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What Is PCIe 5.0?

With processors now available from Intel that support PCIe 5.0, we'll define PCIe and discuss whether it's worth upgrading to 5.0 for graphics card and storage performance.

PCI-Express Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: November 19, 2021

Written by Kevin Jones

Intel has released its new CPUs with PCIe 5.0 support. Let's dig into what PCI-Express 5.0 is and whether it's worth the upgrade.

Check out my Recommended PCIe 5.0 CPUs and Motherboards below.

Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

What Is PCI-Express?

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PCI-Express (PCIe) is an electrical bus used in nearly all modern consumer and server PCs. PCIe slots on desktop PCs allow for connecting various expansion boards, including graphics cards, sound cards, video capture cards, network/Wi-Fi cards, storage devices, and more. PCI-Express is the successor of PCI.

PCI-Express is currently the dominant bus for connecting expansion cards and devices (alongside USB, which is used for externally connected devices).

While you may recognize PCI-Express as the name used for the motherboard's expansion ports, the same bus is also used for computer storage interfaces. When PCI-Express is used for storage, the NVM Express (NVMe) storage protocol is typically used. In addition to PCIe slots, motherboards provide a high-speed PCIe connection to devices via connectors such as M.2 and U.2.

Learn more about storage types in Storage Type Comparison: M.2, U.2, NVMe, SATA, SSDs, HDDs

PCIe Slots on a Motherboard PCIe Slots on a Motherboard Eric Kilby

What Are PCI-Express Lanes?

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PCIe lanes are connections between a PCI-Express expansion card or device and the CPU. PCIe lanes often communicate with the CPU via chipsets on the motherboard. Each PCIe lane is composed of 4 wires (two differential pairs).

With naming similar to a road, the number of lanes is referred to as the lane size, or how many lanes wide a link or port uses. A single lane is referred to as x1 or "one lane wide."

The maximum throughput (speed) is multiplied by the number of lanes. An x8 PCIe port has twice the throughput of an x4 port.

Some CPUs and motherboards provide PCI-Express lanes at multiple PCIe versions. In these cases, you can choose which devices need the most bandwidth to decide which should be connected to the highest version PCIe lanes. While laying out your system, keep in mind that PCIe speeds will be based on the lowest PCIe version between the slot/port and the device.

You can insert a PCIe add-in card (AIC) into a slot that supports a higher number of lanes. In this case, it would use up to the number of PCIe lanes that the card has. For example, you could insert an x4 PCIe network card into an x16 PCIe AIC slot, and it would run at full x4 speed.

In various scenarios, a PCIe device may not use the maximum number of lanes for which the device was designed. For example, some motherboards have x8 PCIe ports that are only electrically wired for x4 lanes. In another case, a system may have limited lanes provided by the CPU, distributed based on availability or configuration.

Devices will negotiate the number of lanes to use, based on system availability, and should still perform fine at a reduced overall bandwidth in most cases. Refer to your motherboard's documentation and CPU specifications to determine PCIe lane quantities and allocations.

PCIe 5.0 Benefits

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Current graphics cards typically don't consume the total bandwidth of PCIe 3.0 or 4.0, so the upgrade to 5.0, by itself, won't provide a massive boost to graphics performance.

However, upgrading to the latest generate of CPUs can provide a boost from:

  • Support for the higher speed DDR5 memory
  • CPUs with more cores and threads, which are better optimized
  • PCIe 4.0 lanes for M.2 NVMe SSD devices
  • More M.2 storage device bandwidth for Intel 12th Gen CPUs (DMI 4.0 has double the throughput of DMI 3.0)

The latest M.2 NVMe SSDs can do an excellent job of nearly saturating a PCIe 4.0 connection. We recommend upgrading to get as many PCIe 4.0 lanes as possible for M.2 devices. It seems counter-intuitive, but upgrading to a CPU that supports PCIe 5.0 provides more PCIe 4.0 lanes.

PCIe 5.0 graphics cards won't need to use as many lanes in the future, making more lanes available for other devices via PCIe add-in card slots.

Bandwidth

The key benefit of upgrading to PCI-Express 5.0 is the increased bandwidth. Each version of PCIe roughly doubles the bandwidth available per lane.

PCI-Express 5.0 vs. 4.0 Speeds (Rounded)
PCIe 4.0PCIe 5.0
x1 Bandwidth 2 GB/s 4 GB/s
x2 Bandwidth 4 GB/s 8 GB/s
x4 Bandwidth 8 GB/s 16 GB/s
x8 Bandwidth 16 GB/s 32 GB/s
x16 Bandwidth 32 GB/s 63 GB/s

Any devices which were designed for PCIe 5.0 can benefit from the increase in available bandwidth.

Devices designed for PCIe 5.0 could mean faster storage speeds (video and game loading) and faster graphics (video games and rendering).

However, some devices may not even be reaching the limits of PCIe 4.0 or 3.0 yet. The low bandwidth usage by some devices means that it's only necessary to upgrade if:

  • You are using the latest and fastest storage devices and video cards that use the PCIe 5.0 or 4.0 lanes.
  • You want to free up PCIe lanes by using PCIe 5.0 devices, which won't need as many lanes for the same bandwidth.
  • You want to future-proof your system.

Storage

The component which can benefit the most from fast PCIe speeds is NVMe storage. The latest top-performing NVMe SDD and add-in card (AIC) storage devices can benefit from both the higher throughput and the throughput available per lane.

Currently, only PCIe 4.0 SSDs are on the market. To make use of PCIe 5.0 SSD speeds, you'd likely need to use a PCIe SSD add-in card, as most M.2 slots only support PCIe 4.0 speeds.

Lanes

With each PCIe version doubling the bandwidth per lane, newer devices can reduce the number of needed lanes. For example, if even the top tier of graphics cards no longer need the full 16 lanes to meet their needs, they can use 8 or fewer lanes. By using fewer lanes, it frees up more lanes for other devices. Using fewer lanes is important because CPUs provide a limited number of lanes, which need to be distributed among the devices.

The same is valid for storage. If your storage devices no longer need as many lanes, PCIe add-in card (AIC) adapters can connect more NVMe M.2 SSDs.

For networking, a single lane could now provide enough bandwidth for 10 Gbps Ethernet.

Future-Proofing

If you are building a new system, it may make sense to do the upgrade to 5.0. In particular, future graphics cards and storage devices may further take advantage of this available bandwidth. In this case, you might consider how long you plan to use this computer. For example, will you upgrade your storage and graphics card over the next few years or wait to replace the entire system?

Is PCIe 5.0 Worth It for Gaming?

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It is worth upgrading to the PCIe 5.0 generation of CPUs for gaming if you:

  • Want to experience peak performance by using the fast DDR5 memory and CPUs with more available cores
  • Can make use of the additional PCIe 4.0 M.2 storage slots for loading games
  • Have a PCIe 4.0 (or 5.0) graphics card, which may see a slight performance improvement
  • Want to future-proof your system
  • Want to free up PCIe lanes for other devices by using the latest PCIe devices

Check out my Recommended PCIe 5.0 CPUs and Motherboards below.

Check out the complete list of CPUs supporting PCIe 5.0 in Which Intel and AMD CPUs Support PCIe 5.0?

Which Desktop and Workstation PCIe 5.0 CPUs Are Available?

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Intel's 12th generation Core processors, code-named "Alder Lake," support PCIe 5.0.

AMD has not yet released its PCIe 5.0 processors but is expected to include PCIe 5.0 support in their next-generation Zen 4 architecture, which AMD will release in 2022.

Check out my Recommended PCIe 5.0 CPUs and Motherboards below.

Check out the complete list of CPUs supporting PCIe 5.0 in Which Intel and AMD CPUs Support PCIe 5.0?

Which Motherboards Support PCIe 5.0?

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For PCIe 5.0 support, you'll need to use a motherboard with the chipset listed below.

  • For Intel's 12th generation Core processors, you'll need a motherboard with the Z690 chipset (the only one currently available in the 600-series). The chipset itself doesn't provide PCIe 5.0 lanes for M.2 storage devices. However, it does use a new DMI 4.0 link which is twice as fast as the 3.0 link used by the Z590 chipset.

    GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
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Best Intel High-Performance Enthusiast CPU: Intel Core i9-12900K

  • Up to 5.2 GHz: perfect for games, video editing, and high-intensity tasks.

  • 16 cores (8 Performance + 8 Efficiency): Quite a few cores considering the frequency! This combination makes it a great all-around system that can handle almost any task.

  • Virtualization features make it great for running virtual machines.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i9-12900K on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • For the Intel Core i9-12900K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with the Z690 chipset.

  • Our recommended DDR4 motherboard to pair with the i9-12900K is Gigabyte's Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR4 memory!
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • Wi-Fi 6
    • Bluetooth 5.2 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! All four of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 on Amazon (affiliate link).
  • Our recommended DDR5 motherboard to pair with the i9-12900K is Gigabyte's Z690 AORUS Master: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR5 memory (DDR5 provides the fastest memory speeds)!

      DDR5 memory appears to be out of stock at most retailers, so I recommend sticking with a DDR4 motherboard or preparing for a long wait.

    • 10 Gbps Ethernet port is faster than any home Internet speed available with tons of room to spare for file transfers.
    • Wi-Fi 6E makes it easy to reach the fastest speeds and future-proof your Wi-Fi system.
    • Bluetooth 5.2 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! Three of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds, and one at PCIe 3.0 speeds.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master on Amazon (affiliate link).

Best Value CPU: Intel Core i5-12600K

  • Less than half the price of the i9-12900K, but still excellent performance at up to 4.9 GHz.

  • 10 cores (6 Performance + 4 Efficiency): This core count makes it suitable for everyday multi-threading tasks, such as having tons of browser windows open.

  • Virtualization features make it great for running virtual machines.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i5-12600K on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Intel Core i5-12600K Intel Core i5-12600K Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • For the Intel Core i5-11600K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with the Z690 chipset to support PCIe 5.0.

  • Our recommended DDR4 motherboard to pair with the i5-12600K is GIGABYTE's Z690 Gaming X DDR4 motherboard: GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR4 memory!
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! All four of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 on Amazon (affiliate link).
  • Our recommended DDR5 motherboard to pair with the i5-12600K is GIGABYTE's Z690 AORUS PRO motherboard: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR5 memory!

      DDR5 memory appears to be out of stock at most retailers, so I recommend sticking with a DDR4 motherboard or preparing for a long wait.

    • Three NVMe M.2 slots, which is excellent! These all run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO on Amazon (affiliate link).

What Is the Latest Version of PCI-Express?

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

Intel's 12th generation Core CPUs currently provide PCIe 5.0 support for CPU lanes (i.e., one to two PCIe slots) and PCIe 4.0/3.0 speeds for the remaining lanes.

The first AMD CPUs that support PCIe 5.0 aren't 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 naming is based on them being the third, fourth, and fifth generations of PCI-Express.

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

How Fast Is PCIe?

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PCI-Express speeds are based on the PCI-Express version and the number of lanes used. One line is referred to as x1, two lanes as x2, etc. PCI-Express technically supports up to a width of x32. However, most consumer motherboards have some set of these PCIe widths: x1, x2, x4, x8, x16.

PCI-Express Speeds (Rounded)
PCIe 4.0PCIe 5.0
x1 Bandwidth 2 GB/s 4 GB/s
x2 Bandwidth 4 GB/s 8 GB/s
x4 Bandwidth 8 GB/s 16 GB/s
x8 Bandwidth 16 GB/s 32 GB/s
x16 Bandwidth 32 GB/s 63 GB/s

Intel's 12th generation CPUs currently provide PCIe 5.0 support for CPU lanes (i.e., one to two PCIe slots) and PCIe 4.0/3.0 speeds for the remaining lanes.

The bandwidth for each PCIe 5.0 lane is 4 GB/s. 4 GB/s per lane means that if you use a PCI-Express 5.0 x16 device, it would have up to 64 GB/s of bandwidth available to it.

NVMe M.2 SSD cards use 2 or 4 lanes, which means they have 4–8 GB/s available to them with PCIe 4.0.

Samsung 980 1TB M.2 SSD Samsung 980 1TB M.2 SSD Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

NVMe PCIe add-in cards can use up to 16 lanes in an x16 slot, thus having up to 32 GB/s of bandwidth available to them with PCIe 4.0.

In comparison, PCIe 3.0 has half of the bandwidth of PCIe 4.0.

PCI-Express 3.0 Speed (Rounded)
x1 Bandwidth 1 GB/s
x2 Bandwidth 2 GB/s
x4 Bandwidth 4 GB/s
x8 Bandwidth 8 GB/s
x16 Bandwidth 16 GB/s

Learn More About PCI-Express

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Want to brush up on the latest PCIe products, versions, and features? Check out the articles in this PCI-Express series: