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Old 10-28-2016, 06:38 AM   #1
MicroSun
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Motherboards with NVMe support

I plan to buy a new SSD for a developer machine. The actual candidates are: Samsung 950PRO - 960PRO - 960EVO
All of them are NVMe SSDs. I try to avoid a situation buying a high end drive that will behave like a simple SATA SSD because the lack of NVMe support.

And so my problem is choosing the right motherboard. As I know NVMe is supported from h97/z97 chipsets. My plan is to buy a mobo with a h170 chipset. One from these: AsRock H170M-Pro4 - Gigabyte H170M-D3H - Asus H170M-Plus

I would prefer AsRock because of DisplayPort.

However I don't really find any information about NVMe support on mobo sites. Asus says nothing about NVMe, Gigabyte says: "PCIe NVMe & SATA SSD support" and AsRock spec says "Supports NVMe SSD as boot disks"

So my question is, if a mobo can boot from NVMe drive does it also means that it fully supports it? I mean you can boot for example from a SATA3 dirve using a mobo that supports only a SATA1 but you will lose performance.
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Old 10-28-2016, 06:52 AM   #2
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I'd think that on modern boards, if it has a M.2 slot, it should be NVMe & boot compatible. From what little Google I did, it looks like it is the SSD itself that has an AHCI or NVMe controller. The M.2 slot looks to be merely a PCI-E x4 port made for such applications.

So long as the board can boot the M.2 port, it looks like an NVMe SSD will work. I do not have first-hand experience with M.2/NVMe drives however (I wish!)
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Old 10-28-2016, 08:30 AM   #3
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A quick search got me this:

Using an NVMe device to boot a computer system requires:

System BIOS configured to enable uEFI* version 2.3.1 and support NVMe boot
System based on an Intel® Z97 or X99 Chipset
64-bit operating system that supports uEFI; Windows 7*, 8*, or 8.1*
Setting the CSM in the system BIOS (for Windows 7)
Intel® NVMe driver

Looks like its from an older FAQ as it doesn't include the Intel 1xx chipsets or Windows 10.
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Old 10-28-2016, 02:44 PM   #4
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You need a motherboard with PCIe x 4 M.2 support as previously stated, you can download Samsungs latest NVMe driver, this is the best option, Win 10 supports NVMe, the Microsoft NVMe driver are not that great.

The Samsung 960's are a better option as Samsung included a sticker on the rear of the M.2 which helps to keep the ssd cool, the 950 suffered from overheating which caused the M.2 to reduce performance, the new cooling strip on the 960's reduce the overheating problem by 50%, this and the improved nand memory, a better controller allows Samsung to release M.2's above 512gb.
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Old 10-28-2016, 11:16 PM   #5
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...really a freaking cooling strip for a ssd that seems crazy. Thats almost as bad as the "tri" core CPUs of AMD's because the 4th core was bad.
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Old 10-29-2016, 01:39 PM   #6
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Z170 chipset also supports it. What you want to make sure is what revision the board M.2 slot supports (currently rev 3.0) and how many PCIe lanes, up to 4x. Also, due to the chipset limitation, what do you sacrifice to use those 4 lanes?

My Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 has two Rev 3.0 - M.2 PCIe 4x ports. To use one of them I either have to give up the third PCIe slot on the board, or four of the SATA ports. Since I also have an optical drive and two HDD's in RAID1, but only one video card, I gave up the third slot.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:34 PM   #7
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From what I've heard you don't lose sata ports with M.2 PCIe drives, if your M.2 port supports you do lose a pair of ports with a M.2 Sata drive, not sure how much graphics support you lose. IF your using an adaptor you will lose one of the graphics card position.

The M.2 cooling strip is quite efficient according to the benchmarks I've, there was no throttling on the heavy write tests, check the benchmarks from the the various sites and decide for yourselves.
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Old 10-30-2016, 01:05 AM   #8
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Graphics PCIe lanes come from the CPU, not the chipset. But they're shared between the slots. If you use one card, you get 16x. If you use two cards, you get 8x/8x.

In the same way, the M.2 slots share PCIe lanes with other chipset components on the board. USB, NIC, HDA, SATA, PCI, etc. The Z170 has 20x lanes to play with, the H170 only 16x. If you use 4x for a PCIe SSD, those lanes aren't available elsewhere.

Whether I use the PCIe SSD in the lower M.2 slot, or with an adapter card in the last 4x PCIe slot, it's using the same lanes. So I can't use both at the same time. Same with the upper M.2 slot... it shares lanes with the SATA controller. So to use it I give up four SATA ports.

Using a SATA based M.2 SSD isn't as demanding, you only give up one regular SATA port.

Last edited by FunkZ; 10-30-2016 at 01:11 AM.
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Old 10-30-2016, 02:50 AM   #9
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Thanks for the answers.

All of the mentioned motherboards has PCIe3.0 4x M2 port.

PCI lanes will not be a problem, as the Intel built in 530 VGA is enough for development purposes. And only one additional SATA drive will be installed.
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Old 10-31-2016, 02:14 AM   #10
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What ever way you look at it, PCIe M.2 drives are pretty popular these day's.
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Old 10-31-2016, 11:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FunkZ View Post
Graphics PCIe lanes come from the CPU, not the chipset. But they're shared between the slots. If you use one card, you get 16x. If you use two cards, you get 8x/8x.

Whether I use the PCIe SSD in the lower M.2 slot, or with an adapter card in the last 4x PCIe slot, it's using the same lanes. So I can't use both at the same time. Same with the upper M.2 slot... it shares lanes with the SATA controller. So to use it I give up four SATA ports.
The way I read & comprehend my x99 motherboard's user manual, that while only the M.2 slot -or- the 4x PCIe slot can be used (one or the other, not both simultaneously)...I can load both slots up with NVME in the M.2 and an Intel 750 in the PCIe slot - and then in the UEFI, I can designate which device to become active on a session by session basis.

Say I wish to boot up off the M.2 NVME and use Windows 7 Pro for a few hours or days, then I might wish to boot into Ubuntu off of a sata III SSD and use the Intel 750 where I have Blender loaded to launch and run.

I can't use both simultaneously, but I can use either/or - singularly. And I'm good with that scenario, if indeed that works.

I'll find out in a few weeks, when I assemble my first x99 system. My new motherboard also sports a U.2, which I am curious to utilize as well, perhaps even instead of the M.2 since the U.2 offers the ability to be cooled easier.
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Old 11-01-2016, 02:38 AM   #12
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Depends on the motherboard and your cpu, whatever m.2 drive you buy you lose something, not all motherboards approach it the same way anyway.
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Old 11-01-2016, 07:26 AM   #13
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Out of all those drives I'd look at the 960 Pro or 960 Evo. Another to consider is Intel's new 600 line of SSD.
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Old 11-01-2016, 07:08 PM   #14
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The Intel p600 is a budget PCIe drive, it's actual performance, not synthetic is only slightly better than the best performing sata drives, you want a good performing PCIe drives, as I mentioned earlier the 960 pro and evo, the Toshiba/OCZ RD400 M.2 nvme drive, slightly less performance than the Samsung's so it needs to be cheaper, there's also Samsung's oem drive, the SM951, which is similar in performance to the 960's and if your prepared to wait even longer, the SM961, the oem drives are hard to get hold of.

I should add, the Samsung oem drives have between 1 and 3 year warranties depending on where you buy the drives.

Last edited by PommieB; 11-01-2016 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 11-02-2016, 08:34 AM   #15
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One thing about the Intel 600p's is its price. $150-180 for a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD is very hard to beat, maybe the Samsung 960 evo's will drop to that level after a bit of time on the market.
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Old 11-02-2016, 02:07 PM   #16
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I agree, from what I heard recently, the 960 Evo's and the 2tb 960 pro official release date is going to be put back to early December, I'd say there's a problem somewhere.

The two mid- tier PCIe drives that have good performance, by that I mean close to the Samsung's are the Patriot Hellfire M2 and the Toshiba/OCZ RD400, the Hellfire should hopefully be released before Christmas, biggest problem is getting a decent driver for the Patriot which is a NVMe 1.2b drive, rest are NVMe 1.1 drives, you need the correct driver to get the full performance and features.

The Intel is clearly the cheapest drive.
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