Complicated setup question - GPU or FW card in m.2 slot?

Discussion in 'Motherboards' started by MIDIBoss, Feb 2, 2019.

  1. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss [H]Lite

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    I built a computer about a year and a half ago in an Ncase M1 case. It's awesome and fast and I love it. Only thing is I have to make some adjustments now and I am confused and bewildered and need some help!

    Here was the original setup:

    Asus z270-itx motherboard
    EVGA 1080ti SC2
    G.skill 32gb RAM
    i7-8700k overcloacked to 5.0ghz
    Samsung 960 pro 1TB m.2 NVME SSD

    This was intended as a gaming PC and audio/midi/.vst instrument powerhouse. It rules for those purposes! Only problem is, I am an audio engineer and my audio-Mac has finally bitten the dust so I need to figure out a way to use this computer with my studio gear as I don't want to buy another Mac.

    My studio audio interface is Firewire based. Obviously this mobo doesn't have FW. I am now left with $3,000 worth of converters and outboard DSP chips with no way to run them on the PC.

    So I bought & installed a Sonnet FW PCI-e card, took the GPU out completely, and now my audio gear works perfectly. Only problem is after work, I can't play DCS flight simulator anymore... :(

    The Asus z270-i has 2 m.2 slots. Right now the SSD is installed in the top one and the bottom m.2 slot is open.

    I want to figure out a way to install both the GPU and the FW PCI-e card at the same time on the z270-i. The FW card is PCI-e x1, very small, short, and technically I think this idea will work with some custom cabling and a little headscratching.

    Ncase M1 has 3 PCI-e case space slots.

    I know you can get into the PCI-e bus via the m.2 slot on the mobo. Organizationally inside the case, it'll be extremely tight either way but I think it would actually make more sense to leave the FW card in the PCI-e slot in the 1st x16 PCI-e slot since it is so small and short, and then install a m.2-to-PCI-e adapter on the top m.2 slot and use a 300mm riser cable to get over the FW PCI-e x1 card and into the connector of the 1080ti which will be installed in the 2nd and 3rd PCI-e spaces in the NCase M1.

    However, what I don't know is: Will the 1080ti GPU's performance be degraded by installing it into the m.2 slot of the z270-i motherboard? I play graphically intensive games like Destiny, DCS World 2.5, Witcher 3, etc.

    I am a little scared of frying the audio interface and other FW peripherals which are worth a lot more money than the GPU in case I do something wrong and plug my audio interface into a short circuit or something... That's another reason I want to plug the GPU into the m.2 to PCI-e adapter and not the audio interface & FW card. I'd rather leave them in the PCI-e slot, and then any risk of problems would only be to the GPU, which would also suck a lot if anything happened to it, but it's less important to me.

    Suggestions? Am I on track here, am I worrying about nothing, or will something not work right or get fried? Is it going to be better (and safe) to run the audio interface's FW PCI-e card into the m.2 slot via the adapter since it uses less lanes, and just leave the GPU in the dedicated x16 PCI-e slot on the mobo?

    Thank you!!! I applaud anyone who made it all the way through this post... GEEZE I can ramble.

    MIDIBoss
     
  2. extide

    extide 2[H]4U

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    Yep, the GPU will be affected quite a bit by running it through the M.2 slot. The regular GPU slot has direct lanes to the CPU, and would operate at x16. The M.2 slot can do at best x4, plus it is routed through the chipset. I would try to put the GPU in the real slot and the FW card via the M.2 adapter. As long as you don't hook up something completely wrong you shouldn't fry anything.
     
  3. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss [H]Lite

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    Thanks very much for your reply and your input! Ah yes, you are very correct. I just came to that realization while researching. I'll go ahead and try it the way you mentioned, FW card in the top m.2 slot and GPU in the x16 slot. I don't think I'll hook it up wrong but I was just worried since it's a lot of gear at risk...

    I guess my only remaining question is about riser cables choice. I have two cheapie PCI-e x1 riser extension cables. Both 20cm. I will have to use them to get around the GPU in the case. The m.2 to PCI-e adapter I got is only x4. So I can't use one of those fancy Thermaltake riser cables unless I return the m.2 x4 adapater and get a x16 adapter which would accept a Thermaltake x16 riser cable.

    I'm a little worried about melting the cheap x1 ribbon cables I got for this idea since everything will run in such close proximity to the GPU which gets hot like 72C. Do you think I should go with the x16 m.2 adapter and a better riser cable like the shielded rubberized Thermaltake 300mm cable, or just try it with the two 20cm cheapie x1 ribbon riser cable I got used together as a 40cm extension? I really only need 30cm but 20cm isn't gonna reach, so I figured I'd plug them into each other and make a 40cm extension.

    MIDIBoss
     
  4. dvsman

    dvsman 2[H]4U

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    Do you have a Thunderbolt port? How about going the EGPU route?
     
  5. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss [H]Lite

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    Sadly Asus z270-i only has USB-C on that port and no Thunderbolt... Drag.
     
  6. extide

    extide 2[H]4U

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    Ehh 72C isn't really that hot, I highly doubt it would melt the cable. It will probably be a lot easier to use an x1or x4 riser cable just because of the size and thickness of the cable. A x16 riser cable is a PITA to route.
     
  7. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss [H]Lite

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    Well, it friggiin' worked and now I have a raging mini-itx gaming machine with hi-fi audio interface capabilities over Firewire! Can't believe it. Thank you for all your helpful posts. This was a bit complicated but check it out!

    1. Moved the SSD m.2 NVME to the bottom slot of the mobo. Checked boot up, OK.

    2. Added Sonnet Allegro Firewire PCI-E card in 3rd clot of Ncase M1 case and setup m.2 to PCI-e powered adapter in the top motherboard m.2 slot while installing 2x ribbon cable extensions for the PCI-e connections on either end of the FW card. Routed peripheral power cables to Firewire card and m.2 powered adapter, secured with twist ties. Checked operation of Firewire audio interfaces and DSP cards, OK.

    3. Installed 1080ti GPU around power cables and ribbon cables. Installed power cables for GPU.

    4. Twist tied the ribbon cable extensions & peripheral power cables to keep them away from the GPU heatskink.

    5. Powered on the machine, loaded up a Pro Tools session with heavy Universal Audio DSP usage and started playback. Zero issues!

    Very stoked. Thanks!
     

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  8. extide

    extide 2[H]4U

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    Looks good man!
     
    MIDIBoss likes this.
  9. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss [H]Lite

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    Thanks!
     
  10. HAL_404

    HAL_404 Limp Gawd

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  11. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss [H]Lite

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    Lol if you're going to put someone down, at least figure out how to use the "reply to" function correctly!
     
  12. HAL_404

    HAL_404 Limp Gawd

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    Your right, I didn't see it as a put-down. My apologies to the OP.