NVMe M.2 drives: What are they and are they worth the money?

NVMe M.2 is the latest computer storage disk technology in SSD form. What is this technology, how fast are the new drives compared to legacy hard drives and now classic solid state drives (SSDs)?

hdd vs ssd vs m2 nvme

You already know what one is solid state drive (SSD) and you probably already have one installed in your laptop your or your desktop. Compared to a traditional spinning hard drive, an SSD is much faster, that's why recommended as the best way to improve the performance of an old desktop or laptop computer.

That was our data until we started playing with the new SSD standard, NVMe M.2. Now the new way to increase the performance of your computer is to install an NVMe M.2 SSD, at least for containing your operating system.

What is an NVMe M.2 drive?

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The name consists of two separate parts, each of which has its own meaning. NVMe and M.2

The NVMe stands for “Non-Volatile Memory Express” and is the newest open template for accessing storage media, high speed and has many advantages compared to legacy protocols.

It was developed to allow modern SSDs to operate at faster read/write speeds than their flash memory can provide. Essentially, it allows flash memory to function as an SSD directly through the PCIe interface, rather than going through SATA and being limited by slower SATA speeds.

In other words, it is a description of the bus that the component to communicate with the computer, not a new type of flash memory.

It is also unrelated to the form factor which is the second leg of the name, so NVMe drives can come in form factors s M.2 or PCIe. With both form factors, the component is electrically connected to the computer via PCIe rather than SATA. Yes, it's confusing, but stay with us.

An NVMe drive is also an SSD. That is, it has no mechanical part, the data is not written on magnetic plates but stored in memories, like a classic SSD. Instead of connecting via a SATA III cable, it connects directly to the motherboard via the M.2 or PCIe slot, or to a traditional PCIe slot using a M.2 PCIe adapter.

The com M.2 on an NVMe M.2 drive refers to the form factor and the connection method of the unit with the motherboard. For this reason, when M.2 does not refer to a disk, its connection to the motherboard is different, and the connection pins have a different shape. Nowadays, however, the M.2 connection format prevailed and now all modern computers have at least one such slot ready to accept a disk.

Surprisingly, this NVMe M.2 drive, which is actually an SSD drive, is the size of a memory board compared to an SSD which is clearly bulkier. And while an SSD will drastically improve performance over a traditional spinning hard drive, an NVMe M.2 is incredibly faster compared to an SSD. Think of it as an SSD 2.0!

How fast is an NVMe SSD

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The initial release of the PCIe Gen 3.0 NVMe M.2 SSD dramatically increased read/write performance compared to legacy SATA III drives. PCIe Gen 3 NVME read performance had a staggering 483% improvement over SATA III, and the new PCIe Gen 4 NVMe drives (released in mid-2020) are 1.067% even faster.

Here is a table about the features for each of the types of drives that are in October 2022:

HDD (Hard Disk Drive) SSD (Solid State Drive) NVMe M.2 (Gen 4)
Reading Speed 80 /s 200MB / s 5000 to 7300 MB/s
Recording Speed 160 MB / s 550 MB / s 5000 to 6350 MB/s
Capacity From 250GB to 14TB 250GB to 4TB 500GB to 4TB

As you can see the comparison between SSD and NVMe shows that the speeds on an NVMe are ten times faster.

So if it seemed to you that your computer "flew" when you replaced the classic HHD with an SSD, because the SSD simply quadrupled the speed of your computer compared to the HDD, imagine what it will be like now if you make the new change.

My system will support an NVMe M.2 SSD

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Obviously, the speeds are impressive. However, before you rush to upgrade your system's hard drive, you must first confirm that your system can handle this new drive.

First, you need to confirm that your motherboard supports PCIe Gen 4 or Gen 3, as well as a spare M.2 port or a spare PCIe slot for the adapter.

If you bought your PC or laptop in the last five years, chances are you'll be fine.

If you don't have a motherboard that clearly states that it supports PCIe Gen 4, then Gen 3 NVMe drives are fine.

If you're not sure what kind of connectors you have on your computer, check your computer's manual or manufacturer's website.

Cost

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Herein lies the eternal rule of technology. Newer is more expensive. It doesn't matter if the manufacturing cost is the same or less. Anyone who wants the new technology will pay for it accordingly.

So SSD drives with SATA III currently range from approx at €0,10/GB while the corresponding NVMe M.2 disks at €0,14/GB.

The truth, however, is that the prices of flash memories have dropped quite low due to the pandemic and unexpected traffic in stores. However, everyone's pocket and purchasing power is a personal matter.

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Written by Dimitris

Dimitris hates on Mondays .....

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