We had to check the date just to make sure the past two decades weren't just one very long dream, one in which we've seen the accelerated graphics port (AGP) supplant PCI as the port of choice for graphics cards, which itself ended up being replaced by PCI Express. Unless this is the most elaborate hoax in the world, the year really is 2011, a fact that Zotac blatantly ignores with the release of a GeForce GT 520 videocard in PCI and PCI-E x1 form factors.
A company called "Internet Machines" is suing several high profile technology bigwigs over alleged patent infringement violations related to PCI Express switch technology. Just some of the many names include Dell, Nvidia, AMD, Asus, and Samsung, but Internet Machines is also targeting retailers like Best Buy and TigerDirect, as well as system builders, one of which told us this feels like an extortion scheme.
Through a series of BIOS updates, Gigabyte last month announced it added native support for PCI Express Gen. 3 technology on over 40 of its existing motherboards, and along with support for Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, it was a solid announcement for system builders looking to future proof. At least it should have been, only MSI is taking Gigabyte to task over its PCI-E Gen. 3 claims.
Could the PCI Express interface beneft from a new, two-lane (x2) solution? That's the question Intel engineers are reportedly kicking around, according to VR-Zone.com's LG Nilsson. The reason is pretty simple. PCI-E x1 lacks sufficient bandwidth for data intensive devices, and PCI-E x4 is too wide for many peripheral chips, Nilsson says. Hence why Intel is at least considering an in-between.
They say you can never have too much of a good thing. That theory's being put to the test by computer transfer technology. We've already got FireWire, USB, Ethernet, eSATA, et cetera, et cetera. Now, an old contender is entering the field sporting new technology; the PCI Special Interest Group recently announced that they're developing a new standard for an external, cabled version of the formerly internal-only PCI Express. Watch out, Apple and Intel – this tech's set to collide with Thunderbolt in the marketplace.
How can you improve on OCZ Technology’s original RevoDrive (reviewed November 2010), which binds two SandForce SF-1200 SSDs to a PCI-E card? You add another two SSDs for a quad-drive SSD. That’s what OCZ did for the RevoDrive X2.
The original RevoDrive topped out at 500MB/s in very specific tests, and hovered around half that speed for most day-to-day usage, which still put it at the very top end of current-gen solid-state devices. OCZ claims the RevoDrive X2 can hit speeds up to 750MMB/s—that’s marketing megabytes per second. Oh yeah, we’re testing that.
Move over USB, because PCI Express is going 3.0, too. PCI-SIG, the special interest group responsible for PCI Express, published the PCI-E 3.0 specification on Thursday, which the consortium describes as a low-cost, higher-performance I/O technology that now includes a new 128b/130b encoding scheme and a data rate of 8 gigatransfers per second. In other words, double the bandwidth of PCI-E 2.0.
"Each new version of the PCI-E spec has doubled the bandwidth of the prior generation," said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow at Insight 64. "The latest group of PCI-E architects and designers drove the standard forward while maintaining complete backward compatibility for Gen 1 and Gen 2 devices. Rarely has a standard advanced so non-disruptively through three major evolutionary cycles. The ability to pull this off demonstrates not only the ingenuity of the Gen 3 developers, but also the insight of those who defined the earlier versions in such an extensible manner."
Want more numbers? The PCI-SIG says products designed for PCI-E 3.0 can "achieve bandwidth near 1GB/s in one direction on a single-lane (x1) configuration and scale to an aggregate approaching 32GB/s on a sixteen-lane (x16) configuration." What the new encoding scheme does is allow for near 100 percent efficiency, PCI-SIG says.
OCZ Technology is on a roll. While most consumer SSD manufacturers are content to just slap the latest controller and some NAND into a 2.5-inch enclosure and call it a day, OCZ has been pumping out innovative products, from top-of-the-heap SATA SSDs to the blistering-fast (and stylish) USB 3.0 Enyo drive. Now it has introduced the RevoDrive, a PCI-E SSD in capacities from 50GB to 480GB. Though it’s not the first PCI Express SSD (Fusion-io’s been making enterprise-level PCI-E SLC devices for years), it is the first bootable consumer PCI-E SSD. OCZ claims the RevoDrive can hit up to 540MB/s reads and 450MB/s writes, which sounds like nonsense. But is it?
OCZ is hoping its new RevoDrive will bring PCI-E based SSD storage to the masses, and given the price points, that's a real possibility.
The drive comes in both 120GB and 240GB capacities with MSRPs set at $390 and $700, respectively. Not exactly cheap, but in line with what other high-performance SSDs are going for. And unlike their SATA based brethren, the RevoDrive SSDs aren't bound by the same bottlenecks.
"The RevoDrive is the first PCIe SSD that delivers both performance and affordability and radically alters the SSD landscape," said Ryan Petersen, CEO of the OCZ Technology Group. "Up to this point PCIe SSDs have been reserved for enterprise applications and priced out of the range of many consumers, the bootable RevoDrive SSD changes the game by delivering a PCIe based solution that costs as low as $3 per gigabyte, exceptional small file write IOPS of over 80K, which is the most available in any low-cost solution."
The RevoDrive features a proprietary RAID 0 design that helps it ramp up transfer rates to up to 540MB/s read and up to 480MB/s write speeds, or nearly twice that of traditional SATA-based SSDs.
Are x1 PCI Express cards and x16 PCI Express slots compatible? Can I insert my x1 PCI Express soundcard into a x16 PCI Express slot? And maybe this question isn’t relevant, but why do motherboard companies always put their x1 slots between two x16 slots? Even if you install one videocard it will block access to the x1 slot. Of course, you can install your videocard in a secondary x16 PCI Express slot, but how do you know it’s not running at x8 speed? Moreover, if you want to install only one videocard, the motherboard manufacturer instructs you to install it in the topmost x16 slot. But is that required?