A few months ago I purchased a new Thermaltake P3 chassis. This case has the option to mount the graphics card vertically with PCIe extender. Unfortunately, that cable did not last very long, so I needed a replacement. Thermaltake and Bitcoin mining with a gtx 670 ti-Li, whom I asked for a sample.
I must say I have never spent so much time for one review. We are looking at a total of 4 days of nonstop testing. This is roughly 100 hours of testing, analyzing and writing. I will explain why it was necessary later in this review.
The idea behind this test is to tell you whether it’s really worth to pay x10 more for a premium cable. There is no denying that those cables are expensive, but chances are this cable will last for much longer, outlasting your graphics card. This short review is also a debate about vertically mounted graphics cards. Motherboard manufacturers and PCI-SIG have not provided any alternative to graphics card installation other than the PCI-Express slot on your motherboard. All extenders are to comply with all PCI-Express standards, but there is no official standard for the cable itself.
But first, let me give you a very brief introduction to PCI-Express and types of extenders. PCIe extenders became popular few years ago when the first bitcoin mining crazy has begun. At the time many different extenders were available, but only the popularity of mining has created a new market segment with 1x wide extenders. Those risers have a completely different purpose from the conventional riser. I prefer the word extender as it clearly points that the purpose of our cable is to increase the distance between the PCIe slot and the device itself.
This is the cheapest x16 riser you can find. Those cables have no EMI shielding, which can be a hit or miss for gamers. Those extenders are recommended for Bitcoin miners, especially when more graphics cards are in use. In such situation motherboard may not deliver enough the power to each graphics cards, so Molex connector provides that power instead. This is a mid-range quality riser.
It is not for miners, but gamers. These were popular few years ago, they are still bundled with some cases. In this example, we are looking at Thermaltake premium cable. The lane separation has a big advantage over conventional riser, it gives you the flexibility. Those extenders should be the option for DIY gaming rigs on the wall. This is by far the most popular riser type ever made. Recently motherboard manufacturers started offering 12x PCIe x1 motherboards designed specifically for those risers.
But wait, how is it even possible? PCIe x1 interface has 36 lanes, but only 14 are used for data transport and 6 of them are ground. 0 cable with 9 wires is enough for PCIe 1x protocol. As shown above, those cables are more flexible and give you much more freedom with graphics card installation. Some cables are separated by 5 or 6 lanes, others have power and data lanes separated. Since premium cables are more likely to be used by gamers, those cables do not have any external power connectors.