Can i install a pci-e v2.1 graphics card in a pci-e v2 0 motherboard

I want to install an ATI Radeon HD 6970 graphics card which has pci-e v2.1 x16 topology into an Asus Rampage III Extreme motherboard which is pci-e v2.0 x16. I have a 1200 watt power supply. I am currently using an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card which recently started giving me troubles when I try to watch high bit rate HD videos. The colors in the video become blotchy and the desktops on all three monitors fill up with random video noise consisting of multi-colored tiny squares. I don't know if the graphics card is causing it or something on the motherboard. I'm pretty sure it's not drivers because I installed a clean copy of Windows 7 ultimate and ATI Catalist v12.3 on a separate hard drive and the problem still occurs. Eventually, I get a blue screen crash and the computer does a memory dump and reboots.

What's strange about the problem is that low bit rate videos display without any problems as does every other computing aspect that I normally use. I don't play video games, so I don't know how it whould handle hi-def grapics in that environment. I'm thinking that there could be a problem with the pci-e architecture that only show up when my graphics card enables higher level data busses.

First off, will the 2.1 graphics card work in the 2.0 mobo and if so, am I wasting money on features that the mother board does not support?

Secondly, what are your thought on the video problems that I am having?
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  1. pcie 2.1 gfx cards run on 2.0 slots fine. pcie 3.0 cards also run on pcie 2.0 slots without any problems. almost all motherboards (that i know of) with pcie gen 2 slots are pcie 2.0.
    as for new gfx cards, depending on budget, specs, preference, would you consider much newer and better performing (compared to 6970) cards like radeon hd 7970 3gb? something like this:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814125413
    or 7950 3gb
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007709&IsNodeId=1&Description=radeon%207950&bop=And&Order=PRICE&PageSize=100
    or gtx 680 2gb
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007709&IsNodeId=1&Description=gtx%20680&bop=And&Order=PRICE&PageSize=100
    video playback issues: you could try checking your display connections or video player settings or a new player like vlc or mpc-hc if you think video card isn't the source of the problem.
  2. For your information, 5970 to a 6970 is a downgrade

    There should be no problem at all, and for your information there is no 2.1 slot at all. There is only 2.0 and 3.0 slot. A 2.1 card will be fine in both 2.0 and 3.0 slot and 3.0 cards is also fine with 2.0 slot. And I don't think there will be any performance drops. 2.1 is just a small revision from 2.0, so motherboard manufacturers (and nvidia too!) don't bother with the 2.1 version. Therefore there is no such a 2.1 slot.

    If you want to make an upgrade instead of a downgrade, get a 680 or 7970:

    GTX 680 (until now they are always out of stock, you're lucky to get it in stock if you do):
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130768

    HD 7970
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102982
    (7970 is slower, but it's cheaper, has much better compute performance and available in stock)
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