The group responsible for developing and updating the PCI Express standard, PCI-SIG, aims to update that standard approximately every three years. Version 6.0 was released earlier this year, and the group has announced that PCIE version 7.0 is currently on track for finalization sometime in 2025. Like all new PCI Express editions, it aims to double the available bandwidth of its predecessor, which is in PCIe. The case of 7.0 means that a PCIe 7.0 lane will be capable of communicating at speeds of up to 32GB per second.
That’s double the 16GB per second promised by PCIe 6.0, but it’s even more appealing than PCIe 4.0, which is the version of the standard used in high-end GPUs and SSDs today. A single PCIe 4.0 lane provides about 4GB of bandwidth per second, and you need eight One of those lanes to provide the same speed as a PCIe 7.0 lane.
Increasing speeds always open the door to faster GPUs and storage devices, but such a huge bandwidth advantage also makes it possible to do the same amount of work with fewer PCIe lanes. Today’s SSDs typically use four lanes of PCIe bandwidth, and GPUs typically use 16 lanes. You can use the same number of lanes to support more SSDs and GPUs while still providing a huge increase in bandwidth compared to today’s accessories, something that can be especially useful in servers.
Like all prior versions of the PCIe standard, PCI-SIG states that PCIe 7.0 devices will remain fully backward compatible with older PCIe versions. There is some encoding overhead that will prevent real-world stuff from reaching the full 32GB-per-second speeds promised by PCIe 7.0, but that’s true for all PCIe versions.
It will take a year or two before consumer PCs start seeing PCI Express 6.0, to say nothing of version 7.0. Intel’s latest 12th-generation Elder Lake processors include a limited number of PCIe 5.0 lanes, and PCIe 5.0 will also be part of AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series later this year. But consumer GPUs and SSDs that use PCIe 5.0 don’t really exist yet. Most new standards take years to go from “draft” to “finally” to “available in shipping products” to “ubiquitous” and the new PCI Express editions are no exception.