Thermal paste is an essential ‘component’ for ensuring efficient and optimal thermal heat transfer between a heat sink and a processor. So what’s the best thermal paste or compound to use in 2022? We have made a few thermal paste comparisons over the years at Play3r, with the last happening in 2017, with the one before that back in 2015. The main question is, which is the best as there are vast amounts of compounds to choose from on the market at present.
We looked at things in 2020, and we saw some exciting results. Let’s just recap the importance of thermal paste and why it is mandatory for any system…
Why is thermal paste needed?
The short answer is that physical contact is needed to transfer heat efficiently between the heat spreader and the heat sink. Thermal paste essentially plugs the gaps, which allows for better heat transfer.
What will happen if I don’t use thermal paste?
This isn’t such a straightforward answer but more of explaining why thermal paste is so essential. First of all, that super-smooth heat spreader on your CPU has loads of micro imperfections that allow air pockets to build, thus ruining the efficiency of your cooling. Another problem is that different types of metal, such as aluminum, copper, and brass, all have other expansion properties when heated up and cooled down. Thermal paste bridges the gap and fills in all those tiny imperfections creating a tight seal, meaning that the thermal conduction is optimized efficiently. If you don’t use thermal paste, will your system overheat? Probably! Will it pack up and die? Probably not right away, but heat and extreme build-up of heat can hurt the longevity of most electronic products; CPUs are not unique in this case and require the capability of dissipating heat effectively and efficiently.
What is the best thermal paste to use?
It depends on the type of cooling you are using. My recommendations are different based on using conventional cooling methods such as air, water, and even sub-zero; liquid nitrogen and dry ice. I will say that for air and water cooling, most of the ‘decent’ aftermarket thermal pastes will generally differ by a couple of degrees Celsius between them. Those with high thermal conductivity ratings, such as liquid metal, will typically perform better, but these are harder to apply and cost more.
Different types of thermal paste consist of different materials; some are better than others in terms of thermal conductivity. A good example is a liquid metal against ceramic-based pastes. The liquid metal plugs the gaps between the IHS and the CPU cooler better, but it also features a better conductivity rating, meaning more heat can be transferred per application than other types used. However, the drawback to liquid metal paste is that the application can be messy, the paste is more expensive, and overall, some people just prefer to go with the easier route. There is no shame in that, and liquid metal is selected for people looking to delid their chips for better cooling performance to unlock more potential overclocking headroom.
Those questions have been answered; now, you may understand why thermal paste is vital in ensuring adequate and suitable thermal transfer between your CPU cooler and, of course, your processor. sdasdThat is why I spent around 30 days (in total) comparing and testing 26 of the top thermal pastes on the market with the Intel Core i7-7700K processor to see which reigned supreme…and which failed to deliver on their marketing.
Thermal Paste Testing Line-up
Below is a list of all the thermal pastes tested in our 2020 round-up, with some new additions, including more from the Arctic. We have had many requests for pastes such as Arctic MX-2 and MX-5 over the last two years, and the Arctic kindly sent us samples this time around.
You can purchase (for a reasonable price and usually the cheapest) most of the thermal pastes that have been tested by clicking the links below; not only is thermal paste vital, as we’ve gone over in the beginning but finding the right blend of price to performance is very important to consider. Is it worth spending an extra £3.50 on another brand/mixture to save one °C? We will leave that decision up to you.
Alpenfohn Permafrost – http://amzn.to/2kwbmem
Cooler Master Mastergel Pro – http://amzn.to/2lB9QIC
Cooler Master E2 – http://amzn.to/2lBqOqd
Xigmatek PTI – http://amzn.to/2lBesi5
Akasa Pro Grade 460 – http://amzn.to/2kdZ8e8
Cooler Master Mastergel Maker Nano – http://amzn.to/2kwbBpM
Cooler Master Mastergel – http://amzn.to/2kgmESM
Cooler Master E1 – http://amzn.to/2kwfgDY
CooLaboratory Liquid Copper – http://amzn.to/2kghMgI
Arctic MX-2 – http://amzn.to/2lB3Csa
Cooler Master High Performance – http://amzn.to/2kgfLB0
JunPus DX1 – N/A
be quiet! DC1 – http://amzn.to/2kdZvp2
Gelid GC Extreme – http://amzn.to/2ke4pSM
EKWB Ectotherm – http://amzn.to/2ke2I7W
Arctic Ceramique 2 – http://amzn.to/2kwmyYj
Cooler Master Generic – N/A
Thermalright Chill Factor 3 – http://amzn.to/2kgidrm
Noctua NT-H1 – http://amzn.to/2ke2sWx
Noctua NT-H2 – https://amzn.to/2UHHIHS
JunPus D9000 Extreme Cold – N/A
CooLaboratory Liquid Pro – http://amzn.to/2kgmDye
CooLaboratory Liquid Ultra – http://amzn.to/2lzxmF0
IC Diamond 7 Carat – http://amzn.to/2lzuoAC
Generic Thermal Paste – N/A
Kingp!n Cooling KPC Paste – N/A
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut – https://www.overclockers.co.uk/thermal-grizzly-kryonaut-high-performance-thermal-paste-1-gramm-th-020-tg.html
Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut – https://www.overclockers.co.uk/thermal-grizzly-hydronaut-high-performance-thermal-paste-1g-th-022-tg.html
Thermal Grizzly Aeronaut – https://www.overclockers.co.uk/thermal-grizzly-aeronaut-high-performance-thermal-paste-1g-th-023-tg.html
Arctic MX-4 – https://www.overclockers.co.uk/arctic-mx-4-2019-edition-thermal-compound-8g-th-01c-ar.html
Cryorig CP5 – https://www.overclockers.co.uk/cryorig-cp5-thermal-interface-material-4g-grey-hs-00h-cy.html
Prolimatech PK-2 – https://www.overclockers.co.uk/prolimatech-pk-2-nano-aluminium-thermal-paste-30g-th-005-pl.html
Prolimatech PK-5 – N/A
Corsair TM30 – https://amzn.to/3btntDG
Test Bed and Thermal Paste Performance
CPU: Intel Core i7-9700K (3.6GHz Base, 4.9GHz Turbo)
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D15
RAM: Kingston GSkill TridentX 2400MHz 8GB (2x4GB)
PSU: Cooler Master V1200 1200w Platinum
OS: Windows 10 Professional 64 bit 1909
Not See The One You Want?
If you want to see any thermal pastes added to the next round of testing for 2023, please let us know in the comments section below!
If you’re a company looking to have your thermal paste added to future Thermal Paste Comparisons, then feel free to contact Dave McMahon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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