LAS VEGAS, NV – Sometimes, one M.2 PCIe drive is not enough. Some motherboards come with three M.2 slots for NVMe SSDs, but that might not be enough either. To get more, users need add-in cards, and these typically come in single, dual, or quad arrangements. Actually, there’s currently only one company that offers a consumer-focused quad M.2 card. Now ASRock is joining the market.

There is nothing too complex on an M.2 PCIe add-in card: the PCIe lanes on the slot finger go directly to the drives in question. As long as there is sufficient power, and sufficient cooling, there is not much more to it than that. ASRock’s card positions the M.2 drives at a 45-degree angle, provides a PCIe 6-pin for power, uses its metallic shroud for additional heatsink cooling, and then puts in a fan to direct airflow out of the exhaust. This is a variable speed fan that reacts to a thermal sensor, so will speed up if the case is warm. If you wanted overkill M.2 cooling, this is it.

There is another feature that ASRock has had to put on the card, for anyone that wants to put more than one of these Ultra Quad M.2 PCIe Cards into the system. A series of four DIP switches are on the PCB which enables ASRock’s software and the system to determine which is the first Quad M.2 PCIe card, which is the second, and so on. Otherwise enumeration of drives in certain situations might not be guaranteed.

ASRock lists the add-in card as having support for Intel’s VROC technology, although that requires Intel PCIe SSDs in order to function as well as the VROC module. ASRock also stated that these cards support AMD systems without any similar requirements.

We suspect that ASRock will release the card sometime within Q1. Price is still to be determined.

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  • edzieba - Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - link

    Oh no, the terrible return of manual IRQ conflict resolution! Reply
  • Lord of the Bored - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    Funny, my first thought was "DIP switches... how nostalgic." Reply
  • rhysiam - Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - link

    Does this have specific requirements of the system to work? I thought certain chipsets explicitly do *not* allow splitting the CPU PCIe lanes to multiple devices. That's why B250 boards (for example) cannot split the 16 CPU PCIe lanes to multiple graphics cards. Isn't this similar? Or is there a PCIe switch on the board? Would that have a tangible latency impact?

    Just a few questions!
    Reply
  • supremelaw - Thursday, May 10, 2018 - link

    The motherboard BIOS needs to support bifurcation. In the ASRock UEFI, it shows up as the "4x4" option. In the ASUS UEFI, it shows up as the "x4/x4/x4/x4" option. These AICs do NOT need a PLX chip, as long as the motherboard can split an x16 PCIe slot into 4 @ x4 PCIe 3.0 lanes, hence 4 x NVMe SSDs. In practice, idle CPU cores (of which are are now many) can now do the job formerly done by dedicated Input-Out Processors on hardware RAID cards. For those who desire to do a fresh install of Windows 10 in a RAID-0 array of 4 x NVMe SSDs, the ASRock approach can be done easily by following the directions which you can request from their Tech Support group. When we requested same, ASRock replied with those directions the next day. The Intel approach currently requires a VROC "dongle", and some reports have claimed that VROC requires Intel SSDs. Because we are currently busy designing a system with the ASRock X399M motherboard, we are not thoroughly familiar with all of the details of Intel's implementation. Hope this helps. Reply
  • supremelaw - Thursday, May 10, 2018 - link

    EDIT: "(of which are are now many)" should be "(of which there are now many)"
    Sorry for the typo.
    Reply

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