Everyone has spare NVMe SSDs, right? Or perhaps users want to buy four of them? Intel was on a big push recently with its newest 380 GB Intel Optane 905P SSD, with most of the main motherboard and system vendors showing them in action. To date we have seen both ASUS and ASRock show off their 4-in-1 M.2 to PCIe add-in cards, both of which should now be easily available, leaving GIGABYTE and MSI to come up with their own. Well in order to show off the Optane drives, GIGABYTE put together a quick something that they're calling the Aorus PCIe x16 M.2.

Currently standing at revision 0.1, GIGABYTE was being coy about whether it was going to come to market. It was made specifically to run the Optane demonstrations we were told, but more time would need to be spent if it were to be a retail product.

This isn’t really that big of a news piece, especially when other PCIe add-in cards exist. What we were told however is that this add-in card works with X399 and AMD’s Threadripper motherboards.

Before the show, I was pinged by Wendell over at Level1Techs about this cards, and I took it upon myself to investigate if/when these companies would supported all HEDT platforms with the additional bifurcation and clock gens needed. The same issues occur with AMD and Intel, making it a compound issue. GIGABYTE explicitly stated that their card has no trouble working on X399 motherboards, although they did state that they had only tested one in a board at a time.

I spoke to the PM, and although it was unsaid, it was clear that they only built the product to show off the Optane drives for the show. However I did make an effort to explain that if marketed as a four-way M.2 to PCIe card that has explicit AMD X399 support, it would capture a corner of the market. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

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  • npz - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    I just ordered Asus Hyper M.2 card last night for my X399. Other manufacturers making the same type of card requiring lane bifurcation is Aplicata and Dell (made by Foxconn).

    Dell doesn't distribute them publicly, only as accessories for their workstations, but you can find third parties on Ebay, Newegg, Amazon:
    https://www.amazon.com/Dell-Ultra-Speed-Drive-Quad...

    but I'm glad the commodity mobo makers are making these now since those are way overpriced. I can understand if they used a pcie switch to avoid the need for bifurcation like a couple so far, but these are just dumb cards that have some capacitors and no logic on them.

    I bought the Asus Hyper M.2 card for $59.
    Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    It's Dell, everything they actually design is way overpriced, that's how they still make a profit despite reselling commodity hardware at a loss. Reply
  • tomatotree - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    It's not purely passive due to the need to divide up the clockref. Every PCIe slot has only one clockref signal (on the pins before the notch), regardless of how many lanes it has, but every device needs one, and it can't be split passively. So there's a clock buffer and re-driver circuit on there, plus probably power converters to switch the high wattage 12V line down to 4x 3.3V that the M.2 drives need. (Yes, PCIe includes 3.3V, but not with enough wattage for 4 M.2s) Reply
  • npz - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    I expected some simple power circuitry but did not know that about clocking, but it makes sense. Still those circuits are dirt cheap and simple compared to PLAs, muxes, which themselves are also dirt cheap and don't justify the cost to the consumer anways Reply
  • davegraham - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    I have the x8 Aplicata card with the onboard PCIe bridge, which doesn't require PCIe bifurcation. the x16 device requires the use of bifurcation. Reply
  • Kraszmyl - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    Uh just a warning that dell card only works in a t5810, t7810, or t7910. It might work in the txx20s but I don't have one to test. Otherwise ive attempted to use that card in an r620, r720, t630, t430, asrock x99 board I know have bifurcation, and the asus x99ws Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    AnandTech, fix your damn "Want to keep up to date with all of our Computex 2018 Coverage?" footer thing - the "Hardware" link goes to a 404. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    Thanks for the heads up. Fixed! Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    I wish I knew why none of these manufacturers use the simple space-saving expedient of putting two M.2 SSDs on either side of the card. Reply
  • tomatotree - Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - link

    I believe that's due to height restrictions on the back of the card -- there's not enough room to put M.2 connectors there without encroaching on the space of the next slot, and they would rather keep it single width. Reply

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