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SeniorGuru
Posts: 2,320
Registered: ‎06-13-2013
Location: US
Views: 4,972
Message 1 of 25

M910s M920s SFF: M.2 SSD and graphics surprises/problems (SOLVED: M910t with GTX 1050 installed)

Just received the new M910s SFF machine I purchased a few weeks back from Allstarshop.com (because Lenovo was "sold out" and not even accepting orders for them at that time). I had also bought some extra "add-on" hardware parts from online retailers, expecting no problem at all installing them.  Note that I checked again today, and Lenovo is once again accepting orders for the M910s SFF machines.  So that problem is behind us.

 

Well... surprise. I had unexpected problems and trouble with 2 out of the 3 add-on hardware items I bought for the M910s, so I wanted to share my experience to give others who might have a similar project in the works a heads-up.

 

(1) The 10MK000QUS Kaby Lake i5-7500 machine was factory configured with 1x8GB of DDR4-2400 memory, Win10 x64 Pro, 1TB 7200rpm 2.5" SATA3 HDD, and optical CD/DVD drive.

 

(2) I added an additional 1x8GB of matching DDR4-2400 memory purchased from Crucial.  No problem.  Works perfectly, and the machine is now 2x8GB=16GB operating in dual-channel mode as expected.

 

(3) I had purchased a Gigabyte low-profile GTX-1050ti graphics card for use in the new machine, not expecting any problems. Well, it turns out there IS a problem, because this card at a length of 6.57" (167mm) is just bit too long.  The swing-up drive bay assembly inside the SFF case doesn't quite have the needed <167mm clearance in order to close properly with the graphics card installed.  It needs maybe just another 1/4" or so clearance in order to swing back doen and shut properly, but the Gigabyte card is just a tiny bit too long.  It's low-profile, but it's too long.

 

I then investigated other options, and looked at the MSI version of the same GTX 1050ti card.  Well this one is even longer, at 7.2" (182mm).  So it, too, was not an option.

 

I then found the Zotac version of the GTX 1050ti card, which at a length of only 160mm (6.3") seems like it just might make it. It's just 1/4" (7mm) shorter than the Gigabyte card, which really is just about all that I think it would take to solve the problem.

 

I really wanted to buy the card and have it delivered today or tomorrow, but my usual sources (Amazon or B&H) showed it not available until after June 25.  A little more searching showed it in-stock and available at Newegg.  Even more wonderful, since their West Coast fulfillment center is here in LA (at City of Industry) they offer a special "local express" same-day delivery service option for $10 (assuming you live in the LA area, which I do): order by 10AM and you'll have it by 8PM.

 

Actually, if the item is at City of Industry Newegg even offers a "will call" pick up for no charge.  So if you live in the area you can just drive over there after receiving the email from Newegg advising that the item is ready for pickup, and take it home.  Turns out my [driving] time to-and-from on LA freeways is more valuable than the $10 "local express" charge, so I'll just let them deliver it to me sometime today before 8PM for $10 and be done with it.

 

So that's what I've done. I'll have the card by this evening, and will know then if it can actually be installed successfully and barely fit into the motherboard x16 expansion slot within M910s SFF case with the drive bay assembly swung shut.  Fingers crossed.

 

(4) I had ordered the M910s with a 1TB 2.5" HDD SATA3 spinner, but had also separately ordered a 250GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe drive, expecting to install it into the available M.2 drive slot in the M910.  I would then clone Windows over from HDD to M.2 NVMe and change the boot sequence to boot from M.2 NVMe, and re-purpose the HDD spinner for "data".

 

Well... that's a problem.  Because while the motherboard DOES contain both M.2 "connection slots" for both M.2 storage and M.2 WiFi cards, you can't actually install these cards yourself because the machine does not ship with the required "M.2 storage drive bracket".  This M.2 mounting bracket is a physically separate part, and installs by click-locking into holes in the metal chassis of the case just adjacent to the "two M.2 electrical connection slots" on the motherboard.  Once clicked into the chassis, the M.2 moutning bracket acts as the support mechanism for the open length of the 2280 M.2 cards (with the gold teeth end of the M.2 card inserted into the connection slot on the motherboard), with a locking screw at the far end to secure down the "south end" of the card to the bracket.

 

This is all quite normal and expected when dealing with M.2 cards (similar on my P70 Thinkpad), except that the required M.2 storage drive bracket IS NOT DELIVERED WITH THE MACHINE FROM THE FACTORY, unless you have purchased an M.2 storage drive from Lenovo in your machine configuration.

 

Oddly, unlike with the second 2.5" drive bay where the needed plastic 2.5" drive mounting bracket (that goes inside the second 2.5" drive bay) IS OFFERED FOR OPTIONAL PURCHASE AND DELIVERED "EMPTY" with your machine, even if you don't actually buy a second 2.5" drive from Lenovo but think you might want to add one later on, the critical M.2 storage drive bracket for a similar possible future M.2 drive install IS NOT OFFERED FOR SEPARATE PURCHASE.

 

Bottom line: absent the needed M.2 storage drive bracket, I couldn't just install the 960 EVO card right away as I'd expected to.

 

(5) Now the hunt was on for this M.2 storage drive bracket, whose Lenovo part number is not provided anywhere obvious.  After much research I discovered that it is actually called "ThinkCentre M.2 SSD Kit", part #4XF0P01011 and IS [theoretically] available from Lenovo Accessories for $9.99.

 

Of course it is NOT "available" (i.e. in-stock) from Lenovo Parts, and shows a 5-7 day (or more, since it's not actually "in stock") ship estimate, with probably another 5 days of UPS delivery time after that.  Searching for the part online shows similar "not in stock" or "call for availability" from at least four other retailers who theoretically sell the item.

 

Bottom line: unavailable to have in my hands today or tomorrow.

 

(6) Since the M910s backplane has a total of four expansion slots, with the motherboard having three PCIe expansion slots (x16, x1, x16/x4/x1) I decided to go a different route for installing my M.2 960 EVO NVMe.  I decided to just use a PCIe adapter card which holds an M.2 NVMe card, as even after installing the double-wide GTX 1050ti graphics card I would still have an open PCIe slot for this M.2 adapter.

 

So I bought this $23 low-profile/full-profile PCIe M.2 adapter card from StarTech, which hopefully will perform exactly the same as the motherboard M.2 slot would have and will still allow me to boot from the M.2 daughter card housed in the PCIe adapter card. I use exactly the same type of approach on my newest ASUS Skylake-based desktop PC, which came with an ASUS version of this PCIe M.2 adapter card.

 

Paid for same-day shipping, so by later today I will hopefully have the adapter card installed and will have this M.2 drive issue behind me.

 

 

So here's hoping that by tonight I will have resolved the unexpectedly short graphics card available length problem as well as the missing M.2 mounting bracket problem.  Then I can get started with the new machine build-out.

 

Mod:  edited Subject line to add solution, and add "M920s" as it uses the same case

SeniorGuru
Posts: 2,320
Registered: ‎06-13-2013
Location: US
Views: 4,944
Message 2 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems

Remarkably, the "local express" delivery from Newegg got here about noon!  Amazing.

 

But sadly, the Zotac 1050ti card which was 160mm (6.3") in length is STILL TOO LONG.

 

So, much to my disappointment, it appears Lenovo has reduced the internal space in these new SFF cases, making it just about impossible to use almost all graphics cards.  I have installed Sapphire R7-250 low-profile / HD7750 cards in multiple M93p SFF and M800 SFF machines, and had no problem whatsoever, even though that card is 170mm (6.7").

 

Obviously the previous generation of SFF cases simply was larger.  The SFF cases now being used for the M910s are just too small.  If I'd known this I probably would have gone with the tower machine, if only to be able to use my intended GTX 1050ti graphics card (which could have been full-size in the tower).

 

Anyway, I've now ordered a lesser graphics card than I'd intended, the MSI version of the low-profile GTX 750ti. because it's length is only 5.75" (146mm), which absolutely will fit.  But this card only has DVI and HDMI connections, thus lacking a DisplayPort connector.  It's also only 2GB of DDR5 memory instead of 4GB as in the 1050ti, and with a slower core clock speed.  Bandwidth is 86GB/s vs. 112GB/s for the 1050ti.  Thankfully, there is at least one of these relatively modern DDR5 cards which is short enough to fit even if it's not the 1050ti.

 

But it will physically fit, which in the end now appears to be the limiting factor!!  What a design error on Lenovo's part (I will provide feedback), that there is seemingly only one graphics card which will fit in this new smaller SFF case!!

 

So now I have to return the Zotac card as well as the Gigabyte card, and will have to wait until tomorrow to have the MSI GTX 750ti card (also from Newegg, so again "local express" delivery for $10.

 

Unbelievable.

SeniorGuru
Posts: 2,320
Registered: ‎06-13-2013
Location: US
Views: 4,935
Message 3 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems

Decided to double-check the SFF dimensions for M910s against those of the M800 SFF and M93p SFF, just to be sure I wasn't crazy.

 

Sure enough:

 

(a) M93p SFF - 4" x 13.3" x 14.7"

 

(b) M800 SFF - 3.7" x 13.5" x 14.3"

 

(c) M910s SFF - 3.6" x 13.5" x 11.4"

 

So the M910s SFF case is a full 3" narrower, meaning that when the swing-up drive bay assembly is closed its "leading edge" intrudes 3" further over the motherboard than it used to.  And that means there is now 3" less clearance for the ends of expansion cards inserted into expansion slots on the motherboard.

 

So whereas expansion cards with a length of 6 3/4" or even longer presented absolutely no problem fitting with prior SFF cases, it now appears to be the case that expansion cards must be no longer than 5 3/4", perhaps almost 6" max. 

 

And this is a real problem for add-on graphics cards.

 

Beware.

JoeGarfield
Fanfold Paper
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Registered: ‎06-22-2017
Location: US
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Message 4 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems

Thanks for the info - I just ordered the m710 Tiny and now am expecting the same issue with the m.2 bracket.

Did you look at the single fan versions of the 1050ti?

http://techreport.com/news/30867/in-the-lab-evga-geforce-gtx-1050-ti-superclocked-graphics-card
SeniorGuru
Posts: 2,320
Registered: ‎06-13-2013
Location: US
Views: 4,920
Message 5 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems

Well, THE NEW SFF CASE IS A PIECE OF CRAP!!!   GARBAGE!!!  3" narrower than it used to be.  DO NOT ORDER THIS MACHINE!!! 

 

This evening I received the StarTech PCIe-M.2 adapter I was forced to buy to install my Samsung 960 Evo M.2 drive in an available PCIe expansion slot, since the necessary Lenovo M.2 storage drive bracket (which supports the built-in M.2 drive connector slot on the motherboard of the M910s) didn't come pre-installed with the machine, and the alternative "M.2 SSD Kit" (part #4XF0P01011) which provides the bracket as an after-market Lenovo accessory for $9.99 is at the moment unavailable for purchase from Lenovo's Parts Site or from any other online retailer.

 

Amazingly, although I honestly hadn't even thought to consider its length prior to purchase, this standard size PCIe StarTech card which is length 6.2" (157mm) IS ALSO TOO LONG TO FIT IN THE M910s SFF CASE!!!!!  The drive bay assembly can, once again, NOT swing down and latch closed properly with this 6.2" StarTech card installed!  The end of the card gets in the way.

 

So it's now clear that the drive bay assembly when swung down to closed position does not leave sufficient room to install ANY card that is longer than about 5.75"-6" (perhaps).  That means only 1/2-length PCIe cards can be used in this SFF case, which naturally eliminates ANY decent graphics card as well as ANY standard length PCIe card which is typically around 6.5".

 

By shrinking the width of the case 3", Lenovo has now made it IMPOSSIBLE TO INSTALL ANY STANDARD SIZE PCIe EXPANSION CARD!!!

 

So, I'm not going to fight this any more. I am going to return the M910s SFF machine in the morning (back to Allstarshop.com from whom I bought it) for a refund, and instead order a TOWER case version of the machine.  This was NOT my original intent, as I really did want the smaller footprint SFF case for the friend I'm building this machine for.

 

But because of the inexplicable no possible purpose shrinking of the "depth" of the new SFF case by 3", Lenovo has essentially made the SFF case 100% COMPLETELY UNUSABLE TO INSTALL ANY STANDARD SIZE GRAPHICS OR OTHER EXPANSION CARDS OF LENGTH 6" or longer!!!

 

This has never been a problem before now, in all the many years I've been configuring Lenovo desktop machines in SFF cases for friends and family.  I have NEVER not been able to install ANY CARD, be it graphics or other.  Only now, with the new 3" smaller SFF case, can I install NO CARD AT ALL!!!

 

What a disaster.

 

So I now have a whole pot of graphics cards (three different ones) plus my StarTech PCIe-M.2 adapter card that all need to be returned, orders canceled, etc., thanks to Lenovo's pointless foolishness regarding the reduced size SFF case.  Didn't they ever try to install a graphics card at the factory or lab during QA, or a regular PCie card???  Did they really have no clue that they had just made this case 100% UNUSABLE to install just about all expansion cards???

 

I'm very unhappy.

SeniorGuru
Posts: 2,320
Registered: ‎06-13-2013
Location: US
Views: 4,919
Message 6 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems


@JoeGarfield wrote:
Thanks for the info - I just ordered the m710 Tiny and now am expecting the same issue with the m.2 bracket.

Did you look at the single fan versions of the 1050ti?

http://techreport.com/news/30867/in-the-lab-evga-geforce-gtx-1050-ti-superclocked-graphics-card

That EVGA GTX 1050ti SC card (single-fan) is the FULL SIZE version of that card. I have that very card installed in three different TOWER case machines.  Yes, it is short (only 5.7" long), so it actually WOULD fit in a situation where clearance for cards had to be 6" or less, as well as in ordinary tower cases where much more clearance is available for much longer cards.

 

But it is a FULL SIZE card, and any SFF case requires a LOW PROFILE card... which this single-fan EVGA card is not.  It cannot be used in my current M910s SFF situation, nor could it be used in an M93p SFF or M800 SFF situation.  It requires a tower case.

 

I know nothing about the "tiny" cases, so I don't know what they support (if anything) as far as expansion cards go.  But what is to be learned from my own current M910s SFF story is that you SHOULD NOT BUY THE SFF CASE if you want to use any expansion card (graphics or otherwise) longer than around 5.75", maybe up to just under 6".  Certainly nothing longer than that will fit in the SFF. The tower case is now, apparently, the only option if you have typical expansion cards 6" or longer that you want to install.

Community SeniorMod
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Message 7 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems


@JoeGarfield wrote:
Thanks for the info - I just ordered the m710 Tiny and now am expecting the same issue with the m.2 bracket.


Tiny uses a completely different motherboard and case.   On the Tiny, the M.2 SSD mounts directly to the Motherboard like the previous version of the Tiny, no bracket is required. 

 

 

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SeniorGuru
Posts: 2,320
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Location: US
Views: 4,900
Message 8 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems

Although I haven't placed the new order yet with Lenovo for an M910t to replace the unacceptable M910s which is being returned, I did actually go through the customization and saved my cart.

 

In the process, I discovered that the later stages of order customization actually DID offer me both the (a) Thinkcentre M.2 SSD kit for $9.99, which is that required M.2 storage drive bracket that attaches to the chassis near the motherboard M.2 slot connector and which is needed to allow me to later add my own M.2 drive, and (b) the Thinkcentre tower 2.5" storage kit for $9.99, which includes the brackets and SATA data cable needed to later add a second internal 2.5" drive.  I had not been aware of this.  I have now added BOTH of these to my upcoming saved cart order.  I don't care about the likely shipping delay, if any, caused by requesting these two additional factory pre-installed parts as I'm going away for a few weeks and now won't need this replacement M910t machine until mid-July when I return.

 

And in the process, I also discovered that ALL of Lenovo's parts and accessories are now offered in a very user-friendly and wonderfully organized presentation known as "Quick Pick (USA version)" (which is actually internationally offered for other countries).  Amazingly, all of the assorted Thinkcentre and Thinkpad parts which people in this forum have asked the part numbers of over the past few years are all shown here, in a very convenient way for shopping by item category even if you don't initially know the part number.  Very nice.

 

So, I will now complete the RMA returns of all three low-profile graphics cards I've unsuccessfully run through over the past few days trying to find something that would at least "fit" into the unacceptably 3"-narrower new SFF case design being used for the M910s.  I will also return the StarTech PCIe-M.2 adapter card I bought, since this time I am going to get the correct now known and required Lenovo M.2 storage drive bracket factory pre-installed in my upcoming M910t.

 

Grrrrr.... my friend really wanted a SFF machine, but I guess these new foolishly 3" downsized smaller SFF cases are now no longer an option if you want to install an add-on expansion card inside, making a tower case the only option if you still want a Lenovo machine.  I think Lenovo is going to really regret this manufacturing decision going forward, as not everybody would be willing to get forced into a tower case just to get a Lenovo Kaby Lake machine when other manufacturers still offer a "reasonably standard sized SFF case" which allows user-added graphics cards and other PCIe expansion cards.

Bobble
What's DOS?
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Message 9 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems

Is the built-in graphics capabilities that poor that it requires a separate graphics card?  I'm looking at this same ssf version and I was just going to rely on the built-in graphics.

SeniorGuru
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Registered: ‎06-13-2013
Location: US
Views: 4,857
Message 10 of 25

Re: New M910s SFF just arrived: M.2 and graphics hardware surprises/problems

I imagine that if you are fine with built-in integrated Intel HD Graphics, and had no intention of installing anything additional inside of this SFF case anyway, then what almost seems to be "tiny" about it will not bother you.  The rest of the machine is presumably just fine, and hardware wise is just what I wanted to buy in the first place.

 

Or, if you wanted to install some PCIe expansion card that is 1/2-length, or say at most 5.75" or shorter, then again you can probably live with this new extremely limited interior space. What comes factory installed from Lenovo if you buy the offered "graphics upgrade" is NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 730 2GB DDR5 (which is only 5.7" in length, so of course it fits) must conform to these new requirements.

 

However I wanted to add my own retail GTX 1050ti 4GB DDR5 graphics card, and not use the Intel built-in graphics or the GT 730 2GB card.  And I also assumed I could add ordinary standard PCIe expansion cards, like the 6.2" in length M.2 adapter card from StarTech (since the alternative official M.2 SSD Kit from Lenovo that provided the needed M.2 bracket for using an M.2 drive with this motherboard was "out of stock" and probably several weeks away for delivery from Lenovo).

 

In theory, I should be able to "expand" into using the available expansion slots on the motherboard, inside of this case.  That's my choice, as the user.

 

And in all the years past, for all of the varied Lenovo desktop PC models I've ever worked with, the outer dimensions of the SFF case has been about 4" x 13.5" x 14.5" with interior full-clearance space more than adequate to install ANY PCIe low-profile graphics or other expansion card that I've ever wanted to install.

 

But this newest SFF case is only about 11.5" wide, not 14.5" wide.  So a full 3" of internal clearance needed for expansion cards has been eliminated.  Whereas 14.5" outer dimension allows pretty much ANY low-profile graphics or PCIe expansion card to be used (assuming adding one was part of your purchase plans), the new 11.5" outer dimension now limits expansion cards to be about 5.75" or smaller.

 

This is a MAJOR SERIOUS DRAWBACK for intended users, certainly it was for me for me.  In my current story I couldn't use either of the two cards I wanted to use, which has required me to now RMA return my target M910s SFF machine (which along with all add-on parts had already been delivered to me for customization, and which I was supposed to deliver completed to "the customer" by this weekend).  And I've had to RMA return all of the assorted different graphics cards and StarTech adapter card I've struggled unsuccessfuly to try and use this week.  Lots of really unnecessary inconvenience and nuisance here, because of the new 11.5" wide SFF case from lenovo.

 

Instead, I have been forced to start over from scratch, and order from Lenovo (and "the customer" to accept the larger tower case even though it was the SFF case that was requested) a new M910t tower machine (which according to estimated ship schedule will not be received by me until mid-July), into which I can of course install my original intended (and promised to "the customer") GTX 1050ti (112GB/s bandwidth) graphics card without problem.  The new M910t has also been ordered with the now known-to-be-required M.2 SSD Kit that has the required M.2 mounting bracket which attaches to the Lenovo tower chassis, so I won't need to use the StarTech PCIe-M.2 adapter card after all.

 

So "the customer" is now going to get a new tower case machine in mid-July, instead of the requested SFF case machine by this 3rd weekend in June.  This wasn't the plan.

 

Anyway, if you don't need to add an expansion card inside that is longer than 5.75", or you're perfectly fine with built-in integrated Intel HD 620 Graphics (34GB/s bandwidth) or the Lenovo-offered GT 730 graphics card (40GB/s bandwidth), you won't have a problem. One more alternative is that MSI GTX 750ti (86GB/s bandwidth) card I was going to settle for, which is only 5.75" long.  But if you can't live within those constraints, and if your own desired graphics or expansion cards are "standard" 6.2" - 6.7" in length, then you will find the new reduced 11.5" outside width of the new Lenovo SFF case (which results in a full 3" less interior card clearance than all previous 14.5" wide SFF cases used in years past) to simply be unacceptable.

 

Those are simply the current facts.  How this affects you depends on your own project plans.

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