Look out Thunderbolt: External PCI Express spec being developed

Summary:To make sure there's further confusion in the myriad ways you can connect an external device to your computer, the PCI special interest group says it is working on an external version of PCI Express, the standard already used internally in PCs for graphics cards, sound cards, and even SSDs. It would join eSATA, USB 3.

To make sure there's further confusion in the myriad ways you can connect an external device to your computer, the PCI special interest group says it is working on an external version of PCI Express, the standard already used internally in PCs for graphics cards, sound cards, and even SSDs. It would join eSATA, USB 3.0, and Intel's new Thunderbolt interfaces as the latest ways to hook up things like external hard drives to your system.

The external spec would be based on PCIe 3.0 technology, with potential transfer speeds of 32Gbps. Thunderbolt currently offers 10Gbps transfers and USB 3.0 5Gbps. In addition, Thunderbolt has not been widely adopted since its launch earlier this year, though Apple -- which helped work on the tech with Intel -- has included the interface on its latest MacBook Pro and iMac refreshes.

But the PCI Express external spec won't allow you to connect all your devices to a single connection, like Thunderbolt lets you. It also won't support power consumption beyond 20 watts, which means gamers hoping for external graphics cards using the forthcoming spec will be waiting in vain.

The PCI Express group's goal is to have devices supporting the new external standard to hit the market in 2013. By then, USB 3.0 will probably be on every new PC, and Thunderbolt will have proven whether or not it will be widely available. But with potential transfer speeds several times greater than those interfaces, the PCI Express external spec will have a chance to disrupt the market when (and if) it finally arrives.

[Via X-bit Labs]

Topics: Storage, Hardware, Mobility

About

Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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