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SilverStone Add-In Card Offers Expanded M.2 Support

SilverStone released an M.2 PCI-E adapter, bringing support for M.2 Key M and M.2 Key B to motherboards that lack an interface for these devices.

The adapter from SilverStone uses a PCI-E x4 interface and fits into virtually all systems. Although it comes with a typical ATX mounting bracket attached, it also includes a bracket for mounting to a low-profile expansion slot. The device requires no drivers to operate.

Once connected to the motherboard via a PCI-E slot, the adapter is capable of supporting a single M.2 Key M slot device, such as an SSD. M.2 ports are becoming increasingly common on motherboards today, but many motherboards still lack M.2 connectivity.

As an SSD connected to an M.2 Key M slot is capable of operating at much greater speeds relative to one plugged into a Sata interface, it is only natural that enthusiasts want to take advantage of these devices. This adapter allows them to do so, without needing to upgrade their motherboard or other parts of the system.

For additional storage, there is an additional M.2 port utilizing the Key B standard. This M.2 Key B connector, however, will not function with just the PCI-E x4 interface connected and must be plugged into a Sata port in order to be operational. As this adapter only utilizes four PCI-E lanes, using a Sata connection was the only way to provide additional bandwidth for the M.2 Key B. The M.2 Key M slot itself requires four lanes of PCI-E connectivity, and thus there is insufficient bandwidth remaining for the M.2 Key B.

Although the M.2 Key B can function with a Sata interface, this at best only provides 600 MB/s of bandwidth, rendering the drive no faster than a typical Sata SSD. Alternatively, SilverStone could have implemented and used additional PCI-E lanes to connect the M.2 Key B instead of relying on Sata, providing 1000 MB/s of bandwidth, assuming the PCI-E 2.0 standard is used. This would have provided superior performance and ultimately given users a reason to want to use an M.2 Key B on this card rather than a traditional SSD.

The SilverStone ECM20 is available now with an MSRP of $17.36.

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Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.