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.
- PCIe vs. SATA SSDs: Which Storage Drive Is Best?
- What Is a PCIe SSD?
- The Advantages of PCIe SSDs Over SATA Drives
- How Much Faster Is a PCIe SSD?
- What is SATA?
- PCIe SSD vs. SATA: the Differences
- Facts, figures and features
- Graham Hutchins
- What is PCIe SSD?
- Get your free guide to evaluating MLC vs. TLC vs. V-NAND SSDs
- What’s the difference between a SATA-based SSD and a PCIe-based SSD?
PCIe vs. SATA SSDs: Which Storage Drive Is Best?
PCIe SSDs are faster than SATA SSDs. But you may not need it. This article explains how PCIe SSDs differ from SATA SSDs.
PCIe SSDs may be technologically superior, but that doesn’t mean you should always buy them instead of SATA drives.
In this article, we’ll look at the differences between SATA and PCIe SSDs and what you need to know to make an informed decision when purchasing an SSD.
What Is a PCIe SSD?
What is it about PCIe SSDs that make them more desirable and more expensive than SATA SSDs? Does it come down to performance? Yes, almost.
You can think of PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) as a more direct data connection to the motherboard.
It’s typically used with devices like graphics cards that also require extremely fast data connections, but PCIe has proven to be useful for data storage drives as well.
PCIe 3.0 has an effective transfer speed of 985 MB / s per lane, and since PCIe devices can support 1x, 4x, 8x, or 16x lanes, you expect a potential transfer speed of up to 15.76 GB / s. Not only that, but PCIe 4.0 doubles it to around 32 GB / s and PCIe 5.0 doubles it again, to a whopping 64 GB / s. This is way beyond the league of SATA SSDs!
But does that mean a PCIe SSD with 16x lanes is 25 times faster than a SATA SSD? In theory for sure, but you won’t find a consumer-grade SSD with so many data lanes.
Typically you will decide between 2x and 4x, which means a maximum transfer speed closer to 3.94 GB / s.
And yet, you’ll only notice the difference between PCIe and SATA when transferring HUGE files that take some time.
For example, if you’re playing a video game and just want faster loading speeds when launching a game or changing maps, both PCIe SSD and SATA SSD drives will work lightning fast.
PCIe SSDs tend to have poorer battery life. Let’s say you’re just browsing the web, working in Google Docs, sending emails, or doing something that requires only CPU or RAM. In this case, you won’t notice much of a difference between SATA and PCIe SSDs (as these actions don’t involve a lot of data transfer).
But if you constantly read and transfer data, PCIe SSDs use more power and use up your battery faster.
PCIe AHCI SSDs vs PCIe NVMe SSDs. If you ever have to choose between these two standards, go for NVMe. AHCI is older and was designed for both hard drives and SATA, which means a PCIe SSD using AHCI may not perform to its maximum potential. NVMe is designed specifically for use with PCIe, so it performs better.
For more information on NVMe, check out our guide on whether you should upgrade to NVMe or stick with SATA SSDs.
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.
The Advantages of PCIe SSDs Over SATA Drives
The interfaces on the computer’s motherboard operate at different speeds. Just like the internal components of a computer communicate faster than something connected via USB, there are different bandwidth limits for the internal interfaces.
SATA has been the main interface used to connect hard drives to the motherboard for several years. It works fine, and with conventional hard drives with a magnetic SATA platter, it cannot make the most of its transferability. However, SSD technology can. SATA relies on internal cables that run from the drive to ports on the motherboard. It’s not that straightforward, but it gets the job done and allows for flexibility in placing your disks.
PCIe is a high-speed interface used in components such as graphics cards that require enormous data bandwidth at very high speeds. PCIe devices plug into the motherboard and pass data more directly to the CPU at faster speeds. With PCIe, SSDs are more limited by their read and write ability than their ability to transfer data.
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.
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 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.
What is SATA?
SATA, or Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, is a frequently used interface in a computer system for data storage and communication with peripheral devices. SATA can be used to connect optical drives, including BluRay, as well as hard drives (HDD) and SSDs.
Over the course of nearly two decades, many iterations of the SATA standard have emerged. Modern systems heavily utilize SATA 3.x specifications. The basic SATA 3.0 standard provides a link bandwidth of 6 Gb / s.
While SATA and PCIe were two separate protocols in the past, the newer SATA Express standard as defined in the SATA v3.2 specification will allow the use of SSDs and connectors that can support both PCIe and SATA protocols.
SATA SSDs connect to computing devices through the SSD connector connected to the SSD port on the system motherboard.
PCIe SSD vs. SATA: the Differences
PCIe vs. SATA offers an interesting contrast of differences. The most basic questions to be answered are: Is PCIe faster? and what is the fastest SSD interface?
- Interface speed. PCIe provides a faster interface than SATA. An SSD connected via the PCIe 3.0 x16 interface can have a link speed of 16 Gb / s. In contrast, the SATA 3.0 standard only provides 6.0 Gb / s
- Compatibility. SATA is an older interface and can be used to connect hard drives and optical drives of different ages. PCIe SSDs are slightly newer and may not be compatible with all systems.
- Capacity. SATA SSDs are usually available in larger capacities, up to 4TB, while the top of PCIe SSDs are typically 2TB.
- Size. SATA SSDs typically fit into the same 2.5-inch physical enclosure that will fit traditional hard drives. The PCIe SSD, on the other hand, is physically connected to the motherboard slot interface.
- Cost. PCIe SSDs have a higher cost per gigabyte than SATA SSDs.
- Density. Modern motherboards usually have more available SATA ports to connect more drives in a given computing enclosure than have PCIe interfaces.
The implementation of SSDs became even more apparent in 2003 with the development of a low-latency computer expansion bus known as the PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) connector. PCIe is a bus characterized by high data transfer speeds and little or no slowdown.
Facts, figures and features
HDDs or spinning disks are still used in data centers because they are perceived to be reliable, cheap to replace and not wear out. Their performance, however, is limited (this technology is already 40 years old!). HDDs and SSDs only have one command queue and can send 32 commands per queue. NVMe has 64,000 command queues and can send 64,000 commands per queue. So it is clear that the simultaneous use of NVMe and PCIe would make sense in a data center where so much information is processed every second. PCIe communicates directly with the system processor as opposed to the SATA controller, so it essentially cuts off the middleman in accessing the information faster.
So what solutions are available? The combination of NVMe and PCIe is becoming increasingly popular, and technology leader Kingston can offer the DCP1000, named the world’s fastest SSD with read / write speeds of a staggering 6800/6000 MB / s – more than ten times faster than SATA SSDs. Additional features common to SSDs include power failure protection for safe shutdown in the event of a power failure without data loss and reduced risk of data corruption, 256-bit AES encryption, and extensive warranties essential in data centers. Read more about the different encryption levels here
SMART Tools will support IT entities in monitoring the health of PCIe SSDs; Reliability, use, remaining service life, wear level and temperature can be monitored so any early problems can be identified and resolved with minimal downtime.
The future certainly looks bright for NVMe PCIe technology, especially as 3D NAND memory enters commercial and industrial storage. Knowing the fast pace of our industry, we can almost certainly predict that powers and speeds will only increase.
Graham is the Marketing Manager of the Industrial & Embedded team and has a wealth of knowledge in the field with extensive experience in aviation, aerospace and defense.
Now, you should know what a PCIe SSD is and how to upgrade to a PCIe SSD without reinstalling the operating system. Did you make the switch to PCIe SSD? We are glad that you are sharing with us.
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 with 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.