M.2 and NVMe SSDs: What are they and how do they benefit your PC. How does pcie ssd work

NVMe is a protocol designed specifically for PCIe hard drives that enables high-speed communication of the drives. The goal of NVMe is to make SSDs behave more like RAM as RAM uses a similar technology and moves faster than SSDs.

PCIe 4.0 NVMe: What is it and Why it Matters?

Upgrading traditional hard drives with SATA SSDs would have been the smartest choice just a few years ago, but not anymore. General SSDs have started to wear down due to the current demand for a faster host controller interface. As a result, more and more companies and individuals are opting for state-of-the-art storage solutions such as NVMe.

The need for an end-to-end connectivity standard and high-performance flash memory is growing every day. NVMe connects to a PCIe device (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express), offering much faster speeds than SATA SSDs.

But what is PCIe and how does it affect data read / write speed?

This blog will help you understand NVME in PCIe 4.0 and that it is a smarter choice compared to other flash drives on the market.

What It Can Offer To The User

Unlike traditional SSDs, PCIe 4.0 NVME SSDs are equipped with the latest technology to ensure the fastest read, write, data transfer, and speed performance among other flash storage devices.

These SSDs run almost six times faster than SATA III SSDs, are built on high-speed PCIe lines, and are the best upgrade over SATA and SAS SSDs. You no longer have to worry about the compatibility of your storage devices as NVMe SSDs are compatible with various formats such as PCIe, M.2 and U.2 card slot.

NVMe disks run on high-end parallel data paths, offering better performance and faster operations on SAS / SATA disks. SAS / SATA SSD protocols are based on CPU cycles and are not designed to handle high data loads, unlike NVMe drives. The minimal NVMe disk infrastructure enables users to lower costs and accelerate development.

When it comes to NVMe SSDs, the most important benefit of PCIe 4.0 is performance. The PCIe 4.0 specification aims to increase the data transfer rate from 8 GT / s (PCIe 3.0) to 16 GT / s (2 GB / s per lane), enabling SSDs, GPUs, network cards and other devices to provide better I / O you than previous versions of PCIe. With the ability to read thousands of parallel queues of commands, NVMe disks provide lower power consumption and better performance.

pcie 4.0 nvme

The relationship between the PCIe 4.0 interface and the NVMe protocol is another important feature of these SSDs. SSDs communicate with the host in the datacenter via the PCIe interface, which follows a series of instructions known as the NVMe protocol. The physical pin definitions and power specifications associated with the hardware transport layer describe the interface. At the same time, the protocol defines commands, instructions, and drivers that must be followed by SSDs and operating systems.

Nobody wants to be stressed by data loss in the Internet age, but unfortunately this is still the reality today. NVMe SSDs, unlike hard drives, do not store data in mechanical parts, but in flash memory, almost eliminating the risk of data disaster. In addition, NVMe SSDs produce less heat and emit no sound, giving them the highest reliability advantage over other storage devices.

Components such as the newer Sun / Oracle X-series servers can be equipped with 2.5-inch NVMe hot-plug drives mounted in the front bays of the server.

The M.2 Form Factor

corsair mp600 gen4 pcie ssd m2 nvme

The M.2 form factor (formerly known as Next Generation Form Factor or NGFF) is a more modern type of internally mounted expansion card that replaces the previous mSATA (Mini-SATA) standard. Unlike standard hard drives and SSDs, M.2 drives don’t connect to the motherboard via a cable, instead they plug directly into the motherboard via a dedicated M.2 connector slot.

Depending on its type and functionality, an M.2 drive can use either the standard SATA interface or the faster PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) interface, but in both cases it plugs directly into the motherboard. Because they fold up and lie flush with the motherboard when plugged in, rather than sticking out like a graphics card or RAM chip (or traditional HDD or SSD), M.2 drives allow for a cleaner, less cluttered interior with fewer management cables.

Some desktop peripherals, such as Wi-Fi cards, may be in M.2 format, but the most common use of M.2 is SSD data storage, essentially functioning as an alternative to existing 2.5-inch drives that are mounted in separate bay, and then connected to the motherboard with a SATA cable. It should be noted that M.2 SSDs using the SATA interface are not really faster than the standard 2.5 ” drives, they just take up less space and look cleaner. If you want faster speeds, you’ll need to make sure your M.2 drive uses the NVMe interface protocol.

The NVMe Interface Protocol

intel-ssd-nvme-pcie-m.2-11

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express and refers to the way data is moved, not the shape of the disk itself. The main way it differs from the existing SATA standard is by using the motherboard’s PCIe interface to get a noticeably faster data transfer speed than it is capable of. Depending on the manufacturer of your NVMe drive, you can see speeds as high as five or six times faster than the SATA-based counterpart.

There are several NVMe drives that are designed to fit into a standard PCIe motherboard slot, similar to a graphics card, but most NVMe drives use the M.2 format. Also, given their faster speeds, NVMe drives typically cost more than their standard 2.5-inch SSD counterparts, just as SSDs tend to cost more than mechanical hard drives for the same amount of space.

xpg m2 ssd

If you plan on using an M.2 drive when building or upgrading your gaming PC, it’s important to remember whether you’re purchasing a SATA drive or an NVMe drive. Your motherboard may not have the correct M.2 slots for both types (SATA and NVMe M.2 drives often have slightly different keys), and even if they do, you don’t want to waste money on a more expensive NVMe drive if your motherboard of choice can access to data only using the SATA protocol (not every motherboard supports PCIe data transfer).

Speaking of price, it’s also worth mentioning that the speed boost provided by the NVMe protocol is mainly only for sequential reads and writes of the data, not for random reads and writes. This means that you will only really notice a noticeable increase in speed if you use your computer to perform specific, heavy tasks, such as editing 4K video footage or regularly transferring large amounts of data from one drive to another. Random reads and writes to an NVMe drive are technically a bit faster than a SATA drive, but if all you’re using your computer for is gaming and / or everyday tasks, you really don’t need to jump for the more expensive NVMe M.2 drive.

M.2 (“M dot two”) and U.2 (“U dot two”) are form factor standards that determine the shape, dimensions, and layout of a physical device. Both the M.2 and U.2 standards are used in conjunction with SATA and PCIe drives.

How Much Faster Is a PCIe SSD?

The current iteration of SATA is SATA III. It supports a theoretical maximum speed of 6 Gb / s, which translates to approximately 600 MB / s of data transfer.

PCIe is a bit more complex to break down. First, there are PCIe 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 slots. Revision 3.0 is the latest one, but some motherboards have revision 2.0 slots.

If the board is a PCIe 3.0 board, you need to lay out the lines. PCIe connections are divided into lanes. Typically, four-band, eight-band and 16-band sockets are available, which can be identified on the board by size. Those big 16 lanes are where your graphics card is plugged in.

SSD drive

PCIe 3.0 has a theoretical speed of 1 GB / s per lane, which means the PCIe 3.0 x16 slot has a theoretical limit of 16 GB / s. This is high speed for a hard drive. A regular PCIe SSD most likely uses four or eight lanes, but the potential is still better than SATA.

These numbers are theoretical, not what your hands-on performance will look like. If you look at real SSDs, the advertised speeds are more justified, but the benefits are still evident.

The Samsung 860 EVO provides a maximum sequential read speed of 550 MB / s and a maximum sequential write speed of 520 MB / s. The closest comparable PCIe drive, the Samsung 960 EVO, has a reported maximum sequential read speed of 3.2 GB / s and a maximum sequential write speed of 1.7 GB / s. It only uses four PCIe lanes.

NVMe and M.2

For PCIe drives, two more terms are discussed: NVMe and M.2.

Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 Drive

M.2 refers to the PCIe form factor designed specifically for SSDs. M.2 is more compact than standard PCIe and only accepts M.2 format devices which are hard drives only.

M.2 is designed to provide an interface that allows SSDs to use the PCIe interface without interfering with more common PCIe devices such as graphics cards or occupying their slots. The M.2 is also common in laptops as it tends to lie flat on the motherboard, taking up little space.

NVMe stands for Express Non-Volatile Memory. Non-volatile memory is any type of storage memory. Volatile memory refers to something like RAM that is constantly overwritten and doesn’t stay after restarting.

NVMe is a protocol designed specifically for PCIe hard drives that enables high-speed communication of the drives. The goal of NVMe is to make SSDs behave more like RAM as RAM uses a similar technology and moves faster than SSDs.

The NVMe SSD controller supports multiple formats such as U.2, M.2, and add-on cards. We can help you better understand what each of them means and how it works with PCIe 4.0.

What Are M.2 and U.2?

M.2 (“M dot two”) and U.2 (“U dot two”) are form factor standards that determine the shape, dimensions, and layout of a physical device. Both the M.2 and U.2 standards are used in conjunction with SATA and PCIe drives.

M.2 is more common for long casts, so if you have to choose between the two and aren’t sure which way to go, the M.2 is the safer option. U.2 is mainly used in Intel 750 series SSDs, and you won’t find many others that support it.

When using M.2 for a SATA SSD, the performance is the same as when using the regular SATA format. By using M.2 for a PCIe SSD, you are limiting the number of x4 lanes, which is still more than enough for the casual home user.

Moreover, x4 SSDs are more common than x2 SSDs and aren’t much more expensive, so you might as well take advantage of it.

Note: You can purchase an adapter that turns an M.2 connector into a U.2 connector or vice versa, but such adapters may not fit the physical limitations of what you’re trying to do.

PCIe SSD vs. SATA SSD: Which SSD Type Is Right for You?

The choice between PCIe and SATA SSDs depends on two key factors. First, your budget and second, your performance expectations. If you’re on a tight budget, go for SATA. If you need maximum performance for frequent file transfers, choose PCIe. Both are the most convenient to use in the M.2 format.

If you’re currently using a hard drive, whatever you choose, you’ll be fine. Both SATA and PCIe SSDs are clearly better than HDDs in terms of speed, so you really can’t go wrong. If you’ve made up your mind to PCIe, you should also read more about the different versions to make sure you make the right choice when purchasing.

We hope you will enjoy the items we recommend and discuss! MUO has affiliate and sponsored partnerships, so we get a revenue share from some of your purchases. It won’t affect the price you pay and help us to offer you the best product recommendations.

The latest revision of the PCI Express standard is coming, PCIe 5.0. Why is this such a big deal and what does he have up his sleeve?

Joel Lee was previously editor-in-chief of MakeUseOf from 2018 to 2021. He has a BA in Computer Science and over nine years of professional writing and editing experience.

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M.2 is designed to provide an interface that allows SSDs to use the PCIe interface without interfering with more common PCIe devices such as graphics cards or occupying their slots. The M.2 is also common in laptops as it tends to lie flat on the motherboard, taking up little space.

What is PCIe SSD?

PCIe SSDs are similar to other SSDs in that they use flash memory to store files and applications. Flash, unlike traditional hard drives, has no moving parts. It uses semiconductor chips that contain flash memory cells to store data whether the system is on or off, and the software is there to recover that data when needed. Hard drives, on the other hand, have an actuator arm that physically extends a hand and writes and reads data to a spinning drive. PCIe SSDs differ from other SSDs in that they access a computer’s PCIe slot, which is also used for high-speed graphics cards, memory, and chips.

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In 2003, PCIe 1.0 was originally launched with a transfer rate of 2.5 gigatransfer per second (GT / s) and a total throughput of 8 Gbps. (GT / s refers to the number of bits per second that the bus can carry or transmit.) PCIe 2.0 has doubled both the bandwidth and gigatransfer to 16 Gb / s and 5 GT / s, and subsequent generations have doubled with each new iteration. PCIe 3.0 offers 32 Gb / s and 8 GT / s bandwidth. PCIe 4.0 has a bandwidth of 64 Gb / s and a speed of 16 GT / s. That said, the cards are limited by the slots they go into, so if you put a PCIe 4.0 SSD card in the 2.0 slot, the performance can only reach 2.0.

What’s the difference between a SATA-based SSD and a PCIe-based SSD?

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