Computer enthusiasts of all stripes and skill levels are probable familiar with common hard drive form factors like the large and beefy three.5” mechanical hard disk (or HDD) and the slimmer and smaller two.5” solid state drive (SSD). If yous know nigh HDDs and SSDs, you lot likely also know most the SATA (or Serial AT Attachment) figurer bus interface that’s typically used to connect drives to the estimator’due south motherboard. And though these remain the most common form factors and connection options, M.two and NVMe drives are becoming more popular in modern PC builds.
At present, to be clear, G.2 and NVMe aren’t interchangeable terms, but they are closely linked. In this explainer, we’ll break down exactly what Chiliad.2 and NVMe are, where they differ, and how they can ultimately do good your next PC build.
The M.2 Grade Factor
The M.2 class gene (formerly known as the Next Generation Grade Factor, or NGFF) is a more than modern type of internally mounted expansion bill of fare that replaces the previous mSATA (Mini-SATA) standard. Dissimilar standard HDDs and SSDs, M.ii drives aren’t connected to a motherboard via a cable, they’re instead plugged directly into the motherboard using a dedicated Yard.2 connector slot.
Depending on its type and functionality, an M.2 drive can make use of either the standard SATA interface or the faster PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) interface, merely in both cases it plugs directly into the motherboard. Since they fold downward and prevarication flush with the motherboard once they’re continued rather than jutting out like a graphics card or RAM chip (or a traditional HDD or SSD), M.2 drives permit for a cleaner, less chaotic PC interior with fewer cables to manage.
Certain desktop PC peripherals like wi-fi cards can come in the M.2 form factor, simply the almost common use for K.two is SSD data storage, basically performance as an alternative to the existing 2.5” storage drives that are mounted in a split up bay so connected to the motherboard via a SATA cable. Information technology’southward important to note that M.2 SSDs which apply the SATA interface aren’t really faster than standard ii.5” drives, they just take up less space and wait cleaner. If yous desire faster speeds, yous’ll take to make certain your Thousand.2 drive is utilizing the NVMe interface protocol.
The NVMe Interface Protocol
NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express, and it refers to the manner in which data is moved, rather than the shape of the drive itself. The chief way in which it differs from the existing SATA standard is that information technology draws on your motherboard’s PCIe interface to obtain noticeably faster information transfer speeds than what SATA is capable of. Depending on your NVMe drive’s manufacturer, you tin can see speeds as much as five or 6 times faster than a SATA-based equivalent.
In that location are some NVMe drives that are designed to fit into a standard PCIe motherboard slot much like a graphics card, but most NVMe drives use the M.ii form factor. Also, given their faster speeds, NVMe drives typically cost more than their standard two.5” SSD equivalents, like to how SSDs ordinarily cost more than mechanical HDDs for the same amount of storage space.
If you’re planning on going with an M.2 drive while building or upgrading your gaming PC, it’southward important to note whether yous’re getting a SATA-based bulldoze or an NVMe-based bulldoze. Your motherboard might not have the appropriate M.2 slots for both types (SATA and NVMe Chiliad.ii drives are often keyed slightly differently), and even if it does, you don’t want to waste money on a pricier NVMe bulldoze if the motherboard y’all’ve chosen tin only access data using the SATA protocol (not every motherboard allows for PCIe data transfers).
Speaking of price, it’southward too worth mentioning that the speed heave granted through the NVMe protocol mainly simply applies to sequential data reads and writes rather than random reads and writes. What this means is that yous’ll really but see a noticeable boost in speed if you’re using your PC for specific heavy-lifting tasks similar editing 4K video footage or regularly transferring big amounts of information from one drive to another. Random reads and writes on an NVMe drive are technically a bit faster than what you’ll get on a SATA drive, but if all you’re using your PC for is gaming and/or everyday tasks, y’all really don’t accept to spring for a more expensive NVMe M.two drive.
Finding The Right M.2 Bulldoze For Your Upkeep
Once y’all understand your needs, you lot can starting time browsing One thousand.two SATA drives and Thousand.2 NVMe drives. Again, if gaming and standard computer apply are your only concerns, you should be fine going with an M.two SATA drive. If, all the same, you lot want to clasp every final ounce of computing speed out of your rig or y’all plan on doing anything that requires fast sequential read and write speeds, information technology’s worth going for an NVMe drive.
M.two and NVMe drives are becoming more popular – and cheaper – all the time, and as of 2020 they’re on the verge of becoming the standard recommendation for new PC builds. While you can salve a little bit of money past going with a traditional HDD or SSD, the difference isn’t very much – and for many builders it volition exist worth spending a piddling flake more to have the latest tech and cut down on in-example clutter.