What does PCIe 4.0 mean? (complete guide)

Introduction to PCIe 4.0 vs PCIe 3.0

PCIe 4.0 has become the standard connection type for modern computer components, but what exactly is it and how does it differ from PCIe 3.0? This comprehensive guide will dive into the fourth generation of PCI Express and beyond.

What is PCIe?

PCIe, short for Peripheral Component Interconnect Express, serves as the connection bridge between a computer’s motherboard and peripherals such as graphics cards or SSDs. If you’ve ever upgraded your gaming PC’s graphics card, you’ve likely utilized a PCIe slot.

Understanding PCIe 3.0 vs PCIe 4.0

The primary distinction between PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 lies in speed. PCIe 4.0 delivers double the transfer rate (GT/s) compared to 3.0, facilitating quicker communication between your system and peripherals. Both versions support up to sixteen lanes:

  • PCIe 3.0: Up to 8 GT/s per lane
  • PCIe 4.0: Up to 16 GT/s per lane

Backward Compatibility of PCIe 4.0

While PCIe 4.0 accommodates PCIe 3.0 devices, utilizing a 3.0 GPU in a 4.0 slot will restrict the maximum transfer rate to 16 GT/s per lane.

Understanding PCIe Lanes

Lanes establish the physical connection between the motherboard and peripheral components. High-end graphics cards often require sixteen lanes (referred to as 16x), whereas network adapters typically utilize a single lane.

Is Upgrading to PCIe 4.0 Worth It?

Transitioning from PCIe 3.0 to 4.0 may not significantly enhance your computer’s performance. Unless you already possess a PCIe 4.0-compatible GPU and CPU, upgrading entails purchasing new components for only a marginal performance boost.

Nonetheless, opting for PCIe 4.0 or higher components when building a new PC or upgrading your motherboard can offer enhanced performance and faster SSD speeds, particularly beneficial for avid gamers, editors, and 3D artists.

Processors Supporting PCIe 4.0

11th-generation Core Intel processors and AMD Ryzen 3000, 5000, and 7000 series processors are compatible with PCIe 4.0. The list of CPUs supporting PCIe 4.0 continues to expand, denoted by “PCIE 4.0” or “Gen 4” in the specifications.

Future of PCIe Technology

While PCIe 5.0 and 6.0 are already available, products supporting these generations are limited in the market. PCIe 5.0-compatible graphics cards are projected to launch in 2025, with PCIe 7.0 expected in the same year. Each generation doubles the preceding transfer rate, setting PCIe 5.0 at 32 GT/s.

Should You Wait for PCIe 5.0 Before Upgrading?

Given current technology trends, PCIe 4.0 is more than sufficient for the foreseeable future. By the time PCIe 5.0 peripherals become prevalent, PCIe 6.0 motherboards will likely dominate the market, similar to the evolution of 4K televisions.

Key Takeaways

PCIe 4.0 serves as the leading high-speed connection standard for modern computer components. Opting for PCIe 4.0 when purchasing new components presents no downside, although most devices do not fully leverage its enhanced transfer speeds to deliver substantial performance gains.