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PCI-Express cards for M.2 NVME SSD?

Caldor

4 months ago

I am planning on buying a Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD M.2 2280 - 2TB for my current computer. Its the disk I have planned to use in my next computer, but I have decided I want to postpone buying the next computer and just upgrade my current one with this disk... if it makes sense. That its the Plus version of this disk makes it have 800 mbps write speed as far as I can tell, so that seems worth it.

I am not sure how good these PCIE expansion cards are? Some of them seem to only support SATA speeds, making it a bit pointless to get what seems to be the fastest SSD a regular consumer can buy. There is another thread asking about using x2 and x4 ports for it. I have to check, but I think I might only have a x2 port. The disks specs says PCI Express 3.0 x4 (NVMe), so I am guessing I will need x4 to get the full speed, and otherwise it would be... half the speed? Which is still much faster than my current SATA SSDs though. But I want to try to make the most of it.

This is the expansion card I am looking at right now: https://www.startech.com/dk/HDD/Adapters/pci-express-m2-pcie-ssd-adapter~PEX4M2E1

I have seen cards that support two M.2 disks, but seems like that would not make much sense if both of them requires 4x PCIE, if its going into a 4x port anyway. 2 would require an 8x port I take it?

Seems like it should be possible for me to install Windows on it, which I am sure will help with boot times.

Btw. checked my specs: Motherboard should be a MSI Z170-A PRO. The CPU is the i7 6700K

UPDATE:

So I have looked at the specs of the motherboard a bit, and it seems I do have 2 X16 PCIE slots, one I am using for my GPU, the other, I will be using for this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvPAuaFL_JA Asus Hyper M.2 x16, which supports 4 NVME disks. Instead of getting the 2tb 970 EVO PLUS, I am going with 2x 1tb 970 EVO PLUS disks, to put them in raid... because, why not? Its cheaper and I can put them in raid 0... I think.

I ordered them now because that should hopefully mean I can have it by tomorrow and begin benchmarking it and see if I can install Windows on it.

Comments

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

What Motherboard and CPU are You using so we know what the platform limitations are.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

My motherboard should be this one: https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/Z170-A-PRO.html

MSI Z170-A PRO. The CPU is the i7 6700K. Hmm... looking at its specs, it seems that I might be able to replace the M.2 SATA SSD with the M.2 NVME SSD I am planning on buying? That would sure make things easier. I would prefer to ensure I got both disks up and running first though with an installed Windows 10 on each and such.

Also... the second PCI-E might actually be an x16 one? Would be nice if that means I could put some beefy 4 times NVME M.2 expansion in that port.... if that even exists.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

The lower full length slot is wired as x4 so you should be able to use that card in that slot.

Cards that support two PCIe M.2 need a board wired for SLI or a HEDT like X299/X399 platform to work properly if there is a graphics card in use as well.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

It says it has two x16 PCIE in the specs, so the second PCIE must be an x16 one. Which makes me wonder if it would be possible to add a card with room for 2 or maybe even 4 NVME disks.

For some reason it only says this though: MULTI-GPU with VGA Armor: VGA Armor PCI-E slots. Supports AMD Crossfire™

Also there is an SLI specific version: https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/Z170A-SLI.html

So this motherboard probably does not support SLI, but I still am pretty sure its two x16 ports.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

It says it has two x16 PCIE in the specs, so the second PCIE must be an x16 one. Which makes me wonder if it would be possible to add a card with room for 2 or maybe even 4 NVME disks.

They are x16 slots but the second isn't fully wired.

• 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/ x4 modes)

https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/Z170-A-PRO/Specification

The SLI version splits the available lanes.

• 3x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/x0/x4, x8/x8/x4 modes)

https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/Z170A-SLI/Specification

On an SLI capable board You can split the x16 into x8/x8 leaving x8 for the graphics card and x8 for the second x16 slot so You can run up to two M.2 with full bandwidth.

The extra x4 they show on both boards is wired through the chipset and shares bandwidth with everything including the Sata controllers.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Interesting. I just ordered a Asus Hyper M.2 x16. I am hoping to give it a RAID 0 setup with two 1tb 970 disks. So 8x should be enough?

Except... my GPU is a 2080Ti, so it might want more than x8 PCIE?

Hmmm... worst case I guess I can replace my current M.2 disk with one of the 1tb disks.

Still.... this whole solution begins to seem sketchy. I should probably look into getting one or two of the X4 PCIE NVME cards instead?

Oh... had not read your post fully it seems. Only the SLI motherboard supports X8 modes? Guess whatever the GPU needs does not really matter then, as it will still only be able to run in X4 mode. Well, replacing the original M.2 SSD it is I guess. I might as well send the ASUS board back, does not make much sense to try to use it when its not really a X16 port anyway.

Sucks that the other lanes share speed with SATA as well. Sure is beginning to seem tempting to buy the full new PC that I was planning on getting.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Far as I know a good Nvme m.2 will read up to (some say 3500) 3200mb/s and is rated as such. A sata drive is limited to 600mb/s (550mb/s actual usually) no matter what, be it sata or m.2 sata, because m.2 is just a form factor/connector. Nvme is the faster pci protocol that allows speeds over 600 of sata up to 3200. Anyone please correct me if wrong while wading through this. And the cheaper intel 660 Nvme for example shows 1800mb/s read speed, while slower is still much faster than 600 sata ssd. So if you have a sata at 600 and you swap to a quality Nvme at 3200 (like an EVO or Black/etc), you should see quite an increase in speeds.

But this all depends on what your motherboard m.2 supports, some mobo support x2 pci lanes some x4 lanes. Some have B key m.2 is x2 lanes and M key is x4 lanes, and some have both keys you can use both sata and Nvme type m.2 drive in it. Of course if you have M key and you want fast you use a Nvme drive, and those mobo usually say supports 3200mb/s m.2. Some old mobo may only support sata m.2. Note some mobo can restrict lanes if you are using certain pci slots or m.2 ports on the pci because they have more slots/ports than they have lanes, but usually a user does not use all of them. You should test speed of your drive when done to verify you are getting full speed/lanes your drive/mobo can supply and you should see around the speeds your drive specs at. Some say you might only see huge speeds on Nvme with large files due to access times/etc, and that is why any sata SSD seems faster than hdd by far but in use Nvme may not appear to have a huge difference over sata for smaller files but it is still the fastest.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, and I was pretty sure my motherboard only had a SATA M.2 port since my current M.2 SSD is just SATA, but it seems it supports both when I check its specs.

I do not think I will replace the disk though. I will go with the PCIE expansion card solution, just need to figure out what the best card would be.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Pretty sure support both has two keys in the connector, look up the m.2 connector to ID. There was some confusion in early boards, bios updates, etc.

In seconds Nvme is not a lot faster than sata in normal things, unless your files are so big you are sitting there waiting then it will certainly help. If you are going to upgrade system soon anyway, probably not a big deal how you do this.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

I went with just an X4 PCIE expansion, seems my X16 port is just an X4 port while I have such a big GPU. Ordered a 2tb 970 EVO for it.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

So I have looked at the specs of the motherboard a bit, and it seems I do have 2 X16 PCIE slots, one I am using for my GPU, the other, I will be using for this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvPAuaFL_JA The Asus Hyper M.2 x16, which supports 4 NVME disks. Instead of getting the 2tb 970 EVO PLUS, I am going with 2x 1tb 970 EVO PLUS disks, to put them in raid... because, why not? Its cheaper and I can put them in raid 0... I think.

I ordered them now because that should hopefully mean I can have it by tomorrow and begin benchmarking it and see if I can install Windows on it.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

I got the hard disk and it is installed :) Its at least 10 times as fast as the SSD that came with my computer... maybe because I ran the speedtest while it was running the OS from that disk though, 100mb write per second seems a bit low? The Evo gives me 1.1gb.

I am about to install Windows 10 on that disk instead. Right now it takes more than 30 seconds to boot... pretty sure just reinstalling would help cut it down to something like 20 seconds, but still also pretty sure it will boot much faster with this new disk.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Great to hear its working well. Most tests show about 550mb/s read from SATA III SSD (sata3 is 600 in theory). The m.2 SATA should be similar I think. The Nvme over pci will read what your drive is, slower ones 1800 and faster ones like EVO top out at 3200mb/s, they should be close to what they are spec at (for reads). Though many say the fast ones only get that fast with large file, so you may not see big improvement with small stuff.

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