PCIe 3.0 vs 4.0

Ever since PCI evolved into a new, much faster interface to replace AGP, such as PCIe (PCIx or PCI Express), this link technology has been used for more than just graphics cards. Now it is used for sound cards, hard drives, etc. since it is very versatile and with great performance.

PCIe 3.0 vs 4.0: Comparison of both Interfaces

Little by little, PCIe has evolved into new versions. With each new implementation, it was possible to improve the bandwidth and the transmission speed, which has brought many leaps in quality. It has recently been upgraded from PCIe 3.0 to PCIe 4.0, with a number of benefits you should be aware of. In this comparison, you will be able to know what those advantages are.

PCIe 3.0 Vs PCIe 4.0

What is PCIe?

After the PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) bus standard, a further step was needed in bus communications. PCI Express or PCIe is an evolution for transporting data over a serial bus, full-duplex (bidirectional), point-to-point, and initially developed by Intel, Dell, HP, and IBM, to later become an industry standard.

This bus was quickly adopted to connect graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA, as a replacement for the older AGP. However, today it allows you to connect much more than a GPU, as is the case with the new SSD hard drives that use this bus to improve speed, as well as other components.

How to know the version of PCIe that supports my equipment?

Currently, it is easy to know if your PC supports PCIe and what version is supported. Generally, if it’s a computer that was built after 2006, it will support PCIe technology on its motherboard.

However, the question is the version it supports. To find out, you can use many programs like Hardinfo, Aida64, etc. For example, you can go to the Devices > PCI Devices section and see if there are any references to PCIe there.

But if you are interested in whether PCIe 4.0, the latest version, is supported, then you should know that the only motherboards that support it are those based on AMD Zen 2 (onwards) with B550 or X570 chipsets. In that case, you will have support for PCIe 4.0.

In the case of having an Intel chip, at the moment PCIe 4.0 support has not reached them, although the first designs will soon begin to be marketed. The first Rocket Lake chips (12th Gen) will be the first to be able to enjoy this technology, although be careful, since PCIe 4.0 would only be supported by some models, such as the Rocket Lake-S with the Z590 chipset.

PCIe 3.0 vs 4.0: The Versions

If you ask yourself the benefits that PCIe 4.0 can bring you compared to PCIe 3.0, the differences are quite palpable. Throughout its evolution, the standard has been gaining in performance with each release:

Version Transfer Per Lane with x16
1.0 2.5GT/s 2Gbit/s (250MB/s) 32Gbit/s (4GB/s)
2.0 5GT/s 4Gbit/s (500MB/s) 64Gbit/s (8GB/s)
3.0 8 GT/s 7.9Gbit/s (984.6MB/s) 126Gbit/s (15.8GB/s)
4.0 16 GT/s 15.8Gbit/s (1969.2MB/s) 252.1Gbit/s (31.5GB/s)
5.0 32 GT/s 31.6Gbit/s (3938.4MB/s) 504Gbit/s (63GB/s)
6.0 64 GT/s 64Gbit/s (7.877MB/s) 1008Gbit/s (126GB/s)

The main advantage of PCIe 4.0, as can be seen, is the higher transfer rate that this fourth-generation makes possible. That translates into improvements with respect to read and write access for M.2 NVMe SSDs, enabling blazing speeds.

Although this does not directly affect the FPS rate of a video game, it may be that in some titles where constant access is made, such as open-world titles, it could influence the FPS rate. Therefore, for gaming, it is very important to have PCIe 4.0. For example, in titles Flight Simulator, Cyberpunk 2077, etc.

The operating system and other apps can also benefit from the agility of this bus for your SSD. So you will also notice improvements in other areas, even in the speed of booting up the operating system.

As for graphics cards, the truth is that the differences are not so notable. So in this case you shouldn’t be so obsessed with getting one of the latest graphics cards from AMD or NVIDIA to take advantage of this, although some improvements are noticeable, especially with 4K or 8K, which will increase your FPS due to the higher bandwidth.

Conclusion and Future

PCIe 5.0 has already been developed and is on the horizon. This other standard will also bring some improvements in terms of bandwidth. Despite that, for the moment you have to settle for imagining what it would be like since there are no CPUs currently available with this technology. And considering that Intel has recently adopted PCIe 4.0, expect it to take a while.

It is estimated that Intel would bring it in the 12Gen Alder Lake, while AMD Zen 4 would be the first to include support for this technology.

In addition, PCIe 6.0 has already been announced, and the future of this bus has begun to be defined. Although, in this case, there is still nothing at all. At the moment, it is only known that it would double the figures of PCIe 5.0, as has been verified in the previous table.

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