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Author Topic: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.  (Read 1672 times)

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Offline cfx795

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Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« on: November 03, 2017, 12:40:53 pm »
I have an ASRock B250 Pro4 (Intel) motherboard, and I want to eventually get an NVMe SSD to replace the old HDD that I'm using right now. Perhaps this Western Digital drive:

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16...

Or maybe the Samsung 960EVO. Samsung seems to be leading the pack in SSD technology these days, right?

I intend to use the M.2 SSD as my boot drive.

There are two M.2 sockets on this motherboard. The difference between the two sockets seems to be that one socket (M2_1) will support either a SATA 3 module, or a PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4.
The other socket (M2_2) supports a PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4, only.

Furthermore, the motherboard manual states: "If PCIE2 slot or PCI slot is occupied, the PCIe-type M.2 device on M2_1 socket will run at Gen3 x2 (16 Gb/s)." The manual doesn't specifically state that the M2_2 socket has any similar limitations, but this seems to indicate that I could install the module in either of these two sockets, and it would work. But, given the limitations in sharing system resources with the PCI/PCIE slots, this would also lead me to believe that I should probably install the NVMe drive in the M2_2 socket. Or am I wrong? At the moment I'm not using any PCI or PCIE slots. (I might get a discrete graphics card at a later date, but no plans to do that at the moment. I've never been particularly convinced that I'm a good candidate for a discrete GPU. The integrated ones have always served me pretty well. In fact, in my case, there's a really good chance that those PCI/PCIE slots might remain empty...)

But, otherwise I presume that, once properly installed, this M.2 drive should be pretty much plug-and-play. The Western Digital support site states: "The WD Black PCIe SSD does not require any special drivers. It supports standard Windows (8.1 and above) in-box, Intel iRST or Linux NVMe storage drivers."

I want to resolve all this stuff in my head and make sure I'm making the best decision, before I make any purchase. Having read some of the user reviews for the various NVMe SSD's leads me to think that along with the blazing-fast speeds, there also might be a few issues and that they're rather in their infancy as technology goes. I get the sense that perhaps the 2.5" drives are a little more straightforward and stable, and just a more known-and-trusted entity. But then user reviews are user reviews, and often some of these folks have really failed to do their homework before making their purchase.

But I must say: the complexity surrounding the whole issue of "which #$@%ing slot do I plug this module into?" has more than once led me to question whether it might be a lot easier to just get a 2.5" SATA3 SSD (say the 850EVO or Pro or numerous others) and rest easier knowing it's going to work properly and install seamlessly and easily.

Or have I over-thunk the whole thing? I realize this probably has a lot more to do with hardware than it is much to do with the OS, but it does say "hardware" there. I asked more or less the same question on Tom's Hardware and haven't yet got any response. Thanks for listening.

Online zebedeeboss

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2017, 01:31:01 pm »
Hi

I have an NVMe drive in the dedicated M2 slot and it has been perfectly reliable thus far. I am running Peppermint on it

Leave the pcie slots for other possible items later down the road.

Just my two penny worth

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2017, 01:52:22 pm »
One pays a bit of a premium for M.2 drives, but if you mind the added cost, I'd recommend going that route.  ;)

Offline cfx795

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2017, 01:55:58 pm »
Hi

I have an NVMe drive in the dedicated M2 slot and it has been perfectly reliable thus far. I am running Peppermint on it

Leave the pcie slots for other possible items later down the road.

Just my two penny worth

Regards Zeb...

Right on, and thanks. I'll chalk that up as a vote of confidence in new technology... Of further concern to me was that there is some indecipherable hieroglyphics from ASRock about which M.2 socket to use. I've been squinting at those sockets on my motherboard to try to discern whether there's any physical difference. I read the bit from Western Digital about compatibility, and it seems an NVMe SSD should be plugged into a socket with only the M-key, and will not work with any socket that has both a B and M key. The NVMe drives only have the M-notches. Some of the other previous generations of M.2 SSD's apparently have both B and M notches.


Offline cfx795

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2017, 01:57:55 pm »
One pays a bit of a premium for M.2 drives, but if you mind the added cost, I'd recommend going that route.  ;)

Right - ok. I don't mind the cost. Just the sockets and B-and-M notches and which-socket-do-I-use seemed prone to explode my cerebral cortex.

Offline PCNetSpec

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2017, 03:19:48 pm »
Okay after looking at this:
https://www.newegg.com/global/uk/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157732

If I'm understanding it correctly It looks like you have

1 x (short) 2230 M.2 slot (bottom left of memory slots) for things like a wireless card (it can NOT operate in SATA mode, nor is it bootable) - this slot shares lanes with PCIe slot 3, so if either is in use the other is disabled.

You then have 2 x (long) M.2 slots (stacked) 2230/2242/2260/2280 that can both operate in either SATA3 or PCIe modes, and can boot SATA or PCIe/NVMe drives:-

M2_1 is an "Ultra" (32 Gb/s) type .. if it has a SATA SSD in it, one of the SATA ports becomes disabled (SATA3_5) .. if it has a PCIe/NVMe SSD in it there is no affect on other ports.
(this one can also be used for "Intel Optane" memory modules)

M2_2 (16 Gb/s)  .. if it has a SATA SSD in it, one of the SATA ports becomes disabled (SATA3_0) .. if it has a PCIe/NVMe SSD in it there is no affect on other ports.

So if you were to get an NVMe SSD you could put it in either M2_1 or M2_2 it would switch the slot to PCIe (because NVMe runs via PCIe) so wouldn't disable a SATA port .. but if the NVMe SSD can handle transfer rates above 16 Gb/s it would  be better off in M2_1 .. unless of course you're going to go mad and stick  an Intel Optane module in there.

If on the other hand you're going to get an M.2 SATA SSD, then it doessn't really matter which of M2_1 or M2_2 you use because both easily handle SATA bandwidth .. but personally I'd stick it in the slower M2_2 slot leaving the faster one free for future upgrades (such as Optane).

Does this make sense ?



Further bandwidth info:-

SATA III = 6Gbps
PCIe/NVMe Gen3 = 16Gbps
PCIe/NVMe Gen4 = 32Gpbs

Be aware these are THEORETICAL maximums .. don't expect a Gen4 NVMe drive to hit 32Gbps in operation, it will highly likely be bottlenecked somewhere else on the system ;)
« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 04:04:55 pm by PCNetSpec »
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Offline cfx795

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2017, 04:35:25 pm »
Yeah, surprisingly enough, it's beginning to make sense to me. Although what I am reading is that M2_1 and M2_2 are both "Ultra" and capable of 32Gb/s. If you look at the motherboard (sorry, I'm not home right now and looking at it) both M2_1 and M2_2 are labeled "Ultra."

Looking at it, I thought the M2_2 socket was also "long" and would also accommodate 2280. But maybe I didn't look at it properly. I hate to say it, but the manufacturer's explanation of this whole configuration is about as clear as mud!

It looks to me like M2_1 is "stacked" and M2_2 is just single or "not-stacked." But it also looked to me as though they were both "long" and capable of all those lengths up to 2280. But see, the mobo manufacturer (ASRock) says absolutely nothing about anything being stacked! It just says there's two ports there, good luck, and...

Oh my! We've been trying wrap our brains around this socket configuration for just a little too long, and we are starting to get a bit cranky!  >:(

So to clarify, the mobo diagrams shows that M2_1 is the socket underneath the CPU.

M2_2 is the socket at the bottom right of the board. Right underneath the aluminum heatsink-lookin' thing that says ASRock.

Anyway. Physically examining the thing, it looks to me like both of those sockets are "long." (I could be wrong about this)
And it looks like - as you suggested - M2_1 is "stacked" but M2_2 is not. Again, I'm not at home, but I could have sworn that both of those sockets are labeled "Ultra." But that's not what your Newegg.uk pics show. (I'll examine it again.)

Yeah it makes some sense but I'm not all sure I've got it right. I'm still a bit confused. Thanks for your help and understanding. Sorry to drag you into this muck. Here's what the mobo manual says about the thing, which doesn't seem exactly what you said. Close, though. I think you're right in saying that one of those sockets is stacked. Too bad ASRock doesn't bother to tell us this:

2.7 M.2_SSD (NGFF) Module Installation Guide
The M.2, also known as the Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF), is a small size and
versatile card edge connector that aims to replace mPCIe and mSATA. The Ultra M.2
Socket (M2_1) supports type 2230/2242/2260/2280 M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s module and M.2
PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s). The Ultra M.2 Socket (M2_2) supports type
2230/2242/2260/2280 M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s).
* Please be noted that if M2_1 is occupied by a SATA-type M.2 device, SATA3_0 will be
disabled.
* If PCIE2 slot or PCI slot is occupied, the PCIe-type M.2 device on M2_1 socket will run
at Gen3 x2 (16 Gb/s).


And that's it. That's the entire explanation of the M2 sockets and circuitry. Ugh.

(EDIT) Now when you say "stacked" do you mean literally stacked, Iike one on top, and the other on the bottom?
« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 04:44:42 pm by cfx795 »

Offline PCNetSpec

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2017, 04:55:12 pm »
Yeah I meant one on top of the other .. it was "my" terminology, not any kind of "technical" terrminology ;)
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Offline cfx795

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2017, 05:43:12 pm »
Yeah I meant one on top of the other .. it was "my" terminology, not any kind of "technical" terrminology ;)

OK. Cool. I'm home, now, and looking directly at the mobo. Looks very much as though M2_1 is stacked, and M2_2 is single (if you will). I'm pretty sure both are long - 2280. And both sockets on my motherboard are labeled "Ultra." It doesn't show that on your newegg.uk pic, it makes it look like M2_1 is "Ultra" and M2_2 is not. But that's how my mobo is labeled, and that seems to be what the ASRock manual describes, isn't it?

I dunno. If there is some system limitation on that M2_2 socket beyond the 32Gb/s, I guess I'm not getting it, from what I'm reading. Sounds like if you use the M2_1 socket with a SATA3 SSD, it will disable one SATA port. If you use the same socket with a PCIE (NVMe) SSD, it could operate at a lower speed (16Gb/s) if one or another PCI or PCIE slot is occupied.

The manual doesn't state this specifically, but it doesn't say anything about there being any similar limitations for the "single" socket down there at the bottom of the board - M2_2.

Plus it's not "stacked" so I probably don't have to guess how it's supposed to be installed, I don't think. I have no idea what's supposed to be installed on the top versus the bottom. It looks like there's just the "M" notch on the M2_2 socket, which is what the Western Digital site said you want for your NVMe SSD. (It's hard to tell with the other socket, you start looking at the pins and notches, and it's a bit dim down there in the cavernous reaches of your case, like some fun house or kaleidoscope effect. Maybe my vision just isn't that sharp.)

So, it seems like I'd go with M2_2 as my primary target if I were to install an NVMe (PCIe) SSD as my boot drive. Or am I confused?

EDIT: I think that's it. Correct me if you think I'm wrong. My brain is very tired.  :o I think I've re-read that bit from the ASRock manual like 50 or 60 times! >:(
« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 05:50:21 pm by cfx795 »

Offline PCNetSpec

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2017, 08:30:13 pm »
I was under the impression that there was a single short M.2 socket just below/left of the RAM slots (let's call it M1)

and that (lets call it M2) was the stacked port comprising M2_1 and M2_2

But then it's hard to tell from pics, so maybe you should take whatever I say as possible b*ll*cks ;)

Can you link to somewhere I can read your manual .. checking the online version is the same as the one you got with your MOBO.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 08:32:48 pm by PCNetSpec »
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Offline cfx795

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Re: Wondering whether to use those M.2 sockets on my motherboard.
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2017, 09:10:53 pm »
Sure. Let me find the thing. Actually, I was looking at the pdf manual from the ASRock site, also. Here it is: http://www.asrock.com/MB/Intel/B250M%20Pro4/index.asp#Manual

I won't go on, I'll just let you look at it. Thanks. I think it's page 26.