We’ve started designing a PCIe card last week, an adapter from M.2 E-key to E-key, that adds an extra link to the E-key slot it carries – useful for fully utilizing a few rare but fancy E-key cards. By now, the schematic is done, the component placement has been figured out, and we only need to route the differential pairs – should be simple, right? Buckle up.
Getting Diffpairs Done
PCIe needs TX pairs connected to RX on another end, like UART – and this is non-negotiable. Connectors will use host-side naming, and vice-versa. As the diagram demonstrates, we connect the socket’s TX to chip’s RX and vice-versa; if we ever get confused, the laptop schematic is there to help us make things clear. To sum up, we only need to flip the names on the link coming to the PCIe switch, since the PCIe switch acts as a device on the card; the two links from the switch go to the E-key socket, and for that socket’s purposes, the PCIe switch acts as a host.
While initially routing this board, I absolutely forgot about one more important thing for PCIe – series capacitors on every data pair, on the host TX side of the link. We need three capacitor pairs here – on TX of the PCIe switch uplink, and two pairs on TX side of the switch – again, naming is host-side. I only remembered this after having finished routing all the diffpairs, and, after a bit of deliberation, I decided that this is my chance to try 0201 capacitors. For that, I took the footprints from [Christoph]‘s wonderful project, called “Effect of moon phase on tombstoning” – with such a name, these footprints have got to be good.
We’ve talked about differential pair calculations before in one of the PCIe articles, and there was a demo video too! That said, let’s repeat the calculations on this one – I’ll show how to get from “PCB fab website information” to “proper width and clearance diffpairs”, with a few fun shortcuts. Our setup is, once again, having signals on outer layers, referenced to the ground layer right below them. I, sadly, don’t yet understand how to calculate differential impedance for signal layers sandwiched between two ground planes, which is to say – if there’s any commenters willing to share this knowledge, I’d appreciate your input tremendously! For now, I don’t see that there’d be a tangible benefit to such an arrangement, anyway.