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If you are in the market for a new motherboard, you might be wondering what motherboards support PCIe 4.0?
The PCIe Gen 4 standard is the evolution of the PCI Express protocol and it replaces the PCIe Gen 3 or PCIe 3.0 standard that has been present for some time now.
It is the next iteration of the PCIe interface which is used to connect storage devices and graphics cards to the motherboard. It offers a big jump in bandwidth when compared to the PCIe 3.0 standard.
In this guide, we will walk you through all the modern motherboards that support PCIe 4.0 and whether or not you should consider upgrading to this standard.
What motherboards support PCIe 4.0?
Currently, there are two generations of Intel motherboards and one generation of AMD motherboards that support PCIe 4.0. The Intel 500-series and 600-series of motherboards support PCIe 4.0, while the AMD 500-series of motherboards support this protocol as well. This includes the Z690, B660, H670, Z590, B560, and H570 chipsets from Intel, and the X570 and B550 chipsets from AMD.
Importance of PCIe 4.0
So why exactly should you care about PCIe 4.0? At first glance, it seems like something complicated and maybe even unimportant to most consumers, but it is far from it.
PCIe 4.0 brings a ton of generational improvements over the older PCIe 3.0 standard, and many of those improvements can make a significant difference in your PC experience as well.
The main advantage of PCIe 4.0 over PCIe 3.0 is its massive bandwidth improvement. Compared to the older but pretty fast PCIe 3.0 standard, the new PCIe 4.0 protocol essentially doubles the overall throughput.
In terms of numbers, the PCIe 4.0 standard provides 64 GB/s bandwidth compared to a measly 32 GB/s of PCIe 3.0 over an x16 link. While PCIe 3.0 operated at 8 GT/s, the new PCIe 4.0 operates at 16 GT/s per lane. This improvement doubles the overall bandwidth available.
Structurally, the two standards are still very similar. The key improvement comes from the transfer rate, and in some cases, the material used to achieve the successful signal transmission.
All in all, one can safely assume that the effective bandwidth of the PCIe link is being doubled with the advent of PCIe 4.0.
So how exactly can you see that improvement in bandwidth? Well, PCIe 4.0 has already made a huge mark in the storage industry, particularly when it comes to high-speed NVMe SSDs. These solid state drives communicate with the system through the PCIe link, and this is where PCIe 4.0 really shines.
We are seeing PCIe 4.0 drives perform exponentially better than the existing PCIe 3.0 drives when installed in the same system. With the PCIe 4.0 protocol, we have finally seen drives that can cross the 5 GB/s number in terms of sequential read speeds while PCIe 3.0 drives tend to top out at around 3.5 GB/s.
Some special PCIe 4.0 drives such as the Samsung 980 PRO can even hit nearly 7 GB/s in terms of sequential read speeds! These are staggering numbers and this huge improvement has been made possible thanks to the PCIe 4.0 protocol.
Not to mention, you can even throw RAID into the mix to completely blow the doors off any PCIe 3.0 system. RAID 0 SSDs on PCIe 4.0 can reach speeds of up to 15.4 GB/s when it comes to reading, and 15.5 GB/s in terms of writing! This was shown by a test performed by Gigabyte using a custom add-in card.
Graphics Cards/ PCIe Slots
Storage is not the only area where we can expect PCIe 4.0 to shine. The full-size PCIe x16 slot is also wired for PCIe 4.0 capability in all PCIe Gen 4 motherboards previously mentioned. This means that the graphics cards installed in them should also perform twice as fast, right?
Well, not quite. Although there are several PCIe 4.0-capable graphics cards out there right now such as the AMD RX 5000/ RX 6000 series, and Nvidia RTX 3000 series, the performance difference between PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 is negligible.
You can’t really see a lot of improvement in gaming performance when going from a PCIe 3.0 slot to a PCIe 4.0 slot in graphics cards.
There is a big reason for this. When it comes to the full-sized PCIe x16 slot, we have still not saturated the full bandwidth of the PCIe 3.0 protocol. However, there is serious potential in PCIe 4.0 when it comes to the graphics performance of future graphics cards.
What determines the PCIe version of your PC?
If you are making a new PC build, then you need to pay attention to two components to determine the PCIe versions of your PC. These are the CPU and motherboard.
First of all, your CPU will determine the PCIe version of your PC. If you want PCIe 4.0 functionality in your PC, then you need to use a PCIe 4.0 capable CPU as well.
For Intel, PCIe 4.0 is supported by the Intel 11th Gen and 12th Gen desktop processors such as the Core i9 12900K.
In AMD, PCIe 4.0 is supported by the AMD Ryzen 3000 and Ryzen 5000 series CPUs. However, none of the AMD APUs from the Ryzen 3000, 4000, or 5000 series support PCIe 4.0. You can spot an APU by the “G” suffix they have in their names i.e. AMD Ryzen 5 3400G.
Pairing any of these CPUs with a PCIe 4.0 motherboard will guarantee PCIe 4.0 functionality in your PC.
The second part of the equation is made up of the motherboard. As mentioned before, currently there are only a handful of motherboard chipsets that support PCIe 4.0 functionality.
These include the B550 and X570 platforms for AMD, and the Z690, B660, H670, Z590, B560, and H570 chipsets from Intel.
If you want to take advantage of PCIe 4.0 for a storage drive or GPU, you also have to make sure that these devices support PCIe 4.0 as well. If you install a PCIe 3.0 SSD into a PCIe 4.0 system, there will be no improvement in performance as compared to a PCIe 3.0 system.
Therefore, to take full advantage of PCIe 4.0, one must install a PCIe 4.0 SSD/GPU into a PCIe 4.0 motherboard with a PCIe 4.0 CPU as well.
What is the best PCIe 4.0 motherboard?
If you are planning to make or buy a new Intel or AMD PC build with PCIe 4.0 capability, you might want to know which motherboard chipsets are better than others.
We will go through all of the Intel and AMD platforms that support PCIe 4.0 and compare their strengths and weaknesses.
The following Intel chipsets from the 500 and 600 series support PCIe 4.0.
Z690 is the flagship Intel chipset for the 12th Generation Alder Lake processors. It supports full CPU overclocking as well as memory overclocking. Z690 has 12 PCIe 4.0 lanes from the chipset, as well as 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes. You also get a maximum of 14 total USB ports on this chipset.
In the Z590 chipset, there are no PCIe 4.0 lanes from the chipset. Rather it gets its PCIe 4.0 functionality from the 11th Gen CPU lanes. There are a maximum of 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes, as well as a total of 14 USB ports on this chipset. There is CPU and memory overclocking support as well.
H670 is the mid-range Intel chipset for the 12th Generation processors. It has no CPU overclocking support but it does support memory overclocking. You get 12 chipset PCIe 4.0 lanes and 12 PCIe lanes of 3.0 as well. The total number of supported USB ports is 14.
Similarly to Z590, you don’t get PCIe 4.0 lanes from the chipset. The PCIe 4.0 functionality is provided by the 11th Gen Intel CPU lanes instead. There are 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and a maximum of 14 total USB ports on this platform. You don’t get any CPU overclocking support, however.
B660 is the budget Intel platform for the 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs. You get no CPU overclocking support, but there is support for memory overclocking. The total number of PCIe 4.0 lanes drops to 6, and there are 8 PCIe 3.0 lanes as well. There are a maximum of 12 USB ports on this platform.
On the budget B560 platform, there are a total of 12 maximum PCIe 3.0 lanes and 12 maximum USB ports. The 4.0 PCIe lanes are provided by the Intel 11th Gen CPU instead. There is no overclocking support for the CPU.
The following AMD chipsets support PCIe 4.0.
X570 is the primary flagship chipset of the AMD Ryzen platform. It has support for full CPU and memory overclocking. It has a total of 16 PCIe lanes (all 4.0) directly from the chipset, and a total of 16 USB ports are supported.
B550 is the value-oriented chipset of the Ryzen platform. It also has support for CPU and memory overclocking, although it does not have any PCIe 4.0 lanes from the chipset. The PCIe 4.0 functionality is provided by the CPU lanes instead. There are a total of 10 maximum USB ports on this platform.
Do I need a PCIe 4.0 motherboard?
The question of buying a PCIe 4.0-capable motherboard is going to be a relevant one for a few years. Most users out there are still running PCIe 3.0 systems without any problems, so is there any incentive to upgrade to PCIe 4.0 right now?
As with anything, the answer is a bit subjective. Right now, it is clear that PCIe 4.0 does have a significant advantage when it comes to storage drives. The question of GPU performance is still yet to be answered, but we do have significant data to back up the improvement in the area of storage.
Therefore, it makes sense to adopt PCIe 4.0 right now to take advantage of those monumental SSD speeds. However, if you are running a PCIe 3.0 system with a PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD, don’t feel pressured to go out and buy a brand new motherboard and SSD just for this purpose.
It is much better to think of PCIe 4.0 as a coincidental upgrade rather than an intentional one. If you are in the market for a new PC or a new motherboard, it makes sense to get the PCIe 4.0 one rather than the PCIe 3.0 one right now. This factor holds almost the same importance as the number of RAM slots or SATA ports.
However, if you do not plan to get a PCIe 4.0 SSD any time soon, then it makes no difference whether or not you upgrade to a PCIe 4.0 motherboard.
Best PCIe 4.0 Motherboards
We have had a couple of generations of PCIe 4.0 motherboards till now, and there are some really competent options out there from both Intel and AMD. For Team Blue, the very best PCIe 4.0 motherboards belong to the flagship Z590 and Z690 platforms.
Our top pick for the best Intel PCIe 4.0 motherboard is the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon (Amazon link), thanks to its robust power delivery system and a host of networking options. The ASUS TUF Gaming Z690-PLUS WiFi (Amazon link) is a more value-oriented Intel option with support for PCIe 4.0 at a reasonable price point. On the Z590 chipset, we recommend the Gigabyte AORUS Master Z590 (Amazon link) which is a premium motherboard with a versatile feature set.
AMD’s X570 chipset is your best bet when it comes to PCIe 4.0 motherboards, although the budget B550 chipset has some reasonable offerings as well. Our top AMD PCIe 4.0 pick is the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero (Amazon link), which earns its spot due to its extraordinary VRM design. The MSI B550 Tomahawk (Amazon link) is a budget option that combines a robust VRM with a favorable feature set at a reasonable price point.
Is PCIe 4.0 slot backward compatible?
PCIe 4.0 is completely backward compatible. In fact, all PCIe slots are backward compatible no matter the generation. You can install a PCIe 3.0 graphics card into a PCIe 4.0 slot and it will function seamlessly. However, the overall bandwidth of the slot will be limited to PCIe 3.0 standards.
Is PCIe 4.0 better for gaming?
PCIe 4.0 is slightly better for gaming than PCIe 3.0 but the difference is negligible right now. Graphics cards with PCIe 4.0 compatibility do not perform significantly better on PCIe 4.0 as compared to PCIe 3.0 systems. This is because modern GPUs are yet to saturate the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0, let alone the additional bandwidth of PCIe 4.0.
Does Z490 support PCIe 4.0?
Some Z490 motherboards do support PCIe 4.0 with a BIOS update, but that is not the case for all motherboards on that platform. It is best to check the individual motherboard model and the specifications provided by the manufacturer.
Are there any PCIe 5.0 motherboards?
Currently, there are no PCIe 5.0 motherboards as of the time of writing, but there are PCIe 5.0 CPUs available. Intel’s 12th Generation CPUs do have PCIe 5.0 compatibility, but there are PCIe 5.0 motherboards available to pair them. We can expect PCIe 5.0 motherboards from Intel and AMD as soon as 2023.