Liquid Metal vs Thermal Paste for Game Consoles
Since the release of the PlayStation 5, there has been a lot of talk and controversy surrounding liquid metal and whether or not it should be used in gaming consoles. On the one hand, people are excited about its amazing thermal conducting abilities, and on the other hand, people think that consoles should stick with the tried and true thermal paste. Both substances have their own benefits, as well as their own risks, so it is hard to say whether one is truly better than the other.
Thankfully, we have a lot of experience with both so we can tell you a little bit about what we know so you can be more informed.
The Difference Between Thermal Paste and Liquid Metal
Thermal paste is a substance composed of various materials that conducts heat from one point to another. It most often comes in the form of a paste which helps it to stick to surfaces it is applied to, but because of its paste-like consistency it can more easily dry out and degrade. Even though it has a low thermal conductivity compared to liquid metal at only 5-15 W/mK, it is considered more reliable as it has been used in gaming consoles and computer systems for a long time now.
Liquid metal also conducts heat from one point to another, but it is made of a metal alloy. It conducts heat extremely effectively compared to thermal paste, at a whopping 60-80 W/mK, and also doesn’t need to be reapplied as often because it degrades much slower. While it has these benefits, it is considered a risky compound to use because of its liquid nature. If you don’t contain it well enough it can spill into other parts of the electrical housing, causing short circuits and damage to the surrounding components. It is suggested that experts install and handle liquid metal to try to avoid these problems.
Why Sony Used Liquid Metal in the PS5
As you can see, liquid metal might seem like a great option for such a high graphics console like the PS5 that generates a lot of heat. If they used thermal paste instead, the PS5 might’ve needed larger fans to transfer the heat, and that might’ve taken up too much space since the console is already so large. Sony most likely wanted to solve this problem by using a great heat conducting material like liquid metal. By doing so they could both save space and be able to run higher graphics on the new system.
Why You Shouldn’t Replace the PS5’s Liquid Metal with Thermal Paste
You may be asking yourself, if thermal paste works so well in other gaming consoles, why couldn’t it also technically work in the PS5? Thankfully, we tried this so you don’t have to.
In this video, Steve tests two different PS5’s to see which one will handle overheating better. The first PS5 is unmodified and brand new out of the box, and the other one he opens and replaces the liquid metal with thermal paste. In the end, the thermal paste wasn’t able to handle the amount of heat generated by the PS5 and it overheated! It is safe to say that the PS5 was best designed to use liquid metal in the cooling components and it isn’t a good idea to replace it with something else.
Why Not to Put Liquid Metal Inside of Xboxes and PS4’s
On a similar note, it also isn’t a good idea to put liquid metal into a console that was designed to use thermal paste, like the Xbox console series and earlier PlayStation versions.
In this video, Steve tries putting liquid metal into an Xbox Series X to see if it would affect the internal and external temperatures of the console. Surprisingly, at the end of the test, the liquid metal did slightly lower the internal temperature of the console and was more effective at pulling heat out. But while this is the case, it still isn’t a good idea to put liquid metal into older consoles simply just because they weren’t designed for it. This test was quick and didn’t show what the long term effects to the console would be.
In general, it is a good rule of thumb to keep gaming consoles the same way they were originally designed, otherwise you risk damaging them.
Products We Recommend
When it comes to thermal paste and liquid metal products, we only want to recommend the very best. Here are some of the best products that we have found:
*These links are paid Amazon affiliate links through TronicsFix.
For any other questions you might have, you can check out our TronicsFix forum where you can find community posts and answers for PS5’s and various other gaming consoles, as well as our All About PS5 Liquid Metal blog post for more detailed information about liquid metal in PS5’s.
If you have a console that needs repair, you can check out ShaneFix to get your repair done quickly and professionally.
About the Author
Kirstyn Bahnmiller is a writer, graphic designer, and video editor for TronicsFix who loves to share her ideas and creativity with the world. In her off time you will find her working on various crafts, making digital art, taking photos, and cooking delicious recipes she found online.