February 11, 2007

New PCI Express Cable Spec Allows External Graphics Cards

The PCI Express Special Interest Group released its first cabling specification, which will permit the PCI Express channels commonly found on PC motherboards to be extended outside of the PC chassis, into products like external graphics cards.

The SIG released the PCI Express External Cabling standard in its completed form, version 1.0. The specification provides for cables and connectors for the standard PCIe configurations: lanes of x1, x2, x4, x8, and x16 widths.

The most intriguing possibility that external PCI Express suggests is an external PC graphics module or chassis, connected to a PC via a cable. However, the cabling solution provides for what the SIG refers to as "platform disagregated I/O," or a "PC" made up of separate storage, CPU, and graphics modules."Environmentally, the reason why you would want to do that is that the that limitations of thermals, noise, and power delivery within the usual microATX chassis are very strict, in terms of airflow guidelines," said Ramin Neshati, chair of the PCI Express Technical Communication Working Group and a technology manager at Intel, in an interview."If you wanted to build a gaming machine with two or three or some ridiculous number of graphics cards, there would be a restriction by the chassis [in terms of the number of slots]," Neshati added. "In the future, you could remove those graphics cards and place them in a separate block."

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