So most nerds would be familiar by now with the Samsung XP941 an M.2 PCIe SSD which offers, what seems to be, substantial performance benefits over standard SSDs.
Some of the difficulty with new tech, as always, is finding compatible parts…. searching for a motherboard which will work with the XP941, at first, would seem easy…. “some Z97 motherboards and all X99 chipset motherboards”… but unfortunately, when reading bit closer at product descriptions such as this one:
1 x M.2 PCIe connector (Socket 3, M key, type 2242/2260/2280 SATA & PCIe x2/x1 SSD support)
When the XP941 specs specifically state (from the RamCity page)
10nm Class Toggle Mode MLC NAND • 1080 MB/sec Read, 800 MB/sec Write • PCIe 2.0 x4 • 512MB cache • 3 Yrs Warranty
So there’s a disconnect…. the SSD supposedly needs and M.2 PCIe 2.0 x4 connection….. and yet X99 motherboards that I first looked at seemed to offer an M.2 PCIe 2.0 x2 connection. So, it will work, but at reduced speed….. which kind of defeats the purpose of shelling out a premium for a performance drive.
The best post I have found on this is over on a tomshardware message board:
To quote the user – JohnnyLucky
The situation with the new X99 motherboards is a little better. There are a few more X99 motherboards that can fully support the XP941 but the majority of boards still only use M.2 connectors with two PCIe 2.0 channels.
One of the biggest problems is trying to determine which motherboards support the XP941. Most motherboard descriptions are incomplete. They do not distinguish between M.2 PCIe 2.0 x4, M.2 PCIe 2.0 x2, and M.2 SATA 3 6Gb/s. There are a few exceptions. ASROCK calls an M.2 PCIe 2.0 x4 connection “Ultra M.2” and an M.2 PCIe 2.0 x2 connection as plain “M.2”. Some of the other motherboards are listed as “M.2 10Gb/s” which is PCIe 2.0 x2 and M.2 32Gb/s which is PCIe 2.0 x4. Unfortunately a lot of the motherboard descriptions only list “M.2” and it is a royal pain trying to find out which ones actually use 4 PCIe channels.
So there are a few issues here:
- Samsung have made an SSD which while they are targeting at the OEM market, nerds want to get a hold of it
- OEM’s, as usual have been very slow in bringing products containing the drive to market
- When OEM’s do bring products to market – they will be aimed at the “premium” price point
- Nerds would normally prefer to build their own rigs anyway
- Marketing people creating confusion (as usual) by labelling things “ultra M.2” (just like super speed USB!), just call it what it is
- Motherboard specification pages are incomplete or use disparate terms for describing the same thing. If ASRock call I ultra M.2, are you really gaining anything by calling it Turbo M.2? or super-jet-speed-mega-good-now-M.2 ?
- Depending on where in the world you live, sometimes getting a hold of some motherboard brands can be slightly more challenging than it might be for the writers at tomshardware or anandtech or <insert your favourite hardware site here>
So…. which motherboards have an M2 PCIe 2.0 x4 connection ?
From some searching around, the ones I have found which (claim to) have M2 PCIe 2.0 x4 connectors (as at 18/11/2014):
All of the ASRock X99 motherboards (using the term Ultra M2) – http://www.asrock.com/mb/index.asp?s=2011-3
All Asus x99 motherboards list ultrafast M.2 x4 on the sales page, but don’t specify a speed on the specifications page – http://www.asus.com/au/Motherboards/Intel_Platform_Products/
All MSI x99 motherboards list Turbo M.2 x4 on the sales page, but don’t specify a speed on the specifications page – http://www.msi.com/product/mb/#?category=Socket 2011-3&category_no=1179
One gigabyte motherboard – GA-X99-SOC Force
I had a look around at the following x99 motherboards too:
GA-X99-UD3 – x2 only
GA-X99-UD4 – x2 only
GA-X99-UD5 WIFI – x2 only
GA-X99-UD7 WIFI – x2 only
GA-X99-Gaming 5 – x2 only
GA-X99-Gaming 7 WIFI – x2 only
GA-X99-Gaming G1 WIFI – x2 only
Intel do not appear to have motherboards based on the x99 chipset according to the drop downs in this page… http://www.intel.com.au/content/www/au/en/motherboards/desktop-motherboards/motherboards.html
So really, I started this article because I went to the gigabyte page first and saw something funky…. but it pretty much appears that they are the only major MB manufacturer that don’t support M2 PCIe 2.0 x4 on all of their x99 boards. (Gigabyte is of course the only manufacturer my local wholesaler stocks…. the law of maximum inconvenience strikes again!)
The next questions are, is the XP941 bootable from these motherboards, does it nerf anything else and what’s the performance like ?
for more info and discussion on these, head over to https://www.ramcity.com.au/blog/m.2-ngff-ssd-compatibility-list/189 and have a look in the comments section. You will see some people have gone through the pain of differing BIOS versions, mucking around with BIOS settings and in some cases, having their video card performance nerfed or having to use different slots for other devices.