A thermal pad is heat conductive pad or material of certain thickness that is used to establish heat contact between the heatsink and the chipset or source. It is generally used in places where there is s significant gap between the heatsink and the chip or there is no other way to establish the contact between the two without having to glue them together. Thermal pads and thermal pastes are way different from each other, both in applications and properties, and here is a good comparison between the two.
Thermal Pad vs Thermal Paste
Thermal paste is a semi solid paste like substance that is generally use to fill the tiny air gaps that are left behind when the heatsink sits on the processor or any other chip. Thermal paste generally comes in different varieties with different composition. You can find silicon based thermal paste, silver component based thermal paste, liquid metal based thermal paste, carbon-based and oxides based thermal paste. Liquid metal based thermal paste have the highest thermal conductivity but they are electrically conductive too, which is a major downside of them and they have to applied carefully on the surface. Non-metal based thermal pastes are electrically non-conductive and they are safe to apply without any risk. Thermal paste is also known as thermal grease, thermal interface material (TIM), thermal compound, heatsink paste or heatsink compound. You can read more about thermal paste by going to the link given below.
On the other hand, Thermal Pad is a solid material (generally soft and foam like) of certain thickness which is used to fill uneven and bigger air gaps between source and the heatsink. They generally have lower heat conductivity and because of their thickness, they do offer less performance compared to thermal paste. However, with advancement of technology there are some highly conductive thermal pads available now that are even better or as good as a carbon-based thermal paste and offers high thermal conductivity. The most commonly available thermal pads are silicone based thermal pads that have some filler material in it for maximizing heat conductivity. Thermal pads are generally non-adhesive but you can find some self-adhesive thermal pads too.
Thermal pads are generally used for components that generates lesser heat compared to a CPU, which include memory chips, VRM, motherboard chipset / northbridge / southbridge or Platform Hub Controller (PCH) or other ICs. They are also used in consoles, game-stations and some laptops where the CPU or GPU is relatively less powerful and generates lesser heat compared to faster processors used in computers. They are also great for DIY cooling for routers, repeaters and other heat generating components. Thermal pads are available in various thickness (0.5mm, 1mm, 1.5mm, 2mm, 3mm) and sizes, and here I am going to list down the best thermal pads of different varieties for your cooling needs.
Pro Tip: If possible, get slightly thicker thermal pads than actually needed for better fitting and eliminating any kid of air gaps.
Best Thermal Pads
Here are the best thermals pads for CPU, GPU, Memory (RAM / VRAM), M.2 SSD, Gaming Consoles (PS2, PS3, PS4, XBox etc.), GPU Waterblock, Motherboard chipset, 3D printers, PCBs, Raspberry Pi 3 and for Heatsinks.
[Best Thermal Pad for CPU & GPU]
If you are looking for thermal pad for CPU and GPU then IC Graphite Thermal Pad is currently best in the business. It is a graphite based thermal pad having thermal conductivity of 35 W/m-K which is way more than Artic MX-4, which is a carbon particle based thermal paste having thermal conductivity of 8.5 W/(mK) only. The thermal pad is electrically conductive because graphite is a good conductor of both heat and electricity. So, you have to be very careful applying it on the processor or CPU because if it comes in contact with electrical circuit of components then it can short circuit them, and can cause serious damage.
The thermal pad is available in two sizes, which are 30mmx30mm and 40mm x 40mm. However, you can cut it according your desired size and shape, if the processor is smaller or die is naked, which is generally found in laptops and game consoles. This is a completely dry thermal pad and has operating temperature range of -200 C to +400C, which is remarkable. It is a non-sticky and non-adhesive thermal pad, and is reusable. The performance of this thermal pad is comparable to some of popular high-performance thermal compounds that include Noctua NT-H1, Arctic MX-4, Gelid GC Extreme or Arctic Silver 5. So, if you are looking for a viable alternative to thermal paste then I would highly recommend IC Graphite Thermal Pad. It is reusable, non-messy, offers great performance and is reasonably priced for a thing that is reusable and can run for lifetime.
Important Note: The thermal pad is quite thin so it cannot be used for larger gaps that are mostly found between the heatsink and VRM, Memory / VRAM or other chipsets.
|IC Graphite Thermal Pad Specifications|
|Size||30mm X 30mm, 40 X40mm|
|Thermal Conductivity||35 W/m-K|
|Temperature Range||-200°C to 400°C|
|Usage / Applications||CPU, GPU, Gamestations or Consoles|
[For VRM, VRAM, Chipsets, Consoles]
If you are looking for some cheap and standard adhesive thermal pad with pretty good thermal conductivity then Artic Thermal Pad does the job pretty good. It is available in various thickness and sizes, so that it can fill any gap perfectly. This blue colored thermal pad is available in 50mmx50mm and 145mmx145mm sizes, and thickness of 0.5mm, 1mm and 1.5mm. It has thermal conductivity of 6.0 W/mK and can operate in temperature range of 40 to 200°C. This is a silicone based thermal pad with special filler material that is not disclosed by the company. The thermal pad is electrically non-conductive and is also non-capacitive.
The thermal pad is soft, spongy and squishy, so it is better to go for a slightly higher thickness to get the best fitting between the heatsink and the chipset or source. It is also sticky and is super easy to apply as it can hold its position perfectly on the chipset or IC. You can also cut into pieces or sizes of desired shape depending upon the chipset / IC dimension.
This thermal pad can be used for graphics card VRM, VRAM, Backplate and also for motherboard VRM, chipsets, and other chipsets, ICs and heatsinks. You can also use it on the processors of high-performance wireless routers and also in laptop GPU and heatsink assembly. It offers relatively better performance over the Phobya Ultra and JunPus Jp-P600 thermal pads. Below is the performance comparison of Arctic thermal pad with other popular thermal pads.
|Arctic Thermal Pad Specifications|
|Thickness||0.5mm, 1mm, 1.5mm|
|Material||Silicone based with some special filler|
|Thermal Conductivity||6.0 W/mK|
|Temperature Range||-40 to 200°C|
|Usage / Applications||Laptop GPU, RAM, VRAM, VRM, Chipsets / Heatsinks|
[For Notebooks, RAM, VRM, Gamestations]
Thermal Grizzly Minus Pad 8 is high performance thermal pad and is generally used as a gap filler between the chip and the heatsink. It is a silicon based thermal pad that uses metal oxides as filler. It has got thermal conductivity of 8.0 W/mK, which more than the Artic thermal pad mentioned above. The thermal pad is electrically non-conductive and is safe to use in electrical devices and components. Well, this is a non-adhesive thermal pad at first, but when it gets hot then it becomes adhered to the heatsink.
It is beige or Red-brown colored thermal pad that is soft, elastic and is available in different sizes (30x30mm, 120x20mm, 100x100mm) and thickness (0.5mm, 1mm, 1,5mm, 2mm). The operating temperature range of the thermal pad is from -100°C to +250°C, which is enough for almost all types of components. It can be used for PCs, notebooks, LED / LCD devices, gaming consoles, semiconductors, transformers and for GPUs, VRAM, RAM, VRMs, Mainboard chipsets and otherICs & Chipsets. Overall, a pretty good thermal pad for keeping your devices and components cool and safe.
|Thermal Grizzly Minus Pad 8 Specifications|
|Size||30x30mm, 120x20mm, 100x100mm|
|Thickness||0.5mm, 1mm, 1,5mm, 2mm|
|Material||Silicon with metal oxides (nano aluminum oxide)|
|Thermal Conductivity||8.0 W/mK|
|Temperature Range||-100°C to +250°C|
|Usage / Applications||Notebooks, Tablets, GPU, RAM, VRAM, VRM, LCDs, Semiconductors, Transformers, Chipsets / Heatsinks|
[For Memory, VRM, Chipsets, Game Consoles]
A decent thermal pad from Phobya having thermal conductivity of 5.0 W/mK, which is a bit less than the Arctic Thermal Pad. However, the thermal pad is good enough to use on memory chips, VRM, Motherboard Northbridge or Southbridge, Heatsinks, Laptops and ICs, and chipsets of various electronic devices or components. It is a soft grey color thermal pad that is available in 30x30mm, 120x20mm, 100x100mm sheets and thickness ranging from 0.5mm to up to 3mm for filling even biggest of gaps.
Phobya Ultra Thermal Pad is slightly adhesive and can be applied easily on the heatsink and the source. You can cut this spongy and flexible thermal pad according to the heatsink or chip size, and it can also be compressed down to half of its original height. Officially the temperature range figure is not disclosed by the company but it can operate to up to 150°C or 200°C without any issues.
|Phobya Ultra Thermal Pad Specifications|
|Size||30x30mm, 120x20mm, 100x100mm|
|Thickness||0.5mm, 1mm, 1.5mm, 2mm, 3mm|
|Thermal Conductivity||5.0 W/mK|
|Temperature Range||Not specified|
|Usage / Applications||Memory, VRM, Chipsets & ICs, Heatsinks|
[Self Adhesive and High Thermal Conductivity]
High performance thermal pad from Alphacool that even beats the Thermal Grizzly Minus Pad 8 when it comes to cooling performance. This silicone compound based thermal pad has thermal conductivity of 17W/mk which is among the best, and it can be used as a gap filter between the heatsink and RAM, VRAM, Chipsets and ICs. It can also be used with CPU coolers, graphics cards and has many other applications.
The thermal pad is soft, compressible and is available in different sizes and thickness. You can cut the thermal pad sheets into smaller pieces with scissors according to your requirements for proper fitting. Also, it is self-adhesive thermal pad that is sticky on the both the sides, which makes it very easy to apply as it can hold onto heatsinks and chip much better. The only thing that might bother some users about this thermal pad is that it is a bit expensive compared to other silicone based soft thermal pads.
Note: This thermal compound is also available in lower thermal conductivity of 11 W/mk & 14 W/mk, which are a bit cheaper than 17 W/mk variant.
|Alphacool Eisschicht 17 W/mK Thermal Pad|
|Thickness||0.5mm, 1.0mm, 1.5mm|
|Temperature Range||-40°C to +200°C|
|Adhesive||Yes, Sticky on both sides|
|Usage / Applications||CPU, GPU, VRM, RAM Coolers / Heat Spreader, VRAM, Chipsets & ICs, Heatsinks, GPU Water block|
Other Decent Thermal Pads
Best Thermal Adhesive
Thermal Adhesive is used to join two thermal conductive components together for better heat transfer. Thermal Adhesives should be used with caution because they do form a stronger or permanent bond between components, and if you try to remove it afterwards then you can damage your components by doing so. They should only be used in applications where you are sure that you do not need to separate the components in future, and wants them to hold intact for life. Here are some good thermal adhesive that you can use for such tasks.
Unarguably the best thermal adhesive in the market right now that is made with 99.8% pure micronized silver and contains 62% to 65% silver content by weight. It has thermal conductivity of 7.5 W/mk which is quite good is very close to the thermal conductivity of Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste. The thermal adhesive has negligible electrical conductivity and is a bit capacitive too, so it must be kept away from electrical paths, pins and circuitry because it may cause some problems otherwise.
It comes with two parts or syringes A and B, with each containing 3.5 grams of adhesive material (Resin and Hardener), just like an epoxy setup. For application, you have mix equal parts from both syringes using the plastic wand, and then apply to join the components together. The adhesive takes some time to cure (1 hour or so), and after that it will form a permanent hard bond that is quite hard to break. It can safely operate in temperature range of -40 °C to +150 °C. However, bond strength is slightly weakened at temperatures below 0°C due to crystallization. This epoxy thermal adhesive can be used for variety of applications that include attaching heatsinks to ICs, electronics / electrical / mechanical assembly, DIY projects and much more.
Important Note: This thermal adhesive forms a permanent bond and should not be used with CPU coolers, GPU coolers or heatsinks. Also, it should be kept cold and away from UV light (sunlight and florescent lighting).
|Arctic Silver Thermal Adhesive Specifications|
|Thermal Conductivity||7.5 W/mk|
|Operating Temperature Range||-40 °C to +150 °C|
Another thermal adhesive from Arctic, but this one is ceramic based and is lighter in weight compared to the Arctic Silver thermal adhesive. Arctic Alumina Thermal Adhesive is also a permanent epoxy type thermal adhesive. It is completely electrically non-conductive and non-capacitive, which is not the case with Arctic Silver one. This makes it a perfect choice for use in electronic and electrically conductive components. However, in terms of performance it is slightly behind Arctic Silver, because the Arctic Silver thermal adhesive use silver particles that have higher thermal conductivity over ceramic metal oxides.
Arctic Alumina Thermal Adhesive uses aluminum oxide and boron nitride as filler for heat transfer. It comes in 5g and 14g packs. The method of application is the same as epoxy setup where you have to mix equal parts from two syringes A and B in 1:1 ratio, and let it cure after application. It should not be used with CPU / GPU heatsinks and coolers because this thermal adhesive also forms a permanent bond with the components, and if you try to remove it then you can damage your components permanently.
Typical usage of this thermal adhesive includes attaching heatsinks to small ICs and chips, automotive, electronics, LEDs mainboards and in home and industrial appliances, components and devices. Also, it works great for resealing your delidded processor because it is electrically non-conductive and non-capacitive and forms a strong bond. It can work in temperature range of -40 °C to +150 °C but the bond strength may get slightly weakened under 0°C due to crystallization.
Note: It should be kept cold and away from UV light (sunlight and florescent lighting).
|Arctic Alumina Thermal Adhesive Specifications|
|Thermal Conductivity||< 7 W/mk|
|Operating Temperature Range||-40 °C to +150 °C|
Best Thermal Tape
Thermal Tapes are thin adhesive tapes that are thermally conductive. Their thermal conductivity is way lower than thermal pads and thermal pastes, and they are generally used to hold components together that generates heat, because they can withstand high temperatures without breaking down. They are not preferred for their thermal transfer ability but are generally used in combination with thermal pads and thermal paste to mount, bond or hold heatsinks or other components.
Thermal tapes are electrically non-conductive and are generally used in electronic or electrical devices, LEDs, 3D printers, motors, electronic appliances, power supplies, LCDs, Laptops, Raspberry Pi 3, hard drives, memory, LED TVs, industrial appliances etc. Here are some good thermal tapes that can be used for such applications.
A generic or standard double-sided thermal adhesive tape having thermal conductivity of 1.5 W/mk. It is 20mm wide and 25M in length, and is available in thickness of 0.15mm and 0.25mm. The thermal tape is electrically non-conductive, and has high tensile strength and strong adhesion to hold any device in place firmly.
This thermal adhesive tape has variety of applications as it can be used for use with Heatsinks, LED, IGBT module, IC Chip, CPU, GPU, RAM Modules, MOS Tubes, SSD Drives, 3D Printers, LED TVs, Automotive and in other electronic and industrial equipment, devices or appliances. It can operate in temperature range of -30 to +150 °C, and has lifespan of 5 years.
|Aikenuo Thermal Adhesive Tape Specifications|
|Size & Length||20mm x 25M (W x L)|
|Thermal Conductivity||1.5 W/mk|
A very popular and highly reliable thermal tape that can be used for various tasks. It is also a double-sided thermal tape and has high mechanical strength. The thermal conductivity of the tape is 0.60 W/mk and it is available in multiple sizes, lengths and thickness. It can be used to provide a heat-transfer path between heat-generating components and heat sinks or other cooling devices (e.g., fans, heat spreaders or heat pipes). The tape is halogen free and can operate at high temperatures without breaking down. It uses ceramic as filler and is ideal for thin bonding applications. You can check out various sizes of this tape by going to the link given below.
|3M Thermally Conductive Adhesive Transfer Tape Specifications|
|Size & Length||See link below|
Other Good Thermal Tapes
Thermal pads, thermal tapes and thermal adhesive, all have their own specific areas of application and it is not wise to replace any one of them by other. Thermal pads are mainly used as gap filler and may be used with thermal tapes for holding down the components for better grip. On, the other hand thermal adhesive is used to form a strong and permanent bond between the components. Also, choosing the right thermal material for your cooling needs is very important, because if you make a wrong decision then you might end up in trouble and may damage the components. So, if you have any queries related to this topic then please ask them by leaving a comment below