What are PCIe X1 Slots Used For? Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

If you are a computer geek, then most certainly you are familiar with the term the PCIe. However, even most of the experts don’t know the real purpose and functionality of a PCIe slot. These slots allow the ultimate connectivity of a PC’s motherboard with the most critical components. These slots provide you with a number of upgrade options as well as plenty of customizations in addition to just providing key functionality. On the motherboard, you will find different types of PCIe slots. However, this guide covers the most important PCIe X1 slots in detail. So to answer a question like, What are PCIe X1 slots used for will be answered in this detailed guide.

what are pcie x1 slots used for

Generally, if you are going to build or upgrade your PC, then you need to understand the critical hardware components. Yes, RAM, Processor, GPU, SSD is the most critical hardware that everyone looks into. However, a motherboard is more important and critical as compared to the others.

That’s why you need to understand the requirements of different slots as well as their purpose on a motherboard. There are also several PCIe slots configurations, each having its own meaning and purpose. One such important PCIe slot is the PCIe X1 slot in a motherboard.

What are PCIe Slots?

Before getting into details about the uses of PCIe X1 slots, we need to understand that what PCIe slots are?

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) slots are used as an interface for motherboard components such as GPU, RAM and storage. In actuality it is a standard interface that has been created for connectivity of high speed and critical devices with the motherboard.

Though these slots are available in a number of sizes and configurations, four primary sizes are used worldwide. They are:

  • PCIe x1
  • PCIe x4
  • PCIe x8
  • PCIe x16
what are pcie slots

The PCIe X1 is the smallest PCIe slot among all others. Moreover, you will find PCIe slots for different generations. The newer generations offer much better performance as compared to the older ones.

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PCIe X1 Slots

PCIe X1 slots are the smallest slots in all PCIe standard slots available. These slots have less bandwidth as well as the fewest lanes. Normally, a PCIe X1 slot is completely avoided if you don’t know the exact purpose as well as usage of a PCIe X1 slot. From the beginning, the PCIe x1 slots have replaced the standard PCI ports. They are about 1 inch (or 26mm) long. The data transfer speed to/ from the motherboard is up to 250 MBps in each direction at once.

pcie x1 slot

What are PCIe X1 Slots Used For?

Now coming towards the real question, what are PCIe X1 slots used for? What is the purpose of PCIe X1 slots? So there is not just a single purpose for which these slots are utilized.

Although these are smaller amongst all PCIe and offer less bandwidth, they are still used for numerous functions. In general, these slots are used for expansion cards that have a low bandwidth requirement.

Some of the most important cards that are perfect for PCIe X1 slots are:

1. Sound Card

Most of the time, you don’t like a built-in sound card due to poor audio quality or other issues. Though most of the latest motherboards are equipped with high-quality sound cards. Still, at times, one does not like the audio quality or want some other enhanced audio features that are not available on built-in sound cards. That is where the PCIe X1 slot comes to the rescue. 

pcie x1 slot soundcard

A sound card does not require some heavy bandwidths like a GPU. Therefore, a low bandwidth slot like PCIe X1 is perfect for a sound card. Moreover, sound cards use a single PCIe lane; therefore, PCIe X1 slots are ideal for these cards.

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PCIe sound card is a card that is inserted into the PCIe X1 slot on the motherboard to give audio functionality. An external sound card will give you some enhanced audio features such as surround sound support and audio control and mixing. Moreover, you will have a number of other ports for headphones as well as microphones as well. Additionally, a sound card is having better shielding against electromagnetic interference, thus a greater life.

Some of the best sound cards for PCIe X1 slot are:

2. Port Expansion Cards

At times a user is limited by the ports provided by the motherboard. The reason is sometimes a motherboard is not having enough slots or ports to add additional peripherals or cards. An expansion card, such as a SATA expansion card, provides a user with the facility of adding more storage drives or other devices.

pcie x1 slot port expansion cards

An expansion card provides benefits in the long run due to a number of additional ports. Most of these port expansion cards are used in the PCIe X1 slots. A good example and most widely used is the USB expansion card. If your motherboard has built-in USB 2.0 ports, you may simply go for a USB 3.0 expansion card, and voila, you are going to get amazing 3.0 speeds. A USB 3.0 or 3.1 provides much faster and better speeds as compared to USB 2.0.

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Similarly, if you are not having enough storage and want to upgrade it without removing the older one, a SATA expansion card is going to be your ultimate choice. A SATA expansion card is compatible with PCIe X1 and lets you connect multiple drives for additional and upgraded storage.

All this expansion and up-gradation is possible due to the amazing PCIe X1 slot. Thus you are not limited to the fixed configuration due to the limitation of your motherboard.

Some of the good expansion cards for PCIe X1 slot are:

3. Modems / Network Cards

Another most important usage of the PCIe X1 slot is network expansion providing compatibility for modem and network cards. In the latest motherboards, we see that there is competition for smaller and more compact sizes and dimensions. For this purpose, the larger parts are being removed to save some extra space for compactness. Due to this, we see that most important ports like the RJ-45 Ethernet port are not available on some of the latest motherboards.

pcie x1 slot network cards

So, as a result, you are limited to using Wi-Fi only. However, at times if you do not have wireless connectivity or you are a wired connection fan, then you are going to need some resources for an RJ-45 Ethernet port. So a PCIe X1 slot provides you with complete support for connecting an external network card having an RJ-45 port to let you connect your wire for uninterruptable connectivity.

In a similar manner, we are not having any telephone port (RJ-11) now on any motherboard. So if you are working on such telephone projects or using telephone or fax for connectivity with a computer, then you may connect a modem easily using a Modem card for PCIe X1 slot.

Some of the recommended network cards for PCIe X1 slots are:

4. NVMe (M.2) Drive Slots

We all know that this tech era is all about speed and performance. The times of traditional hard drives are about to end now. SSDs (Solid State Drives) are much faster as well as durable as compared to the classic hard drives.

pcie x1 slot nvme ssd

Classic hard drives use a disk that is prone to go bad if not handled with delicate care. Moreover, hard drives provide slower speeds and are not rigid. In contrast, Solid State Drives are great in terms of speed, performance as well as durability.

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However, if you are not having NVMe (M.2) Drive Slots feature on your motherboard, you may easily get one with PCIe X1 slots. You may easily get a PCIe expansion card with NVMe (M.2) Drive Slots, where you can easily insert your optical drives and thus enjoy a non-stop and lag-free SSD performance.

Some good and recommended NVME Expansion Card options are given below:

5. TV Tuner Card

What if you don’t own a TV but still want to watch live TV on your computer? Yes, you can do that using the internet by watching almost all channels online. However, if you don’t want to stream online due to limited or no internet connectivity, there is still a better way.

pcie x1 slot tv tuner

A TV Tuner Card is a card or device that receives satellite signals directly on your computer. This enables you to watch all respective channels easily without any hassle. For this, you may simply insert a TV Tuner Card or respective expansion card directly into a PCIe X1 slot and thus enjoy the premium entertainment easily.

Some good and recommended TV Tuner Cards are given below:

6. Video Capture Cards

What if you can capture anything on screen from a digital camera, a DVD player, or an old VCR having VHS tapes? If you think nothing like this is possible, then you are certainly unaware of the Video Capture Cards commonly known as VCC.

pcie x1 slot video capture card

Also, using video capture cards, you may also play your desired console games such as PS4 or others. Check out this detailed guide on How to Play PS4 on your laptop screen, and you will be amazed by the amazing features of a video capture card.

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Every VCC has its own features and functions. However, almost all cards have basic analog RCA connections, and the newer latest models have HDMI connections as well. Thus whether it be digital or analog, RCA, HDMI, SDI, DisplayPort, SVGA, a VCC will capture everything for you.

Some of the most recommended Video Capture Cards are given below:

The difference between PCIe x1, x4, x8, x16

When it comes to PCIe, you would have heard of the most common four different types. They are x1, x4, x8, and x16. So what is meant by all this, and what is the basic difference between x1, x4, x8, and x16?

To understand in an easier and more basic manner, we must know that each PCIe card has its own dedicated lanes (serial data connections) to the host. Each lane is having an average speed of 250-1969 MB/s, depending on the different versions of the PCIe protocols (v1.x, v2.x, v3.0, v4.0).

difference between x1, x4, x8 and x16

The number of lanes in each PCIe slot is indicated by the suffix of the PCIe protocol ×1, ×4, ×8, ×16, or ×32. In short, this is the basic difference between all four types of PCIe lanes:

  • ‘PCIe x1’ is having one data lane and lesser bandwidth.
  • ‘PCIe x4’ is having four data lanes.
  • ‘PCIe x8’ is having eight data lanes.
  • ‘PCIe x16’ is having sixteen data lanes and the highest bandwidth.

Why Are the PCI Express Ports on My Motherboard Different Sizes?

As explained above, each PCIe port has a different size and so a different function. The motherboard is going to have different slots, including x1, x4, x8, x16, or x32. Each of these slots has different sizes, lanes, speeds, and bandwidth. The PCIe x1 slot is going to be of a smaller size, then x4, x8 with x16 as the largest among the four versions. Each of these is available on the motherboard as each one offers a different function and compatibility for expansion.

Which Peripherals Use Which Ports?

As the PCIe x1 port has the least bandwidth and power so a sound card or other card, as explained in the details above, may be installed in this slot.

For the slightly more powerful side, like an extended USB 3.0 or a card that will require data rate at 4 to 8 times faster, you may use the x4 or x8 slot. For the much higher side, like installation of GPU, you will need a much faster data rate like PCIe x16 slot.

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The Bandwidth of the X1 Slot

The bandwidth of each PCIe slot is different as PCIe x1 slots are available in different versions. Not all PCIe x1 slots have similar bandwidth. The bandwidth of each x1 slot doubles with consecutive (newer) generations.

Presently, gen 3 and gen 4 are the latest PCIe x1 generations. A PCIe x1 gen 3 offers a bandwidth of about 1 GB/s. In the case of PCIe x1 gen 4, the speed is double as compared to gen 3 and thus gives an optimum bandwidth of almost 2 GB/s.

Open-Ended X1 Slots

Have you ever heard of open-ended slots? This may be considered a hack or trick if you are short of higher-end ports such as the x4 slot. But you got an x4 slot compatible device and a free x1 port, then what to do? 

open ended x1 slots

For this purpose, there is an open ended x1 slot. Just insert one side of the x4 device at the end of the x1 port. You will get much less speed as compared to the original x4 slot, but it still works. However, it is not recommended and must be used in extreme cases only.

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PCI vs. PCIe

PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect, and PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. PCIe is an advanced version of PCI, which has almost replaced PCI. PCI was introduced in 1992 and PCIe in the year 2003. A PCI is a parallel bus interface, whereas PCIe works on a serial bus interface.

As PCI and conventional PCI is the older technology, so these have much slower data rates as compared to PCIe. The PCI slot offers up to 133MB/s, while a PCIe slot offers speed up to even 16 GB/s. Thus you can see the optimum speed advantage of a PCIe over a PCI.

Lastly, the PCIe is equipped with a number of features as compared to the conventional PCI. 

PCIe 2.0 vs 3.0

PCIe 3.0 is an advanced version with numerous benefits over 2.0. PCIe 3.0 runs at almost double the speed of 2.0. Also, it is still totally forward/backward compatible. So even 2.0 boards will work with 3.0 cards and vice versa.

Also, PCIe 3.0 supports a max speed of up to 16 GB/s, whereas PCIe 2.0 gives a max speed of 8 GB/s. 

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With a new generation of devices, the older ones are becoming obsolete day by day. However, in most cases, we still have to rely on some older tech for numerous reasons. PCIe x1 slot is an important slot, the benefits of which cannot be avoided or neglected.

In the detailed guide above, everything related to the PCIe x1 slot is explained in detail. After reading this guide, hopefully, you would have gotten an answer to an evolving question like what are PCIe X1 slots used for?

Still, if you think we have missed something, drop your comments to enlighten our readers with your practical experience.

6 thoughts on “What are PCIe X1 Slots Used For? Ultimate Beginner’s Guide”

  1. Two things – you mentioned that a card which is for a larger slot than a PCI x1 can still in some circumstances be placed in that smaller slot. You don’t mention whether a smaller card, if necessary, can be used in a larger slot. Although your written English is very good, it is still somewhat awkward. You probably should get a grammar geek proofread your writing.

  2. I don’t agree with salukilawdawg. Though proof reading is not a bad suggestion, I don’t think that the grammatical structure is as important as the valuable information that has been shared. Such valuable information is shared with love and it is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your help.

  3. Thanks for the article! It answered my questions and you have pictures to aid understanding. The open ended x1 slot isn’t anything I’ve seen before, but something I will now look for. I feel the writing style and descriptions are on target.


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