If you are thinking of creating a new PC or updating an existing one, whether it is desktop or portable, the bet to cover internal storage inevitably goes through an NVMe SSD. Or several if you need more capacity / performance and your budget allows it.
Hard drives have been a bottleneck for the performance of personal computers. A fast processor and a high-level graphics card were of little use if the storage unit penalized the movement of the data. The solid state drives came to fix the problem and the truth is that they have been one of the most important hardware improvements in recent years.
The benefits are direct and immediate in terms of performance, in the time it takes for the operating system to start, in the launch of applications, in file transfers on the drive itself or to other internal or external ones, and in recovering the computer from sleep modes. Its advantages are also transferred to other sections such as consumption, heat emission or emitted noise that is null when not using moving parts such as hard drives.
Although the first models of the beginning of the decade were not exempt from operational problems, current models have also improved this section and today an SSD offers a resistance to failures and durability equal to or greater than hard drives. Finally, the decrease in the cost of the NAND flash memories on which they are based has lowered its price per GB, although this is the only section where hard drives still dominate.
What is NVMe SSD?
The first consumer solid state drives were marketed in the standard 2.5-inch form factor (the same used by small hard drives) and connected to the SATA interface, the most widely used and supported. The industry soon proposed other physical formats and a more advanced interface to increase the potential of SSDs.
NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express It is an interface created from scratch that allows SSDs and other components to run directly through the physical interface PCI Express (the only bus for the future of the PC in the medium term) and take advantage of its advantages, such as direct connection to the processor of a computer, something SATA can’t do.
Modern NVMe SSDs have the ability to be self-starting, allowing you to completely dispense with other storage units, although you can work perfectly with them. It is a strategy that many users have followed, combining them with other SATA or even hard drives to add to the performance of these NVMe, greater storage capacity at lower cost.
M.2, connected to NVMe but a different thing
Alongside the NVMe interface, a new form factor for solid state drives has arrived in recent years. They are connected, although they should not be confused because they are different things and M.2 refers to the format and physical size. In fact, this form factor distributed in small modules, is also used for other types of components such as Wi-Fi and, in addition, there are other M.2 for storage connected to SATA. Of the latter, very few units were sold and have practically disappeared.
M.2 has been designed with an eye toward minimizing unit size. Its connector is rectangular, they can occupy one or both sides to mount the memory chips and they are offered in various versions depending on their width and length. Although NVMe is also used in other form factors such as typical PCIe cards and even in 2.5 ″ drives for the business market, these M.2s have brought additional benefits to NVMe SSDs.
Three great advantages of NVMe SSD
All of the above should already give you a basic idea of the advantages of a type of solid state drives that should be the first option when building new equipment or updating existing ones. As long as they have support for this, it is understood, because not all old computers have this type of M.2 connectors or support for NVMe.
M.2 NVME SSD and 2.5 ″ SATA SSD on the same board
In new laptops or motherboards for desktop you will find them. On Intel platforms for the PCIe 3.0 interface and on modern AMD boards the PCIe 4.0. The best boards will offer you multiple connectors so you can mount multiple NVMe SSDs and take advantage of additional RAID.
The NVMe interface is much faster than SATA and enables significant performance improvements for both read and write. As an example, faster SATA drives offer sequential reads / writes in the 550/500 Mbytes per second environment, practically at the limit of what the interface can offer.
Compared to them, NVMe PCIe can multiply that speed by six, exceeding 3,000 Mbytes per second. PCIe 4.0 connected SSDs can achieve massive performance of 6,000 Mbytes per second and its potential is immense since the new version PCIe 5.0 will arrive in the coming years. This results in a noticeable improvement in any type of task, faster cold start or restart times, file transfers, activities such as file compression and decompression, or photo and video editing.
Latency is also improved. A modern NVMe SSD offers values between 300 and 500 µs in readings and 1 to 2 ms in write. This means that the time it takes for these units to search for the data you need is substantially shorter. This translates to ultra-low transactional latency for large data sets.
2.- Physical space and weight
Another great advantage of these solid state drives is their low footprint, with minimal size and space. A typical NVMe (M.2 2280) SSD has a size of 80mm x 22mm x 3.5mmwhile a SATA SSD occupies 100.1mm x 69.85mm x 7mm. In addition, its weight is four times less, 10 grams compared to 40 grams for a 2.5-inch SATA.
This makes them an excellent option for all types of laptops and convertibles or mini PCs, but also for desktop computers since another advantage is that they are punctured directly on the motherboard and they do not need to occupy another space, or use power or data cables.
Mention that the M.2 format is offered in other dimensions and so you can find sizes in width of 12, 16, 22 or 30 millimeters and lengths of 16, 26, 30, 38, 42, 60, 80 or 110 mm. Not all of these formats are used for storage as mentioned above. You should have no problem at the time of purchase. Look for the M.2 2280 (22 x 80 mm) as they are the most used and supported by NVMe SSDs.
3.- Energy efficiency
NVMe SSDs consume a negligible amount of power, making them ideal for all types of especially ultraportable computers or tablets. When they are inactive they consume values of 0.0032W, while in average use they only need 0.08W. A SATA SSD can consume 0.195W in standby mode and 0.279W in operation. A hard disk multiplies this consumption value several times.
The lower energy consumption also translates into another benefit: less heat generated. In this section it is worth commenting that some NVMe SSDs have suffered from high temperatures depending on their location in the equipment. Today’s mid-range motherboards up, usually include their own heat dissipation systems for these units.
In summary. If you have a computer that supports NVMe SSD, do not hesitate. Its advantages are appreciable in performance, size or consumption to build a new PC or upgrade an existing one. They are still more expensive than SATA SSDs, so if your budget is small you can choose the strategy mentioned above and that many users have followed.
Buy a low-capacity drive to use as a head unit for the most used operating system and applications and take advantage of SATA SSDs (or even hard drives) while waiting for price drops from higher-capacity NVMe SSDs.
If your budget allows, the most advanced motherboards under AMD platforms offer 2 and 3 slots available to install M.2 solid state drives in RAID and under the PCIe 4.0 interface. It is the most advanced in the internal storage market and a performance guarantee to equip the best personal computers.