PCIe Gen3 vs Gen4: Is Gen4 Worth the Upgrade

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If you are looking to buy an NVMe SSD, you will get a choice: Gen 3 drives, which run slower, are significantly cheaper, or Gen 4 drives, which run much faster and are more expensive. According to the spec sheets, you should go for the Gen 4 drives, but are they worth it?  Are the extra speeds supported by an NVMe Gen 4 SSD noticeable? Let us find the answers to these questions in this article.

Difference Between PCIe Gen3 and Gen4 SSDs

As the name suggests, PCIe Gen 3 and Gen 4 are separate iterations of data transfer technology through Peripheral Component Interchange Express (PCIe). Each generation increases the data transfer rates via PCIe by a huge margin.

PCIe Gen was introduced in 2003 by Intel, Dell. HP, and IBM. The technology was capable of around 250Mt/s through a single data lane. The second generation was introduced in 2007, and it pushed the transfer speeds to 500 MT/s per lane. Gen 3 was introduced in 2010, and it has remained in fashion to this date thanks to the insanely high transfer speeds it is capable of. PCIe Gen 3 was capable of 4GT/s, almost 8 times more than the highest speeds supported by Gen 2. Gen 4 was introduced in 2017, and it doubled the transfer speeds to 8GT/s per lane. Recently, in 2019, PCIe Gen 5 was introduced, which doubled the transfer speeds yet again, to 32 GT/s.

These transfer speeds reflect the read and write speeds of a drive. The Samsung 970 Pro, one of the fastest PCIe Gen 3 SSDs, support a max read speed of 3500MB/s and a max write speed of 2700MB/s. On the other hand, the MSI Spatium M480 Gen 4 drive supports a maximum of 7000MB/s read speeds and a max of 6800 MB/s write speeds. This means that Gen4 drives should transform your system into a blazing fast supercar. But, in reality, it does not.

The insanely high speeds supported by these drives make the very little difference in load times almost insignificant. And, in games, the difference becomes even more unnoticeable. A SATA SSD should be enough for games. You can notice a slight drop in game load times if you upgrade to a Gen 3 SSDs, but the difference in load times between a Gen 3 and Gen 4 drive is almost non-existent.

This is because developers do not utilize the power of the Gen 4 SSDs. After all, most of the market has not shifted to this standard. Some PlayStation 5 exclusives have, however, made use of the high transfer speeds. A prime example can be Spider Man: Miles Morales. Developers used the high read/write speeds (5500 MBps) to get rid of a loading screen between Miles Morales stepping in and out of a building. The original Spider Man game from 2018 had loading screens every time Peter stepped in and out of a building, which ruined the experience to quite an extent.

But, if you are a creative professional, you can get one of the latest Gen 4 SSDs to make the most out of your time.

That wraps it up. The Gen 4 SSDs are technology at their peak, but the industry has not utilized its full potential to date.

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By Arka
Extreme PC enthusiast. He splits his time between PC and console hardware, gaming, and making cool PC-related videos over on YouTube.