If you’re someone who likes to get their hands dirty and build a custom PC, there are a few things you’ll need to know in order to use the available PCIe slots effectively.
There are several PCIe slot configurations available, each with their specifications and purpose, but here we will particularly look at what are PCIe X1 slots used for.
These are the smallest slots and as such, through all the generations of the PCIe standard, they have the fewest lanes and smaller bandwidths. A typical PCIe X1 slot can very easily go unused if you do not know exactly what devices can be used with it or what it’s capable of.
Basically TL;DR, a PCIe X1 slot features a single PCie lane and it’s used for smaller devices like network cards for Wi-Fi connections, port expansion cards for USBs sound cards etc. The PCIe x1 slot is used for add in cards that do not have a high bandwidth requirement.
What are PCIe Slots?
PCIe stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect express. It’s a standard that was created to allow the connection of high-speed devices to a motherboard.
PCIe slots are the interfaces through which the PCIe devices are connected to a motherboard. They come in a variety of sizes with X1 being the smallest one available.
They allow users to connect PCIe devices to a motherboard to expand your PC’s functionality.
There are several generations available. Newer generations offer better performance than previous ones. More on this below.
Also Read: What are PCIe Slots
What are PCIe X1 Slots Used For?
Despite being smaller than the rest of the PCIe slots, the X1 configuration still offers high-speed connections between PCIe devices and the motherboard.
These are used for add in / expansion cards that have a low bandwidth requirement unlike the larger and more powerful add in cards like the Graphics Card that has a bandwidth requirement for at least PCIe x8 and PCIe X16 ideally.
The following are some of the cards that are ideal for the PCIe X1 slot.
1. Sound Card
A PCIe sound card is also known as an audio card and is a device that gets attached to a motherboard allowing the computer to better process sound data.
Many motherboards come with builtin audio chipset that works just fine and leverages the power of the CPU. However, proprietary sound cards can be used to get better and more accurate sound reproduction because they carry out the processing with chips located on the sound card itself.
You can connect a sound card to a PCIe X1 slot and from the added device, end up getting better surround sound and enhanced signal processing.
Since they do not require a lot of bandwidth, a sound card can be used on an X1 slot to enhance the already built-in audio device.
Not only do sound cards provide better quality sound, but they also add better ports and have better shielding against electromagnetic interference. They are also relatively affordable.
2. Cards for Port Expansion
For some users, the number of ports that come with the device is not enough to fit their needs.
For this reason, many users end up getting a card that provides additional ports. A good use case for the X1 card is to get a USB expansion card. This can come in handy when you need to upgrade an old motherboard from the USB 2.0 ports it shipped with to the newer USB 3.1 standards.
USB 3.1 will offer faster transfer speeds which will be great for backing up files externally or just data transfers.
A good PCIe X1 USB expansion card that fits your budget and performance parameters will be a good fit for your system.
You can also add a SATA expansion card that will let you connect more drives to your motherboard for flexibility with storage and optical disk drives.
3. Network Cards
Network cards are key peripherals that many users may feel the need to upgrade or install on their motherboards.
If you need this port, then getting a network card can help, and the card can fit into the X1 PCIe slot.
Many motherboards come with an integrated Ethernet port already built-in. With high-end motherboards, you get gigabit Ethernet speeds and with lower-end motherboards, speeds can be a bottleneck.
In this case, you can upgrade the board by slotting in a better Rj45 Ethernet network card into a free PCIe X1 slot and get improved network speeds.
One thing that many motherboards lack is a WIFI adapter. Unlike laptops that are meant to be mobile and have inbuilt Wi-Fi, some desktop board manufacturers omit this feature.
However, with a free PCIe X1 slot, you can get a WIFI card like the TP-Link WiFi 6 AX3000 (Amazon.com Referral Link) and have the ability to use wireless internet on your desktop.
4. TV Card
The Hauppauge Colossus 2 (Amazon.com Referral Link) PCI is one of the best TV cards in the market and it requires a PCIe X1 slot to function.
A TV card is a device that will let you receive TV signals directly on your computer. An advantage of this is that you won’t need to get a TV and a computer because all the TV shows would be available on your computer.
With some cards, you can record your TV shows and watch them later, meaning you can be doing other things on your computer during the day and still catch up with your favorites in the evening or when you’re on a break.
For those who need to have this, be assured that the free PCIe X1 slot on your motherboard can serve you as the host slot for a TV card.
5. Video Capture Cards
A video capture card takes video signals and converts them into digital data that can be stored on your computer.
They take data from other sources like a TV, a camera or even a gaming console and they store the data on your computer.
You can even display the data on your screen using some specialized software installed on your computer.
This has many advantages especially for streamers who play on consoles or PC and for video editing professionals.
Gamer can use the video capture card for their dedicated streaming PC.
Professionals can use the capture card to convert analog VHS tape contents to digital files for storage. This card will fit well in an X1 slot and if you need it and have a free slot, you can purchase one at a reasonable price.
The Bandwidth of the X1 Slot Depends upon the PCIe Generation
Not all PCIe x1 slots are the same. In fact, the bandwidth of the PCIe x1 slot double with every successive PCIe generation.
The most common PCIe generation at the moment is the PCIe Gen 3. The Gen 3 X1 slot has a bandwidth of about 1 GB/s.
Currently, the 4th Gen of PCIe has started gaining momentum and will become widespread soon. The Gen 4 X1 slot has a bandwidth of roughly 2 GB/s.
The following chart explains the bandwidth of the lanes better.
Open-Ended X1 Slots
Some PCIe components are built to work well with the X1 slot. However, sometimes you have X4 and larger profile peripherals but only a free X1 slot.
If this is the case, you can slot in the larger component into an open-ended X1 slot and it’ll work but much slower because it’s using a single data lane.
Additional Resources for PCIe
Now that you have a better understanding of what are PCIe X1 slots used for, you should be able to make full use of it if you have a free one on your motherboard.
Additional components give you better performance, and some of the processing is taken from the CPU allowing it to handle more demanding tasks.
While the X1 slot is the smallest, it is crucial for things like network, video cards, and sound cards. You can also fit larger peripherals like a graphics card into an open-ended PCIe X1 slot but the performance will be negatively affected.