NVMe vs SSD – What’s the Difference?

NVMe vs SSD

Understanding the difference between NVMe vs SSD is important if you’re searching for a digital storage solution.

A solid-state drive (SSD) storage device can significantly speed up your computer and provide space for your files. Non-volatile memory express (NVMe) data transfer technology, meanwhile, is used with some SSDs.

Choosing the right drive can be confusing, but considering how expensive storage can be, it’s important to pick wisely. In this guide, we’ll explain the differences between SSD and NVMe storage to help you pick the right drive for your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • SSDs offer internal and external storage on chips with no moving parts.
  • There are two types of SSDs – SATA SSDs that connect to your computer’s motherboard with a SATA cable and M.2 SSDs that connect directly to the motherboard using a dedicated slot.
  • NVMe is a data transfer protocol used for M.2 SSDs. It offers data speeds that are more than ten times faster than SATA SSDs.
  • NVMe SSDs are much more expensive than SATA SSDs, so it’s important to consider your budget and whether speed is important for your application.

How Does SSD Work?

A solid-state drive, or SSD, is a type of computer storage device that stores data on chips. Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs don’t have any moving parts, making them more reliable and less likely to experience mechanical failures that can result in data loss.

SSDs are also able to read and write data faster than HDDs, speeding up your computer’s operations. They’re now commonly used in new computers and on servers, although they remain more expensive than HDDs.

SSDs need to be connected to your computer’s motherboard to transmit data. There are two types of SSDs, and they connect to your computer’s motherboard in different ways.

SATA SSDs

Most older SSDs use a connection standard known as Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA). SATA SSDs can be inside your computer and attached with a cable to the SATA port on your computer’s motherboard.

They can also be designed as external drives. In this case, data is transferred through a USB port to your motherboard’s SATA port.

M.2 SSDs

These are smaller drives designed to connect directly to your computer’s motherboard through a dedicated M.2 slot, known as a Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) slot.

M.2 SSDs don’t use a SATA port or cables, and they’re typically only available as internal drives. They’re also smaller and use less power than SATA SSDs, making them popular for laptops. However, M.2 SSDs tend to be much more expensive.

How Does NVMe Work?

Non-volatile memory express, or NVMe, is a type of data transfer protocol available for M.2 SSDs that connect to your computer’s motherboard through a PCIe slot. NVMe is a technology available for some types of SSDs rather than an alternative to SSDs.

NVMe offers incredibly fast connection speeds. An M.2 SSD with NVMe can transfer data at 7GB per second, compared to 600MB per second for a SATA SSD.

Today, most M.2 SSDs use the NVMe transfer protocol. It’s well-suited to high-performance applications like video editing and gaming. It’s also used in many powerful data servers, including those offered by web hosting providers.

SATA vs NVMe SSDs – Which Is Right for You?

Hard drives
Hard drives

The main choice you need to make when deciding on an SSD is whether you want a SATA drive or an M.2 drive with NVMe. While SATA technology is older and slower, it does still have some advantages. Below, we explore some of the key factors to consider.

Speed

M.2 NVMe SSDs can transfer data at more than ten times the speed of SATA SSDs. If you need high-performance computing, such as for gaming or data processing, upgrading to an NVMe SSD can make a huge difference.

Internal vs External Storage

If you need an external storage drive, it makes sense to choose a SATA SSD. This is because when you connect your drive through a USB port, you lose most of the speed advantage that the NVMe protocol offers.

In addition, SATA SSDs are much cheaper, so it typically makes sense to use these drives if you need external storage.

Compatibility

It’s important to consider what types of drives your computer’s motherboard is compatible with and how many PCIe slots it has.

If your motherboard only has one PCIe slot and it’s already in use, you’ll have to connect any additional M.2 NVMe drives with a SATA cable, losing most of the speed benefits. The good news is that most motherboards now come with two or more PCIe slots, giving you the space needed to connect an extra NVMe SSD.

Some older motherboards lack PCIe slots entirely, however. In this case, you’ll need to connect your SSD with a SATA cable – so you can save money by choosing a SATA SSD instead of an NVMe SSD.

Storage capacity

SATA SSDs are typically available with storage capacities of up to 16TB, and you can find specialty drives with capacities of up to 64TB. In contrast, NVMe SSDs are typically available with 2TB to 4TB of storage. Specialty NVMe SSDs have 8TB to 16TB of storage capacity, but these tend to be very expensive.

If you need a lot of storage space, a SATA SSD may make more sense than an NVMe SSD.

Cost

For widely available models, SATA SSDs generally cost around half as much as NVMe SSDs. In addition, if you need more than 4TB of storage space, the difference in cost grows dramatically as NVMe drives become much more expensive.

Summary – What’s the Difference Between NVMe and SSD?

There are two types of SSDs – SATA SSDs, which connect to your computer’s motherboard with a cable, and M.2 SSDs, which connect directly using a PCIe slot.

M.2 SSDs use the NVMe data transfer protocol to reach speeds ten times faster than SATA SSDs, but they’re much more expensive and have less storage capacity. You, hence, need to consider how important speed is to you and how much you’re willing to spend when choosing between SATA and NVMe SSDs.

Check out our guide to the best external hard drives for more help choosing the right storage solution for your computer.

FAQs

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Michael Graw

Michael Graw is an experienced writer in the business and B2B tech fields. His articles can be found on Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Tom’s Guide, and TechRadar, and cover everything from corporate finance to crypto and international tech regulation. A prolific copywriter and entrepreneur, Michael has worked with a wide range of SaaS and tech companies and has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech and finance.