DOC­TOR

Maximum PC - - TABLE OF CONTENTS -

NVMe on X79

Hi, Doc. Ever since I built my cur­rent rig back in Jan­uary of 2014, I’ve watched SSDs bump up against the lim­i­ta­tions of SATA 6Gb/s, and then be freed once again by NVMe. The prob­lem is, most NVMe-based SSDs are de­signed to drop into an M.2 slot, which my Asus X79Deluxe moth­er­board lacks. I see that there are a few PCIe in­ter­face op­tions, but I also no­ticed a num­ber of PCIe-to-M.2 cards avail­able. These would open the world of M.2-based drives to me, if they work. My ques­tion is: Do you have any in­for­ma­tion or caveats on the adapter cards out there? Are there any man­u­fac­tur­ers to steer clear of? – C. Stein­way THE DOC­TOR RE­SPONDS: First things first: Make sure that you down­load the lat­est firmware for your X79-Deluxe moth­er­board be­fore in­stalling an NVMe SSD.

With that base cov­ered, you shouldn’t have any trou­ble up­grad­ing your stor­age sub­sys­tem. Add-in cards are in­deed rarer than NVMe SSDs with M.2 con­nec­tors, but they do ex­ist. Take a look at Cor­sair’s Neu­tron NX500 or Plex­tor’s M9Pe, for in­stance. If nei­ther of those in­ter­est you, a PCIe-to-M.2 adapter should be fine. Its only pur­pose is con­vert­ing phys­i­cal in­ter­faces. Four lanes of PCIe 3.0 from an ex­pan­sion slot be­come four lanes of PCIe 3.0 through an M.2 slot.

HTPC vs. Smart TV

Doc, I own sev­eral TVs and Blu-ray play­ers, and I no­tice that their “smart­ness” varies from one model to the next. The more modern (and ex­pen­sive) con­sumer elec­tron­ics nat­u­rally have more so-called in­tel­li­gence.

Re­cently, I was think­ing about buy­ing a new top-end DVD player for about $ 350, be­cause I have trou­ble ac­cess­ing my Asus­tor Me­dia Server, where I keep fam­ily movies, pic­tures, some mu­sic, and other au­dio stuff. I also wanted to prep my me­dia cabi­net for the pur­chase of a new 4K TV.

But then I had the idea that it might be bet­ter to keep a PC next to the TV. Af­ter all, it would have more “smart­ness” than any DVD player or TV with an em­bed­ded op­er­at­ing sys­tem. If the PC had an HDMI out­put and a de­cent graph­ics card, it’d serve my pur­pose nicely.

Do you think I can build a small PC to serve as a me­dia server for around $500? It would be a big bonus if this setup could cap­ture some TV con­tent, too. I’ve never used a DVR, and I gen­er­ally don’t worry about saving any­thing on TV, but I might be tempted to ex­per­i­ment with this.

Any thoughts? If you be­lieve this is a worth­while en­deavor, then please sug­gest some hard­ware that would work well in the con­text of a home the­ater PC. I don’t need to spend big bucks on a graph­ics card de­signed for high-end gam­ing; it just needs to be good enough to drive a 4K TV.

– John Gay­dos THE DOC­TOR RE­SPONDS: Yes, it is pos­si­ble to build a fully func­tional HTPC for $500 or less, par­tic­u­larly if gam­ing isn’t one of your pri­or­i­ties.

In the Doc’s house, there’s an In­tel Next Unit of Com­put­ing (NUC) hooked up to his stereo re­ceiver via HDMI. The com­pact sys­tem (and its big SSD) host an en­tire li­brary of au­dio and video. It’s also re­spon­si­ble for stream­ing Hulu, Net­flix, and HBO sub­scrip­tions. It runs Jack­box dur­ing game nights with friends, Pan­dora for back­ground mu­sic, and Lexia Learn­ing when the kids get home from school.

If you want to add over-theair dig­i­tal TV to the mix, check

Cor­sair’s Neu­tron NX500 drops into afour-lane PCIe 3.0 slot to de­liver 3GB/s se­quen­tial writeper­for­mance.

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