PCI-SIG proposes external PCIe cable standard

By on June 24, 2011, 7:54 PM

The PCI Special Interest Group has revealed plans to develop an external version of PCI Express to rival the likes of eSATA, USB 3.0, and Intel’s new Thunderbolt interconnect. The standard would be based on PCIe 3.0 technology, which will offer potential transfer speeds of up to 32Gbps, a significant boost from the PCIe 2.1 spec that's widely used today in PCs (internally) for connecting graphics cards, sound cards, and even solid-state drives.

Thunderbolt currently offers 10Gbps transfers, but Intel says it can scale up to 100Gbps in the future. With those speeds, USB 3.0 is already looking outdated, but then again it's the only standard gaining some traction.

Previously known as Light Peak, Thunderbolt was launched back in February using copper cabling instead of fiber optics as initially planned, and so far only Apple has adopted it for its latest MacBook Pro and iMac refreshes. Meanwhile, eSATA has seen a mild adoption in notebooks but its use is more limited compared both Thunderbolt and USB.

The initial proposal for external PCI Express 3.0 suggests using copper wires, with a maximum transfer distance of 3 meters, and the ability to support up to 20W of power delivery. That's double the 10W of power provided by Thunderbolt, and would be enough for external hard drives and other devices to run without the need for a separate power source -- though external graphics cards would certainly need one.

PCIe cables will be faster, cheaper, and thinner than Thunderbolt, but less functional, since the latter can be daisy-chained and carry DisplayPort data while external PCI Express cannot. The proposed standard is still in its early stages and won't be commercialized until at least mid-2013, so there's plenty of time for USB and Thunderbolt to battle it out.




User Comments: 15

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Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

Interesting, what ever happened to that external videocard concept they had a few years back?

Guest said:

Just as Tekka, the best thing that comes to mind is external videocards. I'm tired of having to stick with w/e the vendors slam in there.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I actually stopped using external PCIe because for some reason my computer would not recognize the attached hard drive when it came out of sleep, forcing a reboot.

That aside, yey, more competing standards. USB = same plugs. Period. You'd figure the industry learned the lesson with firewire.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Interesting, what ever happened to that external videocard concept they had a few years back?

You mean this?

Good luck finding an XGP enabled laptop, or a XGP graphics solution to plug it into. This Fujitsu model was supposed to be the poster child for XPG...though I think that particular poster child ended up trussed in a white van sometime in 2009.

USB = same plugs. Period.

...all on different cables. Yay!

A quick look on and in my desk and workbench yeilds:

Standard-A to Standard-A (data transfer)

Standard-A to Standard-B (printer)

Standard-A to Mini-B (camera)

Standard-A to Micro-B (phone)

Standard-A to Micro-A (mp4 player)

Micro AB to Mini-B (phone charger/data)

Guest said:

(For PCs) the immediate future will be only USB 3.0...

princeton princeton said:

Guest said:

(For PCs) the immediate future will be only USB 3.0...

Why look at the immediate future? The immediate future is buying a sandy bridge cpu. But it won't be long before ivy bridge is out. Look farther into the future.

dividebyzero said:

Interesting, what ever happened to that external videocard concept they had a few years back?

You mean this?

Good luck finding an XGP enabled laptop, or a XGP graphics solution to plug it into. This Fujitsu model was supposed to be the poster child for XPG...though I think that particular poster child ended up trussed in a white van sometime in 2009.

AMD XGP. Well now I see why it flopped.

Chazz said:

Or even sooner the AMD bulldozer cpus will be out, but we all know you hate AMD :P

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Or even sooner the AMD bulldozer cpus will be out

Even sooner than what?

...but we all know you hate AMD :P

What gave it away?

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

dividebyzero said:

Interesting, what ever happened to that external videocard concept they had a few years back?

You mean this?

Good luck finding an XGP enabled laptop, or a XGP graphics solution to plug it into. This Fujitsu model was supposed to be the poster child for XPG...though I think that particular poster child ended up trussed in a white van sometime in 2009.

USB = same plugs. Period.

...all on different cables. Yay!

A quick look on and in my desk and workbench yeilds:

Standard-A to Standard-A (data transfer)

Standard-A to Standard-B (printer)

Standard-A to Mini-B (camera)

Standard-A to Micro-B (phone)

Standard-A to Micro-A (mp4 player)

Micro AB to Mini-B (phone charger/data)

I thought there was one for desktops, and the reason they were going external was do to the increasing power requirements of videocards.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I don't think the external graphics solution has been investigated for use with desktops, and it's much easier to add another PCIe power connector (or upgrade 6pin to 8pin) to a discrete card than to manufacture an entire ePCIe enclosure.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

dividebyzero said:

I don't think the external graphics solution has been investigated for use with desktops, and it's much easier to add another PCIe power connector (or upgrade 6pin to 8pin) to a discrete card than to manufacture an entire ePCIe enclosure.

You can just DIY an enclosure: [link]

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Sweet. Sub-zero graphics cooling and cold drinks all in one convenient location.

treetops treetops said:

Hmm I figured external video cards would be to far from the mobo slowing them down. But that would be great, my video card puts out majority of the heat in my case. Here in arizona it would be a god send, but then again my comp already heats my house up enough as it is.

Chazz said:

dividebyzero said:

Or even sooner the AMD bulldozer cpus will be out

Even sooner than what?

...but we all know you hate AMD :P

What gave it away?

Than ivy bridge. Just poking fun at his disdain for AMD.

Guest said:

The external video card did come out made by Asus using pcie express card slot

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