Best Thermal Paste (For CPU & GPU) – Top 15 Reviews 2018

5 Best Thermal Pastes

Thermal paste is an often overlooked part of most computer setups. “It’s just thermal paste, as long as it stays on it doesn’t matter,” says far too many when selecting their thermal paste.

You can use the pre-applied stuff, or the thermal paste that comes with your motherboard and still get reasonable processor temps at stock speeds.

However, it may not always be effective enough if you’re trying to overclock or if you live in a hot area. It can also go bad and stop being effective. When this happens, it’s important to change it out and apply new thermal paste to your processor.

But what is the best thermal paste? Could you just buy any thermal paste and have it be just as effective as the next one? Well, we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s go over the contestants.

Editor’s Pick
Arctic Silver 5

Arctic Silver 5

A great basic thermal paste

Arctic Silver 5 is a great pick if you want a simple, effective thermal paste for your computer.

I’ve been using Arctic Silver for my processors since it’s release in the mid-2000s, and have always had great luck with it. Using silver as a base, it has great heat transfer.

Air Cooled Systems
Arctic MX-4

Arctic MX-4

Best pick for air cooled systems

Not to be confused with Arctic Silver, this company brings their own blend of ice-cold thermal pastes.

The MX-4 uses carbon micro-particles to make sure it fills in all the air gaps on your heat sink, helping to ensure better heat dissipation.

Water Cooled Systems
Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut

Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut

Best pick for water cooled systems

Thermal Grizzly’s Hydronaut is a great solution if you’re running a computer that has a liquid cooling system in it.

Thermal Grizzly made the Hydronaut to be effective for systems using water cooling systems, while still maintaining a great price-for-performance ratio.

Overclocked Systems
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

Best pick for overclocked systems

The next product in the Thermal Grizzly line is the Kryonaut, made specifically for extreme overclocking.

Thermal Grizzly designed the Kryonaut to work with even the most extreme overclocked systems still using a traditional thermal paste.

Extreme Cooling
Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

Best pick for extreme cooling solutions

Here’s the final product in the line: Thermal Grizzly’s Conductonaut, a non-traditional liquid metal thermal paste.

Thermal Grizzly knows cooling, and they know gamers. Eventually, traditional thermal pastes stop being as effective in an extreme performance system. That’s when you need liquid metal, and Thermal Grizzly has your back.

How We Choose

Deciding what to and what not suggest to our audience is our first priority. We take careful steps to make sure what we suggest to you is quality and will fit your needs.

  1. What’s Current? No one wants to get outdated information that’s going to do them no good. Making sure that we are on top of the market and current trends is a must!
  2. Research is key. The computer and tech market can be confusing. It’s hard to know where to start, and what’s accurate. We take this out of the equation for you by doing the research before we suggest anything.
  3. Narrowing down. Once we’ve gotten together our list of potentials, we do research into the items themselves to see which ones are the best.

Once we have that final list, we do even more research, and condense all the relevant information into one nice central location for easy viewing.

Things to Consider When Buying Thermal Paste

So how do you choose? There’s obviously a thermal paste for every occasion, and then some. Which one is the best? Which one will work best for you?

There are several things you should consider when buying a thermal paste for your needs. First though, let's go over what thermal paste is, and why you need it.

Severals thermal paste

What is Thermal Paste?

Thermal paste (also sometimes known as thermal grease or thermal compound) acts as a heat transfer agent. Your processor generates a lot of heat. So much heat that you could literally fry an egg on it.

This is bad, as that much heat can fatally damage components very quickly. In order to combat this, we have heat sinks.

Air Based Heat Sinks

A heat sink is what you put on the CPU to transfer the heat and keep it cool. Traditional air heat sinks have a metal base that touches the processor. The heat is transferred through that block of metal, and usually channels into copper pipes, which are then attached to many thin metal fins with a fan blowing on it to wick away the heat.

Water Coolers

Water coolers work on a similar principle. The heat sink sits on top of the processor with water running over it (sound dangerous, right?). This heats up the water, which gets funneled into a radiator. The radiator has channels and metal fins on it with fans that blow on these metal fins. This cools down the water before its return trip to the CPU heat sink.

So where does thermal paste play into all this? Glad you asked.

Thermal Paste’s Role

Thermal Paste’s Role
Figure shows a processor with a fan heatsink on top of it. Notice the holes and divots (exaggerated for effect) in the two pieces of metal. These holes trap air, which insulates the heat. Thermal paste seeps into these holes and divots, helping to conduct the heat rather than insulate it.

Thermal paste sits as a layer in between the processor and the heat sink; here’s why.

Metal isn’t typically perfectly flat. No matter how flat it may look to the naked eye there is always bumps and grooves and little holes and divots. These holes and divots and bumps trap air when another piece of metal is pressed against it.

This is bad as air is an excellent insulator of heat. This means the heat transfer from the processor to your heat sink isn’t optimal, and often can overheat and harm your system.

Thermal paste resolves this issue. Not only is it engineered to be more thermally conductive (meaning it helps to transfer heat from one area to another), but since it’s in a liquid form, it can press down and get in between all the little nooks and crannies that usually trap air when thermal paste isn’t used.

That’s why you need to use a thermal paste.

Thermal paste properties

When looking at thermal paste, there may be a few categories you’re unfamiliar with, or that you’re not sure how it plays into the picture as a whole. Let’s take a look at what those are and how they fit into the puzzle.

Viscosity

This refers to how thick/thin the thermal paste is. Those with a higher viscosity are thicker, and more like actual paste, and usually will adhere your heatsink better to your processor.

Those with a low viscosity are more liquidy and will tend to dry up over a few days after applied to set in.

Specific gravity

Specific gravity is how dense and heavy the thermal paste is, and generally isn’t listed on most thermal pastes, and isn’t usually needed to take into consideration.

Thermal Conductivity

This is the most important measurement to pay attention to. This unit of measurement tells you how good the thermal paste is at moving heat from one place to another.

This is measured in watts per square meter of surface area, shown as W/mK. Let’s look at a couple of examples from our list:

Thermal Conductivity
Thermal PasteThermal Conductivity (W/mK)
Arctic Silver 56.0 W/mK
Thermaltake TG-84.7 W/mK
Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut73 W/mK

Generally speaking, the higher the number, the better the paste should be at conducting heat away, but there are always other variables and this may not always be the case.

Thermal Design Power (TDP)

The TDP of your processor will tell you how much power it will use. You can use this as an estimate of how hot it’s going to get. Those with a higher TDP will use more power, which generates more heat.

This is something to consider when choosing a thermal paste, as a hotter processor is going to need a thermal paste that can match it.

You can find this number listed on your processor specs under TDP.

Ambient Temperature

The air around your system can play a huge part in determining how cool (or hot) your system runs. If you live in an area where the temperature is constantly hot, you might want to look at upgrading your thermal paste.

The air inside of your system-- around your processor-- can affect results as well. If your other components run hot (say like your GPU), that ambient air can affect your system as much as the temperature outside can.

You can find the temperature using a thermometer. 🙂

Cooling Solution

Choosing the correct cooling solution can have a huge impact on your system overall. Even if you have the best thermal paste on the market, if the rest of your system isn’t setup to handle the amount of heat your processor generates, it’s not going to matter.

Find out more about choosing a cooling solution for your needs.

Level of Familiarity

How comfortable you are with working on your own components may play a factor into what thermal paste solution you decide on.

If you’re a beginner and you’re worried about the possibility of harming your components, you may want to look into thermal pads instead of a paste. While not as effective as a paste, it’s very quick and easy and won’t harm your components.

Whether or not it’s electrically conductive is something else you should think about if you’re comfort level isn’t very high, as some thermal pastes are made with materials that conduct electricity.

There are also liquid metal thermal pastes, and these require special care to apply without harming your components.

Find out more about the processes of properly applying thermal paste.

How We Tested

When we sat down to bring you the best thermal pastes of 2018, we did our research and found out how many options were available as a consumer.

The options are endless, and they all proclaim better performance than the last. We knew we had to test them out personally, to make sure we recommended only the ones that work as well as they claimed.

The Systems

We used an in-house system to do all the testing so we could maintain consistency. We went with our Ryzen 1700 setup. Here’s what it’s running.

  • AMD Ryzen 1700 @ 3.7 GHz
  • 32GB of G.Skill Flare X @ 2666 MHz
  • Gigabyte Aorus Radeon RX 580 XTR
  • CoolerMaster MasterLiquid 240 AIO

The Test

When designing the test, we wanted to make sure to cover all of our bases to bring you the best results.

We measured:

  • Ambient temperature
  • Temperature during idle
  • Temperature during full load
  • Temperature during full load, while also using the GPU to generate more ambient heat

Before testing we cleaned the processor using a thermal paste cleaning and polishing kit from Arctic Silver. While isopropyl alcohol will work, we wanted to make sure to get the heatsink and processor as clean as possible so that the results for the next thermal paste weren’t contaminated.

For the test itself, we used Prime95 as a CPU stress test. This program makes good use of a processor’s computing power to generate as much heat as possible.

While most of your gaming time probably won’t be spent with a maxed out CPU running complex mathematical equations, we wanted to make sure we got the proper data for testing our thermal paste.

If the thermal paste can handle the stress of Prime95, it can handle gaming.

We ran Prime95 for an hour on its own to bring the processor up to temp. After the hour, an additional hour of gaming was added on top of it WHILE Prime95 was still stress testing.

This let our memory and GPU start generating heat, adding to the ambient temperature inside the case. This can affect load temperatures as the heat difference of the processor and the air around it start to come closer. The heat from the processor will start to dissipate less efficiently at this point.

After the testing was done, we reset and went again with the next thermal paste.

The 15 Best Thermal Pastes For Gaming

ProductDetails
#1Arctic Silver 5

Arctic Silver 5

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 6.0 W/mK
Check Current Price
#2Arctic MX-4

Arctic MX-4

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 8.5 W/mk
Check Current Price
#3Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut

Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 11.8 W/mk
Check Current Price
#4Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 12.5 W/mk
Check Current Price
#5Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 73 W/mk
Check Current Price
#6Arctic Silver Ceramique

Arctic Silver Ceramique

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 8.5 W/mk
Check Current Price
#7Noctua NT-H1

Noctua NT-H1

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 8.5 W/mK
Check Current Price
#8Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste

Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 4.5 W/mk
Check Current Price
#9MasterGel Maker Nano High Performance

MasterGel Maker Nano High Performance

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 11 W/mK
Check Current Price
#10Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme

Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 8.9 W/mK
Check Current Price
#11Thermaltake TG-8

Thermaltake TG-8

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 4.7 W/mk
Check Current Price
#12Thermal Grizzly Aeronaut

Thermal Grizzly Aeronaut

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 8.5 W/mk
Check Current Price
#13Innovation Cooling Diamond

Innovation Cooling Diamond

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 4.5 W/m-k
Check Current Price
#14Innovation Cooling Graphite Thermal Pad

Innovation Cooling Graphite Thermal Pad

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 35 W/mk
Check Current Price
#15Prolimatech PK-3

Prolimatech PK-3

  • advertised thermal conductivity: 11.2 W/mk
Check Current Price
#1

Arctic Silver 5

If you’re looking for a thermal paste that’s been tried and tested, then look no further than Arctic Silver 5. As mentioned earlier, I’ve been using this thermal paste for years and I’ve never had a heat-related component failure due to my thermal paste going bad.

Testing

In our testing, Arctic Silver 5 did very well, being one of the coolest-scoring pastes on our list. Even under full processor load, our processor never made it over 53°C (127°F).

Arctic Silver 5 testing

#2

Arctic MX-4

The Arctic MX-4 is the highest rated thermal paste on our list, and the results show why. This is a great thermal paste.

It’s a little on the higher side of the price point, but you get a large, 4g tube of the paste, and they claim an eight year life span so it should last you for a long time to come.

Tests

The results don’t lie! This thermal paste proved to be great, coming in at a nice chilly 57°C (134°F), even under full load during gaming.

Arctic MX 4 testing

#3

Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut

The next selection up from Thermal Grizzly is their Hydronaut. And yup, you guessed it, it’s designed for water cooling setups. Although it’ll work for any coolers, not just water.

Tests

The Hydronaut did even better than the Aeronaut paste did, never getting any warmer than a nice and a cool 54°C (113°F). There was nothing I could throw at this paste that it couldn’t handle while gaming.

Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut testing

#4

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

Another heavy hitter from Thermal Grizzly: Kryonaut. The naming scheme doesn’t quite follow the others when it comes to this one as it’s not designed for sub-zero cooling solutions; it’s just a word that indicates cool temperatures. Thermal Grizzly kind of dropped the ball on that one...

Name aside, this is another great product from Thermal Grizzly.

Tests

I don’t know how Thermal Grizzly does it, but this one tested even cooler than the previous one. Coming in at a nice and frosty 53°C (127°F), this is probably the best CPU thermal paste (it’s also likely the best thermal paste for GPUs, but we didn’t test it on GPUs).

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut testing

While it’s a better thermal paste than the previous two that we tested, it’s actually less expensive, so that’s a bonus!

#5

Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

Here it is, the very tippy top of our list. The premium of premiums. Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut. Made for the most extreme cooling solutions, this paste is actually a liquid metal solution.

Liquid metal conducts heat much better than the traditional pastes and greases. Unfortunately, it’s VERY conductive, and easy to mess up. You will also need a few things to properly and safely apply it.

Tests

In our testing, the Conductonaut came out on top, never reaching more than 52°C (125°F)! This is very cold, and not even full processor and GPU loads could put a dent in this thermal paste.

This would be our best thermal compound, but its conductivity and price point make it less attractive than the Kryonaut.

Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut testing

#6

Arctic Silver Ceramique

Made by the same guys as Arctic Silver 5, Arctic Silver Ceramique uses a ceramic base instead of silver.

Giving their consumers a non-conductive, beginner friendly thermal paste was a good choice by Arctic Silver. This thermal paste won’t short anything out if you accidentally get some overspill when applying it to the processor.

Tests

In our testing, the Arctic Silver Ceramique didn’t score quite as well as its predecessor, but the results were still very favorable for gaming. This paste never got over 61°C (141°F), keeping our processor cool even during intense gaming.

Arctic Silver Ceramique testing

#7

Noctua NT-H1

Made by a company known for cooling and keeping your system cool, Noctua entered the thermal solution scene, and gave us the NT-H1.

While it wasn’t the coolest scoring thermal paste, its results were still very solid and it worked very well. Our tests did find it to be quite thick, making it a little hard to get out of the container, so be careful when you go to apply it.

Tests

The Noctua NT-H1 came in at 61°C (141°F) during full load while gaming. While it is above 60°C, it’s still considered very cool and more than within reason for gaming

Noctua NT H1 testing

#8

Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste

I guess being great at making cases and power supplies wasn’t enough for Cooler Master, as now they’ve given us great thermal pastes.

The first one we tested was the Cooler Master High Performance branded thermal paste. Designed to be a great overall thermal paste, it definitely meets the mark. It even comes with a credit card like spreader and sticker templates to help you apply the thermal paste to the processor with no mess-ups!

Tests

In our testing, this thermal paste did pretty well, coming in at 63°C (145°F). Still in that 60-degree area, it’s more than suitable for intense gaming.

Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste testing

#9

MasterGel Maker Nano High Performance

The second product we tested from Cooler Master was the MasterGel Maker Nano branded high performance thermal paste. Claiming to get even better performance than the other one we tested, Cooler Master touts this paste for more extreme cooling solutions. This thermal paste also comes with a spreader for easier application.

Tests

This thermal paste did end up testing better than their other high performance paste, coming in at a nice cool temp of 61°C (141°F), making this an excellent choice for keeping your system cool while gaming.

MasterGel Maker Nano High Performance testing

#10

Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme

Gelid Solutions is another one of those companies that I hadn’t really heard about, but the thermal paste was suggested to me, and so on the list of pastes to test it went! I’m glad I did, as the Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme did excellent in our testing trials.

The Gelid Solutions GC-Extreme is non-corrosive, non-toxic, and requires no curing time. It also comes with a handy spreader to take the guesswork out of the equation when applying the paste.

It does come in a larger tube, though, which means you are paying more overall for thermal paste you might not necessarily need too often.

Tests

I was pleasantly surprised with the GC-Extreme, as it came in at 61°C (141°F) under full load while gaming, making this an excellent decision.

Gelid Solutions GC Extreme testing

#11

Thermaltake TG-8

Another power supply and PC case master, Thermaltake took it one step further and entered the thermal paste scene with everyone else. Being touted as a solution for extreme performance, Thermaltake made this thermal paste out of a diamond powder compound.

They also say it has a longer lifespan than other thermal pastes, but they don’t specify a definite answer.

Tests

Surprisingly coming in at 70°C (158°F), this was the hottest thermal paste tested next to the thermal graphite pad. While it’s still within reason for gaming, the higher price point and higher temps make is a less desirable option.

Thermaltake TG 8 testing

#12

Thermal Grizzly Aeronaut

Thermal Grizzly is where we start to enter the little bit more expensive, “premium” thermal pastes. However, they are widely known as being a company that makes great thermal pastes for extreme solutions.

The first in their line is the Aeronaut. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s made more for people running air cooling solutions, such as a simple fan and heat sink.

Tests

The Aeronaut paste did very well in our tests, never reaching higher than 57°C (134°F). This will keep your system nice and cool, even if you’re on an air cooler.

Thermal Grizzly Aeronaut testing

#13

Innovation Cooling Diamond

The Innovation Cooling Diamond thermal paste uses a non-conductive base with crushed synthetic diamonds sprinkled in.

While the company claims the diamonds provide superior thermal transfer, it doesn’t appear to help any more than a non-blinged out thermal paste.

Tests

Coming in at 60°C (140°F), the Innovation Cooling isn’t the coolest on the list, but it does hold up quite well. Is it worth the extra couple of dollars to get it just because it has the diamonds? Maybe not, but it’s still effective and it’s still a pretty good price point.

Innovation Cooling Diamond testing

#14

Innovation Cooling Graphite Thermal Pad

Innovation Cooling has their diamond thermal paste for more extreme cooling, but maybe you don’t need something like that, maybe you just want to throw a sheet on your processor and call it good.

Luckily, there’s a solution: thermal pads. These are great for beginners and veterans alike. They’re Non-conductive, and they’re literally just a sheet you place on your processor. It does the same job as thermal paste, just in a nice small sheet.

It can also be reused, making it a perfect choice if you’re doing testing over and over again.

Tests

The thermal pad was our hottest-testing thermal solution, coming in at 77°C (170°F). While this isn’t exactly frosty, it’s still within normal operating temperatures.

Innovation Cooling Graphite Thermal Pad testing

#15

Prolimatech PK-3

Prolimatech may not be a brand you’re familiar with, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering it. Made with a non-conductive nano aluminum compound, the PK-3 showed great results in our tests.

Tests

The Prolimatech PK-3 was one of our better testing thermal solutions coming in at 59°C (138°F). This is right under the frosty 60 degree range, making this a great pick for your gaming machine.

Prolimatech PK 3 testing

Which Thermal Paste is Best for You?

As you can see, there is a wide variety of thermal pastes available on the market now, and a lot of them are viable for keeping your gaming system cool.

  • If you’re a beginner, you might want to use Innovation Cooling’s graphite thermal pad. While it didn't provide extremely cool temperatures, it still kept the system running cool enough for gaming and day to day use.
  • If you’re looking for something suggested to you that’s tried, tested, and guaranteed to keep your system cool? Look no further than Arctic Silver 5. This has always been a very trustable thermal paste for me, and it will be for you as well.
  • Maybe you’ve got an extreme system that needs just the absolute best, and you don’t care about the price or not being able to use an aluminum heatsink, then the Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut is what you need.

Conclusion

Now you too are a thermal paste genius. What will you pick for your system? Personally, I’ve been running Arctic Silver 5 on all the systems I’ve built, at least when I have it available.

Recently I’ve switched over to the Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut liquid metal. Both the Conductonaut and Arctic Silver 5 have worked out very well for me, and I’d recommend them to anyone looking to up their thermal paste game.

But what about you? What do you use? Is it on this list or something else entirely?

Source

6 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.

  2. Chris says:

    so the best one is $10 on Amazon the second best one is $15 now is that supposed to be cheaper

    1. Juzel Albert Padilla says:

      Hi, Chris! We specifically ranked the thermal pastes based on the results we performed. Prices could change easily on Amazon, though. May I ask what system are you going to use the paste for? Is it a workstation or a gaming rig? I would be happy to recommend the best fit for your system 🙂

  3. Jon says:

    Thanks for making this comparison!
    I think an important consideration (besides price & performance) is also what the thermal material does to the applied surfaces. Liquid metal compounds (not included in your comparison) apparently aren’t fully removable, and I saw one report of the first place paste pitting surfaces (maybe just one person). I’d gladly trade a couple degrees to know my paste wouldn’t mar my CPU & heatsink surfaces.
    Just something to think about. 🙂

  4. Austin says:

    Hi, I was wondering if artic silver 5 can be used for water cooling systems, or if I need to specifically buy water cooling paste

Leave a Reply