PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) products cover a wide range of devices that interact with the PCI bus standard. PCI is a local bus standard developed by Intel Corporation in 1993. Most modern PCs include a PCI bus in addition to a more general ISA expansion bus. PCI is also used on some versions of the Macintosh computer. PCI is a 64-bit bus, though it is usually implemented as a 32-bit bus. It can run at clock speeds of 33 or 66 MHz. At 32 bits and 33 MHz, it yields a throughput rate of 133 MBps. Although Intel developed it, PCI is not tied to any particular family of microprocessors.
Common PCI products types include bus interfaces or adapter modules, memory modules, mass storage modules, networking modules, serial communications modules, power supplies, PC bridges, and PCI extenders. An interface or adapter is a computer board that translates the data from the PCI bus to another bus and vice versa. It is used to connect two non-compatible buses. Memory modules are PCI boards that contain memory chips. Network modules are boards that are network adapters, such as Ethernet, token ring, etc. A serial Card provides one or more serial ports to a host computer. The card interfaces the host with a PCI bus and adds RS232 / RS422 or other types of serial ports. A wireless communications module is a network adapter used in wireless networks. A power supply module is a power supply totally contained in a PCI card. A PCI bridge allows the connection of more than one PCI module to a PCI interface. A PCI extender is a board used to physically extend the PCI bus outside of the host computer for the purpose of testing and development of systems.
Important performance specifications to consider when searching for PCI products include the technology type, form factor, PCI data bus, and number of ports. Technology choices include the standard PCI bus and PCI-X. PCI-X is a standard based on the PCI bus that enables 64-bit, 133-MHz performance for a total raw bandwidth that exceeds 1 Gigabyte per second (GBps). Form factor choices include full size PCI and small PCI. Full size PCI is the standard PCI form factor. Small PCI is a PCI board with a form factor smaller than the full-size PCI. The board dimensions are 3.4" x 2.1". Choices for PCI bus are 32-bit or 64-bit. The number of ports on PCI products is also important to consider.