Hey there, computer enthusiasts of the world! Let’s talk drives. You know them. You love them. Or maybe you don’t know them, and that’s why you’re here. With so many options out there, it can be hard to pick the perfect one. Especially if you’re on the hunt for a solid state drive (SSD) that’ll amp up your gaming experience or just supercharge your laptop without emptying your wallet. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! We love nothing more than comparing and contrasting different types of drives all day. So, we’ve put together this “What’s the Diff” post to lay it all out for you.
SSDs have become a popular option because they are fast. They read and write data way faster than your pokey old hard drive. Yes, they are more expensive, but you’ve been saving up and it’s time to jump in. But which type of SSD do you need? In this post we’ll cover:
- What is an SSD?
- What is a SATA SSD?
- What is an M.2 SSD?
- What is an NVMe SSD?
- Which SSD is right for you?
A Brief Introduction to SSDs
SSDs are storage devices that use NAND-based flash memory to store data. They are now standard issue for most computers, as is the case across Apple’s line of Macs. Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), which store data on spinning disks, SSDs have no moving parts, which makes them faster, more reliable, and less prone to mechanical failures.
SSDs have become so common mainly because they are faster in terms of read/write speeds versus hard drives. This means that they can access and transfer data much more quickly. This makes them an ideal choice for use in high-performance computers, servers, and other devices that require fast data access and transfer speeds. They also use less power. You can read more about the difference between SSDs and HDDs in this post.
One downside of SSDs is that they tend to be more expensive than HDDs, especially when it comes to larger storage capacities. However, as the cost of flash memory continues to decrease, SSDs are becoming more affordable and accessible for everyday consumers. SSDs are also available at different form factors, such as 2.5” and M.2, so they can be used in a range of devices.
What is a SATA SSD?
A Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) is the standard storage interface used in many PCs. A SATA SSD is an SSD equipped with a SATA interface to connect the storage device to a computer’s motherboard. The SATA SSD comes in the standard 2.5 inch form factor and has both power and data (SATA) connectors. If you buy an SSD external drive to connect to your PC, there will most likely be a SATA SSD inside. Generally, the SATA SSD is the least expensive type of SSD all other factors being equal. This makes a great choice to speed up your old hard drive-based computer or add an external drive that can read and write data more quickly.
One thing to know about external SSD drives is that they should not be disconnected from your computer and stored away for long periods of time. Anything over a year is too long, and as the drive gets older it needs to be plugged in even more often. But you didn’t spend all that money to store your new super fast external SSD drive in the closet, did you?
What Are M.2 Drives?
M.2 drives, also known as Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) drives, are a type of SSD that uses the M.2 interface to connect directly into a computer’s motherboard without the need for cables. M.2 SSDs are significantly smaller and faster than traditional, 2.5 inch SSDs, so they have become popular in gaming setups because they take up less space. They’re also more power-efficient than other types of SSDs, which improves battery life in portable devices.
Even at this smaller size, M.2 SSDs are able to hold as much data as other SSDs, ranging up to 8TB in storage size. But, while they can hold just as much data and are generally faster than other SSDs, they also come at a higher cost. As the old adage goes, you can only have two of the following things: cheap, fast, or good.
M.2 drives are easy to install, and they can be added to most modern motherboards that have an M.2 slot. People who are looking to improve their gaming setup with an M.2 SSD will need to make sure their motherboard has an M.2 slot. If your motherboard does not have an M.2 slot, you may be able to use an M.2 drive by using an adapter card that fits into a Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) slot. So, before you run out and buy an M.2 SSD, you’ll need to know which interface your computer will accept, M.2 SATA or M.2 PCIe.
What Is an NVMe?
Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is a storage protocol that offers high-speed and efficient communication between a computer’s CPU and SSDs. Drives that use NVMe were introduced in 2013 to attach to the PCIe slot directly on a motherboard instead of using the traditional SATA interface typically used by HDDs and older SSDs. Unlike SATA, which was originally designed for slower HDDs, NVMe takes advantage of the low-latency and high-speed capabilities of SSDs. NVMe drives can usually deliver a sustained read-write speed of 2.6 GB/s in contrast with SATA SSDs that limit at 600 MB/s. Since NVMe SSDs can reach higher speeds than SATA SSDs, it makes them ideal for gaming, high-resolution video editing, and applications that require high-performance storage, such as enterprise databases, virtualization, and data analytics.
Their high speeds come at a high cost, however: NVMe drives are some of the more expensive drives on the market.
Which SSD Is Best to Use?
There are a few factors to consider in choosing which drive is best for you. As you compare the different components of your build, consider your technical constraints, budget, capacity needs, and speed priority.
Check the capability of your system before choosing a drive, as some older devices don’t have the components needed for NVMe connections. Also, check that you have enough PCIe connections to support multiple PCIe devices. Not enough lanes, or only specific lanes, means you may have to choose a different drive or that only one of your lanes will be able to connect to the NVMe drive at full speed.
If you plan to be making a lot of large file transfers or want to have the highest speeds for gaming, then an NVMe SSD is what you want. Until recently SATA SSDs were much more affordable options compared with NVMe drives, but that is changing rapidly. For example, at the time of publication, a Samsung 1TB SATA SSD (860 EVO) retails for $118 on Amazon, while a Samsung 1TB NVMe drive (970 EVO) is listed for only $121 on sale on Amazon.
SATA drives usually range from 500GB to 16TB in storage capacity. Most M.2 drives top out at 2TB, although some may be available at 4TB and 8TB models at much higher prices.
When choosing the right drive for your setup, remember that SATA M.2 drives and 2.5 inch SSDs provide the same level of speed, so to gain a performance increase, you will have to opt for the NVMe-connected drives. While NVMe SSDs are going to be much faster than SATA drives, you may also need to upgrade your processor to keep up or you may experience worse performance. Finally, remember to check read and write speeds on a drive as some earlier generations of NVMe drives can have different speeds.
Choose the Right SSD for Your Setup
Before choosing a new drive, remember to back up all of your data. Backing up is essential as every drive will eventually fail and need to be replaced. The basis of a solid backup plan requires three copies of your data: one on your device, one backup saved locally, and one stored off-site. Storing a copy of your data in the cloud ensures that you’re able to retrieve it if any data loss occurs on your device.
Interested in learning more about other drive types or best ways to optimize your setup? Let us know in the comments below.
NVMe and M.2 are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different aspects of storage technology. Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) drives attach to the PCI Express (PCIe) slot directly on a motherboard instead of using the traditional SATA interface, resulting in higher data transfer speeds. M.2, on the other hand, is a physical form factor or connector used for SSDs. M.2 drives can support various storage interfaces, including NVMe, SATA, and others, providing flexibility in terms of compatibility and speed.
NVMe and M.2 drives are not directly comparable in terms of speed because they refer to different aspects of storage technology. NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a storage protocol that provides high-speed communication between the computer’s CPU and SSDs. It is designed to take full advantage of the capabilities of SSDs and can offer significantly faster data transfer speeds compared to traditional interfaces like SATA.
M.2, on the other hand, refers to a physical form factor or connector used for storage devices, including SSDs. M.2 drives can support various interfaces, including NVMe, SATA, and others. The speed of an M.2 drive depends on the specific interface it uses. NVMe M.2 drives, which utilize the NVMe protocol, can provide faster speeds compared to M.2 drives that use the SATA interface.
In summary, NVMe is a storage protocol that can be implemented in various form factors, including M.2, and NVMe drives tend to offer faster speeds compared to M.2 drives that utilize the SATA interface.
NVMe drives can generally be used in M.2 slots, but it is important to ensure compatibility with the specific M.2 slot on your motherboard. M.2 slots can support different types of interfaces, including SATA and NVMe.
NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a storage protocol that can be implemented through various form factors, one of which is M.2.
The main advantage of NVMe technology is its high-speed data transfer capabilities. Compared to traditional storage interfaces like SATA, NVMe provides significantly faster performance. It leverages the PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) interface, allowing for direct communication between the CPU and the SSD. This results in reduced latency and improved overall system responsiveness.
M.2, on the other hand, is a physical form factor or connector that can support various interfaces,
including SATA and NVMe. M.2 drives can accommodate NVMe SSDs, allowing them to take advantage of the faster speeds provided by the NVMe protocol.
Until recently SATA SSDs were much more affordable options compared with NVMe drives, but that is changing rapidly. For example, as of June 2023, a Samsung 1TB SATA SSD (860 EVO) retails for $118 on Amazon, while a Samsung 1TB NVMe drive (970 EVO) is listed for only $121 on sale on Amazon. Prices are now comparable.