Poll: What do you use to apply thermal paste?

Back in the day, applying thermal compound was a fine art. I used to spend entirely too much time making sure the surface of the CPU was coated by a thin, perfectly even layer of thermal goop. These days, cooler makers tend to recommend depositing a blob of thermal compound on the CPU and then putting the heatsink directly on top. The force generated by the cooler's retention bracket is supposed to spread the compound evenly between the heatsink and the CPU, and the method seems to work pretty well—as long as you're not trying to set overclocking records.

Old habits die hard, and that got us thinking. What to you use to apply thermal paste? Do you take the lazy-but-increasingly-recommended approach, or do you painstakingly spread compound with a special tool, a plastic-wrapped finger, or even a bare digit? Perhaps you eschew tubes of thermal paste completely and stick with the pre-fab TIMs common among stock CPU coolers. We've put together a handful of options in a new poll, which you can vote in below or in the middle column on the front page. If you use an alternate method than the ones we've presented, feel free to detail your approach in the comments.

Our last poll asked for your opinion on Apple's patent victory over Samsung. Unsurprisingly, the clear majority deemed the ruling a travesty. 77% of voters disapproved of the verdict, and only 12% thought justice was done. 11% couldn't decide either way.

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