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Thermal Paste Vs. Thermal Pad – Who Wins the Game?

Thermal Paste Vs. Thermal Pad – Which Is The Best?

Thermal paste vs. thermal pad, which one of these do you think is better? You might have seen people comparing both in terms of durability, compatibility, and easiness they feel when applying. Everyone comes up with different opinions about both of them.

You need an interface material to cover those small air gas that forms between two uneven surfaces. Else, those air gaps will act as an insulator preventing heat transfer and, in turn, will heat the system.

I have tested both thermal paste and pads with various systems to check which of these heat conductors works best with each design, and I cannot wait to share them with you, so let’s go. 

Thermal Paste Vs. Thermal Pad

Thermal paste and thermal pad both are heat interface materials but are very different when it comes to effectiveness, application technique, and durability. Here are the factors that differentiate them.

Coverage 

When it comes to thermal paste vs. thermal pad coverage, it refers to how effectively both of them cover the integrated heat spreader. 

For the thermal paste, it is difficult to spread the thermal paste evenly. I recommend you using an applicator or a spatula to do so.

However, if you are applying it for the first time, it may leak out to the surroundings, the motherboard, and the pin. This leakage may damage the CPU. 

Else, the paste you apply manually may be thin on one and thick on the other side or may be insufficient to cover the whole area adequately.

Read our guide for best thermal paste application methods: What is the Best Way to Apply Thermal Paste?

The most significant advantage of a thermal pad is that it is super easy to apply. Here is how you can use a thermal pad:

  1. Remove the previous interface material with an isopropyl alcohol pad and a microfiber cloth. Do not use tissue as it will shred, leaving small lint that acts as an insulator. 
  2. Calculate the exact length of the surface and cut a piece of thermal pad that matches its size. 
  3. Place it on the surface and press it gently, making sure it has stuck and does not come out from the area. 
  4. Reallocate if needed. 

The thermal pad will lay flat and nicely onto the surface. There will be no leaking issue, and it will offer 100% coverage. 

Result: 

Thermal pad wins when it comes to better coverage unless you are an expert in applying thermal pastes and apply thermal paste thin and evenly.

Effectiveness

It is an essential factor. We need a thermal interface material to transfer heat properly. If it fails to transfer, it is of no use. 

Thermal paste is a thick liquid that spreads on the surface to fill any air gaps without any worry. Liquids tend to adopt the shape of their container

This is the reason why this thick liquid goes into the holes to adapt its form. Also, in places where sensitive temperature changes are an issue, thermal paste works great. 

As there are tiny gaps on the surfaces that trap air which is a heat insulator, the solid thermal pad doesn’t work well. In turn, it provides comparatively lower heat conductivity. 

Besides, if not correctly applied, the air gaps may become more extensive, further decreasing thermal conductivity.

Result

When it comes to effectiveness, thermal paste beats the thermal pad as it spreads to tiny holes and efficiently transfers heat.

Longevity

It refers to how long both of these substances will last. In general, both of these substances may last up to 3-5 years when bought from a well-reputed company. After these years, the thermal paste will solidify, and thermal pads will soften

I recommend buying both of these substances from Nab Cooling as their products are long-lasting, effective, and less costly.

If you buy from any other source, there are chances that it will dry up before three years, and you have to change it constantly. This will waste your time, money, and energy.

Result:

When talking about longevity, both of these take approximately the same time to die out. 

Application Technique

As I told you before, one needs to apply the thermal paste with a spatula or an applicator and the thermal pad by cutting its size and firmly pressing it onto the surface.

Thermal pastes are comparatively messier as they may leak to the surrounding, stick to your clothes and your skin. Also, it is more difficult to apply than thermal pads.

Tip: You can remove the thermal paste from the skin and clothes by washing it with alcohol.

Thermal pads, on the other hand, are less messier and easy to apply. Just cut and paste, and you are all good to go. It is a straightforward application technique with no chances of leaking out and sticking to your clothes and skin.

Result

If you don’t want to create a mess, thermal pads are the best to use.

Price

Thermal pads are comparatively more expensive than thermal paste. If you buy thermal paste packages from Nab Cooling, you will get a free applicator, spatula, an alcohol wipe, and a microfiber cloth. 

Read more about this package in our article: Unboxing N-B Max Pro.

Results: 

If you are comparing both of them from a price perspective, thermal paste win here. 

Compatibility

You can apply thermal paste on the CPU and heatsink. However, if you want an interface material for RAM or memory chips, use thermal pads.

Other Features

Thermal paste attracts dust, but you can apply it on uneven surfaces too. You just need a tiny amount of thermal paste; hence this package is cost-effective. Also, you may not be able to apply it uniformly.

On the other side, the thermal pad won’t attract dust, has a uniform thickness, but you cannot use it on uneven surfaces. Also, you cannot reuse thermal pads.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Using Thermal Paste or Thermal Pad

Below is a list of common mistakes you need to avoid to help your system run smoothly:

  1. Applying the thermal paste to a system that previously had thermal paste on. It may result in the inefficient running of the system and increase its temperature. 
  2. Applying too much thermal paste, so it leaks to the surroundings. Doing so may damage your CPU components. 
  3. Using thermal paste and thermal pad together. It will not allow heat to transfer to the heat sink properly.
  4. Stacking thermal pads on top of each other. It won’t increase the heat transfer but will decrease it. The more thermal pads you put, the more air gaps to be formed within each pad and worse the heat transfer.
  5. Removing dry thermal paste with a scraper, paper towel, or tissue paper. The surface of the integrated heat spreader is sensitive and can easily scratch. These scratches reduce the heat transfer ability by creating more air gaps.

Tissue paper and paper towels tend to shred and leave lint where used. This lint acts as an insulator preventing heat transfer within surfaces. 

Also, it is essential to know that thermal paste, thermal grease, thermal compounds, thermal interface material, thermal gel, and heat sink compound are all different names of the same substance. You better don’t get confused.

Don’t forget to read our comprehensive article on 7 myths about thermal paste

Final Words – Thermal Paste Vs. Thermal Pad

I believe that in the thermal paste vs. thermal pad race, both win in their areas. If you are looking for a thermal interface material for memory chips, go for thermal paste. It offers better coverage and is less messy.

Else, if you want to use it for CPU, go for thermal paste. It offers better heat conductivity and costs lower than thermal pads. You should avoid stacking, using both materials together, and using thermal paste on a surface that previously had a thermal pad on. 

Do you have more queries? Feel free to contact us here

Thermal Paste

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