Is a riser REALLY needed?

As far as I can tell a riser is used to keep the cards separated so they stay cooler correct?

If I only have say 3 cards, do I need to use a riser? Seems like it just adds cost. Also, confused as hell at which risers to actually use...since some people say using the wrong one is a fire hazard.

You still want risers. Even with 2 gpus mining it gets pretty heated for most ppl.

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You are likely to burn your board, because the cards willl draw too much power via PCI-E. Getting cards separated is one feature, but risers also come with external power outlet. Use the risers with Molex plugs. Do not use SATA because those aren't really suited for that kind of load. They might work well, but for that you have to be sure about how much power cards is drawing from which source. If you overload that your SATA cable will melt.

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Not saying you're wrong, this probably happens to people, but I got 6x 6 1070 GPU rigs running on the SATA powered ones and all appear to be fine.

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I believe that cards with double 6+8 power connector are much safer to run using SATA cables.

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I t seems that a lot of people say not to use the sata powered risers, but that seems to be just about all that is sold. I think the 6 pin would be best, as long as I could plug in directly from my power supply.

Does anyone have a recommended riser?

I am using two discrete GPUs and do not use a riser. Unless you are making 6x GPU rig, you should be fine. Make sure the room does not too hot.

I can only recommend you the ver 006C risers, those work really good and have voltage protection.