Over the last several years, PC cases have undergone a number of changes. Go back to 2010, and most cases were big and fat. They were designed to accommodate optical drives and 3.5-inch HDDs. But a lot has changed in the past decade. For one thing, optical drives have become less and less common.
Hardly anyone is using their desktop computer to play CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays. As for game discs, those have all but disappeared, replaced by Steam and other online services. For another thing, high-end computers are implementing 2.5-inch SSDs. As a result, PC case designers have started coming up with newer, more innovative designs.
For a long time, ATX cases were the norm. These are the big, beefy cases we’ve been talking about. But nowadays, smaller Mini ITX and Micro ATX cases have become more and more popular. This isn’t only due to the lack of optical drives and smaller hard drives. PCIe, M.2, USB, and other technology have replaced older, bulkier standards.
WiFi now comes standard with most motherboards, instead of requiring a separate card. Perhaps most importantly, Mini ITX and Micro ATX motherboards put all the same technology in a smaller package. All of this has allowed you to fit more and more parts into a smaller and smaller case.
Cooling technology has improved along similar lines. Liquid cooling systems have become more affordable and easier to install. And even traditional air cooling systems have gotten more efficient. This is due to better heatsink technology, as well as faster, more efficient fans.
Throughout all of this, though, there’s one piece of hardware that has retained its large size – your graphics card. The graphics card puts out a lot of heat, and requires built-in fans. And that means you need to dedicate a certain amount of space in order for it to function. This can put you in a pickle when you’re building your new PC.
If you want to do any kind of gaming, you absolutely must have a graphics card. But this limits what you can do with a smaller case. It’s not that you can’t fit a graphics card. But if you put it right into the PCIe slot, it could clutter up that part of the case. That’s where a PCIe riser comes in handy.
A PCIe 4.0 riser cable is a patch cable that runs from your motherboard to your graphics card. This gives you the flexibility to install your graphics card anywhere in the case. With that kind of flexibility, you can create a more open design with better air flow and cooling. Incidentally, these risers can also be used with other PCIe components, like PCIe sound cards. That said, the most common application by far will be for graphics cards.
Best PCIe Riser Cables
We’re about to look for the best PCIe 4.0 riser cable in today’s market. In order to find the best one, we’ll need to look at a number of different factors.
We’ll have to consider the length, and how far you can run them. We’ll have to look at how flexible they are, so they can be routed through your case. In addition, we’ll also need to discuss the quality of the connectors, the insulation, and other key parts. We’ll also have to cover the data capacity, and what type of performance to expect. After that, we’ll summarize what we’ve learned, and make a final comparison. Let’s see how these riser cables stack up!
Best Overall: Thermaltake TT Premium PCIe 4.0 Flexible Riser Cable
The Thermaltake TT Premium PCIe 4.0 Flexible Riser Cable is a 300mm-long PCIe 4.0 x16 cable. PCIe 4.0 is the latest type of PCIe technology. In this standard, each channel has a bandwidth of 2Gbps. The “x16” indicates that there are 16 separate channels. Multiply that by 2Gbps per channel, and you get a total bandwidth of 32Gbps. Keep in mind that this is the total bandwidth for signals traveling in both directions. Any given channel will change to upstream or downstream as needed to handle your current needs.
In addition to the 300mm version we reviewed, this riser can be ordered in different lengths. It’s available in 200mm, 600mm, and 1,000mm. At 1,000mm, you could even store your GPU outside the case. Not only that, but you can order the Thermaltake cable in PCIe 3.0 as well as PCIe 4.0. This is an older standard, with 1Gbps per channel. So with 16 channels, you’d get 16Gbps of total bandwidth. Now, you might be wondering why you’d ever want to use a slower cable. But if you have an older PCIe 3.0 motherboard, you won’t get any advantage from a PCIe 4.0 cable. By ordering the slower cable, you suffer no penalty, but you do save a few dollars.
The cable itself is divided into five separate ribbons. This is designed to make cable management as easy as possible. With a single, fat cable, you can’t twist the cable around as easily, or route it as smoothly around corners. The TT Premium, on the other hand, can be manipulated in just about any way you like.
Not only that, but this riser cable is very well engineered. Each individual ribbon has an outer plastic sleeve, which is smooth, supple, and protective. Inside of this, there’s an outer layer of aluminum mylar. This material helps protect the inner cables from interference from other nearby wires and electrical parts. Inside of this, there’s another rubberized layer, which keeps the individual wires from touching each-other.
The male and female ends of the cable are both straight, without any type of angle. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your particular PC’s layout. The male connector is nice and sturdy, with standard copper contacts. The female connector is equally durable, but it’s a little wider than it needs to be. This won’t be a problem in 99% of cases, but it’s still worth being aware of.
Best Runner-Up: LINKUP Ultra PCIe 4.0 X16 Riser Cable
The most striking feature of the LINKUP Ultra PCIe 4.0 X16 Riser Cable is the dizzying number of options. We reviewed the 200mm black version, but there are a huge number of choices. To begin with, there are several lengths available, ranging from 50mm (about 2 inches) to 500mm (just under 20 inches). Not only that, but you can choose between black or white cables. This doesn’t have any significance from a practical perspective. But if your custom rig has a glass side panel, you probably care how your cables look. White cables could really pop against a black background – particularly if your build also includes an RGB light kit.
Like the Thermaltake cable riser, the LINKUP Ultra has a ribbon-style design, and is broken into five sections. As a result, cable management is a breeze, and going around corners is very simple. This is a 90-degree cable, meaning that the female end is perpendicular to the cable. Depending on how your graphics card is oriented, this can be critical for a clean installation. And continuing the trend of multiple options, you can choose a left- or a right-hand angle. As a result, you can get the exact 90-degree orientation for your needs.
On the male end, the tips are coated with 24-karat gold. This can help reduce interference under certain conditions. That said, it doesn’t improve your transfer speed. Like the rest of these cables, the LINKUP cable has a maximum transfer rate of 32Gbps. On the plus side, you get a 12-month warranty, so you’re protected from any premature failures.
Best Alternative: ASIAHORSE PCIE 4.0 16x Shielded Extreme Riser Cable
The ASIAHORSE PCIE 4.0 16x Shielded Extreme Riser Cable is another cable with plenty of options. In terms of length, you only have one choice: 207mm, or about eight inches. In most cases, that’s all you’ll ever need, but keep in mind this limitation if you need a longer run. That said, you get the choice of 180- or 90-degree female ends. So regardless of your graphics card’s orientation, you’ll be able to reach and install it easily. The cable is also compatible with all versions of PCIe all the way back to PCIe 1.0. Then again, if your motherboard only supports PCIe 1.0, you probably want to upgrade your motherboard.
Additional versions of the cable are available for PCIe 3.0 and 3.1 respectively. All of these have slightly different designs and profiles. The PCIe 4.0 variant that we used is split into three sections. The first, narrow ribbon is for the power pins. The two broader ribbons transmit the data signal. This isn’t quite as flexible as a five-section design, but it’s still pretty flexible. The PCIe 3.1 variant has that five-ribbon design, and is slightly more flexible. The PCIe 3.0 variant, on the other hand, is a single wide ribbon. This version isn’t nearly as flexible, but it’s still pretty reliable.
Returning to the PCIe 4.0 version, you get excellent shielding. Each of the 48 inner cables is individually shielded, which doesn’t just protect them from outside interference. It also prevents cross-talk, so they aren’t interfering with each-other. The cables are all made from a copper core, which ensures a clear transmission and maximum speed. To go along with this, the male end boasts gold-plated tips for slightly improved clarity. The female end, meanwhile, has an extra-sturdy catch, which can survive multiple installs. All of this is protected by a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty.
Best 2nd Alternative: LIAN LI Premium PCI-E 16X 4.0 Black Extender Riser Cable
The LIAN LI Premium PCI-E 16X 4.0 Black Extender Riser Cable is a more straightforward option. This is a 200mm PCIe 4.0 x16 cable, with a maximum transfer speed of 32Gbps. Like many of today’s choices, it’s divided into five smaller ribbons, which makes cable management easier. All in all, it’s pretty flexible, but the outer rubber layer is a little bit stiffer than we would have liked.
The male end is very tough, and would be difficult to damage by accident. It sports gold tips, so you have to worry a little bit less about interference. The female end is equally well-engineered, with a reinforced locking clamp that’s just as tough as the male end.
Which PCIe Riser Cable is Best?
So, which one of these PCIe 4.0 riser cables is going to be the best for you? Here’s what we’ve learned.
The Thermaltake TT Premium PCIe 4.0 Flexible Riser Cable is very well-engineered. The large female end not withstanding, it’s very durable, and the insulation is of high quality. Moreover, you get multiple different lengths, as well as a PCIe 3.0 option. If you need a reliable 180-degree cable, this is an excellent choice.
The LINKUP Ultra PCIe 4.0 X16 Riser Cable is possibly the best 90-degree riser cable in the world. With so many lengths to choose from, as well as left- and right-hand options, you get plenty of versatility. The ribbon-style design makes routing easy, and the white option is a great choice for cases with glass panels.
The ASIAHORSE PCIE 4.0 16x Shielded Extreme Riser Cable comes in both 90- and 180-degree versions. It only comes in 207mm, but if that’s what you need, it’s exceptionally durable and reliable. And thanks to the robust insulation, it’s a particularly good choice if you’re experiencing interference.
The LIAN LI Premium PCI-E 16X 4.0 Black Extender Riser Cable is well-engineered and durable. Both the male and female ends can withstand the rigors of installation, and it’s reasonably flexible. As 90-degree cables go, this is definitely a solid performer. Then again, it doesn’t really seem to offer any benefits over the other three options.
2 thoughts on “Guide to the Best PCIe 4.0 Riser Cables (Updated for 2023)”
Thanks for the guide. I have a minor correction, though. Both silver and copper are better conductors than gold, and also cheaper than gold. Gold is used because it’s a stable metal. It doesn’t react with a lot of other elements, and therefore doesn’t easily tarnish, corrode, or otherwise degrade over time. This is why it’s enough for connectors to be gold plated, rather than having to use gold all the way through.
Thank you for the article, and thank you even more for making it newbie-friendly! Too many other tech writers speak about / teach about their subject matter in a way that may leave your average newbie thinking they may not be smart enough to even hope to someday grasp the subject matter.
I smiled when I noticed you picked the EZDIY riser as a top pick because I was literally just staring at that on Amazon wondering if I should buy it. I have only just recently heard that these gizmos exist, and I began paying closer attention and wanting to know more immediately following this string of infuriating failures to successfully pick a SLI bridge of proper size. I think now that I’ve had those setbacks I probably now have pretty good idea of my size requirement. However, if I had just known about these risers (I prefer “extenders” personally) there never would have been an issue since I obviously would have been able to move one card closer or farther to make the fit easy.
BTW, you didn’t mention that these slot risers could take a lot of the headache out of making SLI work!