Thermal paste is one of the least exciting components in a computer build, but it’s also vitally important. It facilitates optimal heat transfer between a CPU’s processor core and its heat sink, keeping the chip cooler and preventing overheating which could lead to stuttering from throttling or even random shutdowns.
A variety of different formulations are available at varying price & performance points. The best thermal compounds show a noticeable decrease in temperature during testing and have excellent density that allows them to spread evenly without leaking. Other properties to look for include electrical insulation and longevity.
The most effective (and expensive) pastes consist almost entirely of liquid metal, usually a variation of the alloy galinstan. These can attain thermal conductivities of up to 13 W/(m*K), but are difficult to apply evenly and have the greatest risk of malfunction caused by spillage, as gallium is highly corrosive to aluminium. Moreover, these are not compatible with aluminium heat sinks.
The market is crowded with options and new blends continue to be released at a dizzying pace. Notable recent releases include NZXT’s first TIM blend, the not-very-excitingly named NZXT High-Performance Thermal Paste, Cooler Master’s purple CryoFuze and Alphacool’s Apex.Cpu cooling