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PCIe 3.0 standard goes live

The PCI Special Interest group, the body responsible for managing the PCI family of industry standards, has announced the release of the PCI Express 3.0 standard - and it promises to make future hardware fly.

The PCIe 3.0 standard increases the bandwidth available on each PCI Express lane compared to the current PCIe 2.0 standard to an impressive eight gigatransfers per second from five gigatransfers per second.

That equates to around 1GB/s of bandwidth per lane or 16GB/s for a PCIe-x16 slot, as typically used for high-performance graphics cards. In theory, a bidirectional connection will allow for aggregate bandwidth of up to 32GB/s - a seriously impressive figure.

While the number of transfers available in a single second has only gone up by a factor of 1.6, the overall bandwidth has doubled compared to PCIe 2.0 - and quadrupled from the original PCIe specification - thanks to a new data encoding scheme which the PCI-SIG claims offers a 25 per cent increase in efficiency.

All PCIe 3.0 ports are pegged to be backwards compatible with PCIe 2.0 and PCIe cards, although they won't be able to take advantage of the full bandwidth offered by the standard. A series of protocol extensions has also been included, offering improved latency and power efficiency for PCIe interconnects.

Although the specification has now been released to PCI-SIG members, it's going to take a while before we start seeing the first PCIe 3.0-equipped motherboards appearing. While late 2011 is a possibility, it's more likely to be late 2012 based on the adoption speed of previous generations of the PCIe standard.

For the technically-minded, a PDF containing the base specification as provided to PCI-SIG members is available here.