
- 1. Thermal Conductivity and Heat Dissipation Explained
- 2. The Best Thermal Paste (Top 7)
- 3. Liquid Metal Warning
- 4. The Best Liquid Metal TIM (Top 3)
Thermal Conductivity and heat dissipation explained
Heat dissipation occurs whenever a hotter material gets in contact with a colder material; heat gets transferred from the hotter material to the colder material, not vice versa.
Your CPU/GPU emits heat whenever you turn on your computer. These are the two components that generate heat the most.
To dissipate heat, a heatsink with a cooling fan(s) is used. The surface area and the material used are the main factors for thermal conductivity of the heatsink. Copper is the best material since it has 406W/mK thermal conductivity while aluminum only has 205W/mK.
Now, regardless of the material, your heatsink is made of, is it still going to be inefficient if it does not get in contact with the source of the heat that it needs to dissipate.
Do I need thermal paste?
The straight answer is yes. The naked eye can’t see it, however, no matter how smooth the cold plate of your CPU and your heatsink looks, there are microscopic variations in them. These microscopic changes create air gaps between the CPU/GPU and the heatsink and limit the amount of contact between them.
Air is a horrible conductor of heat.
The result is that it lessens the efficiency of the heatsink to dissipate heat from the cold plate.
Thus the need for thermal paste, which fills these gaps.
Composition Of Thermal Pastes
If we are to count the number of thermal pastes available on the market the list will go on and on and can reach to hundreds to choose from.
So, finding the right one for your rig is not an easy task.
There are four types of thermal pastes which depend on the base compound it uses:
- Silicone-based – These are the cheapest typically, these thermal pastes have silicone and zinc as the main component for making it.
We will stay away from those ones as they do not offer as good thermal conductivity as the ones we have on the list. Sure they may be a little less expensive, but we’re not talking about huge savings (maybe a couple of dollars).
- Ceramic-based – generally these contain aluminum oxides and considered to be mid-grade.
- Carbon-based – some of the most expensive thermal pastes out in the market some have have diamond particles as fillers (given the great thermal conductivity of diamonds).
- Liquid Metal – These have the highest thermal conductivity and contain Gallium as the main ingredient.
How to Apply Properly
This part is probably the trickiest, due to the many types of thermal pastes application differs from one to another. Silicone and ceramic based and carbon-based are typically grease-like so you either let the heatsink and the cold plate spread the thermal paste, or you do it manually.
I recommend the Pea method, it’s the easiest and the video below tests the different application’s methods. I’ve jumped right to the conclusion & results.
Liquid metal thermal interface materials are different you need to apply it using a brush and make sure that the surface is evenly covered.
The amount of thermal interface material needed needs to be just the right, putting too much is better than too little (as the video above confirms) but don’t worry too much.
The Best Thermal Paste (Top 7)
We rounded up all the thermal pastes out in the market and researched about them.
We then rated them based on the thermal conductivity and expected lifespan.
Being that the most expensive thermal grease on this list is under $20, we did not factor in price very much.
I would recommend the below thermal pastes for use in between your GPU and CPU & the heatsink.
7. Innovation Cooling Diamond “7 Carat” Thermal Paste
The Innovation thermal grease begins our list of the non-conductive group.
A great solution for your cooling needs.
It may contain diamonds in it, but it’s not enough to propose to your significant other…but I would love to see a video of the attempted proposal!
- Thermal Conductance: 4.5 W/m-K (data acquired with an ASTM D - 5470 thermal interface test instrument)
- Thermal Resistance: 0.25oC-cm2/W@ 100 BLT
- Average Particle Size: <40 maximum particle diameter Compliancy: RoHS Compliant.
Innovation Cooling is a company whose focus is all about thermal compounds. The Innovation Cooling Diamond 7 Carat has a thermal conductivity of 4.5W/mK. Its paste compound has 92% micronized synthetic diamonds.
Diamonds, as it turns out, are the best heat conductors; thus the reason why Innovation Cooling uses it in their paste. Synthetic diamonds have a thermal conductivity of 2,000-2,500 W/mK which is more than three-fold for normal compounds.
There is another component for their paste that they did not disclose and is still a mystery to its users (another secret sauce).
The best thing about this thermal paste is that it does not conduct electricity so there not a single chance of short circuits in your motherboard.
Unlike other thermal compounds, the Innovation Cooling Diamond 7 Carat only needs two to three hours curing time to get settled. Users do not need to wait two weeks (sometimes) after applying to attain its peak performance. Testing the ICD 7 Carat with other thermal pastes, this compound did not show any difference in temperature when in idle. Under full load, though the IC Diamond had about 7 to eight degrees difference.
6. Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Paste
Thermal paste with silver fillers? How well does it work with your CPU/GPU? Let’s check the Arctic Silver 5.
- Premium silver polysynthetic thermal compound
- Use between CPU's and heatsinks or water-cooling solutions
- Will not separate, run, migrate, or bleed
- Does not contain any silicone
- 3.5 gram tube will cover 20 to 30 small cpu's
Arctic Silver 5 is a popular thermal paste out on the market, and there’s a reason for that. This thermal paste works perfectly with your CPU or GPU keeping them at low temperatures either on idle or under load.
The Arctic Silver 5 uses silver fillers with three different shapes to make sure it fills the gaps perfectly between your heatsink and your integrated heat spreader (IHS).
The Arctic Silver 5 is a ceramic based thermal compound. It is quite easy to apply. Beginners, as well as the veterans, can use this with ease.
This thermal paste does not conduct electricity, but it is slightly capacitive; but nothing to worry about. For Newbies there’s no need to be too cautious about minor spills, it would not hurt. It is always better to avoid mess however.
Silver is close to the best thermally conducive metal around. Arctic silver is made out of 99.9% micronized silver of three different variations to ensure maximum contact between heat spreader and heatsink; transferring heat generated by the processor smoothly.
This thermal paste also contains other particles such as aluminum oxide, boron nitride, zinc oxide enhancing the paste’s performance in the long run.
The Arctic Silver 5 works perfectly right off the bat. Though, it needs 200 hours of curing time. This means that it will take some time before you fully see the cooling effects of this thermal paste over others.
This curing time could be why veterans speak highly of the stuff while others who benchmark this paste don’t allow the full curing time to see the full effects of this product.
Even if the curing time is that long, this thermal paste is still one of the brands sought for by enthusiasts and overclockers. One of the best thermal pastes to consider when replacing your CPU/GPU’s thermal compound.
5. Arctic MX-4 Thermal Grease
High-performance thermal compound that gives value for every cent you spent on it.
It is not a surprise that the MX-4 is one of the best thermal pastes on the market. Enthusiasts and Overclockers have their reasons why this is their go-to thermal compound. The Arctic MX-4 performs very well in keeping temperatures low.
This may be greased-based, but the composition of the paste is made of micro carbon particles that give this thermal compound its high thermal conductivity of 8.5W/mK same with the Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme.
The Arctic MX-4 has a very long lifespan compared to other thermal pastes with metal or silicon fillers. You can apply this thermal paste and use it up to eight years without the need to reapply. This is one of the biggest selling points of this thermal paste. Set it and forget it.
This thermal paste is easy to apply and does not need any curing time or burn-in time. From the time it is applied you can expect the MX-4 to work right away.
Because the Arctic MX-4 does not contain any metallic particles, this is not electrically conductive. You can be assured that your circuits are safe from short circuits. This thermal paste is also a favorite amongst overclockers and gamers or PC enthusiasts.
4. Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste
No curing time and two years storage time. This is the NT-H1 from Noctua.
- Renowned premium-grade thermal compound for optimal heat-transfer from the CPU or GPU to the heatsink; more than 150 awards and recommendations
- High-end thermal compound to reduce temperatures on PC applications and electronics
- Trusted Noctua quality with excellent long-term stability: recommended storage time up to 3 years, recommended usage time on the CPU up to 5 years
Noctua is illustrious creating fans and cooling systems alike. And their thermal paste is just another product they should be proud of. They continuously create and develop such products that only have one aim; provide you, low temperatures for your computer system.
Noctua never ceases to satisfy enthusiasts and overclockers alike. Their NT-H1 is one of the most sought-after items when it comes to thermal paste. The NT-H1’s uses a combination of unique particles that provides maximum contact between your CPU and your heatsink. The mixture is still yet to be known – kind of like KFC’s chicken recipe I suppose.
The NT-H1 does not need any curing time; it works right away once applied. Professionals tested this thermal paste with other top-selling brands like the Arctic Silver 5, and it is 1C lower than the AS5 (again though, not allowing the silver 5 to fully cure).
A single syringe of the NT-H1 contains 1.4g of thermal compound and can be used on 15 CPUs. It is easy to apply however it is a bit difficult to remove.
If you have anything left in the syringe, just put the lid back on the opening and store it. This can be stored up to two years; there are other thermal pastes that can be stored longer than that though (hello MX-4).
This thermal grease has a 3-year usage time in temperatures of -50 and 110 degrees Celsius. However, it is recommended that you use it at -40 to 90 degrees Celsius only.
3. Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme Thermal Paste
This thermal compound may have lower thermal conductivity on paper. But this thermal grease has everything on your checklist if you’re looking for the best thermal paste.
Gelid Solutions is starting to make a name in the thermal paste industry, and with its good quality lineup, it was able to create a niche for itself.
The GC Extreme is one of their products that have been going head to head with the market’s leading brands. The GC Extreme thermal paste is highly recommended by professionals in the computer setup industry.
This thermal paste is electrically non-conductive. So it can be used even by beginners; accidental spills would not result in shorting circuits on your motherboard. Still, you need to wipe it off.
Applying the paste is a breeze since this is not as thick as other thermal pastes out in the market.
This great thermal grease will not stick to your fingers as well so you can even use your finger to spread it on your CPU; don’t worry this thermal paste is also non-toxic.
And if ever you are not comfortable using your fingers it comes with an applicator to easily spread it on your heat spreader.
The performance of this thermal paste has been tested by pros in laboratories, and they agree that its performance is much better than some of the leading brands; showing about five to ten degree Celsius difference both idle and with full load.
The only negative I can see is that it is expensive in comparison to the other thermal pastes in the market.
2. CoolerMaster MasterGel Maker Nano Thermal Paste
The name can be a mouthful – say that name 5 times in a row!
How well does the CoolerMaster perform?
- Ultra-high conductivity for Chipset (11 W/m.K)
- Nano Diamond particles maintains through a wide range of temperatures (-50 to 150℃)
- Excellent Viscosity makes it easy to spread or remove without cracking or drying out
The CoolerMaster MasterGell Maker is relatively new on the market, but that didn’t stop top teams in the overclocking communities to use this on their rigs. CoolerMaster manufactured this thermal paste for maximum thermal performance, expected from a grease-based compound.
It has a thermal conductivity of 11W/mK much higher than the GC Extreme and MX-4. It has micronized synthetic diamond fillers which makes it highly conductive of heat.
It can handle temperatures from -50 to 150°C; whether you are using closed-loop cooling systems or nitrogen cooled rigs, this thermal paste can withstand extreme temperatures.
The MasterGel Maker also has a decent viscosity, so it is easy to apply and spread on your heat spreader. I did find it to be more difficult to use than the Kryonaut, Gelid and teh Noctua pastes.
You can also remove this easily without cracking or drying out. It is also non-curing, so it works perfectly from the time you apply it.
The CoolerMaster MasterGel Maker is very affordable and well suited for people who want to push their processors to its limit with overclocking; It is perfect for rigs of extreme builds.
Users of this thermal paste need not worry about short-circuits. This thermal paste is non-conductive of electricity so spills won’t be damaging any of their priceless rigs.
The CoolerMaster MasterGel Maker comes in a 1.5ml syringe, enough to apply to about 10 CPUs/GPUs. Usability and overall performance is a reason for this ranking in our number 2 spot for the best thermal paste around.
The Best Thermal Paste
1. Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut
In the jungle of the ceramic-based thermal paste, a bear reigns supreme. Checkout the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut – the best thermal paste there is.
Kryo or cryo means only one thing in Greek; cold or icy cold. The Kryonaut is a ceramic-based and is often referred by enthusiasts as the “ultimate” thermal compound. Kryonaut uses minute nano-aluminum and zinc oxide as their key components in the paste’s compound. This thermal paste halts the drying out process at temperatures up to 80C.
It has a thermal conductivity of 12.5 W/mK, which is pretty high for a grease-based compound. In fact, it can even go toe to toe with some of the liquid metals out there. This made the Kyronaut a popular choice for enthusiasts, gamers, and overclockers.
This thermal paste is electrically non-conductive. Even if you spill it to your motherboard, you don’t have to worry, just wipe it off and you are good to go.
Applying this thermal paste is easy, you can apply it with any application method you wish as it’s not very viscous.
The Kryonaut withstands extreme temperatures of hot and cold. This thermal paste can withstand up to 300C provided you have an adequate cooling system. This thermal paste is also designed for extreme setups such as liquid nitrogen cooled systems.
This is the best thermal paste that is not liquid metal – you won’t be disappointed.
Is Liquid Metal The Best?
Liquid metal is the most thermally conductive TIM out there – there is no questioning that.
So liquid metals are the best then?
Not so fast, while liquid metals typically have the highest thermal conductivity -they do have some major warnings & drawbacks.
- Don’t use these on Aluminum CPU/GPU coolers. Your heatsink will be destroyed by the Gallium ingredient in Liquid Metal.
Don’t believe me? see the video below.
- Electrically conductive – With these types, you need to be careful not to spill beyond the CPU/GPU. As you see in the video the liquid metal does move around easily when heated. Some may spill outside of the thermal plates.
You can cover your CPU with electrical tape or believe it or not clear nail polish (a couple of coats).
- Harder to clean – versus traditional thermal paste.
- Challenging to apply
If you are going to use liquid metal – I would strongly recommend putting liquid metal between your CPU die and the IHS as you will likely see the most performace gains in that application.
Delidding your CPU will void the warranty however…you’ve been warned.
I have written an in dept look at the dangers of liquid metal, check it out if you’re interested in knowing more.
With all that said, let’s look at the best liquid metal thermal pastes available right now.
The Best Liquid Metal (Top 3)
3. Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut
From the makers of our best thermal paste, the Conductonaut Liquid metal has high thermal conductivity, and is the easiest to apply (vs the other liquid metals).
- Convenient 1.0 gram syringe, making this thermal paste very easy to apply
- Delivers optimal heat transfer for larger-scale cooling systems
- Designed for applications where heat dissipation is of critical importance
- Popular choice for very experience PC builders
- Thermal conductivity 73 W/mk
The thermal Grizzly Conductnaut has been out on the market for quite some time. If you are fond of computer expos then you already came across this thermal paste.
The Conductnaut has the highest reported thermal conductivity of 73W/mK it can seriously help your CPU/GPU attain low temperatures even when overclocked.
It is made of several metals that are liquid at room temperatures. The ratio and complete list of components is still a mystery to its user. Although gallium is known to be included, it still has that consistency for easier applications compared to ones that are pure gallium and indium.
The Conductnaut can handle high temperatures during intense overclocking sessions dissipating the heat fast enough to maintain low temperatures.
Certainly a top contender, but we have the next two liquid metals rated higher for performance.
2. Phobya LM 31001 Liquid Metal
Second best thermal paste for the liquid metal category. Is it a good buy or not?
Phobya like every other company who makes and develops cooling systems decided to put their team in the Research and Development group to come up with a thermal paste of their own. So it would complement their current line up of cooling products.
The resulting product was able to get them in the league of the best products on the market. Now, this does not just go for their thermal paste, but it was able to put them on a highly coveted spot for al their line of products.
The Phobya Liquid Metal is just like like any liquid metal thermal pastes; it features a high thermal conductivity rating. At 40W/mK, Phobya LM can manage heat rather well. If you need something to take care of your system for overclocking, then the Phobya LM is a thermal paste to consider.
This thermal paste is designed for use with liquid cooled and overclocked systems. However, given that this is pure liquid metal it has a higher surface tension than water making it a bit difficult to apply. Another thing to watch out for is that this thermal paste is electrically conductive. Extreme caution while applying is a must to avoid accidental spills and short circuit as a result.
Just like the Conductnaut, the Phobya LM is not suitable to be used with aluminum alloys. Furthermore, this hardens and swells under low temperature, making it more tedious in certain areas.
1. Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra (and pro)
This is our best thermal paste for the liquid metal category, and it is built for extreme cooling.
The pro is also the most expensive of our top 3.
The CL Liquid Ultra has a thermal conductivity of 38.4W/mK , which gives it the capability of transferring heat from the CPU to the heatsink without a problem even during intense OC sessions.
Just like GPU’s, the real tests are in your system. Although it is rated at having a lower thermal conductivity vs the Thermal Grizzy Conductonaut – in real-world tests, the CL Liquid reins supreme.
Unlike the Phobya LM, this thermal paste is more viscous, so it is easier to apply (but not quite as easy as the Conductonaut). They also included a brush that helps you spread the thermal paste easier on the heat spreader surface. Since it is more viscous, you have more control of the compound when applying, thus making sure that there’s less chance of an accidental spill.
If you compare it to the Liquid Pro, it can still go toe to toe, but the name itself suggests that the Liquid Pro is best handled by professionals.
The liquid pro has a claimed 80W/mK thermal capacity and may perform better than the liquid ultra. However, the ease of use and the risk involving the use of this thermal paste is much greater.
Another reason why I picked this over the Liquid Pro is that it is more expensive for a moderate performance boost.
This is the best Liquid metal thermal paste for this category.
I created this list for the sole purpose of providing everyday users the idea of what thermal pastes are out on the market and what are their choices that would be perfect for their rig. Not all pastes were covered since there are only a few that I find worthy of including on my list. Depending on the budget and depending on the expertise/experience of the user. They would find a good thermal paste that they can use.
Sound off in the comments if you disagree with my ratings, as everyone has their opinions.
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