PC Gear Lab

5 Best Motherboards with M.2 Slots in 2020

With more and more people are flocking to get their hands on SSDs, it only makes sense that you a buy one of the best motherboards with M.2 slots.

M.2 is basically the name of the SSD physical form factor that is small, shaped more or less similar to a RAM module, and requires very little power.

There are different types of interfaces for SSD like the 2.5 inch SATA SSDs or the AddIn cards, however, M.2 is the most famous and the most sought after slot for SSD expansion particularly because they can support the M.2 NVME module.

In this article, we will thus talk about the best motherboards for NVME M.2 SSD that can also support SATA SSD slots.

Comparison of Top Motherboard with M.2 Slot

ProductChipsetSocketSize
NVME
M.2 #
Check
Price
GIGABYTE
H310M A 2.0
H310Intel
LGA1151
mATX1
Buy at
Amazon.com 
ASUS Prime
B460M
B460Intel
LGA1200
mATX2
Buy at
Amazon.com 
Gigabyte Z490
AORUS Master
Z490Intel
LGA1200
ATX3
Buy at
Amazon.com 
GIGABYTE
B450M DS3H
B450AMD
AM4
ATX1
Buy at
Amazon.com 
ASUS Prime
B550M-A
B550AMD
AM4
ATX2
Buy at
Amazon.com 
ASUS ROG
STRIX B550-I
B550AMD
AM$
Mini ITX2
Buy at
Amazon.com

It is also our aim to demystify the SSD type and jargon in the FAQ section below.

Also Read: Best Motherboards with Thunderbolt 3

List of Best Motherboards with M.2 in 2020

The following list shows our recommended motherboard with m.2 slots with the number of slots next to them.

  1. GIGABYTE H310M A 2.0 – Budget Intel Motherboard for NVME M.2
  2. ASUS Prime B460M – Recommended Intel Motherboard with 2 M.2 Slots
  3. Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Master Motherboard with 3 M.2 Slots – LGA1200
  4. GIGABYTE B450M DS3H – AMD Motherboard with M.2 Slot
  5. ASUS Prime B550M-A – AM4 Motherboard with 2 M.2 Slots
  6. ASUS ROG STRIX B550-I – Mini ITX Dual M.2 Motherboard

Best Intel Motherboard with M.2 Slot

1. GIGABYTE H310M A 2.0 – Budget Intel Motherboard for NVME M.2

Sale
GIGABYTE H310M A 2.0

One of the cheapest motherboard with m.2 SSD Slot along with LGA1151 socket for Intel processor. It has a Micro ATX form factor and therefore is suitable for budget builds.

This motherboard will appeal to those who want to build a budget Intel PC. It has a single M.2 slot. While this isn’t much, for a budget PC it is more than enough.

This is more centered towards home and office users who want an SSD so that they can boot and access their files and apps faster.

Of course the main attraction of this MOBO is the price point. However, besides that, another highly lucrative feature it offers is the USB 3.1 Type C port. This is quite a rare find on budget motherboards.

You must note that this motherboard only supports SSDs with the following sizes: 2242/2260/2280. As such, it does not support the longer 22110 form factor.

All in all, if you are building an affordable PC, then this is the best motherboard with M.2 SSD slot that we can recommend for Intel builds.

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2. ASUS Prime B460M – Recommended Intel Motherboard with 2 M.2 Slots

ASUS Prime B460M

An affordable mATX Intel motherboard with 2 m.2 slots featuring the latest LGA 1200 socket for the latest 10th gen processors

Unlike the previous motherboard mentioned here, this motherboard is newer, somewhat more expensive, but features the latest LGA 1200 socket. Therefore, if you are planning on building an Intel setup with the latest 10th gen processors, we recommend this.

Despite being in the affordable range it features 2 x M.2 slots both of which can support 2242/ 2260/ 2280 size SSDs. They both can support NVME PCIe SSDs but only only one of them can support the M.2 SATA SSD.

Ofcourse given a choice, we would always recommend that you go with the NVME option.

However, besides that, it is a simple motherboard that features a single PCIe X16 slot of graphics card, plenty of SATA ports i.e 6 x SATA 2 ports and 2 x PCIe X1 slots for smaller expansion card.

Read more about how to expand SSD slots with PCIe below in the FAQ section.

So in short, if you want dual M.2 slots on an affordable option for Intel LGA1200 socket, then this is the best motherboard with M.2 slots in our opinion.

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Also Read: Best Motherboards with WiFi

3. Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Master – Motherboard with 3 M.2 Slots

Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Maste

A premium grade ATX motherboard with a whopping 3 x M.2 slots for high range of SSD storage expansion.

In our opinion, this is the best in the lot if you seek high performance with the latest 10th gen Intel Processors. When it comes to functions, number of M.2 slot as well as value for money, nothing beats this.

This is an Intel motherboard with 3 M.2 Slots. Therefore, as far as default expansion goes, you are pretty much covered.

However, if you want to expand even further, you would be able to do so thanks to 3 x PCIEx16 slots working in 16x 8x and 4x modes.

Besides an extensive array of SSD connectivity, this motherboard also offers plenty of heatsinks in order to keep your drives and the motherboard cool.

As such, this is a motherboard built for gamers and for high performance usage. So basically if you want a motherboard with 3 M.2 slots, just be prepared to dish out a pretty penny.

It can support a large 128 GB of DDR 4 RAM and if you seek overclocking, you would be able to do so.

This motherboard also features a built in WiFi, as such you wouldn’t need to reserve one of your PCIE slot for a WiFi Card. You can use it instead for SSD expansion cards.

Note that thanks to the newer chipset, it features the latest WiFi 6 protocol.

All in all, if you need M.2 and SSD heaven, then this is best motherboard with M.2.

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Also Read: Best Motherboards with Integrated Graphics

Best AMD Motherboard with M.2 Slot

4. GIGABYTE B450M DS3H – AMD Motherboard with M.2 Slot

GIGABYTE B450M DS3H

A highly affordable Micro ATX motherboard for budget AMD builds requiring AM4 socket.

GIGABYTE B450M DS3H is a budget motherboard for AMD builds. It comes with a single M.2 slot and therefore, it is a functional motherboard for entry level setups.

One lucrative feature that it offers is the PCIEx4 slot. While you can use the PCIEx16 slot for your graphics card, you can use the PCIEx4 for SSD expansion cards IN CASE if you need more than a single M.2 slot.

Alternatively, you can use the PCIEx4 for Dual AMD graphics card for a crossfire setup. However, this way you will have to give up on the prospect of any additional M.2 slots.

The motherboard is small and has a micro ATX form factor. Micro ATX motherboards generally have the cheapest price tag of all.

Overall, if you have a limited budget, then this is among the best motherboard with M.2 for AMD build.

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5. ASUS Prime B550M-A – AM4 Motherboard with 2 M.2 Slots

ASUS Prime B550M-A

A micro ATX motherboard with 2 m.2 slots featuring an AM4 socket with the latest B550 chipset.

For a mid-range AMD build, this may seem like a reasonable motherboard to you.

For starters, it must be noted that this motherboard features the latest B550 AMD chipset for the AM4 socket. This brings with itself many different benefits.

Firstly, you do not need to update the BIOS in order to use the latest Ryzen Gen 3 processors. Secondly, it features the latest PCIE V4.0 protocol, WiFi 6 protocol, and a powerful HDMI 2.1 port that can support upto 8k resolution at 60 Hz.

As far as M.2 configuration goes, it offers 2 x M.2 slots both of which are capable of running NVME PCIe SSDs.

Besides that, it offers WiFi modem built in which you cannot be found on budget motherboards like the GIGABYTE B450M DS3H above. It should be noted that being a B550 motherboard, this motherboard features the latest WiFi 6.

So if you are looking for the latest and greatest motherboard for an AMD build, then this is the best motherboard with M.2 slots in our opinion.

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6. ASUS ROG STRIX B550-I – Mini ITX Dual M.2 Motherboard

ASUS ROG STRIX B550-I GAMING

A mini ITX motherboard with dual M.2 slots. Expensive and premium gaming grade.

Mini ITX motherboards are expensive particularly due to their compact form factor. While the cheaper one almosts all have a single M.2 slot, if you are looking for an option with dual m.2 slots, you will need to look for premium options.

This particular motherboard is a gaming grade motherboard. Meaning it has the VRM design, heatsinks as well as the chipset that are worthy of being installed in a mini gaming desktop.

It should be noted that this motherboard offers the latest B550 chipset like the one above and hence offers the PCIe V4 protocol, WiFi 6 and high speed 3.2 Gen 2 Type C USB ports from the get go.

Of course, this is a type of motherboard that would appeal to a specific set of people.

It is quite expensive if you only have a dual M.2 slots in mind. The previous option is better in that regard. However, if you are looking for a mini ITX motherboard with multiple M.2 slots then this can help you.

One thing to note here is that since Mini ITX motherboards only have a single PCIe x16 slots, expanding the M.2 slots with an add in card is not an option if you install a graphics card on to it.

Hence having dual m.2 slot on these compact motherboards become all the more important.

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FAQ

So What is the Best Motherboard for M.2 SSD?

There is not straight answer to this quiestion.

The right motherboard for you would depend upon a lot of factors ranging from whether you are looking for a budget option, professional option or a gaming grade option.

The following guide can help you understanding the M.2 slots a little better if you are not well versed with them already.

Guide to Choosing the Right Motherboard with M.2 Slot

The maximum number of M.2 slots that you can find on-board is three and that is only found on an Intel Motherboard.

Most budget motherboards only have a single M.2 Slot. If you need more than 1 on-board or built in M.2 slot, then you will need to look in to mainstream motherboards.

The point to note is that DUAL M.2 slots can be found on motherboards ranging from a mere $100 all the way to $500. This is a fairly vast range.

To tackle this issue, in this article, we will only list those that are either most budget friendly or offer an exceptional value. After all, there is no point in spending on a $500 motherboard if the only thing you need is a DUAL M.2 slot and none of the other fancy features.

Motherboard with Multiple M.2 Slots vs Expansion Cards

When it comes to expanding your M.2 Storage capacity, there is a choice between getting a motherboard with multiple M.2 slots or getting an expansion card.

There are few points to highlight here. For starters, the built in capacity of m.2 slots on a motherboard is limited to a maximum of three with most featuring a single or dual m.2 slots.

Therefore, if you want to have more slots than these, you need to get an expansion card anyways.

If you do not want to install multiple M.2 slots and you are okay with just a single or dual M.2 slots, then getting a motherboard with the dedicated M.2 slots would make more sense as they are relatively cheaper anyways.

If you go for the expansion card route, remember to read the guide below. Note that the disadvantage of an expansion card for more m.2 slots is firstly they add to cost and secondly they can take the precious PCIe slots on the motherboard.

How to Install More SSDs Using PCIE Slot?

If you do not have sufficient M.2 slots or if you want to expand your SSD storage capacity, you can do so by utilizing the PCI-E x16 expansion slots.

Basically, you purchase separate M.2 Expansion Card that are installed over the PCI-E slots. These cards can support up to four SSD drives.

However, before you go about finding the SSD expansion card for yourself, you need to understand the requirements for expansion.

Firstly, you need a free PCIEx16 slot.

Understanding PCIEx16 Slot

Secondly, you need to understand how PCIEx16 slots generally work on motherboards. The following is VERY IMPORTANT to understand.

  • Every motherboard has at least a single PCIEx16 slot working in full 16x mode – meaning it utilizes the entire 16 lanes.
  • Some motherboards may have another PCIEx16 slot but working only in 4x mode – meaning it has the same size as a full PCIEx16 slot physically, but only utilizes a quarter of its lanes. This is used for weaker components.
  • Some motherboards may have three PCIEx16 slots. In these motherboards, the first works in 16x mode. The third is reserved at 4x mode. The second one works in 8x mode. However, as soon as you use the second PCIE slot, the bandwidth of the first PCIEx16 slot is also halved so that both the first and second PCIEx16 slots now work at 8x mode.
  • Besides the above three main configurations for mainstream boards, you can find plenty of other PCIEx16 configuration on more expensive motherboards. Some may even feature 4x PCIEx16 slot. However, you must understand it modes which are highlighted in the specsheet.

Getting the Right SSD Expansion Card

Thirdly, depending upon how many SSDs the Expansion Card can support, you will need the PCIEx16 slot working either in 4x, 8x or 16x mode.

For example, the generic brand Ableconn PEXM2-2SA expansion slot requires a free X4 PCIe slot. It supports two SATA SSDs (SATA are Slow SSDs – Read Below).

Best Motherboards with M.2 Slot
Ableconn PEXM2-2SA – Generic Expansion Card for X4 PCIe slot

On the other hand, the more premium SSD expansion card such as the ASUS Hyper M.2 can utilize the entire 16x mode of the PCIEx16 slot and can handle 4 x NVME SSDs! (NVMe are Fast SSDs – Read Below)

Hyper M.2
Asus Hyper M.2 uses X16 PCIe lanes

The larger the interface of the SSD Expansion slot the faster would be its operating speed.

In other words, a X4 PCIE SSD expansion slot works at 32 Gbps max. On the other hand, the one utilizing 16x interface like the ASUS Hyper M.2 can operate at 128 Gbps. This is four times faster.

In short, you can expand, your SSD capacity if you at least have one X4 slot free.

HOWEVER, SPEED IS NOT JUST DEPENDENT ON THE AMOUNT OF PCIe LANES OCCUPIED BY THE SSD CARD. WHETHER THE SSD IS SATA OR NVMe ALSO MATTERS. READ NEXT.

SATA vs mSATA vs NVMe

SSD Key Type
SSD Types – Source: atpinc.com

SATA is the most common interface in motherboards and in PCs everywhere. SATA SSDs utilize the SATA 3rd Gen protocol and as such are limited to 6 Gbps transfer speed.

This may seem fast, but it is nowhere close to the what the more powerful SSDs can achieve.

Basically, SATA SSDs leverage the SATA interface.

NVMe are a lot more interesting and are much much faster. These are found on high performance PCs as well as server grade computers.

NVMe SSDs utilize the PCIe interface instead of the SATA interface.

As such an NVMe SSD installed on a PCIe x4 slot can achieve speeds up to 31.5 Gb/s. Similarly, an NVMe SSD installed on a PCIe x16 slot can achieve speeds up to a whopping 128 Gbps!

In short

  • SATA SSD – 6 Gbps – Slow
  • NVMe SSD – 4x – 31.5 Gbps – Fast
  • NVMe SSD – 16x – 128 Gbps – Lightening Fast

Important: A SATA SSD installed on PCIEx4 expansion slot like the Ableconn PEXM2-2SA above WILL NOT achieve 32 Gbps. It will be bottlenecked by the SATA interface at 6 Gbps.

This brings us to the the elephant in the room: What is the mSATA?

It basically the same as a SATA SSD but has a smaller form factor. It is used on laptops and other smaller mobile devices.

What are SSD Sizes?

SSD sizes
SSD sticks have different standardized sizes.

When reading the motherboard or the SSD specification, you may have come across some numbers as: 2242/ 2260/ 2280/ 22110.

They mean seem trivial on first glance, but they are very important to note.

They basically define the size of the SSD drives supported by the motherboard. Therefore, when buying an SSD, make sure the size is compatible with your motherboard.

What are SSD Keys?

SSD Key M
SSD key types- Source: atpinc.com

SSD Keys, as the name suggests, are the PHYSICAL CUT OUTS on the SSD drive that are there to make sure that you do not insert them in to the incorrect socket.

There are many types of keys for various modules, however, the ones utilized by SSDs are M and B keys.

These keys also shed plenty of information about the type of SSD you are holding.

  • M Key is used by NVMe SSDs
  • B+M Key is used by SATA SSDs

What are SSD Sockets?

SSD sockets aren’t too important to learn, however, they may still help you in understanding the product you purchase.

Basically, a socket and it can have varying types of KEYS to handle different types of modules. This is differentiated by the socket number.

  • M.2 Socket 1: These connect WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC modules.
  • M.2 Socket 2: Mainly utilized for Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN) module and Global Navigation Satellite System module, however, if not in use, it can be used to install an SSD as well.
  • M.2 Socket 3: This is the most important socket to take note off here. This is the socket that support SATA or a maximum PCIe-x4 (32 Gbps) SSD drives. When we talk about motherboards with M.2 Slot for SSDs, we are actually referring to M.2 Socket 3.

Final Words

In this article we learned about the best motherboards with M.2 SSD slots.  We looked at budget motherboards that only harboured a single M.2 slot, all the way to premium grade motherboards with up to 3 x M.2 slots.

However, before you make any purchase, whether it is the motherboard or the SSD, make sure you know the SSD jargon and terminology as well as understand how you can expand the number of supported SSDs using the PCIe slots.

SSDs can get quite confusing. You have to make sense of various terms like SATA, NVMe, Sockets, Size numbers etc. Therefore, we recommend that you thoroughly read our guide above and should you have any questions you can feel free to leave a comment below.

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