Thursday , 24 July 2014
Learn What SSDs Can Do For You:

ASRock Z97 Extreme6 Tests Samsung XP941 M.2 x4, Plextor M6e M.2 x2 and Samsung 840 Pro SATA 3 SSDs

To anyone not familiar with SSDs, our title might not seem that striking, but it represents a huge step forward in storage technology within a very short time.  It also speaks highly of ASRock for again leading the way in advancing storage, as they are the only to incorporate a new SSD innovation into their Extreme 6 motherboard; this of course being a PCIe Gen 3 x4 interface that could accommodate M.2 SSDs up to blazing 32GB/s speeds.  Although it may be some time until we get  such a small form factor SSD travelling at that speed, this does mean that the Extreme6 is the only motherboard in the world that can accommodate our Samsung XP941 as a boot drive today.  In fact today, we are going to be testing not only that XP941, but also the Plextor M6e PCIe x2 SSD and the Samsung 840 Pro SATA 3 SSD.

ASRock Z97 Extreme6 All Drives

Just to step back a bit though, it was only on their last round of releases that ASRock introduced the first motherboard with an integrated PCIe X2 M.2 connector.  This was the Fatal1ty 990FX Killer AMD motherboard that we reported on a month or so back.  That board wasn’t the only that they could credit as being the first of its kind. Although that connector wasn’t included in their Intel Z87 Extreme11/ac motherboard that we also reported on, they pretty much left any competition behind by incorporating 6 Intel SATA ports along with 16 SAS/SATA ports to that board.  These SAS/SATA ports were hooked up to a LSI SAS 3008 PCI Express 3.0, 8-port, 12Gb/s SAS and SATA I/O controller and LSI 3x24R Expander that enabled the use of SAS or SATA SSDs.  In our subsequent testing of 8 HGST 12Gbps SSDs, we were able to push this board to 6GB/s speeds and 850K IOPS.  This has NEVER been done with a consumer motherboard alone ever before. Back to the Z97 Extreme6…

ASRock Z97 Extreme6 Branding

UNDERSTANDING HOW DIFFERENT SPEEDS ARE ACHIEVED

Even before we get into the ASRock Z97 Extreme6 motherboard, the simple fact that we are testing three totally different SSD interfaces merits an understanding of how the speed of each is achieved.  SATA 3 for example, does not run directly through PCIe lanes to the CPU, and as such is limited to SATA 3 (6Gbps) throughput of somewhere in the area of 575MB/s maximum in reality.  Both the Samsung XP941 and the Plextor M6e M.2 SSDs use PCIe lanes which eliminated that SATA barrier, 4 lanes for the XP941 and 2 lanes for the M6e.  In understanding PCIe 2.0 lane throughput, a theoretical 500MB/s is stated as throughput per lane. This means that the M6e can reach 1GB/s (theoretically), whereas the XP941 might reach twice that at 2GB/s.  This is never quite possible as a result of hardware components and their constraints.

SSD Connectors

A basic understanding of the connectors helps things along just a bit more.  The SSD on the bottom is the 840 Pro with a SATA connector, Samsung XP941 on the left with a M.2 X4 connector, and the Plextor M6e on the top right with the M.2 X2 connector. The space in the XP941 is denoted as the ‘M key and only these connectors can pass PCIe 4 lane (X4) speeds.  The M6e on the right contains both the ‘M Key’ and the ‘B Key’ and can only pass PCIe 2 lane (x2) speeds. Just as a point of interest, all three can pass the SATA signal but the two top M.2 connectors are just a bit different.  This comes into play with SATA Express where the same M.2 connector can be used for either SATA, PCIe x2 or x4.  We saw this a bit in our testing of eight different SSDs, some SATA and some PCIe but all M.2.

Featured2

ASROCK Z97 EXTREME6 MOTHERBOARD

The Extreme6 supports Intel 4th and 5th generation Xeon and Intel 13/15 and i7 processors that use Socket 1150 seating.  This is very important as Socket 1155 is very close but not quite compatible and some might find themselves damaging pins in trying to make it fit.  It doesn’t work.  It is a Digi Power 12 Phase design, supports Dual Channel DDR3-3200+ (OC) memory, and has 2 PCIe 3.0 x16, 1 PCIe 2.0 x16, 2 PCIe 2.0 x1 and 1 mini-PCIe with a 15? Gold Contact in VGA PCIe Slot (PCIE2).  This is in addition to the 1 SATA Express, 10 SATA3, 1 eSATA, 1 Ultra M.2 (Gen3 x4), 1 M.2 (Gen2 x2/SATA), 10 USB 3.0 (4 Front, 6 Rear), and 5 USB 2.0 (4 Front, 1 Vertical Type A) ports. Here it is being inspected by the boss!

Z97 Under Inspection

The ASRock Z97 Extreme6 also has 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports Purity Sound™ 2 & DTS Connect, DVI-I, HDMI and Display Port options, along with Dual LAN: 1 Intel® Gigabit LAN, 1 Realtek Gigabit LAN. It supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™ and NVIDIA® Quad SLI™, However, it is a very important point to note that, if you have a PCIe X4 M.2 SSD connected, this immediately takes away four lanes, eliminating the possibility of any SLI configurations.

Office Configuration

For our purposes, we are running the Samsung XP941 M.2 x4, Plextor M6e M.2 x2, along with two Samsung 840 pro SSDs, along with 3 27″ monitors connected to our EVGA GeForce GTX 770 and all at 2560 x 1440 resolution.

To anyone not familiar with SSDs, our title might not seem that striking, but it represents a huge step forward in storage technology within a very short time.  It also speaks highly of ASRock for again leading the way in advancing storage, as they are the only to incorporate a new SSD innovation into their Extreme 6 motherboard; this of course being a PCIe Gen 3 x4 interface that could accommodate M.2 SSDs up to blazing 32GB/s speeds.  Although it may be some time until we get  such a small form factor SSD travelling at that speed, this does mean…

Review Overview

Product Build
Features
Storage Features
Price and Availability
Warranty (3 Years)

World's First M.2 PCIe Gen 2 X4 SSD Capable Mobo!

Summary : Coming in at a very low price and being the only motherboard in the world capable of M.2 PCIe x4 SSD speeds just doesn't make sense. ASRock has put together an amazing motherboard and the only improvement we might have added would have been 802.11ac WiFi.

User Rating: 2.96 ( 13 votes)
93

About Les Tokar

is a technology nut and Founder of The SSD Review. His early work includes the first consumer SSD review along with MS Vista, Win 7 and SSD Optimization Guides. Les is fortunate to, not only evaluate and provide opinion on consumer and enterprise solid state storage but also, travel the world in search of new technologies and great friendships. Google+
  • MikeGR7

    Thanks for the article Les!
    It’s great to see you opening up your reviews to more hardware while still keeping it relevant
    to storage technologies!
    I like the mobo but i still say that two 840 pros in raid 0 are still the way to go perf wise.
    That said i can clearly see the patern of where the industry is moving and that’s the M.2.

    • Vext

      Can you elaborate on that? All the benchmarks suggest that’s not the case, but I could be misinterpreting the data as I’m new to the I/o performance conversation.

      • scope4live

        I am just happy to see the XP941 being so fast as is. For me it’s win-win as the size of my 1U’s shrink, and at they same time they get faster, and bootable. I will use them to load my data into a RAM template, and rarely write to them. Lets hope our M$ gatekeepers will let us use 24GB out of 32GBs w/o any performance issues.

      • MikeGR7

        It’s easy.
        You’ve seen the 840p results. Multiply by 2X and take -10% out.
        You’ll find that you are around the same “1GB/S” read/write territory as the M.2′s.
        BUT you also get to enjoy that sweet fast ramp up in performance in the low end up to 8K. The 4k write will also be about double.

  • dravo1

    Just curious, are the M2 slots eligible to be included in a RAID set?

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Of course the could be used that way but you have to consider that the RAID set of two XP941 SSDs would be restricted to the lowest speed which is dual lane travel. That might get you a negligible improvement on the XP 941 alone in the ultra M.2 slot. Just to be sure I will try to do this prior to taking off for China in a few days…

      • dravo1

        Just to cover all the bases, can the M2s be in a mixed RAID with equal sized SSDs?

  • felix

    I wonder…what if there were 2 M.2 x4 slots on that board….combined with 2x XP941….

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Then any thought of decent gfx, other than integrated…might be gone. Intel needs to increase total PCIe lane count for something like that.

      • felix

        I wouldn’t care for 1x8PCIE for Graphics ( don’t think it would hurt performance much) and 2x4PCIE lanes for M.2…but you’re right…Intel needs to increase lanes to 24+ for something like this to happen properly…

      • Yar Nunya

        X79! 40 pci-e lanes if using a 6 core SB-E or Ivybridge-E. Too bad it came out in 2011 and X99 isn’t here yet and no X79 boards with M.2 connectors.

      • Eric

        I’m actually pretty satisfied with Intel’s iGPU.
        I’d love to see two M.2 slots running at PCIe x4, combined to RAID 0, and which can be booted from. Oh my…

      • Yar Nunya

        Exactly, like if an X79 board were to sprout some M.2 connectors in a larger than regular ATX size then one would have 40 PCI-e lanes with which to delegate 8 lanes to GPU A, 8 to GPU B, 4 or 8 to your m.2 SSD’s, and use the rest for the other crap that needs to ride the pcie bus. Perhaps in X99?

  • http://TinkerTry.com/about Paul Braren

    Such a great article, so glad M.2 is finally arriving…

  • DanaJRobertson

    It’s great to see you opening up your reviews to more hardware while still keeping it relevant

    to storage technologies! http://goo.gl/ai61Qh

  • Jeevan

    How does this m2 port work anyway?
    IS it similar to NVMe setup as these disk also uses PCIe slot??

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      It is similar only in use of PCIe lanes. NVMe cuts the number of commands significantly which provides for better performance.

  • Ahmed M

    can you run the samsung xp941 at Gen3 x2?

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      No. The controller of the device has to be a PCIE Gen 3 controller to do that and there are none in existence just yet.

      • Ahmed M

        So the Samsung is a Gen 2 Device right ?

      • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

        All current SSD PCIe products are Gen 2. We don’t even know of a controller in the works yet that would tackle Gen 3.

  • Guest

    so the xp941 is gen2 ?

  • Luche

    What about overclocking CPU? Have you tried it with this mobo?

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      We haven’t overclocked the CPU on this system just yet….our storage backlog hasn’t allowed it.

Footer 930x64
SSD QUICK SEARCH