Before you go. What is pcie graphics card

PCIe versions such as 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 are sometimes informally referred to as PCIe Gen 3, PCIe Gen 4, and PCIe Gen 5. This name is based on being the third, fourth, and fifth generations of PCI-Express.

A Beginners Guide to Choosing the Right PCIe Card – What is PCIe and ePCIe?

It’s fair to say that computers have been around in the home for over 40 years, and over that time, almost every piece of technology has evolved, been replaced, or replaced. Even the concept of a home computer as a plain and predictable keyboard, mouse, and screen interface has been declining over the last 10 years because they are all mobile. In all these decades, despite changes, many ports have adapted and survived as waves of innovation and aging continued. I am talking about such as USB for external peripherals, LAN for internet and network connection, and audio ports for microphones and speakers.

But the most overlooked pillar of computer systems (I’m talking about Macs and Windows) is of course PCIe, known as Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. But what is PCIe? What makes it so important and impressive that it lingers so long in PC hardware? What can I use it for? Find out below.

PCI_i_PCIe x1, x2, x4, x8, x16

What is PCI Express? How did it come about?

As mentioned above, all computer systems (both OSX and Windows, no matter how much you spend) will become slow, outdated, or eventually become difficult. This is not a flaw in hardware design, but in the development and evolution of software systems. Files get bigger, applications need more resources to run as fast as possible, bottlenecks open up, and eventually the 2006 system can start looking a little shaky after 5 or 6 years. However, most hardware makers don’t expect you to just buy a brand new system – that would both be very expensive and make the company feel a bit greedy.

pcie socket

Almost ALL desktop systems are upgradeable with expansion cards and upgrades. More than just installing a new hard drive or adding more RAM / memory, these upgrade cards provide much better performance in a more targeted manner. In practice, this means that if you need a GRAPHIC boost, you can install a graphics card via PICe. If you need enhanced audio input and output, enable PCIe audio. If you need more and faster ports, both internally and externally .. yeah .. you guessed it, you can install a PCIe card that provides everything for newer USB, 10 GBe networks, and NVMe SSD connectivity. But we are ahead of ourselves.

The differences in these bandwidths only affect the data transfer rate between the graphics hardware and the rest of the computer. These bandwidths do not affect the speed of the graphics chip itself, and do not directly affect the speed of the rest of your computer.

What is PCIe or PCI Express?

PCIe stands for “Express Component Peripheral Connections” and is mainly used as a standardized interface for motherboard components including graphics, memory and storage.

PCIe is given part of the name “peripheral component connection” because it is designed to handle point-to-point connections for non-core components. Manufacturers added “express” to distinguish the new standard from the older PCI standards, highlighting the significant performance improvements over previous iterations.

PCIe slots and cards

A PCIe or PCI express slot is the connection point between your computer’s “peripherals” and the motherboard. The terms “PCIe card” and “riser card” simply refer to hardware such as graphics cards, processors, solid state drives (SSDs) or hard drives that can be added to a device through the PCIe slots, making both terms different components.

What are the standard PCIe sizes?

While there are different sizes and configurations, most users will only encounter four basic size specifications. Size represents the number of direct connections provided by the slot or PCIe card.

These connections are usually called lines, and in most cases the more you have, the better your hardware can perform. To maximize performance, high-performance devices tend to rely almost entirely on PCIe x16. This makes them especially useful for competitive gamers or anyone who works with graphics.

These components don’t usually come with a lot of hidden luggage, although it’s always important to check the specs if you’re not sure about something. Not all PCIe ports offer the same number of ratings available, even if they appear to be physically responding.

You will notice that the motherboard above has 3 PCIe x16 slots (two in silver and one black x16 at the very bottom which can be hard to spot).

How to know if a graphics card is compatible: Find the PCI Express slot

On many computers, there will be multiple expansion slots on the motherboard. Usually they will all be PCI Express, but you’ll need a PCI Express x16 slot for your graphics card. There are three versions of this slot, but they are backwards compatible, so a modern PCI Express 3.0 graphics card will work with a motherboard with a PCI Express x16 2.0 slot.

This motherboard has two PCI Express x16 slots. The top graphics card is most often used, but if you’re mounting two cards in an nVidia SLI or AMD Crossfire configuration, you’ll need both. However, check what standard your motherboard supports before investing in a pair of cards.

How to check if your graphics card is compatible

How to know if a graphics card is compatible: length and height

More powerful graphics cards tend to have large fans to keep them cool, which makes them twice as thick as “single height” cards. The way most computers are built means the fan assembly will be under the card, not on top of it, so you’ll need an unused slot – and a back plate – directly below the PCI Express x16 slot.

Additionally, you need to measure the distance from the backplate to anything that could be blocking the long graphics card to the front of the case. Don’t forget that some cards have power slots on the back edge, not the side, so you’ll need to add about 30-40mm to the length of the card you choose to ensure it will fit.

If you are not sure how long the card is, ask the manufacturer, retailer or use our forum to find someone who already has this card and can confirm its size.

Additionally, you need to measure the distance from the backplate to anything that could be blocking the long graphics card to the front of the case. Don’t forget that some cards have power slots on the back edge, not the side, so you’ll need to add about 30-40mm to the length of the card you choose to ensure it will fit.

PCI, AGP and PCIe Graphics Cards

Graphics cards connect to computers over three different types of connections: PCI, AGP, and PCIe. The PCI and PCIe interfaces are designed to support a wide variety of devices, while the AGP is designed exclusively for graphics cards. The AGP standard is no longer produced. The AGP standard came into play when the PCI standard could no longer provide the necessary bandwidth to maximize the potential of the graphics card; the PCIe standard did the same to AGP as did AGP to PCI. PCIe cards were intended to replace PCI cards.

PCIe graphics cards communicate with the motherboard at least 40 times the speed of PCI graphics cards. The additional bandwidth provided by the PCIe connection type enables graphics cards to handle much more complex graphics data, meaning that PCIe graphics cards are able to produce better visuals than PCI graphics cards. However, a high-power PCI card can produce better graphics than a low-power PCIe card. The performance of a PCI graphics card is limited by the bandwidth, and more powerful cards take less and less profit when using an interface such as PCI.

Connection Type

PCI and PCIe use different types of physical connections. Although both standards have “Peripheral Component Interconnect” in their names, they are two different technologies. The PCI and PCIe cards and ports have physically different connectors. Both PCI and PCIe are available in backward and forward compatible versions for the respective port types. PCIe graphics cards can use all PCIe ports of the same size or larger, but cannot use the PCI slots. PCI cards also cannot use the PCIe slots. PCIe cards and ports are available in a variety of sizes to handle different tasks depending on your bandwidth needs. PCIe graphics cards typically use the 16-lane version of PCIe with the largest port. The Wi-Fi card can use a smaller single-line PCIe type.

It is possible that the same model of graphics card will be available in both PCI and PCIe versions. The PCIe version of the card will always perform the same as or better than the PCIe version. The PCI versions are intended for computers that do not have PCIe connections. Lower power graphics cards can achieve the same level of performance on the PCI and PCIe slots because the graphics card does not require more bandwidth for optimal performance than the PCI standard.

Dan Stone began writing professionally in 2006, specializing in education, technology and music. He is a web developer for a communications company, previously worked on television. Stone received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Master of Arts in Communication Studies from Northern Illinois University.

PCIe versions such as 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 are sometimes informally referred to as PCIe Gen 3, PCIe Gen 4, and PCIe Gen 5. This name is based on being the third, fourth, and fifth generations of PCI-Express.

PCIe Generation and Slot Performance

The overall performance of the PCIe slot is significantly influenced by its PCIe version.

Every newer generation of PCIe interface DOUBLES the speed per lane. For example, while a single PCIe v3.0 lane (x1) has a bandwidth of 985 MB / s, a single PCIe v4.0 lane (x1) has doubled the bandwidth of 1969 MB / s.

The table below summarizes PCIe speeds across generations.

Version x1
(GB / s)
x2
(GB / s)
x4
(GB / s)
x8
(GB / s)
x16
(GB / s)
1.0 0.250 0.500 1,000 2,000 4,000
2.0 0.500 1,000 2,000 4,000 8,000
3.0 0.985 1.969 3.938 7.877 15.754
4.0 1.969 3.938 7.877 15.754 31.508
5.0 3.938 7.877 15.754 31.508 63.015
6.0 7.877 15.754 31.508 63.015 126.031

The newer version of PCIe has many ramifications. A motherboard with a newer PCIe slot can support newer-generation devices such as faster NVMe SSDs and more powerful graphics cards.

Slot Cross and Backward Compatibility

The best part of the PCIe standard is the cross and backward compatibility of the various slots with different devices and the PCIe generation.

Basically, if you have an x4 socket and the device you want to install is an x1 device, you won’t need any special software to get around this hurdle.

Connecting an expansion card with fewer lines to a slot with more lines will allow the device to function as intended, albeit with the combined throughput of the slowest component.

In other words, installing the weaker x1 device in slot x4 will work, but the x1 device will NOT get any performance boost.

Likewise, an expansion card with more lines can be inserted into a slot with a small number of lines, as long as it can fit. So you can plug an x16 graphics card into the x8 slot and it will still work, but at the speed of the x8 slot; therefore, some performance degradation may occur.

This compatibility also applies to the PCIe version, so that the PCIe 3.0 device can work in the PCIe 2.0 slot and vice versa.

The only caveat is that the setup will run at the lowest common speed between the socket and the component.

Can I use a PCIe 3.0 card in slot 2.0

Here you can see that using a graphics card in an older generation slot may result in some performance degradation.

Motherboards also provide PCIe lanes, but not all of them are user accessible. For example, an Intel Z490 motherboard has 24 PCIe lanes, however, depending on the board configuration, you may only have 4 to 6 lanes to use and the rest would be reserved for internal components such as SATA ports, USB ports, etc.

Potential Bandwidths of PCI and PCIe

The higher potential bandwidth provided by some socket types does not necessarily result in proportionally higher performance. The bandwidth associated with each socket type is the maximum that can be achieved and is constrained by software workload (such as operating system activity) and whether the application is maximizing usage. For example, a simple 2D application such as a spreadsheet or word processing program is less likely to take advantage of this higher bandwidth. Intensive, real-time 3D programs are more likely to use this extra bandwidth.

The differences in these bandwidths only affect the data transfer rate between the graphics hardware and the rest of the computer. These bandwidths do not affect the speed of the graphics chip itself, and do not directly affect the speed of the rest of your computer.

The PCI Express specification also defines backward compatibility between PCI Express devices. This means that a device designed to support PCI Express Gen-3 runs at Gen-2 speed when connected to a Gen-2 device, a Gen-2 device runs at Gen-1 speed when connected to a Gen-1 device, and so on.

The link width is the measure of the possibility of transmitting the link data in one direction. Since each PCI Express lane contains both upstream and downstream links, the effective throughput is doubled. The numbers in this table represent the maximum bandwidth available in each direction.

Although the serial data rate only increased from 5 Gb / s to 8 Gb / s compared to second generation PCI Express, the encoding of serial data has changed to provide more efficient transfers and effectively doubling the data rate compared to second generation PCI Express.

PCI Express® Bandwidth Considerations When Capture Cards and Graphics Cards are in the Same System

While resolutions and input formats must be considered, the architecture at the system bus level also plays an important role in optimizing the system for the best possible performance.

Each capture architecture receives data from external sources and feeds it to one or more graphics engines for display. Inputs can take many forms: IP, DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, analog RGB, component video, and even standard TV inputs using composite or Y / C signals. Each of these inputs places a load on the system in a different way in terms of the amount of data transferred.

The bandwidth required to transmit the captured stream in the computer system depends on the input resolution, format and organization of the framebuffer. The input format relates to both pixel depth (8- or 10-bit) and pixel format (4: 4: 4, 4: 2: 2, or 4: 2: 0), and the framebuffer organization is usually linear or planar. Although the frame buffer can be 24 bits long, system transfers are made in 8-, 16-, or 32-bit “chunks”. The formula below provides an approximation of the bandwidth required for a given input stream and assumes a flat frame buffer organization.

In some cases, it is possible to capture sources and transfer them internally using the 16-bit YUV format. This will reduce the system bandwidth required to transfer the input data, but it will also lower the capture quality (since less data is used to represent each pixel). This option should only be used when necessary and with sources where the quality of capturing input can be sacrificed. The bandwidth required by any input source can be expressed as follows:

Where fps and kpixel_factor represent the frames per second and the number of bytes consumed by each pixel, respectively. In the analog RGB, component, and DVI modes, each pixel typically requires 4 bytes. In TV modes (or when data is represented as 16-bit YUV data), each pixel requires 2 bytes.

For example, a high definition source captured at 1920 × 1080p60 requires the following bandwidth:

4: 4: 4 4: 2: 2 4: 2: 0
8 bit 1000 MB / s 500 MB / s 375 MB / s
10-bit 500 MB / s 250 MB / s 185 MB / s

Regardless of the resolution and formats of the various inputs, do not exceed the available system bandwidth. This will cause system performance degradation and / or instability.

The main difference between the two typologies was that PCI used a parallel architecture while PCIe used a serial architecture. Basically, in a PCI parallel architecture, every connected device shared the same bus.

What Is the Latest Version of PCI-Express?

The latest available version of PCI-Express is PCIe 5.0. PCIe 5.0 processors are available from Intel, while AMD currently only supports PCIe 4.0.

Intel’s 12th generation core processors now provide PCIe 5.0 support for the CPU lane (i.e one x16 slot or two x8 PCIe slots) and PCIe 4.0 / 3.0 speeds for the remaining lanes.

The first AMD processors to support PCIe 5.0 are not expected to be available until 2022.

PCIe versions such as 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 are sometimes informally referred to as PCIe Gen 3, PCIe Gen 4, and PCIe Gen 5. This name is based on being the third, fourth, and fifth generations of PCI-Express.

PCIe 5.0 graphics cards and storage devices are not currently available on the market.

Find out more in my PCI-Express article.

Which Desktop and Workstation PCIe 4.0 and 5.0 CPUs Are Available?

Most AMD processors in the Ryzen 3000 and 5000 series, Ryzen Threadripper 3000, and Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3000 support PCIe 4.0. Intel 11th Gen processors codenamed “Rocket Lake” support PCIe 4.0.

12th Gen Intel Core processors codenamed “Alder Lake” support PCIe 5.0. 12th Generation Intel Core processors use the LGA 1700 socket.

AMD has yet to release its PCIe 5.0 processors, but it is expected to incorporate PCIe 5.0 support into its next-generation Zen 4 architecture, which AMD will release in 2022.

Check out the full list of processors that support PCIe 4.0 under Which Intel and AMD processors support PCIe 4.0? .

Check out the full list of processors that support PCIe 5.0 under Which Intel and AMD processors support PCIe 5.0? .

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