These are the Best Thermal Paste you can buy in 2021

These are the Best Thermal Paste you can buy in 2021

Thermal paste is often overlooked by a lot of new builders putting together a PC. Sure, CPU coolers these days come with thermal paste pre-applied but it doesn’t hurt to have the best thermal paste at your disposal at any given time. There are times when you need to re-seat the CPU or its cooler, and you most definitely need a thermal solution for that since you’ll essentially be cleaning the old coating.

Not to mention, the pre-applied thermal paste may have been sitting in a box for months and can often be old. That’s why we think it’s always a good practice to buy and apply your own thermal paste when you’re installing a new CPU or a cooler. We also recommend you apply a fresh coat of thermal paste every year as they tend to dry out and lose effectiveness over time. This will ensure your CPU doesn’t face any heating issues and have a lasting impact on its performance. Even the best CPUs need a thermal solution, so you shouldn’t skimp on a thermal paste.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best thermal paste you can buy right now. We have a dedicated post detailing the steps involved while applying thermal paste to a CPU. The process remains the same for applying a fresh coat of paste on GPUs too, except they have a sophisticated heatsink that you need to dismantle before reaching the chip itself. Now, let’s get started with the list:

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Best overall thermal paste: Arctic MX-5 thermal paste

A blue-colored tube of thermal paste from ARCTIC

Arctic is a fairly popular brand when it comes to PC cooling solutions. You may have heard of them while searching for thermal paste, but the brand also makes CPU coolers, case fans, among many other things. The Arctic MX-2 and MX-4 have been extremely popular thermal paste solutions for many years before the brand decided to bring the next iteration in the form of Artic MX-5. The MX-5 is available in sizes ranging from 2 to 50 grams, and it comes in a resealable packet to prevent the paste from drying over time as it’s waiting to be used again after, say, a year.

The best thing about MX-5 is that it comes with a spatula that lets easily apply the paste on the CPU IHS. It’s not necessary to spread the paste on the IHS in most cases, but you may have to do that in case of solutions with less viscosity. This particular process involves ejecting a sizable amount of paste on the CPU IHS and carefully spreading it on the surface. It’s important to maintain the right amount of paste since you don’t want to have too much paste on the IHS as it may result in less thermal resistance. Remember, we’re merely trying to fill the gaps between the CPU IHS and the CPU cooler’s contact plate.

It’s worth pointing out that you may not need the spatula at all since the MX-5 has a lower viscosity than the MX-4. Use the spatula only if you think the paste isn’t getting evenly spread across the surface of the CPU IHS with just the mounting pressure of the CPU cooler. You can try seating the cooler once without spreading the paste to see how much of the surface is being covered.

As opposed to other thermal solutions on the market, the ARCTIC MX-5 is a paste that comes in either blue, white or grey colors. It’s an odourless paste and is made with a mixture of non-hazardous solutions. The Arctic MX-5 is composed of carbon micro-particles that do a great job of filling in the gaps or small dents on the CPU IHS. It ensures the heat is dissipated efficiently from the IHS.

The Arctic MX-5 has a thermal conductivity rating of 5.0 W/mK with a viscosity of 550 pas. The thermal conductivity is obviously a lot lower than that of the metals like aluminium or copper, as it should be. You may find other thermal solutions on the market with a higher thermal conductivity of, say, around 14W/mk. The Arctic thermal paste can be used with any and all kinds of processors and is not limited to any particular CPU. You can use it on both mainstreams as well as HEDT CPUs too. In fact, the same paste can also be applied to GPUs as well.

The Arctic MX-5 is one of the more affordable options on the market. Most thermal solutions won’t require to shell out a lot of money, but the price per gram is quite competitive in Arctic’s case. It is also durable for 8 years, which is higher than a lot of other options on the market.

    Arctic MX-5 Thermal Paste
    The ARCTIC MX-5 thermal paste is one of the thermal paste solutions you can grab for your PC. It's easy to apply and is proven to work with a variety of different CPUs.

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Second best over thermal paste: Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste

A brown-colored tube of thermal paste from Noctua

Noctua caters to a very specific set of users who demand high-performance cooling while keeping the noise output to the lowest possible. And it happens to be one of the very few manufacturers to have done that consistently over the years. We’ve added a ton of Noctua CPU coolers to the list of the best CPU coolers on the market. The lot of these Noctua air coolers like the NH-D15 also come with a thermal paste in the box. Yes, it’s the NT-H1 thermal paste, a brown-colored tube. Many of you probably don’t know this, but the company also sells this particular thermal solution separately for those who are interested.

That’s right, you can buy the Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste separately and use it just like any other thermal solution. In fact, the Noctua NT-H1 is known to be one of the best thermal paste on the market and it’s our second-best pick for the best thermal paste you can buy right now. It offers an impressive set of features that many other thermal paste solutions on the market lack.

The Noctua NT-H1 doesn’t have a break-in period which means it’s good to go right from the moment you install the CPU cooler and boot the system. A lot of thermal paste actually lack this feature meaning there’s a break-in period before which the paste itself sets in and starts being effective. The Noctua NT-H1 is also not electrically conductive, meaning there’s no danger of short circuits from the paste making contact with the motherboard PCB or any other components that are installed on the board. This is a particularly important feature to have since you may end up spilling the paste on board during installation.

The Noctua NT-H1 is also one of the few thermal paste solutions on the market that’s also suitable for compressor cooling. This means you can use this paste while using sub-zero cooling methods to achieve extremely high overclocking speeds. The consistency of the NT-H1 cooler is similar to that of the ARCTIC Silver 5 thermal compound. It tends to be a little thicker unlike a lot of other solutions.

Noctua says the NT-H1 consists of a hybrid compound of different micro-particles, specifically optimized for use in PC environments. The NT-H1 paste is also proven to achieve solid results when it comes to cooling different processors. This is suitable for use across different CPUs on the market including even the high-performance HEDT chips like Ryzen Threadrippers. As we mentioned earlier, it also works well compressor cooling, so it’ll continue to deliver solid results even at extremely low temperatures.

Unlike some other thermal paste solutions, the Noctua NT-H1 tube is available in different sizes, so you don’t necessarily have to pick up a huge size tube if you’re not going to use it as much. The tube can be resealed and stored for a long time, but the big sized tubes are usually reserved for enthusiast builders, who tend to churn out a lot of PC builds or those who like change components often for testing.

    Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste
    The Noctua NT-H1 is a highly reliable thermal paste solution you can find right now. It works well even for extreme overclocking conditions.

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Best thermal paste for PCs with liquid cooling: Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut

A tube of thermal paste from Thermal Grizzly along with the applicator tool

It’s difficult to ignore the thermal solutions from the house of Thermal Grizzly while discussing thermal paste. It’s a well-known brand that specializes in thermal solutions and they have a bunch of different options ranging from thermal grease, thermal pads, liquid metal, and more. Thermal Grizzly is known to have some of the best thermal solutions on the market, although your mileage may vary. We’ve picked Thermal Grizzly’s Hydronaut thermal paste. The company calls it thermal grease, but that’s just another way to call these thermal solutions.

Thermal Grizzly says its Hydronaut paste is suitable for most PCs, including the overclocked ones. The company has a bunch of different thermal paste in its product stack but we think this is one that most people should be looking at. It offers what we think is the best price to performance ratio. The company says Hydonaut has a thermal conductivity of 0.0076 K/W and has 0 pS/m electrical conductivity. That’s a good thing because you don’t want your thermal paste to be electrically conductive, unlike liquid metals. That just makes the whole installation process more complicated.

The Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut has a viscosity of 140-190 pas, which means it’s more of a paste than a liquid. We say that because a lot of thermal paste tends to have less viscosity. This means you’ll most likely need an applicator to spread the paste on the CPU IHS. Thankfully, Thermal Grizzly makes it easier for you by bundling one in the package. Unlike the ARCTIC MX-5, you’ll actually need the applicator tool to spread this paste due to its viscosity.

Thermal Grizzly has a silicone-free structure which means it has very low weight and a high degree of flexibility. This theoretically means it should be easier to apply this paste compared to some other paste that tends to be as hard as chewing gum. The company says Hydonaut is suitable for CPUs will large heatsinks, but we think it’s just as effective in the case of mainstream CPUs. You can buy Hydronaut in a variety of different sizes ranging from 1grams to 26 grams. Each unit comes with an applicator that we talked about earlier. You get the price to performance ratio with the bigger quantity, so we suggest getting at least the 7.8gram unit for the best value.

Thermal Grizzly can be used with a wide variety of cooling solutions, be it air-coolers or liquid-based coolers. Thermal Grizzly says Hydonaut is based paired with high-end PCs with sophisticated cooling solutions, so this is a fantastic option to consider if you have a heavy-duty machine.

In addition to thermal paste, Thermal Grizzly also sells a bunch of different products including a cleaner that can be used to remove an existing older coat of thermal paste from your CPU and the cooler. The TG Remove is an acetone-based cleaner that’s also worth picking if you don’t have isopropyl acid with you for cleaning the CPU. You can also grab TG Shield if to protect against high-temperature protective coating against liquid metal or other electrically conductive heat transfer agents.

    Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut
    Thermal Grizzly's Hydonaut is a fantastic thermal paste for those looking to add a fresh coat of paste to their CPU. It also comes with an applicator tool for free.

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Best thermal paste for easy installation: Corsair XTM50 thermal solution

A black colored tube of thermal paste from Corsair

In addition to a wide variety of coolers, memory modules, PC cases, etc, Corsair also sells a thermal paste. Not really a surprise coming from a brand that’s popular for its PC components, eh? Well, Corsair has two thermal paste solutions on offer — The XTM30 and the XTM50 thermal compound. The XTM50 is meant for high-performance processors and it’s one of the best thermal paste you can buy right now. It’s obviously very efficient when it comes to cooling but we picked it for the ease of use.

The Corsair XTM50 high-performance thermal compound is the only item in this collection that comes with an application stencil and spreader. Yes, it comes with a stencil to make sure you’re don’t have to worry about spilling the paste on your CPU socket or other surrounding components. All you have to do is place the stencil on the CPU IHS, add a sizable amount of paste on the IHS and use the spreader to evenly spread the paste. It’ll make sure a thin layer of paste is applied on the IHS and the excess paste spills over on the stencil, thereby protecting the socket as well other components.

The XTM50 paste by itself has low viscosity, so can also just use the ‘Dot method’ to apply the paste and let the mounting pressure do its thing. But if you’re too worried about applying using that method, then the bundled stencil and spreader makes it very easy to get things done. In theory, you can use any application method for a compound with low viscosity, but the stencil makes it that much easier to apply. It’s for new builders who don’t necessarily have the technical know-how of properly applying thermal paste and how improper application can have a lasting impact on the overall performance of the CPU.

The Corsair XTM50 is available in only one size which means you don’t have the luxury of choosing a small quantity. But luckily you can re-seal the tube and save it for the next time you need to use it again. According to Corsair, the ultra-low thermal impedance of the XTM50 compound makes it better than most other cooling solutions on the market. We think it’s just as good as any other thermal paste we’ve included in this collection for cooling your CPU. The XTM50 just happens to make it easier for you to install the paste.

Alternatively, you can buy the XTM30 compound from Corsair, however, it doesn’t come bundled with the stencil and the spreader and you’ll have to rely on traditional application methods for applying the paste on the CPU IHS. Both thermal solutions from Corsair are made out of zero volatile compounds and are non-conductive too. It’s also not going to dry as early as some other thermal paste would. We recommend going with a thermal paste with low viscosity mainly because of how easy it is to apply them. You’ll have to manually apply hard thermal paste solution as opposed to leaving them on the IHS and let the mounting pressure do the trick for you.

    Corsair XTM50 Thermal Compound
    The Corsair XTM50 is the easiest of them all when it comes to installation. You get a CPU stencil and a spreader included in the box, making it easier for you to install the paste.

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Best thermal pad: Thermal Grizzly Carbonaut

A grey colored thermal pad placed inside its retail box on a white background

You may have heard of thermal pads being used by many as a replacement for thermal paste. That’s entirely normal because thermal pads are also highly efficient. Thermal pads are primarily used on M.2 SSD modules. As such the heatsink or the motherboard shroud covering the M.2 SSD module holds thermal pads to dissipate the heat produced by the modules. It works the same way as thermal paste, except these are solid pads as opposed to pasting or liquid solutions.

A lot of manufacturers make thermal pads, however, we think the Thermal Grizzly’s Carbonaut is one of the best options on the market. This can be used on both processors and GPUs too. The application of thermal pads involves placing the pad on top of the CPU IHS, thereby filling the gap between the IHS and the heatsink. The same goes for the GPU too, except, in this case, there’s no IHS. But why would you use a thermal pad instead of a thermal paste as we’ve been told to use for many years now?

Well, first off, there’s no mess while installing a thermal pad. It’s as simple as placing the pad on top of the component before placing the heatsink on top of it. There’s no danger of dropping extra paste onto the CPU socket or other sensitive areas on the motherboard. Thermal Grizzly’s Carbonaut also promises not to get old, which means you probably don’t have to apply a fresh one as often as you would in the case of thermal paste. They are ideal for graphics cards and applications where a lot of disassembly is required. Laptops are also a great example here.

Applying a fresh coat of thermal paste on laptops can be too tiring since the disassembly process involve you dismantling the entire laptop. Since they don’t degrade as much as thermal paste, you can just apply once and should be good for probably the rest of the laptop’s life unless something’s way off with temperatures.

You get a large thermal pad in a packet of Thermal Grizzly Carbonaut. You can then cut the appropriate size that suits your needs and save the rest for future applications. Remember, they don’t degrade over time. It’s proven to work efficiently on both CPUs and GPUs. In fact, the Thermal Grizzly Carbonaut is just as efficient as the Thermal Grizzly’s Kryonaut or Hydonaut thermal paste. Some people have also used these thermal pads for overclocking and the performance seems to be on-par with most thermal paste on the market.

The best thing about the thermal pad is that it’s reusable which means you don’t necessarily have to use a fresh pad after installing a new CPU or a cooler. It can also be placed on top of the GPU memory modules inside a card’s heatsink. We’ve seen a lot of people use normal thermals on the modules to regular the memory temperature, so this is a solid option for that too. You can just one pack of thermal pad and cut the appropriate amount to be used on both the CPU as well as the GPU.

    Thermal Grizzly Carbonaut
    The ARCTIC MX-5 thermal paste is one of the thermal paste solutions you can grab for your PC. It's easy to apply and is proven to work with a variety of different CPUs.

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Best liquid metal thermal paste: Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

Thermal Grizzly's liquid metal thermal paste kit

The CPUs, just like many other PC components, have evolved a lot over the years. A lot of CPUs on the market are now capable of hitting crazy peak frequencies when overclocked under favorable conditions. Our standard thermal paste is good for most use cases but you may have seen some enthusiasts use liquid metal as thermal solutions. Liquid metal thermal paste solutions are highly efficient and they’re used to tame some of the most powerful CPUs on the market running at extremely high frequencies. We’re talking frequencies above 5Ghz at a sustained rate, which is a lot higher than what most CPUs are advertised to push.

Thermal Grizzly is of the few manufacturers that sell consumer-grade liquid metal thermal paste. In typical TG fashion, it’s called Conductonaut. It’s essentially a liquid metal thermal paste that’s developed for applications with a high degree of efficiency. The website clearly mentions how it’s meant for “experienced users” who know what they’re doing. Liquid metal, in case you don’t know, is electrically conductive. Also, the fact that it’s liquid, makes it really hard to apply. You have to be careful not to spill liquid metal over any other component including the motherboard, CPU socket, etc. It could lead to short-circuiting and component failure.

Due to a complex application method, it’s advised not to mess with liquid metal unless you know exactly what you’re doing. The application involves dropping small quantities of liquid metal on the CPU IHS and carefully spreading it using a piece of cotton. This will make sure you’re not spilling over any extra liquid metal outside the IHS, thereby saving yourself a lot of trouble. Building a PC doesn’t have to be more complicated than it already is, so it’s best to stay away from liquid metal thermal paste if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Thermal Grizzly, however, makes it easier by bundling all the required items in the package including applicators.

On top of that, liquid metals can’t be used with aluminum heat sinks since the Gallium in them reacts with aluminum. That’s not really an issue since most heat sinks (remember, not all) are made of copper which is nonreactive with the liquid metal. That being said, the high risk pays off in meaningful ways the liquid metal provides up to 73 W/(mK) thermal conductivity. It’s much higher than the 0.5-12.5 W/(mK) thermal conductivity provided by conventional thermal pastes.

A lot of high-performance machines, mostly pre-built computers use liquid metal. These pre-built systems from OEMs are built by “experts” who have their ways of working with liquid metals. Then again, there’s no way to tell how efficiently they’ve applied liquid metal to the CPU. It’s also a good practice to open up these pre-built PCs to check if they’re spilt any liquid metal on the motherboard or other components. You may be able to claim a replacement unit in that case, which you should.

Liquid metal, however, cannot be used with compressor cooling methods, so you’ll have to stick to other options like the Noctua NT-H1 if you’re dealing with those kinds of sophisticated builds.

    Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut
    The Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut is a liquid metal thermal solution for enthusiasts looking to get their hands dirty with sophisticated builds involving overclocked CPUs.

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Best Premium Thermal paste: Arctic Silver 5

An image showing two tubes of thermal paste from Artic Silver on a blue background

Arctic Silver, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the most popular manufacturers in the thermal paste space due to the different kinds of solutions they offer. Artic’s Silver series is also extremely popular among enthusiasts. The Silver series has also been around for quite some time now and the company has managed to keep it relevant in the space by adding newer, better variants to match the current standards. The Arctic Silver 5 is currently one of the most popular thermal paste solutions on the market. It’s a high-density polysynthetic silver compound that’s known to be very effective in a variety of builds. It contains micronized silver and several other thermally conductive ceramic particles to offer a high level of performance and stability.

The Arctic Silver 5 happens to be one of the most premium solutions on the market. It’s made using 99.9% pure silver, or so the manufacturer claims. Arctic says the paste uses three unique shapes and sizes of pure silver particles to maximize particle-to-particle contact area and thermal transfer. Maintaining good contact is the key to having a good quality paste and Arctic achieves that with premium compounds. It also contains over 88% thermally conductive filler to add more weight to the substance. In addition to micronized silver, Arctic also uses sub-micron zinc oxide, aluminum oxide and boron nitride particles. All these compounds work together to improve the overall performance. They also help the paste to offer long-term stability.

Arctic Silver 5’s consistency is engineered for easy application. The paste doesn’t contain any silicone, so it has low viscosity compared to some other paste in this collection. The compound thins out during the initial use to make it easier for users to apply it on the CPU IHS. Low viscosity also ensures the best physical contact between the heatsink and the CPU IHS. It thickens slightly over the next 50 to 200 hours of use before reaching its final consistency for long-term stability. This means Arctic Silver 5 has a break-in period, unlike other compounds like Noctua NT-H1. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, though. In fact, most users prefer this behaviour of the paste as it allows for easy installation.

This particular thermal paste is not electrically conductive, as it should be. Electrically conductive thermal compounds like liquid metal, for instance, are difficult to work with. They come with the risk of harming your entire PC should anything go wrong during the installation. Arctic Silver 5, on the other hand, is relatively safer. However, it’s still a good idea to keep it away from electrical traces, pins, and leads. Silver 5 is slightly capacitive and it could potentially cause problems if it bridges two close-proximity electrical paths. The Arctic Silver 5 is available in two sizes — 3.5 and 12 grams — and you also get an applicator tool with it. Its thin consistency should ideally make it easier to install but it doesn’t hurt to use the applicator, especially if you’re dealing with thermal paste for the first time. You can check the availability of the compound using the link below.

    Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste
    The Arctic Silver 5 happens to be one of the most premium solutions on the market. It's made using 99.9% pure silver to maximize the particle-to-particle contact area.

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Best premium thermal paste alternate pick: Cooler Master Icefusion V2

A cyclindrical container with thermal paster from Cooler Master

Cooler Master’s comprehensive product portfolio also includes thermal paste. In fact, the company has a handful of different thermal pastes on offer. They’re not as popular as some other thermal compounds on the market which is why they may go unnoticed as they’re mostly buried deep in their website. Out of all the available options, we think the Cooler Master Ice Fusion V2 is the one that deserves your attention. Cooler Master also makes an entry-level thermal paste, but you’re better off buying a good quality paste considering this is a one-time purchase for most people.

Cooler Master’s Ice Fusion V2 thermal paste comes in a cylindrical container as opposed to a tube. It’s just a different presentation though, and it’s still very much a paste. If anything we prefer having a tube as it makes it easy to eject just the right quantity. You’ll be using a spatula in Ice Fusion V2’s case. Again, probably not a deal-breaker at all, but definitely something that’s worth making a note of. For what it’s worth, Cooler Master says Ice Fusion V2 has a double layer sealing package to protect the compound from getting damaged after you open it up. This is an important factor to consider because the Ice Fusion V2 compounds only come in a 40-gram pack and you’re not going to use all of them at once. You will end up saving the rest, so the double sealing package is a nice addition.

The Ice Fusion V2, as the name suggests, is a second-generation product. As such, it’s an upgraded version of the older Ice Fusion thermal compound that was also offered in similar packaging. Cooler Master says the new version of the compound has high insulation and can high temperatures. The company also claims that it’s an environmental friendly paste and it’s a low volatile product. Cooler Master doesn’t go deep into the product details in its specs sheet, so we don’t necessarily know the viscosity of the compound. It’s a density packed compound though, so you’re looking at more of a thick paste than a liquid consistency. The added applicator tool is also a nice addition since you will need something to dig into the box and apply the paste on the CPU.

Cooler Master says it has a thermal conductivity of 5 (W/m-K). That’s on par with most other thermal paste in this collection, except the liquid metal, of course. Liquid metal tends to be superior when it comes to thermal conductivity, which is also why they’re more popular among enthusiasts dealing with sophisticated builds. The Ice Fusion V2 is grey in color and it should be relatively easy to install given its thick consistency. Thick thermal compounds don’t have a typical break-in period too, so that’s a good thing too. Cooler Master also has a bunch of other thermal compounds on offers like the High-performance thermal paste, MasterGel maker, MasterGel Pro, and more. In fact, Cooler Master also has thermal pads, similar to Thermal Grizzly’s Carbonaut pads.

    Cooler Master Ice Fusion V2 thermal paste
    The Cooler Master Ice Fusion V2 is an upgraded version of the old compound which is now more thermally conductive and has low volatility. It has a thick consistency, so it should be relatively easy to install without making a mess.

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Best Thermal Paste: Final Thoughts

That brings us to the end of this particular collection involving the best thermal paste on the market. All the thermal solutions mentioned in this collection are excellent options and offer enough thermal conductivity for most use-cases. It mostly comes to the ease of use and consistency that you prefer. We think most users will be satisfied with either the Arctic MX-5 or the Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste. They are both readily available in the market and relatively easy to use. Liquid metal solutions like Thermal Grizzly’s Conductonaut are difficult to work with, but they also offer the best thermal conductivity. Alternatively, you can also consider buying thermal pads from Thermal Grizzly if you don’t want to deal with a paste.

A lot of manufacturers often tend to repackage the same thermal paste with marginal upgrades, so you’re not likely to find a lot of newer options on the market. That being said, you can keep an eye on this page as we’ll try to accommodate new thermal paste solutions as they get launched. This is perhaps the best time to build a PC as the computing space is buzzing with new releases like Windows 11 and Intel’s new Alder Lake chips. In case you’re building a new computer, then you might want to consider checking out some of our other collections including the best monitors or even the best webcams. You can also join our XDA Computing forum to join others in discussing everything in the world of computing.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.