7 Best Motherboards with M.2 Slots in 2021

Last Updated on May 30, 2021

With more and more people flocking to get their hands on SSDs, it only makes sense that you 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 SSDs 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.

In the FAQ section below we also go over the basics of SSDs, the M.2 form factor and all the related ideas and definitions. Hence if you have any confusion regarding the M.2 slots and SSDs in general, this article should help.

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Comparison of Top Motherboard with M.2 Slot

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 2021

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. MSI B460M PRO-VDH WiFi – Recommended Intel Motherboard with 2 M.2 Slots and WiFi
  3. GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Ultra Motherboard with 3 M.2 Slots – LGA1200
  4. ASRock A520M/AC – Budget AMD Motherboard with M.2 Slot
  5. ASUS Prime B550M-A – AM4 Motherboard with 2 M.2 Slots
  6. GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX – Mini ITX Dual M.2 Motherboard
  7. GIGABYTE X570 AORUS Ultra – AMD AM4 3 M.2 Slot 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 for those who have limited needs.

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

You should also note that when you get a budget motherboard as this, it not ideal to pair it up with a powerful processor either. This is because the sub components of this motherboard, such as the VRMs, are more catered towards low to mid range processors.

2. MSI B460M PRO-VDH WiFi – Recommended Intel Motherboard with 2 M.2 Slots and WiFi

MSI B460M PRO-VDH WiFi

An fair priced mATX Intel motherboard with 2 x m.2 slots featuring the latest LGA 1200 socket for the 10th and 1tth  processors as well as built in WiFi.

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 or 1tth gen processors, we recommend this.

Despite being in the affordable range it features 2 x M.2 slots one of which can support 2242/ 2260/ 2280 /22110 size SSDs and the other can support 2242/ 2260/ 2280 size SSDs . While, both can support NVME PCIe SSDs, only only one of them can support the M.2 SATA SSD.

Of course 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 for graphics card, plenty of SATA ports i.e 4 x SATA 3 ports and 2 x PCIe X1 slots for smaller expansion cards.

The motherboard also features a built in WiFi Card. This does add to the overall cost of the motherboard.

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

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

Also Read: Best Motherboards with WiFi

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

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GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Ultra

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 and 11th 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 for your gaming or workstation build, then this is this something you can look into.

Another very important highlight of this motherboard is the Z series chipset. The Z490 is the latest high performance chipset that offers overclocking capabilities along with the newer USB 3.2 Gen 2 slots.

Thanks to the newer chipset, it features the latest WiFi 6 protocol.

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.

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

Also Read: Best Motherboards with Integrated Graphics

Best AMD Motherboard with M.2 Slot

4. ASRock A520M/AC – Budget AMD Motherboard with M.2 Slot

ASRock A520M/AC

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

ASRock A520M/AC 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.

Two lucrative features 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.

On top of that it also features built in WiFi, which for its price tag, is an excellent feature to have.

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

Note that it features the weaker and entry level A series chipset. Although it hails from the newer 500 series, it still does not offer the latest v4 PCie protocol, does not support overclocking and does not support dual graphics cards.

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

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

ASUS Prime B550M-A

A micro ATX motherboard with 2 x 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 and Gen 5 processors. Secondly, it features the latest PCIE V4.0 protocol for CPU lanes, 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 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 mid range motherboard for an AMD build, then this is the best motherboard with M.2 slots in our opinion.

6. GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX – Mini ITX Dual M.2 Motherboard

GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX

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 ones almost 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 in the motherboard above and hence offers the PCIe V4 protocol for CPU lanes, 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 and you want want to build a compact, fairly portable righ 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.

7. GIGABYTE X570 AORUS Ultra – AMD AM4 3 M.2 Slot Motherboard

GIGABYTE X570 AORUS Ultra

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

For an enthusiast high performance build with an AMD processor the X570 chipset is the way to go for.

We have particularly chosen this X570 motherboard due to the fact that it features 3 x M.2 slots all of which can support NVMe SSDs.

The key points of the X570 chipset to note is that offers PCIe V4.0 bandwidth across both CPU as well as general lanes. The B550 chipset, on the other hand, only offers PCIe V4.0 bandwidth for CPU lanes, which generally go to the first PCIe x16 slot for powering the graphics cards.

Hence with this motherboard, you can expect the M.2 slots to also operate at the higher bandwidth of the 4.0 PCIe version. You would thus be able to install the newer Gen 4 SSDs such as Samsung 980 Pro which can reach speeds of a whopping 6400 MB/s almost twice as much as the the Gen 3 SSDs.

In comparison, a normal HDD only operates at about 140-150 MB/s transfer speeds.

Besides that, this motherboard also offers an excellent phase power design of 12+2 with high capacity VRMs suitable for powerful processors. It features built in WiFi, and a high quality built in sound card.

The motherboard offers 3 x PCIe x 16 slots with the following mode of operating : x16 / x0 / x4 and x8 / x8 / x4. Hence the motherboard can support two way SLI and 3 way Crossfire setup for graphics cards.

It also features the smaller PCIe x1 slots for smaller cards.

All in all, if AMD AM4 high performance option is in your mind, then this is the best motherboard with m.2 slots.

Additional Resources for SSD

FAQ

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

There is not straight answer to this question.

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.

The short few key factors to consider are as follows:

  • How Many M.2 Slots You Need?
  • What Chipset do you need? – more or less depends upon your budget
  • Are you building an Intel or an AMD build?
  • What form factor do you need?
  • How many PCIe x16 slots you need? – largely depends upon how many VGA cards you plan to install
  • How much RAM you want to install?
  • Which processor you want to Install? – high performance processors should be installed on high performance motherboards for sub components parity.
  • Which generation of processor you want to Install? – This would decide the socket of the motherboard
  • Do you need a built in WiFi card?
  • Do you need a high quality sound card?

With regards to this topic, the two most important question are how many M.2 slots you need and what your budget is.

Guide to Choosing the Right Motherboard with M.2 Slot

The maximum number of M.2 slots that you can find on-board is five. However, only the high performance workstation rigs built around processors like the AMD Threadripper or Intel Core Extreme/Xeon processors feature such a high number of M.2 slots.

For normal consumers, the maximum number of M.2 slots generally featured on motherboards is three.

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 have listed only 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, as mentioned earlier, the built in number of M.2 slots on most consumer grade 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 three, you need to get an expansion card.

If you do not want to have multiple M.2 slots and you are okay with just a single or dual M.2 slots, then getting a motherboard with the dedicated single or dual 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 the cost and secondly they can take the precious PCIe slots on the motherboard.

Also Read: How Many PCIe Lanes Does M.2 Slot Use?

How to Install More SSDs Using PCIE Slot Expansion Cards?

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 PCIe x16 expansion slots, or the PCIe x4 expansion slot

Basically, you purchase separate M.2 Expansion Cards that are installed over free PCIe slots. These cards can support up to four SSD drives. Each M.2 utilize 4 PCIe lanes.

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 or an x4 slot.

M.2 NVMe SSDs Utilize 4 PCIe Lanes

This important to note. If you want to add an expansion card for NVMe SSDs, you need to have atleast a free X4 slot on the motherboard.

If you want to install a SATA SSD expansion card, then you can utilize the smaller X1 slots. This is because NVMe SSDs are multiple folds faster than SATA SSDs and hence require more PCIe lanes to operate to their maximum potential.

Understanding PCIEx16 Slot

You need to understand how PCIEx16 and the PCIex4 slots generally work on motherboards. The following is VERY IMPORTANT to understand.

The following is true for consumer grade motherboards NOT for workstation grade motherboards (i.e not for AMD TRX40 or the Intel X299 chipsets)

  • Every motherboard has at least a single PCIEx16 slot working in full 16x mode – meaning it utilizes the entire 16 lanes.
  • Motherboards may also have the smaller x4 slots.
  • Some motherboards may have another PCIEx16 slot but working only in x4 mode – meaning it has the same size as a full PCIEx16 slot physically, but only utilizes a quarter of its lanes. Computers have a limited supply of PCIe lanes.
  • 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

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 for SSD SATAs. Source (Amazon Referral Link)

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 for 4 x NVMe SSDs. Source (Amazon Referral Link)

The larger the interface of the SSD Expansion slot the faster would be its operating speed and hence the more M.2 slots it would be able to offer.

single NVMe Expansion slot
SIIG X4 expansion card offers a single NVMe SSD slot. Source (Amazon Referral Link)

In other words, talking about the the NVMe SSDs, the X4 expansion card would only offer a single NVMe M.2 Slot, whereas, an x16 slot can offer 4 x M.2 slots for NVMe SSDs.

In short, and as mentioned earlier, you can expand your NVMe 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 AS WELL AS THE PCIE VERSION 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. In practice, the transfer speeds to translates to about 550 MB/s.

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 almost all PCs these days due to their performance benefit.

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

How Many PCIe Lanes Does M.2 Slot Use
Source: Wikipedia

As such an NVMe SSD installed on a PCIe x4 slot can achieve theoretical speeds up to 3.938 GB/s on PCIe v3.0. In practice, the speeds are close to 3.5 GB/s. This is 5 – 6 times faster than a SATA SSD.

NVMe SSD Also Depends Upon the PCIe Version

Depending upon the version of the PCIe lanes you have on your motherboard and the also the PCIe version of the NVMe SSD, the speeds can vary drastically.

For instance, the newer Gen 4 SSDs such as the Samsung 980 Pro can reach speeds of about 6.5 GB/s. In theory, the Gen 4 SSDs would be twice as fast as the PCIe Gen 3 SSDs as can be seen in the table above.

In short

  • Normal HDD – 150 MB/s – Very Slow
  • SATA SSD – 550 MB/s – Slow
  • NVMe SSD – PCIe 3.0 – 3.5 GB/s – Fast
  • NVMe SSD – PCIe 4.0 – 6.5 GB/s – 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?

Its 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 basically the important socket that supports SATA or a NVMe 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 harbor 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.

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGearLab. He is a PC enthusiast as well as engineer with a keen interest in PC hardware and all stuff related to tech and games.

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