NVMe drives are big business when it comes to storing your computer, and for good reason. Not only does the NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) leave most older SSDs in the dust, but it is also extremely fast compared to standard 3,5 and 2,5 inch drives.
There are several options on the market with this technology. Most stores have these two options, but do not make clear what are the advantages and disadvantages of one or the other. So, SATA vs M2? Which one should you choose? This is what we will try to help you with.
SATA vs M2
Take, for example, the Samsung 870 8 TB, a 2,5-inch SSD with a maximum sequential read speed of 530 MB / s. His successor, the 980 Pro based on NVMe, it is almost ten times faster than that, with a maximum speed of 5000 MB / s.
This is because pre-NVMe drives connect to a PC via SATA III, the third revision of the Serial ATA computer bus interface. NVMe, in turn, is the host controller interface for newer, more advanced SSDs.
SATA III and NVMe are the terms most commonly used to differentiate between old and new disks that everyone wants. NVMe is not, however, the same type of technology as SATA III.
We will see why we use the terms “SATA III” and “NVMe” to compare the technologies later and why SATA vs M2.
What is SATA III?
In 2000, SATA was introduced to replace the Parallel ATA standard that preceded it. SATA offers higher speed connections, which means much better performance compared to its predecessor. SATA III was launched eight years later with a maximum transfer rate of 600 MB / s.
SATA III components use a specific type of connector to fit a notebook and a specific type of cable to connect to a desktop PC motherboard.
After a drive is connected to the computer system via SATA III, work is only half done. For the unit to actually communicate with the system, it needs a host controller interface. This work belongs to AHCI, which is the most common way for SATA III drives to communicate with a computer system.
For many years, SATA III and AHCI performed admirably, even during the early days of SSDs. However, AHCI has been optimized for high-latency, non-low-latency, non-volatile storage like SSDs, explains drive manufacturer Kingston.
Here's a tip: if you are looking for a high performance SATA SSD, we recommend the Kingston A400 SSD, in versions of 240GB ou 480GB, with a reading speed of 500MB / s, ensuring a better performance of your operating system, programs and games.
Solid-state drives became so fast that they eventually saturated the SATA III connection. SATA III and AHCI simply could not provide enough bandwidth for increasingly capable SSDS.
With moving speeds and expanding capabilities, the search for a better alternative has begun. And luckily, it was already in use on PCs.
What is PCIe?
PCIe is another hardware interface. It is best known as the way the video card fits into a desktop PC, but it is also used for sound cards, Thunderbolt expansion cards and M.2 units (more on that later).
If you look at a motherboard (see above), you can easily see where the PCIe slots are. They mainly come in variants x16, x8, x4 and x1. These numbers indicate how many data transmission paths a slot has. The greater the number of tracks, the more data you can move at any time, which is why graphics cards use x16 slots.
There is also an M.2 slot in the image above, just below the top x16 slot. M.2 slots can use up to four lanes, so they are x4.
The main PCIe slots on any computer have lanes connected to the CPU for the best possible performance. The rest of the PCIe slots connect to the chipset. This also supports a very fast connection to the CPU, but not as fast as direct connections.
There are currently two generations of PCIe in use: 3.0 (the most common) and 4.0. Version 4, as expected, is faster.
In mid-2019, PCIe 4.0 was brand new and only compatible with AMD's Ryzen 3000 processors and X570 motherboards. Today, the Ryzen 4000 and 5000 are also compatible. It is worth mentioning that the X570 chipset is the only one that supports PCIe 4.0, while the B550 and A320 do not.
However, most components are not yet saturating PCIe 3.0's maximum bandwidth. So while PCIe 4.0 is impressive, it is still not a necessity for modern computers.
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NVMe over PCIe
PCIe, then, is like SATA III: both are used to connect individual components to a computer system. Just as SATA III needs AHCI before a hard drive or SSD can communicate with a computer system, PCIe-based drives have a host controller, called express non-volatile memory (NVMe).
But why then do we talk about SATA vs M2, instead of talking about SATA III vs PCIe drives, or AHCI vs NVMe? The reason is quite simple. We always refer to the drives as being based on SATA, like SATA, SATA II and SATA III - no surprise there. Therefore, it is common to see around SATA vs M2.
However, the industry did not have any standards to support itself as it did with SATA drives. Instead, how explained Western Digital, companies used AHCI and created their own drivers and firmware to run these drives.
Also check out: SSD or HD? Which should I buy?
That was a mess, and the AHCI was still not good enough. It was also more difficult for people to adopt drives faster than SATA because, instead of a plug-and-play experience, they also had to install special drivers.
Eventually, the industry came together around the standard that became NVMe and replaced AHCI. The new standard was much better and it made sense to start talking about NVMe. And the rest, as they say, is history. Then SATA vs M2 started.
NVMe was built with modern PCIe-based SSDs in mind. NVMe drives are capable of accepting many more commands at the same time than SATA III mechanical hard drives or SSDs. This, combined with lower latency, makes NVMe drives faster and more responsive.
What are NVMe units like?
If you are going to buy an NVMe-based drive today, what you want is an M.2. M.2 describes the connection factor of the drive - or, for our purposes, its appearance. M.2 units generally have about 1 TB of storage, but are small enough to hold between your thumb and forefinger.
Here's a tip: if you want a cheap, high-performance SSD, we recommend the Kingston A2000 SSD NVMe M2, which has a reading speed of 2200MB / s and a write speed of 2000MB / s, serving for both PC and notebook.
M.2 units connect to special PCIe M.2 slots that support up to four data transfer paths. These drives are usually based on NVMe, but you can also find M.2 drives that use SATA III - just read the packaging carefully.
M.2s based on SATA III are not as common today, but they do exist. A popular example is the Hyper X Fury SSD.
What is M2?
The M2 connection format is designed for manufacturers to replace a variety of specific devices in a tiny space and requires very little power. Formerly known as Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF), the M2 format is technically a replacement for the mSATA standard, which was popular with manufacturers of supercompact notebooks and other small devices.
M.2 is a slot that can interface with SATA 3.0 (the cable that is probably connected to your PC's storage drive now), PCI Express 3.0 (the standard interface for video cards and other important expansion devices) and even USB 3.0.
In the M2 format version with SATA 3.0 interface, the Kingston A400 SSD, 480GB, is an excellent option. This bug has a speed of 500MB / s for reading and 450MB / s for writing. Using your device, whether PC or notebook, will become very fast and effective.
M2 devices can transfer data from 50% to approximately 650% faster than standard SATA, depending on the capabilities of the motherboard and the M2 card itself. If you have the opportunity to use an M2 SSD on a motherboard that supports 3rd generation PCI, it can be significantly faster than a normal SATA drive.
At the moment, M.2 is mainly used as an interface for super-fast SSDs, both on notebooks and on desktops. But M2 comes with two main compatibility variables: length and key. The first is quite obvious - your computer needs to have enough physical space to support the length of the card you want to use. The second variable - how the card is coded - just means that the card's connector must match the slot to which you will connect it.
All M2 drives use the same width determined by the connection. The “size” is expressed in the following format. Check compatibility with your notebook or motherboard by choosing one:
|M2 2230||22 mm||30 mm|
|M2 2242||22 mm||42 mm|
|M2 2260||22 mm||60 mm|
|M2 2280||22 mm||80 mm|
|M2 2210||22 mm||110 mm|
SATA vs M2: is it worth it?
But then, what do I choose in SATA vs M2? Although the M2 is fantastic, there is no reason to give up SATA III drives yet. Despite the limitations of SATA III, it is still a good choice for secondary storage.
Anyone building a new PC, for example, would do well to use an M.2 NVMe drive as the primary storage and boot drive. They could then add a cheaper 2,5-inch hard drive or larger capacity SSD as secondary storage.
It may be a good idea to have all of your storage running on PCIe. However, at the moment, M2 NVMe units are limited to about 2 TB. Higher capacities are also prohibitively expensive. A 1 TB hard drive, M2 NVMe usually costs around R $ 1500,00 (about twice as much as a high performance 2 TB SATA III hard drive). So a lot of people are in doubt about SATA vs M2.
The price, of course, may change as we get M.2 units with even greater capacity. Kingston said we can expect to see M.2 units with capacities of 4 and 8 TB around the beginning of this year. Until then, the combination of M2 with secondary SSDs and hard drives is the best option.
|HD||140MB / s - 136MB / s||80GB - 8TB||R $ 65,00 - R $ 1650,00|
|SATA III SSD||540MB / s - 500MB / s||240GB - 2TB||R $ 275,00 - R $ 1400,00|
|SSD NVMe||6500MB / s - 4000MB / s||240GB - 2TB||R $ 375,00 - R $ 2700,00|
The same idea applies to notebooks. If you are buying new equipment, look for one with NVMe flash storage and a spare 2,5-inch bay for a SATA III or SSD hard drive. However, not all M2 NVMe drives are created equal. It is definitely worth reading the reviews on your destination drive before buying one.
Depending on your setup idea and, of course, your budget, it is always a good idea to research what options are available on the market. I hope this article has clarified your doubts about SATA vs M2 and will help you in your choice. For more, leave it in the comments!