A Guide to Peripheral Component Interconnect Express Technology

PCI Express is a standard connection method for internal computer devices. Generally, the term refers to the motherboard’s expansion slots, which accept PCI Express expansion cards, as well as the cards themselves. Today, pcie has essentially replaced PCI and AGP, which, in turn, were replacements for an older connection type known as ISA. Though today’s computers contain several expansion slot types, PCI Express is the standard interface.

How PCI Express Works

Like the AGP and PCI standards that came before, PCI Express devices physically slide into slots on the computer’s motherboard. The interface facilitates high-bandwidth communication between the motherboard, device, and other hardware. Though it’s rare, an external version of PCI Express exists. These devices often referred to as PCIe, need special cables to connect to computers.

PCI Express Card Types

Because of increased demand for realistic, fast video games and reliable video editing tools, video cards were among the first peripherals to utilize PCI Express improvements. While these cards are still quite common, you’ll find numerous other devices that benefit from a faster connection to the CPU and motherboard. Furthermore, RAM modules are being manufactured with faster PCI Express connections.

PCI Express Solid-State Drives

As PCI Express replaces older connection standards, almost all internal expansion cards that previously used those older interfaces are being upgraded to support the new standard. This includes components such as Bluetooth and USB expansion cards.

PCI Express Formats

When shopping for video cards and other components, most buyers are unsure of which PCI Express technology their computers use. As complex as it seems, it’s simple to understand once you’ve learned two important facts about PCI Express: the description of the component’s physical size and the description of its technology version.

Maximizing Compatibility

PCI Express supports almost all configurations. If the component physically fits into the slot, it will probably work. To take advantage of bandwidth increases, though, you’ll need to choose the highest version supported by the motherboard and select the biggest size that will go into the slot. Most computers and motherboards made after 2013 support PCI Express v3.0, but it’s best to check the instruction manual for clarification.

What Comes After PCI Express?

Game developers continually strive to design increasingly realistic games, but they can only achieve their goals if they can pass more program data into a computer screen or VR headset. For that to occur, a faster interface is required.

Because of changing requirements, PCI Express is evolving. Though v3.0 is blazing fast, consumer demand and technological advancements mean that the next version will have to be faster. PCI Express v5.0, which was officially released back in 2019, supports a bandwidth of 3938 MB per second. That’s twice what PCI Express v4.0 offers.

Several non-PCI Express standards are under evaluation by device manufacturers and tech experts, but their future is uncertain. Because these standards would bring about significant hardware changes, PCI Express will likely be the industry leader for years into the future.