Earlier this month, we published a full review of the Samsung XP941 512GB M.2 2280 SSD that RamCity in Australia provided us. The XP941 is the world's first M.2 SSD to feature four PCIe 2.0 lanes. Just a month before, we published the world's first consumer M.2 PCIe drive from Plextor, the M6e. These two products differ in that the XP941 doubles the number of PCIe lanes going to the drive.
At this stage of the game, no one really predicted Samsung to jump the gun and shoot past the PCIe 2.0 x2 stage. Even though Plextor just released the M6e and SanDisk has an OEM product with the same controller, Marvell and others are just now really starting to show off PCIe 2.0 x2 controllers. After our Samsung XP941 review, Marvell announced a new PCIe 2.0 x2 controller for SATA Express (SATAe), and we're still trying to wait patiently for SandForce's new SF3700. Imagine the surprise on the product managers' faces when they first heard about Samsung's long jump straight to four lanes.
Just as impressive is ASRock's leap to what the company calls Ultra M.2. At the same time as other motherboard manufacturers graced us with the spec M.2 based on PCIe 2.0 x2, ASRock let loose with steel toe boots and delivered a PCIe 3.0 x4 solution with up to 32Gb/s bandwidth, due to 128/130b encoding.
Yes, we said PCIe 3.0, and you are correct: no one has even mumbled PCIe 3.0 yet in relation to native SSDs. Before ASRock dropped the bombshell, we didn't give it a second thought and even now wouldn't expect to see a 32Gb/s drive until 2016 or beyond.
ASRock released several Z97 and H97 motherboards when the new Intel chipsets launched. We routinely see very cool features, and the cooler they are, the more expensive the motherboard is. I'm bringing this up now because a feature as cool as PCIe 3.0 x4 for storage at the start of PCIe 2.0 x2 is about as cool as it gets. You might expect the feature to cost an arm and a leg, but that is why I'm bringing the price up first. Newegg lists all of ASRock's 9-Series motherboards, and the prices range from $99.99 to $219.99. You are thinking the $219.99 is where the Extreme6 rests, but that is the price of the flagship overclocking board, Z97 OC Formula.
The ASRock Z97 Extreme6 we're looking at today with the most advanced and, at this time, completely exclusive Ultra M.2 PCIe 3.0 slot is... $169.99. Now that you know we are NOT talking about an ultra-premium priced motherboard in the $400+ range, we can get down to business and not feel let down at the end of the review. I hate it when I read about 600+ HP cars from domestic manufacturers only to read the last paragraph and realize I couldn't afford it. The Extreme6 is priced very well for what it has onboard. Now, let's get to talking about the onboard goodies.
PRICING: You can find the ASRock Z97 Extreme6 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: The ASRock Z97 Extreme6 retails for $178.12 at Amazon.