PCI Express Card

A Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) card is a piece of computer equipment that does just what it sounds like – it essentially connects different hardware devices in a computer. PCI Express Cards are just the last in a long line of computer components that serve this purpose, and to understand their importance, it is crucial to understand some of the technology that came before.

Pre-PCI Express Card technology includes the PCI. PCI’s served the purpose of connecting components on the motherboard during the 1990′s, and interestingly enough, while other computer technology grew and changed, PCI’s stayed the same. PCI bus came into usage in 1992 and after that became the interoperability backbone of almost every computer platform. The original implementation delivered a peak theoretical bandwidth of 133 megabytes per second. Over time, when computer components overtook this speed, the industry came up with AGP and PCI-X as alternatives to PCI.

PCI cards were simply unable to keep up with existing technology. RAM increased exponentially. Drive space grew larger and larger, and other components, such as video and sound cards, became faster and more vibrant. The original PCIs were designed to only support 2D graphics! Essentially, the fact that the PCI card did not grow and change meant that all of these new technologies were still working based on a flawed (or, in this case, merely old) base. PCI’s are, of course, crucial to the operation of a computer and so this reality, in effect, created a bottleneck when it came to computer performance.

What the computing world needed to fix this bottleneck was a solution that would allow more information to pass through the PCI bus. Essentially, it was time for new technology to blow the bottleneck wide open. That’s where the PCI Express Card comes in. PCI buses had a common maximum bandwidth of 132mbs. When any components inside the computer– a graphics or sound card, for example – ran at faster speeds than that 132mbs, they could cause problems. Imagine the ire of gamers who bought souped up graphics and sound cards, thinking that they were about to enjoy a premium gaming experience only to find out that the computer instead crashes. These types of issues were unfortunately all too common, and they occurred due to old-fashioned PCI technology.

The PCI Express Card, though, does not have this issue. While PCI buses have a maximum speed of 132mbs, the PCI Express Card x 1 has a maximum speed of 250mbs. (Also, it is important to keep in mind that PCI Express cards can send information two ways, rather than just one way as their predecessor could. So, to get a true reading of speed, each number should actually be doubled. In that case, the PCI Express Card x 1′s maximum speed would actually be 500mbs.) And that’s not all. Due to technological advancements, the PCI Express Card x1 is only the low end of PCI Express Cards. The PCI Express 2 x has a maximum speed of 500mbs (1,000), the PCI Express 4 x has a maximum speed of 1,000 (2,000) mbs, the PCI Express Card 8 x goes up to 2,000 (4,000), the PCI Express Card 16 x up to 4,000 (8,000) mbs, and finally, the PCI Express 32x goes up to 8,000 (16,000) mbs.

Lest anyone should think that PCI has dominated the market in this technology, there was another type of interoperability connection bus – AGP. This type though, has gradually been outstripped by the PCI Express Card technology and is unlikely to survive much farther. All in all, PCI Express Cards have filled a void in computing and broken open a frustrating bottleneck.

This PCI Express Card Review is Written/Updated on Jul 3rd, 2009 and filed under Computer Hardware. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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