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. The slots provide you with a number of upgrade options as well as plenty of customizations in addition to just providing key functionality. On a motherboard, you will find different types of PCIe slots. However, this guide covers the most important PCIe X1 slots in details. So to answer a question like, What are PCIe X1 slots used for will be answered in this detailed guide.
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 actually are?
PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) slots are used as an interface for motherboard components such as GPU, RAM and storage. In actual 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, however, four primary sizes are used worldwide. These are:
- PCIe x1
- PCIe x4
- PCIe x8
- PCIe x16
The PCIe X1 is the smallest PCIe slot among all others. Moreover, you will find PCIe slots in 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 lesser 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. Actually, from the beginning, the PCIe x1 slots have replaced the standard PCI ports. These 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.
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.
Though these are smaller amongst all PCIe and offer less bandwidth, however, these are still used for numerous functions. In general, these slots are used for expansion cards having 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. But still, at times, one does not like the audio quality or wants some other enhanced audio features that are not available in built-in sound cards. That is where the PCIe X1 slot comes to the rescue.
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:
- ASUS XONAR SE 5.1 Channel PCIe Gaming Sound Card
- Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card with High Performance
- Creative Sound Blaster AE-7 Hi-Res Internal PCIe Sound Card
- StarTech.com 7.1 Channel Sound Card – PCI Express – 24-bit
- Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card
- Padarsey PCIe 7.1 Channel Sound Card CM8828 + CM9882A
- Sedna – SE-PCIE-SC-10 PCIe 7.1 Channel Sound Card (CM8828 + CM9882A)
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 for adding 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.
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:
- Tiergrade Superspeed 7 Ports PCI-E to USB 3.0 Expansion Card
- Ziyituod ZYT PCIe SATA Card, 4 Port with Cables, SATA Expansion Card
- CERRXIAN 4 Port PCI-E RS232, PCI-E Serial Expansion Card
- FebSmart 4 Ports USB 3.0 Super Fast 5Gbps PCIe Expansion Card
- FebSmart 7-Ports Superspeed 5Gbps USB 3.0 PCIe Expansion Card
- YEELIYA PCI-E to Type C (2),Type A (3) USB 3.0 5-Port PCIe Expansion Card
- Syba SY-PEX30016 3 Port IEEE 1394 Firewire PCIe 1.1 x1 Card
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 a competition for smaller and 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 in some of the latest motherboards.
So, as a result, you are limited to using Wi-Fi only. However, at times if you do not have a wireless connectivity or you are a wired connection fan, then you are going to need some resource 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 in 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:
- Intel Gigabit CT PCI-E Network Adapter EXPI9301CTBLK
- Syba Dual Port Gigabit Ethernet 2.1 PCI-E x1 Network Adapter Card
- TP-Link WiFi 6 AX3000 PCIe WiFi Card (Archer TX3000E)
- 1.25G Gigabit Ethernet Converged Network Card
- Asus AX3000 (Pce-AX58BT) Next-Gen WiFi 6 Dual Band PCIe
- 1.25G Gigabit Ethernet Converged Network Adapter (NIC)
- Rosewill Dual Port RJ45 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit PCI Express
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.
The classic hard drives use a disk which is prone to go bad if not handled with delicate care. Moreover, hard drives provide slower speeds and are not rigid. In contrast, the 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 in your motherboard, you may get one easily with PCIe X1 slots. You may easily get a PCIe expansion card having 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:
- MZHOU NVME M.2 SSD M Key to PCI-e 3.0 x1 Host Controller Expansion Card
- Rivo 4 Port SATA III PCIe 3.0 X1 Controller Card, PCI Express
- StarTech.com 1 Port PCI Express IDE Controller Adapter Card
- Sedna PCI Express (PCIe) SATA III (6G) SSD Adapter with 1 SATA III Port
- StarTech.com 4 Port PCI Express 2.0 SATA III 6Gbps RAID Controller Card
- 2 Port M.2 SSD to PCI-e x1 adapter B or B+M key (SI-PEX40115)
- M.2 NVME to PCIe Adapter, M.2 NVMe SSD to PCIE 3.0 x4 Adapter
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.
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:
- TBS 6902 Dual Satellite Hd Low-Profile Pcie Tv Tuner Card Dvb-S2
- TBS 6281SE DVB-T2/T/C TV Dual Terrestrial HD Low-Profile PCIe
- TBS6909X DVB-S/ S2/ S2X 8 Tuner PCI Express Digital Satellite TV Card
- Genuine Dell ATI NW823, DN804 Theater TV Television
- HAUPPAUGE WinTV-quadHD PCI Express TV Tuner Card
- HP WinTV-HVR-1260 G2 Hybrid TV Tuner IR STD
- Hauppauge 1288 WinTV-HVR-1150 PCI Hybrid HD TV Tuner Card
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.
Moreover, using video capture cards, you may also play your desired console games such as PS4 or others. Check this detailed guide of 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:
- YOTOCAP YT-501 PCI-E Capture Card 4K 60fps
- Pirect Uldra-P60 Video Capture Card, True 60fps
- Elgato HD60 Pro1080p60 Capture and Passthrough
- YOTOCAP YT-294 PCI-E 4K Video Capture Card
- Magewell Pro Capture SDI Video Capture Card
- Ableconn PEX-FW107 1394b & 1394a 3-Port PCI Express
- YOTOCAP YT-321 PCI-E Capture Card 4K
The difference between PCIe x1, x4, x8, x16
When it comes to PCIe, you would have heard of the most common four different types. These are x1, x4, x8, and x16. So what is actually meant by all these, 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).
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 is having a different size and so a different function. A motherboard is going to have different slots, which include x1, x4, x8, x16, or x32. Each of these slots is having different sizes, lanes, speeds, and bandwidth. A PCIe x1 slot is going to be of 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.
What Peripherals Use Which Ports?
As the PCIe x1 port is having the least bandwidth and power so a sound card or other cards, as explained in details above, may be installed in this slot.
For a bit powerful side, like an extended USB 3.0 or a card that will require data rate at 4 or 8 times faster, you may use 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 a similar bandwidth. The bandwidth of each x1 slot doubles with consecutive (newer) generations.
Presently, the 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 as a hack or trick when 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?
For such 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 actually 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 or conventional PCI is the older technology, so these have much slower data rates as compared to PCIe. A 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 having numerous benefits over 2.0. A PCIe 3.0 runs at almost double the speed of 2.0. Moreover, 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 of the 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 and neglected.
In the detailed guide above, everything related to the PCIe x1 slot is explained in details. After reading this guide, hopefully, you would have got 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.