Last year I upgraded my main server from an old 1u cloud box to a new Ryzen Quiet PC. The motherboard has 2 nvme slots on it and I filled them up and mirrored them for the OS and vm storage, but my main storage setup (music, video, backups, etc) was/is a RAID of old 7200rpm spinning SATA drives. At the time I just moved it to the new sever with a note to replace it later. Recently one of the drives completely died, so I knew it was time.
I picked up a https://www.asus.com/us/motherboards-components/motherboards/accessories/hyper-m-2-x16-gen-4-card/helpdesk_knowledge?model2Name=Hyper-M-2-x16-Gen-4-Card. This is a pcie gen4 x16 card that has slots for 4 nvme drives on it. My plan was to fill it up and raid those drives for storage and completely replace the old spinning drives.
The card was ~75$, but I see it’s dropped to ~58$ now. The card is well made and solid. It has a really quick massive heat sink and a small fan (which you can enable/disable with a switch on the back). It also has lights on the back to show activity on each of the drives.
First, to use this card and see all 4 nvme drives, your motherboard MUST support pcie bifurcation. This means it has to have a setting to take a x16 card and split it into 4 x4 ‘lanes’. I made sure the one I got did, but even so there’s some caveats that I ran into. First, on my MB, only the first x16 pcie slot can be set for x4x4x4x4, so the Hyper card must go there. With the Hyper card in pcie slot 1, and video card in slot 2, it would only do x8x8 on the first slot (so, only 2 drives of 4 are seen). Unfortunately I was unable to move the video card to the 3rd x16 slot because the heat sink on it was too large and would try and occupy the same space as a power connector. In fact, no video card I could find would fit in that slot due to the power connector. So, first, I just booted with no video card at all. Blindly typing my luks passphrases isn’t much fun, but it worked and all 4 nvme drives are seen just fine.
So, after looking around a great deal, I finally found a x1 video card (my MB has 2 x1 slots. one of which I was using for a network card). Its mentioned in this Phoronix review: https://www.phoronix.com/review/asus-50-gpu Sadly, it’s a nvidia based card “NVIDIA Corporation GK208B [GeForce GT 730]” but it’s the only x1 card I could find at all. I also don’t need 4 HDMI outputs, only one, but oh well. I got the card last week and put it in. Sadly it didn’t seem to work, but I realized the second x1 slot has a cooling baffle right after it, and the card wasn’t fully able to insert. So, I swapped it with the network card in the other slot and Success! Everything comes up right. (Aside the network card changing it’s name due to ‘predictable network names’ and messing up the bridge it was supposed to be on, but that was easy to fix).
Cooling seems pretty nice on the card. The drives are at about 49C idle, and when syncing a few TB of data to them they only ever crept up to about 53C. High temp on these drives is 89.8C. I managed to pick up 4 4TB drives with a pretty good deal due to sales last week. Performance is great! As soon as I finish syncing content off I am looking forward to powering off the old spinning drives and retiring them.
If you’re looking to add some more nvme storage and your MB supports the bifrucation settings needed, this is a pretty nice little card and storage expansion option.