If you’ve been wondering what to do with those SATA-Express ports, ASRock has something it thinks you'll like. Its new front USB 3.1 panel has two USB ports on it, and it connects to a SATA-Express port. Additionally, ASRock is also announcing a U.2 kit.
The front USB 3.1 panel is a 5.25” device that has a PCB inside, which ends in two USB connections -- a USB 3.1 Type-A port, and a USB 3.1 Type-C port. To power the device you need a SATA power connector, a USB 2.0 header (which is only for power), and you need a SATA-Express port for data.
It uses SATA-Express is because it is wired straight to PCI-Express lanes, which connect to an ASMedia ASM1142 controller. Of course, the 10 Gb/s of bandwidth provided by the two PCI-Express 2.0 lanes is split over the two USB ports, so if you’re using both at the same time, they’ll be fighting for bandwidth (assuming you can get that much data throughout from your client devices). If you’re using one device, you’ll be free to use the full 10 Gb/s spec on that port.
The U.2 kit is a simple bracket that converts an M.2 connector to a U.2 connector, which supports the NVMe PCI-Express SSDs that run over four PCI-Express 3.0 lanes, such as the new Intel 750 series SSDs.
ASRock didn’t reveal pricing or availability for either of the products, although it wouldn’t surprise us if they come included with some of its motherboards.