Here at TBG, we have a thing for coolers, we've tested well over 60 at this point, which gives us a whole lot of experience with the tedious task of applying (and removing!) thermal paste. So we thought it was time to put together a little shootout and how-to guide on thermal pastes, and their closely-related cousin, thermal pads. We rounded up four of the most popular contenders to see which ones pulled ahead in performance, ease of use, or both!
Here's what's compared in the review:
- IC Graphite Thermal Pad 40x40mm ($13)
- Arctic MX-4 Thermal Paste ($9)
- Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste ($9)
- Noctua NT-H2 Thermal Paste ($13)
And here's the system setup:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
- CPU Cooler: Scythe Fuma 2
- MB: Asus X470 Crosshair XI Hero
- Case: be quiet! Silent Base 802
As with all of our reviews at this point and going forward, this review appears exclusively on YouTube, which you can see below. Not only do we show you what comes in the box and share some benchmarks, but we give you a good look at what it's like to use each product!
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Well, in the end, we do have a winner, Noctua NT-H2! It's a bit more expensive than most pastes, but it includes 3 cleaning wipes in the box (or 10 if you go with the larger 10g tube), plus it offers exceptional performance and an ideal viscosity for easy application.
That doesn't mean it's the only choice, however, and there are plenty of good options out there. We are going to give an honorable mention to IC Graphite Thermal Pads for their beginner-friendly design. It's really hard to mess up the application, they are easily reusable, and the price is more than reasonable. Sure, the performance isn't quite as good as high-quality pastes, but it's decent, and for a beginner, a much more likely situation is that the thermal paste application is botched or a cause for anxiety, so the ease of use of these pads is not to be underestimated!
As always, check out our CPU Cooler Buyer's Guide, updated quarterly, for all our latest recommendations.