If you are not sure what a PCIe x1 slot is, you are not alone. With all the buzz going around these days about PCIe x16 slots, some of the other PCIe slots on motherboards have been left out. It is important to understand what they are and how to use them so you can make your PC work the way you want it to.
In this article, I am going to cover the basics of what PCIe x1 slots are, how to tell if you have them on your motherboard, why they are important, and how they are different from the other PCIe slots commonly found on motherboards. So when you finish reading this article, you’ll know everything about PCIe x1 slots and be able to use them to their full potential.
PCIe slots are slots that use the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express technology, a high-speed serial computer expansion bus standard for connecting hardware devices to your PC. It allows the devices to communicate with your motherboard and each other, allowing you to plug in anything from GPUs, sound cards, network cards, external flash drives, etc.
They are the fastest slots on any motherboard, have the best data transfer rates, are the easiest to install hardware into, and allow you to connect all kinds of devices to your PC.
What does the x1 mean after the PCIe?
The “x1” after the PCIe is the number of lanes (communications wires) that the PCI Express card uses to communicate within the PCIe bus. The higher the number, the faster data can get transferred between devices.
To better understand what a lane is, we can compare it to a lane on the highway, and the data are the cars on this highway. The more lanes available, the more cars can travel on them at the same time, and the faster you can get from point A to point B.
So the more lanes a PCIe card has, the higher the data transfer rate it can have.
Related Article: How Many PCIe Lanes Do I Have? [Solved]
Are all PCIe x1 slots the same?
No, not all PCIe x1 slots are the same. There are different versions of the PCIe standard.
|Generation||x16 GB/s||x8 GB/s||x4 GB/s||x2 GB/s||x1 GB/s|
As you can see in the table above, different generations of PCIe slots allow for different data transfer rates. The difference between a PCIe 1.0 x1 and a PCIe 4.0 x1 is that the first is almost 4 times slower than the latter!
Related Article: Does it matter which PCIe x16 slot I use?
What is the difference between PCIe x1 slots and other PCIe slots like x4 x8 or x16?
As you already know, the main difference between the x1 and other slots is the lanes or communications wires used to transfer data between devices. The PCIx1 slots are the slowest, and the PCIe x16 slots are the fastest.
Another difference is the physical size of the slots. The x1 slots are the smallest in size, and the x16 slots are the largest. You can study the table below to see the exact measurements in mm and the number of pins of these slots.
|PCIe Lanes #||Length in mm||No of pins|
At this point, I need to mention that smaller PCIe x1 cards can be plugged into larger slots, but they won’t run at a better speed. For example, if you have a PCIe x1 card and plug it into a PCIe x16 slot, it will function but run at the speed of the PCIx1. As you can understand, the opposite is not true: a PCIe x16 card cannot be plugged into a smaller PCIe x1 slot.
Related Post: PCIe 2.0 VS 3.0 – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
How many PCIe x1 slots are on my motherboard, and how do I find them?
There is not a standard number of PCIe x1 slots that come with motherboards. Most motherboards these days have 20 to 24 PCIe lanes that are divided into one x16 slot and multiple x1 slots or one x4 slot.
You can find out how many PCIe x1 slots your motherboard has by either looking in your motherboard manual or directly on the motherboard. As you can see in the photos above, they are the smallest PCIe slots and can be easily spotted by their size.
Related Article: Which PCIe Slot For GPU Is The Best?
What can I use PCIe x1 Slots for?
The PCIe x1 slots are very useful and can be used for many low-demand PCIe devices and expansion cards like sound cards and network adapters, contrary to x16 cards that are mostly used for high-performance graphics cards.
But let’s talk more in-depth about the different kinds of PCIe x1 cards.
This is the most common use of PCIe x1 slots. A PCIe 1x card is used to add on more ports, interfaces, extra storage, or video outputs to your computer.
The two most common expansion cards are USB expansion cards and SATA expansion Cards.
1. USB Expansion Cards
The USB Expansion card not only adds more USB ports to your computer but can add newer USB 3.1 Type C ports that can increase your data transfer speeds.
If your motherboard is a bit old and only has USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 ports, you can add a USB expansion card to get better performance and more USB ports.
Related Articles: What are USB headers?
2. Storage Expansion Cards
A SATA Expansion card or an NVMe Expansion card are used to add either an M.2 slot or more SATA ports to your computer. Both M.2 and SATA ports are used to connect storage devices like SSDs and HDDs.
The main difference between them is that M.2 ports are way faster than SATA ports but only support SSDs, not HDDs.
The downside of using a PCIe x1 M.2 PCIe expansion card is that it won’t be as fast as using the M.2 port on your motherboard, but it will be way faster than using a SATA port.
3. Network adapters
A network adapter is an expansion card used to connect your computer to other computers, servers, or printers wirelessly or through cables.
There are two kinds of Network adapters: Wireless and Wired (Ethernet). Nowadays, most motherboards come with ethernet ports, so adding an Ethernet expansion card is very rare. The only reason to do so is if you want faster speeds or an extra ethernet port (The 10G Ethernet cards are much more expensive than the 1G Ethernet cards and cannot be used on a PCIe x1 slot, they only work on PCIe x4 and above).
So, most people use wireless network adapters because, usually, motherboards don’t come with WiFi cards. WiFi Cards can be added to PCIe x1 slots very easily and don’t cost too much.
Related Article: USB vs PCIe WiFi: Which One To Choose?
4. Sound Cards
While most onboard sound cards are good enough for basic stuff, professional musicians and music producers still use external sound cards because they have better quality and performance.
These external sound cards can either be plugged into a PCIe x1 or a USB slot.
The sound cards are not as demanding as the graphics cards, so they can be plugged into a PCIe x1 slot without affecting their performance.
The sound cards are one of the most common uses of the PCIe x1 slots because of their cost and how useful they are for people who enjoy music.
5. Video Capture Cards
Video capture cards are used to capture videos from your console, security cameras, or video recorders to your PC.
While most people don’t use this kind of PCIe x1 card, they are really popular amongst most gamers because they allow them to capture footage from their console and upload it to youtube.
A PCIe x1 slot is a great place to add a video capture card because it won’t affect the performance of your PC, and you will have a way better quality than using a USB or ExpressCard card. If you want 4k quality then you should use a PCIe x4 or higher slot.
6. TV Tuner Card
This kind of card is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a card used to watch TV or record it on your PC.
These cards are very similar to the video capture cards because they can be plugged into a PCIe x1 slot and won’t affect the performance of your PC.
If you like watching TV and don’t want to pay the big bucks for a new TV, then these kinds of cards are for you.
This is everything you need to know about PCIe x1 slots and what they can be used for.
As you probably noticed, there is a wide variety of PCIe x1 port expansion cards, and that’s because they don’t affect your performance while giving you extra benefits such as an extra USB port, sound card, video capture card, or TV tuner card.
You have also learned about the differences between the different PCIe slots, their speeds, and what a PCIe lane is.
Have you ever used any PCIe x1 cards before? If so, which ones do you prefer? What do you plan to plug into your available PCIe slots? Let me know in the comments below. If you like my content, feel free to follow me on social media for updates!
Nick Ryley is a computer architect and the owner of The Pc Geekz.
His love for playing games got him interested in computers in the first place. He wanted to be able to build a gaming PC that could run all the latest games at max settings, and this has him pursuing a major in computer architecture!
He started this blog to help people out and answer some of the most common questions about computer building