Intel says farewell to PCI bus

News - A succession of fresh, quality news, from inside and outside of the WebSoon another technology that in the past years dominated the always-changing universe of computer hardware will bite the dust. That’s the decision by Intel, the merciless executioner of standards which the company itself imposes on the market and that in the upcoming months will rule the end of official support for the PCI bus. Developed by the Californian chipmaker in 1993, the PCI Local Bus standard has been implemented on all the motherboards for x86 and compatible platforms until 2004, the year when it passed on the baton to the younger and faster PCI Express technology.

As already happened in 2006 with the communication standard for storage subsystems EIDEParallel ATA, the new chipsets for motherboards based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture – that Intel will introduce in the last part of 2010 – won’t have support for the old PCI bus also known as “Conventional PCI”, implementing all the communications between peripherals and subsystems inside the chipset via the PCI Express bus. The parallel PCI standard is too old and too slow compared to the bandwidth offered by the various PCIe versions, so Intel decided to get rid of yet another bottleneck restraining the PC hardware evolution.

Intel PCI-free chipsets expected to be unveiled are H67, P67 e H61, they will implement the new LGA1155 CPU socket (which would be a pin less than the current LGA1156), will support 8 independent PCIe 2.0 lanes, Serial ATA connections at 6 Gigabits and 14 USB 2.0 ports. Just to be clear, these chipset are targeted at the consumer market while the new chipsets designed for the enterprise market (Q67, Q65 e B65) will continue to support the PCI bus. Intel’s choice may seem drastic, yet it is justified by the fact that to this date, after 17 years since the technology appeared on the market, most of the expansion cards on sale snubs PCIe and is designed to be housed in a PCI slot.

PCI slots

Not that Intel alone, insofar as its monopolistic position on technology and x86(-64) PC hardware may be, can rule the definitive death of a standard so used and widespread in every kind of market: old technologies, the floppy disks recent example proves it, tend to survive within the wrinkles of the market until there is someone using or asking for them. Technology evolution didn’t kill Floppy Disk Drives or Parallel-ATA yet and surely it won’t make PCI bus and peripherals disappear so easily.

It’s similarly predictable that motherboards manufacturers, to remedy to Intel death decree on PCI, will do exactly what they are continuing to do nowadays to support the aforementioned FDDs and PATA ie they will pack additional chips and electronic logics next to the ones included in the Intel designs. The default circuitry will deal with the latest peripherals and subsystems, while the custom components will continue to pump electric power into the aged PCI cards.

14 comments

  • David Murray

    Hardly any need for any kind of slots these days since everything is built onboard. Also being that most sales are laptops these days, who buys PCI cards?

  • Erik

    David, try to think beyond your PC and consider the impact of other technologies using PC architecture such as servers, phone systems, tivo and other PVR devices, your blu-ray players, etc. Many voicemail systems that pair with turnkey phone systems require PCI cards and station ports to communicate with the phone system. Right now only video cards, high end network controller cards, RAID cards, and a few telephony manufactures even support PCIe at this time.

  • Tim

    Well it’s about time too. We’ve been clinging on to IDE, serial ports, PS2 and PCI for far too long already.

    Even though Intel are ditching PCI, I’m sure motherboards will be loaded with PCIe-PCI bridge chips for a time anyway.

  • Michael

    @Tim:

    I agree on IDE, but serial and PS/2 ports aren’t obsolete by a long shot.

  • Jeff

    So when are we getting rid of keyboards and mice? These things are much older than PCI slots and so therefor very outdated and quaint. I can’t think of how many times I’ve pressed the space bar key just like I did 25 years ago. KB+M are really holding back computers & technology and when we can finally get rid of this legacy technology PC hardware can move forward and we can buy the latest & greatest from Intel.

  • whisky_bar

    Funny enough, I think none of those slots pictured are actually PCI…

    @Jeff: Serial is not obsolete as long as it is not a mouse… πŸ˜‰

  • Chris

    @whiskey_bar, well “not” spotted

  • @whiskey_bar

    If my PDF copy of Upgrading and Repairing PCs is right (and it’s almost always right :-P), in the image above there should be at least FOUR 64-bit, 33 MHz PCI slots πŸ˜›

    I could take a photo of my Pentium 4-based system interiors, but I should recover the PC from my parents’ messy garage first πŸ˜›

  • Perhaps not enough people were buying the specs for PCIe? At only $3,500.00, I can’t imagine why not!
    http://www.pcisig.com/specifications/order_form

    Really, though, this isn’t as big of a deal as it seems; my reading of this is simply Intel looking to cut their development costs for the end of the market which likely would run screaming to their anti-virus to remove the nasty infection from their machine, were you to mention ‘PCI’ to them.

    The gamer niche might actually benefit from this, and push it forward, since many are likely to being using all PCIe components already, anyway; consumer machines will be fast and crash a lot, and servers will be slower, but use good old reliable PCI to trudge along. Such has it always been.

  • Mikko

    only USB 2.0 no USB 3.0 ?

  • Yes, no USB 3.0 for Intel, yet. It will be implemented with custom chips for sure.

  • -

    ps/2 mouse & kybd don’t need more speed. but hot plug (or kicked unplug) might be nice.
    maybe if pcie costs too much to parts makers, they’ll work out a cheaper way to plug into usb jacks on the mobos?

    ..
    “default circuitry will deal with the latest peripherals and subsystems, while the custom components will continue to pump electric power into the aged PCI cards.”
    from performance POV, it makes sense to “demote” the slow stuff to “add on” circuitry.

  • ps/2, serial, pata, floppy, and pci slots are all obsolete and i would prefer them to not drag down the motherboards of tommorow

  • dave lister

    why would it drag down “the motherboards of tomorrow” ? some boards will have them, some won’t and it wont make one iota of performance or power use difference if they are present or not.

    not including them on every single board would “drag the board down” for someone who has a serial controlled machine or needs to connect to serial ports to debug embedded hardware and the like.

    it was stupid when you said it, and its still stupid now.

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