ASUS Z97 & X99 Motherboards & Intel 750 series NVMe SSDs – All You Need To Know

21821

Intel has recently set out to revolutionize the storage world with the release of its latest SDD series, the 750 series. These SSDs are game changers as they bring a consumer based NVMe SSD design replacing legacy AHCI based designs offering up improved performance in IOPS and reads & writes, reduced latency and much more. As always though cutting edge tech has its requirements in ensuring optimal interoperability, compatibility and performance. In this post I am going to give you all the details in helping you feel confident in paring one of Intel’s latest 750 series with ASUS motherboards.

The 750 series of SSDs offer up a wide range of features and functions and performance benefits making them a PC enthusiast, PC gamer or content creator’s best choice for those looking in the best in storage performance. A quick recap of what the 750 series brings to the table and it is easy to see why so many users are excited about these SSDs.

  • Enterprise grade Intel SSD controller with 18 channels of flash native NVMe design
  • PCIe Gen 3 x4 interface for massive sequential read and write performance
  • Consistently higher IOPS and overall throughput
  • Extremely fast desktop user queue performance
  • Sustained low latency
  • Enhanced power loss protection
  • Performance consistently not requiring over provision
  • Native UEFI firmware offering full support for GOP / GPT windows Installations
  • Intel quality firmware and validation with support Intel SSD Toolbox
  • Endurance rating – 70GB Writes per day up to 219 TBW ( terabytes written )
  • 5 Year warranty

So all of that is great but how do I make sure everything works? Well ASUS and Intel have you covered. A huge amount of work has been put into the interoperability, compatibility and overall performance validation. Overall installation, initialization and usage of the 750 series SSD is essentially the same as any current SSD like the Intel 730 AHCI based SSD. So what do you need to know?

What do I need to run / support an Intel 750 series SSD?

The checklist below is required to ensure optimal functionality and performance

  • ASUS X99 or *z97 series motherboard

Models include ( this includes all USB 3.1 variants as well as variants of the Z97-PRO and Z97-DELUXE )

[qd_table]

Z97 X99
Z97-AZ97-ARZ97-PROZ97-DELUXE

SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK 1

SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK 2

SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK S

GRYPHON Z97

MAXIMUS VII RANGER

MAXIMUS VII HERO

MAXIMUS VII FORMULA

MAXIMUS VII GENE

MAXIMUS VII IMPACT

Z97-WS

X99-AX99-PROX99-DELUXESABERTOOTH X99

X99-E WS

RAMPAGE V EXTREME

[/qd_table]

  • UEFI compatible hardware ( including a UEFI GOP supported graphics card and optical drive )

All current ASUS graphics cards both AMD and NVIDIA fully support GOP VBIOS previous. Should you have a GTX 600 series GPU or AMD 7000 series GPU you will need to update the VBIOS to be compliant

 

  • NVMe driver – Traditionally a SSD does not need a driver although it is recommended to install the chipset and storage drivers to ensure optimal performance and functionality. Similarly NMVe based SSDs require a driver to ensure the best performance and functionality. Windows does supply a “inbox” driver but it is not recommended. Two ways you will be able to verify the driver is installed is via benchmarking to test the drives performance. Without the NVMe driver maximum sequential throughput will be limited. Additionally you can verify by checking the add / remove programs listing in Windows.

Beyond those items no other requirements.

 

Important points to be aware of for Intel PCIe AIC ( add in card ) 750 series SSD

For the Intel PCIe AIC ( add in card ) this card requires a UEFI updated which contains the support for enabling a fully bootable NVMe storage solution. All that is required on supported motherboards is updating ( flashing ) the UEFI / BIOS to the updated UEFI.

You can find the UEFI at support.asus.com

Beyond that while the Intel 750 series SSD will operate in any x4 PCIe slot you want to ENSURE that a PCIe Gen 3 slot is utilized. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO ENSURE THE SSD’s FULL PERFORMANCE. If a PCIe slot is used that is not PCIe Gen 3 you will still benefit from a wide range of the architectural and performance benefits but you will have considerably limited the maximum sequential performance of the SSD.

As such it is recommend you use the secondary psychical x16 slot on a motherboard. For both X99 or Z97 this will ensure you can have the drive operate at full bandwidth. These PCIe slots are wired to PCIe lanes from the CPU to support SLI and CROSSFIRE PCIe Gen 3.0 operation.

Important points to be aware of 2.5 M.2 / Hyperkit based Intel 750 series SSD

For the Intel 2.5 M.2 / Hyperkit version of the Intel 750 series SSD it requires a UEFI update which contains the support for enabling a fully bootable NVMe storage solution. All that is required on the noted motherboard is updating ( flashing ) the UEFI / BIOS to the updated UEFI.

THERE ARE IMPORTANT PHYSICAL AND PERFORMANCE CONSIDERATIONS FOR THIS SSD.

Beyond that there is a configuration parameter that ideally must be enabled within the UEFI. This helps to ensure the motherboard recognizes the M.2 Hyperkit SSD as a fully bootable solution.

The Intel 750 series SSD needs a M.2 slot that has been connected to CPU PCIe lanes with a support PCIe lane connection up to 4x ( x4 PCIe ) to ensure it reaches its fully defined performance levels. The Z97 chipset due to a reduced number of PCIe lanes provided by the CPU is not traditionally equipped with M.2 slots offering this level of PCIe connectivity / bandwidth.

This means if installed on a Z97 motherboard the SSD will work and you will still benefit from a wide range of the architecture and performance benefits but you will have considerably limited the maximum sequential performance of the SSD.

Beyond performance considerations there are mechanical conflict considerations. Due to the height of the SFF-8643 connector on the Hyperkit it can interfere / obstruct graphics cards that run across the M.2 slot. This only an issue for the RAMPAGE V EXTREME and does have a workaround. This issue presents itself if you chose to have a single GPU which extends beyond 9″ inches in the top primary ( 1st ) physical x16 PCIe slot. If you move the card down it eliminates the issue. Other board will experience similar issues in dual GPU configurations. More information is noted below in those cases.

Mechanical conflict M.2 Hyperkit with graphics card installed
Here you can see a large performance oriented graphics card. This card extends beyond 9 inches and has a physical obstruction / mechanical conflict due to the increased height of the SFF-8643 connector on the Hyperkit module.

 

Recommend X99 motherboards for single ( 1 ) GPU setups

SABERTOOTH X99

X99-A

X99-PRO

X99-DELUXE

X99-E WS

Rampage V EXTREME* will work but requires you to move the primary graphics card from the top ( 1st ) physical x16 PCIe slot so it will not be impacted with the Hyperkit.

 

What about SLI or CROSSFIRE?

 

For dual GPU configuration only the X99 platform is recommended. This is due to the number of PCIe lanes that the CPU offers enabling support for both dual GPU configurations and full performance of the Intel 750 series SSD.

 

For X99 motherboards sufficient PCIe lanes are present to support the AIC version of the Intel 750 series SSD. For the 2.5 M.2 / Hyperkit version sufficient lanes are also present but mechanical considerations must be factored. For many X99 motherboards the location of the M.2 slot in combination of the height of the Hyperkit will impact the base of a secondary graphics card causing a mechanical installation conflict.

 

As such please check clearance prior. Water cooled GPUs present less issues as they are single slot in nature.

 

Recommended X99 motherboards for SLI or CROSSFIRE

 

X99-DELUXE

X99-WS

 

A secondary option for those building a system can use small form factor graphics cards that will offer clearance or not impact with the increased height of the Hyperkit. These cards include

ASUS STRIX GTX 960

ASUS GTX 970 DirectCU Mini

ASUS GTX 960 DirectCU Mini

When using these GPUs board supporting SLI expanded to the

 

X99-A

X99-PRO

X99-DELUXE

X99-E WS

SABERTOOTH X79

RAMPAGE V EXTREME

 

What about older chipsets, I have a Z77,Z87, X79 motherboard?

 

At this time NVMe based storage solutions have not been internally validated and supported via updated firmware. We are currently evaluating bandwidth and resource commit in enabling support on this older chipsets / platforms. Subscribe to PCDIY for updates.

 

Performance analysis & Benchmarks

 

Due to the nature of NVMe traditional HD / SSD AHCI based benchmarks especially those designed to demonstrate sequential performance will not correctly show the performance offered by your Intel 750 series SSD. To correctly benchmark the SSD you will need to use

 

Recommend synthetic benchmark applications

 

i/o meter

CrystalDisk ( updated version ) designed for NVMe

 

 

FAQ

What does the Hyperkit look like?

What does a M.2 slot look like?

How does it the M.2 slot look like with the Hyperkit installed?

 

Physical installation guides – Step by step

Step by step installation of Intel 750 series SSD AIC ( add in card )

Pick up the card, do not touch the insertion contact ( gold interconnect )
Verify gold interconnect is clean and free of any dust, debris or dander ( very the PCIe slot as well )
Install card by inserting into the PCIe slot ( ensure it is a PCIe Gen 3 slot )
Verify the card has installed flush within the slot.
Ensure card was installed elvated when put in slot. When in a chassis if screwed in while card hangs it may dip into the next slot.
Installation complete. Ensure you have screwed the retention screw in the PCIe slot bracket.
Installation complete. Ensure you have screwed the retention screw in the PCIe slot bracket.

 

Step by step installation of Intel 750 series 2.5 M.2 / Hyperkit 

Step 1
Remove the protective film over the second mounting screw ( yellowish film ). You will also need to remove the standoff screw as well as the retention screw which is affixed to the standoff screw. This will be moved to the now exposed secondary mounting screw.
Step 2
Remove the stand off screw and begin to unscrew the retention screw.
Step 3
The stand off screw with no retention screw.
Step 4
The stand off screw and the retention screw. You will securely screw in the stand off screw in the mounting screw on the motherboard. Keep the retention screw handy as you will need it to affix in place the Hyperkit module.
Step 2
Firmly screw in the stand off screw into the mounting screw. Remove the retention screw. ( you may remove both the stand off screw and the retention screw if it easier but ensure you firming install the stand off screw back in place )
WP_20150414_13_35_51_Pro
Gently position the Hyperkit module into the M.2 slot. Ensure you align the notch and key pattern correctly.
WP_20150414_13_36_55_Pro
Gently but firmly slide it into place. As you begin insertion you will feel slight resistance this is normal.
WP_20150414_13_36_59_Pro
Push gently and help to keep you fingers in place by supporting the front of the Hyperkit module. You may also want to brace the back end of the M.2 slot with your hand if accessible.
WP_20150414_13_37_06_Pro
Insertion complete. If you left you fingers the Hyperkit module may raise up. This is normal.
Step 5
Once fully inserted you will want to depress the Hyperkit module in place and align it with the stand off screw.
Step 6
Ensure you align it correctly. Additionally ensure the Hyperkit module is fully seated.
Step 7
Once ready you want to place and center the retention screw.
Step 8
Center the screw and screw it in. Finger tight is sufficient.
Step 9
The Hyperkit module successfully installed.
Step 10
Verify it is securely screwed in and aligned correctly.
Step 12
Take the SFF-8643 to miniSAS cable in hand.

Step 13

Step 14
Grip it’s head and hold it tight you will need to insert it with some force into the SFF-8643 connector.
Step 15
Position and align the cable and connector in place. Verify the correct orientation as it can only be inserted a single way.
Step 16
Insert it with light force, you will feel some slight resistance this is ok. Once fully inserted you will here a slight “click”. This is normal and helps to communicate you have successfully connected the cable.
Step 18
Next you will need to get the other end of the cable. It will have both SATA drive power and SATA data. One will be connected directly to the drive ( data ) while the offer is connected to a free SATA power connection from your PSU ( power supply ).
Step 19
Familiarize yourself with the keying & notching and orientation of the cable.
Step 20
The cable header / connector is keyed / notched and can only be inserted one way.
Step 21
The SATA power connector on top and the SATA data connector on the bottom.

Step 22

Step 23
Look at the female connection on the drive and familiarize yourself with its orientation and keyed design.

Step 24

Step 25

Step 26
Orient the cable correctly and align it with the female connection on the SSD.
Step 27
Begin insertion use minimal force excessive force may bend or break the connector. Inset with slight force some slight initial resistance is normal.
Step 28
Complete insertion of the male data connector into the female data connection.

 

How to enable the Hyperkit within the ASUS UEFI / BIOS:

update coming soon….

How to correctly setup you UEFI for optimal POST & BOOT speed and correctly setting up a UEFI / GPT / GOP system:

update coming soon….

 

SHARE