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Best Z390 MB with firewire compatability and space for 4 PCIe cards

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I have built 2 desktop and 1 laptop hacks to date, still running good but its time to upgrade.

I have 2 discreet studio set-ups, one that relies on a PCIe 424 card to connect up to 4 MOTU interfaces over firewire, another that connects to an RME fireface (better latency but less ways of connection) via generic firewire. Although I cannot run the two cards simultaneously in the same system in Logic it is useful to me to be able to switch for flexibility, either moving the fireface from one studio to the other, or moving the desktop. Bearing in mind that I may wish to move the whole machine to another room I am looking for as small a MB as I can that will still accomodate all the required PCI slots.

In total I think I need 4 slots:

1: GPU
2: MOTU PCIe 424
3: Generic firewire 400/800
4: Wifi/Bluetooth

I can manage without wifi as I have ethernet in both locations but would prefer to have the option and I need bluetooth anyway as it is key for editing patches on my guitar pedals.

I had originally been aiming at the ASUS TUF Z390M-PRO GAMING but then realised there were only 3 PCIe slots. I then had a look at the Gigabyte mini ATX options which have 4 slots but looks like one would be hidden under a double slot GPU. I wonder whether these boards require the GPU to be in the first slot, hence covering the 2nd, meaning that I need to go for an ATX form instead. This is annoying in terms of size but I do need the listed features. I wonder if any MBs support any of these features on-board reliably on a hack.

I'm basically looking for the smallest board that'll get me wifi, BT, discrete GPU, firewire and a PCIe for my MOTU PCIe424. Possible configurations listed in order of preference:

1: ITX or Micro ATX that has: (on-board Firewire or thunderbolt working) + (on-board wifi + bluetooth working) + GPUslot + 1 PCIe
2: Micro ATX that has: (either OB FW/TB or on-board wifi+BT) + GPUslot + 2 PCIe slots
3: Mini ATX that has: GPUslot + 3 PCIe
4: Mini ATX that has: (BT working but not wifi) + 2 PCIe
5: ATX

Any pointers would be much appreciated, I have had a dig around but I'm going in circles. I would be happy pulling apart a wifi enclosure to replace a card on the board rather than using up a PCI slot.

Thanks in advance
 
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few remarks
some of the new mobos have m2 slots which you can use for the wifi card so 1 PCIe less but only on full ATX size
the GPU has to be in the PCIe 16x slot. usualy there is only one on small ATX or 2 on larger boards
firewire you could maybe replace with a thunderbolt which could be on the riser on the mobo
there are boards with 4 slots on micro ATX but one will be blocked by the GPU so you need to somehow change it to a 3 slot need
BT you can use in USB with a BT key
 
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Thanks for your reply. I was aware of the M2 WiFi on some boards. Some come with WiFi installed on M2 socket1 I think but the housing and inbuilt adapter dictates an Intel cnvi type connection which is not supported in macOS, from what I've heard. That said, there do seem to be people taking the housing apart and replacing the adapter to fit another card, not sure what they're doing about the destroyed shielding though. If this is a reliable solution then the gigabyte z390m would be a good choice.

You can't install WiFi on an M2 socket 2 or 3 which is what you find on most boards. Has to be socket 1, ie designed for purpose.

I haven't seen any mATX boards with thunderbolt and once I move to ATX I'll have the spare PCI anyway.

I think the trick is going to lie with the possibility of using an M2 cnvi port but some say they work, others say they dont
 
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you can always use some PCIe risers like this
1591439357422.png
 

pastrychef

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If you are using an Asus Z390 motherboard with M key M.2 slot, it can be used with a macOS compatible Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card. If the slot is already occupied by a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card, just replace it with a compatible one.

Gigabyte whitelists those slots to ONLY work with CNVi cards.

Make sure whichever video card you use is only "double wide" and you should have enough slots for all your cards. Most of AIB 5700 XT cards use more than two slots so be careful with those. As far as I know, only the PowerColor Red Dragon 5700 XT is true "double wide".
 
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Thanks for the reply. The only Z390 micro atx board from ASUS seems to be the TUF Gaming Pro. Using the M2 slot would be preferable to a floating card on the end of a 90deg cable, in terms of keeping things tidy. I thought the socket 3 m-key slots were only designed for ssd's. I believe the TUF has one dual M2 connector dedicated to drives and an occupied slot for a cnvi card. Is it really just a case of swapping the cnvi? Must need an adapter at least no?
 

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Thanks for the reply. The only Z390 micro atx board from ASUS seems to be the TUF Gaming Pro. Using the M2 slot would be preferable to a floating card on the end of a 90deg cable, in terms of keeping things tidy. I thought the socket 3 m-key slots were only designed for ssd's. I believe the TUF has one dual M2 connector dedicated to drives and an occupied slot for a cnvi card. Is it really just a case of swapping the cnvi? Must need an adapter at least no?

Yes, M key M.2 slots are meant for SSDs. A/E slots are meant for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth cards. However, there are adaptors out there that can convert an M Key slot to accept A/E cards. But, in my opinion, that's a waste of 4 PCI-e lanes.

If you look at the TUF Z390M Pro Gaming, you will see that it comes with Wi-Fi/Bluetooth. That's on an A/E card and you can replace it with a macOS compatible one. Yes, it's as simple as swapping out the card. I did it on my Z370 build. Please see here.
 
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Looks like some folk have had a little trouble getting the card to fit in the WiFi socket, have to take the shielding off and faff around with different pig tails. Also seen a few posts from people with download speeds limited in this configuration. I'm wondering if I should just go for the designare or something similar just to avoid the potential grief. Do you know if any available cards are the right size to put in the slot without modification?
 

pastrychef

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Looks like some folk have had a little trouble getting the card to fit in the WiFi socket, have to take the shielding off and faff around with different pig tails. Also seen a few posts from people with download speeds limited in this configuration. I'm wondering if I should just go for the designare or something similar just to avoid the potential grief. Do you know if any available cards are the right size to put in the slot without modification?

There's a new card on the market that will fit with the shield in place. BCM94360NG.

There are no limitations to download speeds. Downloads and uploads will go as fast as the card is specced to be.

A/E M.2 slots on Gigabyte Z390 motherboards will not work with anything other than CNVi cards.
 
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Yep I was aware the Gigabyte boards had a white list. Thanks for that bit of info on card size, just what I needed to know. Pretty well armed to make my MB decision now
 
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