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Z97 chipset & SATA Express / M.2 / PCIe SSD

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I’m looking to buy new PC with a budget of around £500 (without OS & Monitor). I want as much bang for my buck as possible, and also want it to be upgradable in the future as components get faster/cheaper.

I’m looking at a few i7 4790/4790k PC’s. I can’t afford an X99 or top spec Z97 based system, so it seems like a H97 or Z97 build would be the way to go. In my price range, most are built on the following:

Gigabyte Z97M-DS3H
Gigabyte Z97P-D3
Asus Z97-P
MSI Z97 PC Mate

One thing that’s really confusing me are the new SATA Express SSD’s, M.2, PCIe 2.0, 3.0, lanes etc. Am I correct to assume that the max speed I can get out of these boards is 10Gb/s, or will it be possible to use faster devices in the future?

I don’t play games, so will stick with the onboard graphics for now, but if I use SATA Express / M.2, does mean that if I did want to add a decent graphics card in the future, I can’t use the PCIe 3.0 for this?

Sorry if some of this sounds obvious, but I’ve already done loads of reading and am at the limits of my understanding with this.
post #2 of 9
It depends on the board, but I believe Z97 has 16 PCIe lanes. If you use the (faster) M.2 slot, it will eat up four of those, still leaving 12 for the GPU. There shouldn't be much, if any, discernible difference graphics-wise.
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your response.

Here are the board specs taken from the manufacturers websites:

1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16
(The PCIEX16 slot conforms to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
(All PCI Express x1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)

1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
(The PCIEX16 slot conforms to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
(The PCIEX4 and PCI Express x1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
2 x PCI slots

Asus Z97-P:
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 mode, gray)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x2 mode, black)
2 x PCIe x1
2 x PCI
1 x M.2 Socket 3, , with M Key, type 2260/2280 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*1
4 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10

MSI Z97 PC Mate:
PCI-Ex16 x 2
PCI-E Gen: Gen3 (16), Gen2 (4)
PCI-Ex1 x2
PCI x 2
RAID: 0/1/5/10

I think they all have one PC1e x 16 slot running at x 16 (the different way of listing things is not helping me get my head around this)?

So are you saying that this one PCIe x 16 x 16 can take both an SSD and a graphics card?

I also note that only the Asus has an M.2 socket. I thought the Gigabyte did, but there’s no mention on their website so this may have been incorrectly documented somewhere else. Do I actually need an M.2 socket to use thsee drives, or can they plug straight into the PCIe port? Will I get any performance boost by doing this over using M.2, which Asus says tops out at 10Gb/s?
post #4 of 9
The fastest nvme drives use either x4 PCIe or x4 M.2.

The Samsung 950 pro is an M.2 example.

Intel 750 is a PCIe example.

Different boards will can have no M.2 slot, an x2 M.2 slot, or an x4 M.2 slot. The PCIe drives can go in any PCIe x4 or faster slot.

Give me a bit and I'll get some recommended boards for you.


Alright, it seems there are only a few Z97 boards which have gen 3, x4 ("ultra") M.2 slots.
Asus Impact VII
Asrock Extreme 6
Asrock Extreme 9

The Extreme 6 is going to be the cheapest, by far, if you can find one.

Any Z97 with a PCIe x4 or better slot will support the PCIe NVME drive (Intel 750). Here's a blurb from anandtech regarding how an nvme drive affects PCI bandwidth in Z97:
Utilizing the CPU's PCIe lanes presents some possible bottlenecks for the users of Z97 chipset because the normal Haswell CPUs feature only sixteen PCIe 3.0 lanes. In other words, if you wish to use the SSD 750 with a Z97 chipset you have to give up some GPU PCIe bandwidth because the SSD 750 will take four lanes out of the sixteen. With a single GPU setup that's hardly an issue, but with SLI/CrossFire setup there's a possibility of some bandwidth handicapping if the GPUs and SSD are utilizing the interface simultaneously. Also, with NVIDIA's PCIe x8 requirement, it limits itself to a single NVIDIA card implementation. Fortunately it's quite rare that an application would tax the GPUs and storage at the same time since games tend to load data to RAM for faster access and especially with the help of PCIe switches it's possible to grant all devices the lanes they require (although the maximum bandwidth isn't increased, but switches allow full x16 bandwidth to the GPUs when they need it).

Basically, you shouldn't have anything to worry about with nvme on z97 unless you have mroe than one GPU thumb.gif
Edited by ninjacore - 1/7/16 at 12:15pm
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks ninjacore

Still grappling with this. All the boards above have (I think!) 1 PCie 3.0 slot. Only the Asus has M.2. I might be wrong, but even if these boards can handle a graphics card and a SATA Express SSD, it doesn’t look like they can both be physically connected at the same time, unless there is an M.2 socket?

Am I limited to 10GB/s with these boards? I think the drives you mentioned are both faster than this? Dom in need M.2 Extreme to get faster speeds?

Is there a speed increase in plugging directly into the PCie rather than using M.2?

Thanks for the recommendation of the Extreme 6. I’m not going to build from scratch, but buy a pre built system, so in my price range I’m limited to the above boards. At the moment I’m veering towards the ASUS Z97-P as it has an M.2 socket, are there any major advantages for going with one of the others instead?
post #6 of 9
Oh didn't realize you were going with a pre-built. The Asus Z97-P is definitely the best of those boards (though none of them are great).

It is indeed the only one with M.2 support, though it's support is limited to just 2 PCIe lanes, so you only get nvme gen.2 (x2) speeds versus gen.3 (x4) with the boards I listed.

I believe a PCIe NVME drive (like the Intel 750) will work at full gen3 speeds in the Asus Z97-P with a bios update, though you'll want to research that more to confirm.

Any particular reason you're going with a pre-built system? Putting one together yourself is not very difficult. You'll save several hundred dollars and be able to hand-pick your parts instead of using the junk they buy in bulk smile.gif
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
This is one I have on my shortlist:


£521 in 3yr collect & return Warranty

To buy the components separately and build myself (cheapest prices I could find):

Asus Z97 p – £67
I7 4790k inc cooler - £257
8g HyperX FURY White - £36
1tb WD Blue Desktop - £39 (would look for an option with 120gb SSD instead, but about same price)
DVD Writer - £12
Inwin 703 Black Midi Tower Gaming Case - £55.18
Cooler Master B500 ver.2 –b - £30


So I save £25 building it myself, but buying it ready made save me the hassle and it’s been tested for faulty components and has a 3yr warranty.

I could save more buy using my existing case, PSU and DVD Writer. I’m a little nervous about building from scratch. I've upgraded most PC components before myself, the one item I had a problem with in the past is the CPU. I think I smudged the thermal paste when installing it and it kept on rebooting. I’m not very handy with things like this. I might go for a pre O/C’d mobo, cpu, ram set up it I did go down this road, then I could look for a better Mobo.

Apart from the STA Express SSD compatibility, what are the other advantages of a more expensive mobo like the Extreme 6? Is it mostly overclocking speed or are their other advantages?
post #8 of 9
Sata express is a different capability altogether smile.gif I've been discussing support via m.2 or pcie for the nvme protocol.

Differences in motherboards of the same platform (Z97) are typically: audio codecs, increased number of power phases and improved power delivery components for overclocking, and the types of expansion slots available.

What's the price difference of the extreme 6 over the z97-p where you're buying (if you built it yourself)?

If you're not comfortable doing it all yourself, then that's not too bad of a deal. Those certainly aren't the parts I would pick for a build (which is the real appeal of doing it all yourself), but they'll definitely do for your needs. The Z97-P won't allow you to use a gen 3 pcie or m.2 nvme drive, but a regular sata SSD (Samsung 850 EVO or Pro) will still be very fast.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Just picking this up again as I decided to park the idea for a while.

I’ve now seen that there are quite a few 6700k/Z170 systems on sale for not much more money than the 4790k/Z97 options, and these do seem to offer the necessary expansion slots for Gen 3 M.2 nvme and SATA Express, as well as USB 3.1, which was something else I was going to ask about.

The ones I’ve looked at are all built on the GIGABYTE Z170-HD3P (there were some H110 and H170 systems as well, but I think Z170 is a better investment?) A budget board again, I’m sure there are many better ones, but this seems to be the way to go in terms of future upgradability, unless I’m missing something?
Edited by paddyb - 2/26/16 at 9:35am
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