PCIe 5.0 may have just arrived, but PCI-SIG is not waiting for anyone. The next generation of PCIe specifications has already been completed by the industry consortium, and PCIe 6.0 will once again double the available bandwidth for compatible SSDs, graphics cards and other add-on cards.
The PCIe 6.0 specification delivers a data rate of 64GT / s, which will increase the bandwidth up to a full 256 GB / s via a 16x connection. That would definitely be enough for the next few generations of graphics cards, though it would provide some seriously fast NVMe SSDs, even across a 4x or 2x slot.
PCIe 6.0 will also use PAM4 signaling, which may sound familiar. PAM4, or Pulse Amplitude Modulation 4-level, is also used by Micron and Nvidia for GDDR6X memory, making it possible to run so much faster than regular GDDR6 in high-end RTX 30 Series graphics cards. It essentially allows for a digital signal with higher integrity, with more bits transmitted in each period, allowing for the higher bandwidth of the connected device, be it memory chip, GPU or SSD.
To alleviate any concerns about errors due to the faster PAM4 signaling, Lightweight Forward Error Correct (FEC) and Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) are also included. All this says PCI-SIG will run with low latency.
Of course, PCIe 6.0 will also be backward compatible with all other previous versions of PCIe.
What matters most to us gamers is when we can experience PCIe 6.0 for ourselves. Of course, it will take a while for this technology to turn it into CPUs, chipsets and motherboards. Although when it’s at hand, the devices, namely storage controllers for fast SSDs, are likely to become number four at a fast pace.
GPUs, on the other hand, have not yet taken advantage of the high bandwidth available with PCIe 4.0, let alone PCIe 5.0. Today’s top GPUs would barely scratch the surface of what a PCIe 6.0 4x slot could offer, let alone make good use of 256 GB / s from 16x. Of course, that may all change with future generations and technologies, but at the moment GPUs do not have a tremendous need for a bandwidth increase.
Intel only recently introduced PCIe 5.0 for Alder Lake desktops, and compatible SSDs have already been teased for release. Some with staggering performance figures.
The technology industry never ceases to meet the next generation of standards in pace, even though we need more than just fast drives to use them for good performance. Technologies such as DirectStorage, which will better use fast SSDs for gaming, are the key to making this kind of drive worthwhile. So we hope this technology is not far away now.