High temperature operation limits the life of fluid film bearings; hence the need to quantify the effect of pad material on the performance of tilting pad journal bearings (TPJBs). The paper presents measurements of performance conducted on a copper-pads bearing (C-PB) and a steel-pads bearing (S-PB). Both bearings have the same geometry and differ on the pads’ backing material, copper vs. steel, and slightly in the assembled cold clearance. The journal diameter D = 102 mm, and a bearing has five pads with length L = 0.4D, nominal radial clearance 0.064 mm, and pad preload of 0.42. The pads are 12.3 mm in thickness and have a 50% offset pivot, ball-in-socket type. The bearings operate at four shaft speeds ranging from 6 krpm (32 m/s surface speed) to 14 krpm (74 m/s) and under multiple specific loads ranging from 0.17 MPa to 2.1 MPa. ISO VG 32 oil, at a supply temperature of 49 °C, lubricates a test bearing configured with end seals (flooded bearing). At the highest load (on pad) and low shaft speed, the S-PB static eccentricity is up to 37% higher than that for the C-PB. The oil exit temperature rise is similar for both bearings, the maximum difference reaches 6 °C. For all operating conditions, the pads’ peak temperature rise, having a maximum difference of 5 °C to 16 °C, is larger for the S-PB. The S-PB produces a ∼ 5% lower drag power loss than that in the C-PB. Drag power in both bearings increases with shaft speed and is largely independent of applied load. From dynamic load tests with multiple excitation frequencies to 250 Hz, the C-PB direct stiffness KYY (along the load direction) is up to 30% higher than the S-PB stiffness, while the difference in KXX between the C-PB and the S-PB ranges from 60% to 90%. Similar to the stiffness results, the C-PB produces larger direct damping coefficients; CYY and CXX are up to 25% and 40% larger than those for the S-PB. Both bearings, however, show symmetry in the damping coefficients, i.e., CXX ∼ CYY. Virtual mass coefficients (MXX, MYY) are significant in magnitude though having a large uncertainty. A computational physics model predicts the TPJB performance under identical conditions. The exhaustive comparison conducted with a sound dimensional characterization of parameters reveals that predictions agree well with measurements of journal eccentricity, oil exit temperature, pad surface temperatures, and stiffness and damping force coefficients. The differences amount to 20% or less. The model relies on specifying the material properties for pads and pivots and the operating (hot) clearance to produce accurate thermo-mechanically induced deformations that affect bearing performance at high loads and high surface speed operation.