Prior to the Intel Developers Forum 2011 in San Francisco, ASRock released a motherboard with SAS storage, and a few other nice storage features. A tier one motherboard manufacturer was at the show, and released a similar motherboard. After seeing the tier one manufacturer's board, I started to size the two boards up in my head, and blurted out a few comparisons. The marketing rep for the tier one company snapped back without pause, with an almost rehearsed response: "We don't compare our products to tier three makers."
Here we are a few years later, and I have to wonder what other motherboard manufacturers are saying about ASRock. As an American, I have some predefined genetic code that leads me to favor the underdog. When it comes to underdogs, it's hard to find a more fitting definition than AMD when it comes to the CPU space. For this story, I think it's fitting that ASRock, the underdog and newcomer to the motherboard space, used an AMD platform to make the world's first desktop motherboard with native PCIe x2 m.2 storage. It was either that, or the fact that AMD has more PCIe lanes on the consumer platform to make it possible.
Today we're taking a look at the new m.2 storage on ASRock's new Fatal1ty 990FX Killer motherboard. As mentioned, this is the first desktop motherboard with native PCIe x2 m.2; formally NGFF. The socket is right on the motherboard, between two PCIe slots normally used for video card, and you don't need an adapter. The ASRock implementation uses two PCIe lanes, and that's what separates it from ASUS's ROG Series m.2 products that use a single PCIe lane. Technically, ASUS beat ASRock to the NGFF punch, but the single lane implementation works best for cache, while the two-lane solution gives you up to 10Gbps of bandwidth for storage performance that blazes past the SATA 6Gbps limits.
This article should hit the web right around the same time socket m.2 SSD information starts to ramp up from CES. We've actually covered m.2 products on more than one occasion, our first was back in June of last year, when we tested two SATA based m.2 drives pulled off of the show floor at Computex. We followed that up with a definitive guide, and then a test of the first PCIe based m.2 drive: the SanDisk A110. Today, we're once again using the SanDisk A110, and placing it inside the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer's m.2 slot to see how the combination performs.