5 Best Thermal Pastes of 2018 – A Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

5 Best Thermal Pastes

After spending 248 hours testing 23 different thermal pastes, we concluded that the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is the best thermal paste in 2018. This doesn’t conduct electricity and has a high conductivity rating that’s perfect for overclocking purposes. On top of that, this works well with cold temperatures, too - perfect for liquid cooling, AIO, and even liquid nitrogen experiments.

Our Pick
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

Best CPU thermal paste

The best non-capacitive thermal grease you would find in the market. This is also one of the most expensive thermal pastes in the market. The Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is clearly dedicated and aimed for PC builders who are dead serious in overclocking their rig - not for average use.

You can guarantee that the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is the best. While there are other cheaper alternatives you could find in the market, it still tops and performs best when it comes to overclocking purposes.

It may be the most expensive in our roundup but keep in mind that you don’t get any compromise as long as conductivity rating is concerned since this has a whopping 12.5 W/mk rating. So get only this if you’re serious in overclocking your system.

Runner Up
Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano

Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano

Best thermal compound

The Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano is a great choice if you want a similar cooling performance with our top pick but with a relatively lower budget. This has a W/mK (wattage per meter-Kelvin) of 11 and fine industrial diamond-grade particles that allows it to compete with some of mid-range the liquid metals in the market.

The Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano offer premium-grade performance at a not-so-premium-price. It still boasts a high wattage per meter-Kelvin and it’s even capable of competing with some of the mid-range liquid metals. Easy to spread, no setting time, and great for liquid nitrogen setups and experiments.

A Cool Pick
Arctic MX-4

Arctic MX-4

Best thermal compound for gamers

The Arctic MX-4 isn’t your ordinary thermal paste. It’s initially designed and optimized to address the problems with the Arctic Silver 5. This doesn’t have fine silver particles so it’s non-conductive, a reason why it’s sought-after by builders and enthusiasts. Though has a lower conductivity rate than the Arctic Silver 5, tests have shown that it could beat the AS5.

The Arctic MX-4 is one of the more popular picks because of how cheap and effective it is for its price. Unfortunately, you’re going to need a more powerful paste if you wish to overclock your CPU. Nonetheless, it is still recommended by many professionals for average use.

A Reliable Pick
Noctua NT-H1

Noctua NT-H1

Best non conductive thermal paste

An affordable thermal paste for liquid cooling and nitrogen experiments. It is made to compete with the Arctic Silver AS5 by directly addressing its flaws. It’s also perfect if you want a cheaper alternative for overclocking purposes since this can handle temperatures from -50C to 150C.

Noctua claims that the Noctua NT-H1 is perfect and that this is the best for overclocking purposes. The paste has a thick and drier appearance, which makes it easier to spread.

Budget Pick
Arctic Silver 5

Arctic Silver 5

Best budget thermal paste

The Arctic Silver 5 is a very popular name not because this has a high conductivity rating of 8.9 W/mK but this also has been in the market for many years now. This thermal paste can conduct heat pretty well because it’s loaded with fine silver particles. However, it’s also a flaw that you should keep an eye on. Read more about this below.

This may be among the older pastes but it can still compete with some of the newer thermal pastes in the market. In fact, you would even see improvements in temperatures after the curing phase. So, if you’re in a really tight budget, make sure you’re investing right and get the Arctic Silver 5.

How We Choose

To be able to round up the best of the best thermal grease, we decided to do an extensive research to see which thermal pastes professional builders use.

After gathering the brands, we checked in-depth review videos and walls of texts from forums to make sure we have understood the digits of each thermal paste correctly. We then decided to dig deeper after the “getting-to-know-you” phase.

Now that we’re down with 36 candidates, we checked how well they perform in real-life scenarios. We studied the graphs and temperature readings according to enthusiasts and professionals online who tested them out.

With these numbers, we now have a fairly good understanding which among the thermal pastes are worth trying out ourselves. After doing a final evaluation, we’ve finally decided to test out 23 different thermal pastes.

We have the details and results of the tests in our How We Tested section below. So, make sure you check that out.

Disclaimer: The thermal pastes we tested were purchased and were not sent or sponsored to make biased opinions or feedback.

What is Thermal Paste?

Thermal paste basically is the grey substance you see between your CPU and heatsink or your GPU and heatsink. The fact that they conduct heat up to 100 times better as opposed to air is what makes them essential for every computer build, especially you are inclined towards overclocking your rig.

They are called by many names and below are among the common ones:

  • Thermal Interface Material
  • CPU grease
  • Thermal Goop
  • Heat Paste
  • Thermal Gel
  • Heat sink compound
  • Thermal compound

There are more on the list. You can read more about the difference of thermal grease, paste, and pads to have a better understanding of how each differ from type, brand as well as temperature output. Reading it first allows you to accurately choose which from the 5 best thermal paste works for you.

Types of Thermal Paste

Thermal Interface Materials(TIMs) are designed to meet specific needs. This is why you could find different types of TIMs such as:

  • Metal Based TIMs
  • Ceramic Based TIMs
  • Silicon Based TIMs

Metal based TIMs are the most conductive types of thermal paste with the main ingredient being fine metal particles. Although they are able to produce and register lower temperatures at most, they also are electrically conductive.

This is the reason why it is best to keep metal based TIMs from touching your motherboard.

Ceramic Based TIMs may not be as highly conductive as opposed to their metal based TIMs counterparts in terms of transferring heat, but they are safer in general. This is because their main ingredient is composed of ceramic, which is not electrically conducting, making it safe even when you spill on your motherboard.

Silicon Based TIMs are pre-applied thermal interface materials you can find on thermal pads. They may be really easy to apply compared to the other types of TIMs but can’t really compete in terms of performance and keeping temperatures low.

Things to Consider When Buying a Thermal Paste

What Will You Be Using The Thermal Paste For?

If you need a thermal paste for your CPU or GPU, you want to make sure you are choosing the right one for your needs.

If you want to overclock your CPU performance or your GPU performance, a thermal paste that has a high thermal conductivity rating is best.

On the flipside, regular CPU and GPU usage will be better off with a cheaper thermal paste that does a good job at keeping temperatures low.

Are You A Beginner, Intermediate or An Advanced Builder?

If you need a thermal paste for your CPU or GPU, you want to make sure you are choosing the right one for your needs.

If you want to overclock your CPU performance or your GPU performance, a thermal paste that has a high thermal conductivity rating is best.

On the flipside, regular CPU and GPU usage will be better off with a cheaper thermal paste that does a good job at keeping temperatures low.

Consider the Price

If you are specifically tight in budget and you what to spend a few dollars to other components that matter, then this is a great time to consider evaluating the price of the thermal paste.

With varying options to choose from, to save money by sparing a few degrees can be made. A good way to go around the flaws is to check our guide on how to reduce CPU temperatures.

How We Tested

The Test Systems

We want to make sure that the pastes will be tested intensively so instead of just using one test system and call it a day, we decided to test the pastes on three different systems.

The test systems are of three different cooling systems:

  • Stock cooler
  • Aftermarket cooler
  • Liquid cooler

Here is a table showing the exact specs of the test systems.

 Test System # 1
(Stock Cooler)
Test System #2
(Aftermarket Cooler)
Test System #3
(Liquid Cooler)
CPUCore i7-4790KCore i7-7700KCore i7-4790K
CoolerStock Coolerbe Quiet! Dark Rock 4Corsair - H100i v2
MotherboardMSI Z97 Gaming 5MSI Z270-A ProMSI Z97 Gaming 5
Ambient Temperature22C (avg)22C (avg)22C (avg)

The Test

The ambient (room) temperature, while it’s not on point throughout the entire testing session, is around 22C on average. The temperature sits around 21.2C to 22.5 during test sessions.

We are very specific about staying within 22C (max 2C over and under) since it does affect the temperature results. The difference could be as small as 1C to 2C, depending on the type of TIM.

While a lot of enthusiasts and builders claim that there’s almost no difference in terms of temperature reading between the initially applied TIM to that of a completely cured TIM, we want to make sure we play it safe.

So before we decided to record any temperatures, we allowed a 6-hour burn-in or curing time and another 2-hour break before the actual 2-hour stress test.

Below are the results of the test.

results of the thermal paste test

Looking at the chart, you can see that the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut really did perform best among the top 5 thermal paste you could buy in 2018. So if you want the best, heres the proof you need - get the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut.

The others performed well and the MX-4 did live up to what others have claimed that it performs better than the Arctic Silver 5 though it has a lower conductivity level.

We can choose to expand the list and include the rest of the pastes but since this is all about the best thermal paste, we decided to make it easier for you and showed you only the best of the best. If you wish to see the entire results, tell us down the comments section below.

Breakdown of Top 5 Best Thermal Pastes of 2018

Details Our Rating
#1Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

  • type: Thermal Paste
  • item weight: 0.16 ounces
  • electrically conductive: No
  • thermal conductivity rating: 12.5 W/mk
4.5/5
#2Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano

Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano

  • type: Thermal Compound
  • item weight: 1.12 ounces
  • electrically conductive: No
  • thermal conductivity rating: 11W/mK
4.5/5
#3Arctic MX-4

Arctic MX-4

  • type: Thermal Compound
  • item weight: 0.16 ounces
  • electrically conductive: No
  • thermal conductivity rating: 8.5W/mK
4.5/5
#4Noctua NT-H1

Noctua NT-H1

  • type: Thermal Compound
  • item weight: 0.16 ounces
  • electrically conductive: No
  • thermal conductivity rating: 8.9W/mK
4/5
#5Arctic Silver 5

Arctic Silver 5

  • type: Thermal Paste
  • item weight: 0.123 ounces
  • electrically conductive: Yes
  • thermal conductivity rating: 8.9 W/mK
3.5/5
#1

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

If you want to overclock your rig, then this bad boy here is what you need. It has a high wattage per meter-Kelvin of 12.5 - perfect for overclocking purposes.

Do yourself a favor and don’t get this one if you want to get a thermal paste for regular use. Its price, along with the capabilities of the thermal paste, will be put to waste if you are not going to overclocking your rig.

It has a high wattage per meter-Kelvin of 12.5

We have the best thermal paste below for that specific matter, so you can move to the next if that’s all that matters.

The manufacturer of the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is also considerate enough to include a spatula or a spreader to keep your hands from doing the dirty work of spreading. Once you have this set, you can forget about getting a new thermal paste.

include a spatula or a spreader

The fact that this has a high conductivity rating for a thermal paste is what makes it our personal pick. It also is capable of working with cold temperatures of -50C, making them a perfect pair for liquid nitrogen setups.

 

#2

Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano

The Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano is specifically designed to meet and effectively compete with a number of mid-range liquid metals in the market with its wattage per meter-Kelvin of 11.

It uses industry grade diamond particles

It uses industry grade diamond particles, the reason why it is lightweight. We also find it very easy to apply, spread, and remove. On top of that, it’s what secures that erosions and auto-oxidation can be avoided

If you run a high-performance CPU or GPU or plan to run a liquid nitrogen setup, this surely is an investment you will never regret as this easily handles temperatures of -50C to 150C easily. There is no need for a settling time or a curing time to get the best temperature output.

2. Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano unboxing

The fact that this performs great for its price is what makes it an investment you need to take, especially if you find Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut to be off your budget range.

#3

Arctic MX-4

The birth of the Arctic MX-4 is supposed to follow the footsteps and success of the Arctic Silver 5.

Optimization and tweaks, along with the absence of fine silver particles, are among the reasons why the non-conductive Arctic MX-4 has been sought after in the market by a number of builders.

The fact that this also is easier to spread was inspired by the flaws and drawbacks of the Arctic MX-3. It’s even claimed to be better in handling temperatures than the Arctic Silver 5, which it did as per our test results.

3. Arctic MX-4 unboxing

Tests also have shown superiority in Arctic MX-4 over Arctic Silver 5, even with the difference of conductivity rate of 8.5W/mK vs AS 5’s 8.9W/mK. But the MX-4 still isn’t recommended for overclocking purposes.

Nevertheless, strong proofs showing great performance for regular use is the reason why the MX-4 earned its place as among the best thermal paste in our roundup.

#4

Noctua NT-H1

The development of Noctua NT-H1 was initially introduced as a bundle along with Noctua CPU coolers. It was then changed to allow builders and use Noctua NT-HT1 to pair it with other aftermarket coolers.

The goal was then aimed to compete in line with Arctic Silver AS5 by addressing its flaws and downsides.

bundle along with Noctua CPU coolers

Compared to the Arctic MX-4, temperatures are observed to be 2C cooler. Noctua NT-H1 also boasts the fact that they are perfect, and possibly the best for overclocking purposes. Being able to handle temperatures between -50C to 150C is what makes them perfect for liquid nitrogen setups as well.

With a thick and drier paste appearance, spreading is surprisingly easier. Also, there is no need for settling time. Because this is 2C cooler than MX-4 is the reason why I gave it a higher rating.

#5

Arctic Silver 5

Arctic Silver 5 is one of the most trusted thermal paste over the years. It may have been on the market for many years now but it still is capable enough to compete with new products in the market.

Not only that this has a conductivity rating of 8.9W/mK but this also has fine silver particles, which is what makes it highly conductive in terms of transferring heat.

Arctic Silver 5 is one of the most trusted thermal paste

The Arctic Silver 5, however, is unique and that is because of the fact that it still is introduced as a ceramic TIM though it has fine silver content. But despite having 99.9% of fine silver content, the manufacturer still opts consumers to be careful enough not to spill it on the motherboard.

It boasts an improvement in temperature readings after the curing phase, so expect to see better performance by then.

No matter the case, with a high conductivity rating of 8.9W/mK, going for the Arctic Silver 5 surely is an investment you will find worthy of your time and money.

Conclusion

If you want to overclock your CPU or GPU and exceed their limits, I would suggest you get Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut. This ensures their temperatures are kept at low levels, both in an idle state and in a loaded state.

In case budget is a concern, but you still want to overclock your rig, the Cooler MasterGel Maker Nano will be perfect since you won’t have to spend a fortune to get this one. With a thermal conductivity rating of 11W/mK, the assurance that you stay within cooler temperatures should not be of a concern.

Get the Noctua NT-H1 if you want to get a thermal paste that always performs best in years. This is another cheaper alternative if you want to overclock your rig. It’s also a great choice for those who wish to experiment with liquid nitrogen setups since it could hold temperatures from -50C to 150C.

Average users, on the other hand, as well as beginners, will find Arctic Silver 5 and Arctic MX-4 a smart decision to take. Apply the thermal interface materials and you can forget about them, at least until your next build or your next CPU upgrade.

If this is going to be your first thermal change, don’t risk your purchase and check our detailed guide on how to correctly apply thermal paste to your CPU or GPU to avoid complications. Regardless the thermal paste or compound you will get, the need to make sure you are doing the right method of application can help and avoid damaging your CPU or GPU, worse, fry your entire system unit.

Now that you have the list of the 5 best thermal pastes as of June 2018, which one do you think is best for your use? Tell us down the comments!

Source

  1. Nathan Edwards, Geek Tested: 17 Thermal Pastes Face Off, PC Gamer, January 19, 2012
  2. Igor Wallossek, Thermal Paste Comparison, Part Two: 39 Products Get Tested, Tom’s Hardware, October 20, 2013

2 Comments

  1. Matias Montegaudo says:

    Just bought some Kryonaut….I don’t know what your test bench is but Kryonauts is the WORST thermal paste I ever tried. Other people also confirmed that. 10+ degrees compared to Noctua paste.

    1. Juzel Albert Padilla says:

      Hi Matias Monteguado! We tested the pastes ourselves and we will update this article soon. We have included the details of the test there as well. Please check back to see the details. Based on the test that we made, it shows that the Kryonaut still performs better. The difference in temps we recorded isn’t really big. In fact, the temperature difference is only less than 3-degrees Celsius. Are you using a stock or an aftermarket cooler? The difference shouldn’t be that big.

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