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Like this article? We recommend Expanding Your Desktop: PCI versus PCIe

Expanding Your Desktop: PCI versus PCIe

Whether you’re looking for additional SATA ports, USB ports, or a TV tuner for your desktop, it pays to take a look inside before you fixate on an add-on card. If you have at least one empty PCIe (PCI Express) x1 slot, buy cards designed to use it instead of cards made for the PCI slot. PCI, which turns 19 this year (it was introduced in 1992), is far slower than PCIe and is likely to disappear in the next few years.

Not sure what types of slots your motherboard has? Compare them to Figure 4.

Figure 4 PCI, PCIe x1 and PCIe x8/x16 slots on a typical motherboard.

  • If you have only one empty PCIe x1 slot, your best bang for the buck is to pick up a USB 3.0 add-on card. If you have an empty PCIe x4, x8, or x16 slot (and don’t plan to use the x8 or x16 slot for another graphics card), consider an ASUS U3S6 card: with a single card, you add both USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps ports. Before opting for this card for a non-ASUS motherboard or system, though, see the cautions here.
  • You might spend more for a PCIe card than its PCI equivalent, but you’ll get much better performance, access to newer technologies such as USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps, and not need to worry about having a card you can’t use in your next computer.

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