PCIe 4.0: What’s New and Why It Matters

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT GPURadeon RX 5700 XT from AMD AMD

The PCI Express 4.0 hardware is finally here. Solid State Drives (SSDs) and PCIe 4.0-compliant graphics cards debuted in June at Computex 2019. That's thanks to AMD.

Faster computer parts are always exciting prospects, but for the moment, we are talking mostly about noticeable increases in speed for M.2 SSD "Gum Stick" NVMe. Graphics cards that support PCIe 4.0 will arrive in the summer of 2019, but players still do not need the extra bandwidth they offer. The beginnings come two years after the PCIe 4.0 standard was published in mid-2017.

The problem is that when players claim more bandwidth, we could talk about a totally different version of PCIe. Just as PCIe 4.0 arrives on computers, the PCI Special Interest Group (SIG), the agency responsible for publishing the new PCIe standards, has released PCIe version 5.0.

What is PCIe?

Cards of different sizes with different PCIe channelsDifferent sized cards support different PCI-Express channels. Amazon

The Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) standard defines how expansion cards communicate with your PC. This includes items such as graphics cards, sound cards, Wi-Fi cards, and NVMe M.2 SSDs. The higher the PCIe version, the higher the bandwidth available for expansion cards in a system.

PCIe expansion slots on your PC are typically available in four versions: x1, x4, x8, and x16. These numbers indicate the number of "channels" of each expansion slot. The higher the number of lanes in a location, the faster data can flow to and from the map. For example, modern graphics cards use x16 slots, while NVMe M.2 "gum stick" SSDs use special two- or four-way slots.

PCIe is also compatible with earlier versions. If you have a PCIe 4.0 graphics card, you can use it with a motherboard designed for PCIe 3.0; However, the available bandwidth of the card would be limited to PCIe 3.0 capabilities. Conversely, a PCIe 3.0 card can fit in a PCIe 4.0 slot, but again, it would be limited by PCIe 3.0.

These are the absolute bases of PCIe. For a deeper dive test our explanatory on the different PCI Express ports of your motherboard.

What's new in PCIe 4.0?

The essential feature of any new PCIe version is to double the bandwidth of the previous generation. There are all kinds of numbers on what that means. But in practice, a PCIe 4.0 x16 slot can theoretically reach about 32 gigabytes per second (GB / s) of data flowing in each direction, while PCIe 3.0 reaches its maximum at 16 GB / s.

Many people will also talk about PCIe 4.0 x16 with a bandwidth of about 64GB / s, but in this case, they are just counting the total amount of data flowing back and forth. No matter how you calculate it, PCs are very fast and graphics cards with PCIe 4.0 x16 slots are on the way.

As we said before, adding bandwidth for graphics cards is not really a problem at the moment, because PCIe 3.0 is perfect for gamers. Devices such as NVMe SSDs offer the most noticeable difference in speed for these beginnings of the new standard.

Beyond the increased speed of components, PCIe 4.0 offers better reliability and signal integrity for better performance.

To use a PC at home, the most important thing to understand with PCIe 4.0 is that it doubles the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0.

When can I get it?

As we mentioned earlier, Computex 2019 is the stage where PCIe 4.0 really got its start with the product announcements of AMD, corsair, and gigabyte, among others. Intel has not said anything about PCIe 4.0 for consumer hardware – and even argued This will not help speed up your PC games. Therefore, for the moment, PCIe 4.0 is only for AMD systems.

The Asus Pro WS, an X570 motherboard.The Asus Pro WS X570 motherboard. Asus

AMD announced its X570 chipset Computex supporting PCIe 4.0, and manufacturers have introduced dozens of X570 motherboards, including ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI. These X570 cards will not be cheap and they should also generate a good amount of heat. Almost all of the cards, from the ultra-luxurious monster-equipped RGB medium-budget game unit, had fans to keep the components cool. The upper end boards also added heat sinks, hoses and, in some cases, liquid cooling systems. It's just for the board itself and not typical.

In addition to a PCIe 4.0 motherboard, you'll need a processor that can support it, that is, a third-generation Ryzen processor. At Computex, AMD announced five different Ryzen 3000 processors The price varies between a $ 200 six-core processor and a $ 500 twelve-heart beast. Delivery of these new processors will take place on Sunday, July 7, 2019.

Computex was not the end of AMD's PCIe 4.0 campaign. The company followed a few days later during the conference on the game E3 2019 with two new graphics cards support for PCIe 4.0, including Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700 cards. The new cards will also be deployed on Sunday, July 7, 2019.

Old motherboards do not receive PCIe 4.0

The new AMD processors still use the AM4 socket as do previous generations of Ryzen. This means that the new Ryzen 3000 chips can be integrated into motherboards designed for Ryzen 2000 processors such as X470 and B450 motherboards; However, to get PCIe 4.0, you need a new motherboard built for the new standard.

This may surprise some PCIe fans since motherboard manufacturers have already released firmware updates that offer limited PCIe 4.0 support for old cards. The problem is that these updates only work with particular motherboards that can handle the strict requirements of PCIe 4.0. Even in this case, the upgrade should only work with the first PCIe x16 slot (the one usually used for graphics cards) and possibly with some M.2 slots.

AMD decided that this hodgepodge of upgrades was far too complicated for an average person. To avoid confusion, society stop them. Some online updates may bring PCIe 4.0 to older motherboards, but they are not recommended. If you want PCIe 4.0, the best is to shell out a new motherboard and a new processor.

The Corsair MP600The Corsair MP600 corsair

In addition to the Ryzen 3000 processors and X570 motherboards, Corsair also announced the Corsair MP600, an NVMe "gum stick" M.2 SSD that supports PCIe 4.0 with read speeds of nearly 5,000 megabytes per second (Mbps).

In comparison, a high-performance NVMe PCIe 3.0 M.2 disk reaches approximately 3,500 Mbps. The new Corsair M.2 also has a very aesthetic heat sink that keeps it cool. The MP600 will be launched in July.

Gigabyte announced a Aorus NVMe Gen 4 SSD with playback speeds similar to those of the Corsair MP600. Instead of the large heatsink, Gigabyte's SSD comes with a full-body copper heat spreader. Gigabyte did not specify the exact timing of the launch of the SSD, but the company announced its arrival soon.

Patriot, a smaller storage manufacturer, also plans to roll out SSD PCIe 4.0 later in 2019.

PCIe 5.0 has just been announced, too

If the introduction of PCIe 4.0 components was not complicated enough, PCI-GIS used Computex to announce PCIe 5.0. Again, we doubled the bandwidth with version 5.0. Instead of 32 GB / s in each direction for an x16 slot in PCIe 4.0, we get 64 GB / s with PCIe 5.0.

The sooner, the better it is, so we will probably see the PCIe 5.0 components coming out soon, is not it? Some companies may even completely ignore PCIe 4.0?

Well, not so fast.

AMD and its manufacturing partners are already investing in PCIe 4.0, so they may not want to leave the ship immediately. In addition, overcoming the technical challenges of implementing PCIe 5.0 should take some time.

We can already see that PCIe 4.0 is hotter than PCs with PCIe 3.0, for example. This suggests that we might not see PCIe 5.0 for a long time, as component and device manufacturers are improving PCIe 4.0.

Again, since Intel is currently aware of PCIe 4.0 support, the company may want to upgrade to PCIe 5.0 to steal some of AMD's thunder, but that's just speculation. So far, neither AMD nor Intel seem to be interested so much in PCIe 5.0, so we can wait a few more years.

For now, this is only PCIe 4.0 and only AMD-based systems.

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