NVMe vs SATA SSD: Which is better to Buy

Hello friends. In this post, we will consider which is better – NVMe SSD or SATA SSD, which type of drive to choose. SSD NVMe, aka SSD M.2, working via PCI-E interface with support for NVMe technology, is a high-speed solid-state drive with read and write speeds achieved by certain models on the PCI-E 3.0 interface, respectively, 3500 MB / s and 3300 Mb / s. On the PCI-E 4.0 interface, these speeds can reach 7000 Mb / s and 5000 Mb / s, respectively. But all these are speeds in synthetic tests, but is there a lot of use from NVMe SSDs in practice? How much cooler it is than a regular 2.5 SATA SSD, which does not require an M.2 slot on the computer, or PCI-E-M.2 adapters with the risks of BIOS modification, and which can be installed on any PC or laptop, even an old one DDR2 generation and with SATA II ports. In the comments to one of the articles on SSDs, you asked to talk about the practical benefits of NVMe SSDs. Well, let’s talk about all this.

nvme vs sata ssd
nvme vs sata ssd

NVMe Vs SATA SSD: which drive to choose

So, NVMe SSD, aka M.2 SSD with PCI-E interface (mainly PCI-E 3.0 x4 or PCI-E 4.0 x4) and support for NVMe – a data access technology originally developed specifically for solid-state drives, taking into account their features, with an emphasis on concurrent access and minimizing latency. Such drives are the near future of computer storage, so close that inexpensive NVMe SSDs cost as much as good SATA SSDs for the price. What is NVMe SSD, about its technical and technological features? 

Below, we will consider NVMe SSD only in light of its differences and advantages over SATA SSD.

NVMe SSD or SATA M.2 SSD

An M.2 SATA SSD has absolutely no advantages over NVMe SSDs, apart from minor price concessions. SATA M.2 SSDs do not have NVMe and are limited to SATA III bandwidth up to 600MB / s. This is the storage format of the intermediate period in the development of computer devices. Like its predecessor mSATA, which has already sunk into oblivion, SATA M.2 was invented for laptops, in order to make the drive smaller in size and lighter in 2.5 form factor due to the M.2 form factor.

Implementation of M.2 slot with SATA interface on desktops, i.e. on PC motherboards is meaningless, but so far this phenomenon has a place to be. For desktops, M.2 slots with support for PCI-E 3.0 4x, or even PCI-E 4.0 4x for high-speed NVMe SSDs, are relevant today.

check out a detailed article on M.2 Vs 2.5 SATA SSD.

SSD NVMe or SSD SATA 2.5

Another thing is a SATA SSD in the 2.5 form factor, which is connected via both the SATA interface and the SATA connector on the computer. This over SSD NVMe, again, apart from minor concessions in price, over SSD NVMe has one huge advantage – SATA 2.5 SSD can be installed on any PC and laptop.

Friends, to any computer (!). We can install a SATA 2.5 SSD even on an old PC or laptop with only SATA II support, resigning ourselves to the fact that the linear data processing speed will not exceed 300 MB / s. Well, on the SATA III interface we will get linear speeds up to 600 Mb / s.The only advantage of SATA SSDs is based on the fact that not every device has an M.2 PCI-E slot yet. The evolution of computer hardware over time will make this advantage of SATA SSDs negligible. However, so far we have what we have … So, full-fledged operation of high-speed NVMe SSDs is possible only on modern motherboards for PCs and laptops:

  • With an M.2 slot that works with at least PCI-E 3.0 and its four lanes (x4);
  • With support for NVMe technology at the BIOS level;
  • With support for storage by computer processor: Intel processors support all, but not all AMD processors support M.2 PCI-E 3.0.

On computers without M.2 slots, you can install a high-speed NVMe SSD only through a special adapter-adapter (PCI-E-M.2), but there are some snags:

  • An adapter adapter (PCI-EM.2) is an additional expense in the process of purchasing an NVMe drive. The cost of a more or less good such device is from 800 rubles;
  • Installing an adapter adapter is not possible on many laptops that do not have a PCI-E slot;
  • Your PC motherboard may not have 3 or more, but only 2 PCI-E slots, where you can connect an adapter adapter (PCI-EM.2). But, friends, it often happens that a large video card is connected in one of the PCI-E slots, blocking access to the second PCI-E slot. Those. connecting an adapter adapter may be physically impossible. And for adapter adapters, only slots with x4, x8, x16 lines are suitable;
  • The very implementation of the PCI-E interface on old and even relatively such can be a maximum of version 2.0, and then the speed potential of NVMe SSD will be cut by the boundary bandwidth of the PCI-E 2.0 interface. So, PCI-E 2.0 with four lanes (x4) has a border bandwidth of 2000 Mb / s. But this is the boundary bandwidth. Take a look at the Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe drive in PCI-E 3.0 and PCI-E 2.0 mode. The eight-line linear read / write speed on PCI-E 2.0 reaches 1700+ MB / s. Whereas on the PCI-E 3.0 interface, this speed is, respectively, more than 3500 Mb / s and 2300 Mb / s. Of course, there is still a reason to install such a drive, even with a speed limit of up to 1800 Mb / s. But you must take into account such nuances so as not to overpay for the potential of the drive itself,
  • An important aspect of the operation of high-speed NVMe SSDs is the computer’s support for NVMe technology. If it is not implemented natively, the drive connected via an adapter adapter will serve only as a data store and work through the old AHCI data transfer protocol. The operating system will not be able to boot from such a drive. In order for it to boot and work with NVMe, you need to update or modify the BIOS to support NVMe technology. And this is not possible for all motherboards. Not every manufacturer has implemented a BIOS update with NVMe support for old motherboards, and the BIOS modification process by a third-party NVMe support implementation has risks: if the process fails, the BIOS, as well as the motherboard itself, will be inoperative.

If you want to install an NVMe SSD through an adapter, please study this topic carefully: research if your computer has a PCI-E slot for installing the device, find out the PCI-E specifications on your computer, find out if you can update or modify the BIOS to support NVMe.

Considering the nuances of the adapter, it is possible to speak fully about the advantages of NVMe SSDs over SATA SSDs only in relation to modern computers with a native implementation of the M.2 PCI-E slot and with native NVMe support.

NVMe Vs SATA SSD: Pros and Cons

So what are the advantages of NVMe SSDs over SATA SSDs? And what are the real benefits?

NVMe Vs SATA SSD: Data processing speed

The most important advantage of NVMe SSDs over SATA SSDs is the speed of reading and writing data, while NVMe SSDs have much higher speeds. When reading data linearly, NVMe SSDs can outperform SATA SSDs by more than 6 times, and that’s only on PCI-E 3.0. Linear data recording is a weak point of many SATA SSDs, even in synthetic tests it often does not exceed 350 M / s, in fact, after the cache resource is exhausted, it sags to 170-200 MB / s. But NVMe SSD also has an advantage in random processing of files with a small weight – 2 times. Here, friends, take a look at the tests of two top SSDs from Samsung – the Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe drive and the Samsung 860 EVO SATA 2.5.

ssd nvme or ssd sata 2.5
ssd nvme or ssd sata 2.5

But these are synthetic tests, but what in reality? In the process of normal copying of a large file within the same NVMe SSD, Samsung 970 EVO Plus, of course, did not develop such speed as in the synthetic test, but it made the old Kingston SATA SSD on MLC memory with a speed advantage of almost 4 times – 1350 Mb / s versus 344 Mb / s. Plus, Kingston’s copy speed subsequently dropped to 170MB / s, while the Samsung 970 EVO Plus was stable throughout the operation.

This is where the significant benefits of NVMe SSDs for the average user end. Without working with resource-intensive programs, it is far from always possible to distinguish the operation of the operating system on NVMe and SATA drives by the sensations alone. Not even every modern hardware will reveal the potential of NVMe SSDs, because the processor and RAM also play an important role in the speed of a computer. When you change the type of solid-state drive, there will definitely not be those striking and clearly tangible changes, as when replacing a slow HDD with it. Even in Windows 10 startup time, the NVMe SSD outperformed the SATA SSD in our test by just 2 seconds. On an NVMe SSD, Windows 10 started in 32 seconds.

On a SATA SSD, an exact clone of the same Windows 10 started in 34 seconds.

The NVMe SSD won one second when loading the system core and one second when loading the user profile. Comprehensively and simplified, the advantages of NVMe SSD in different systems and user tasks look like this.

If you want to know about what is Samsung Rapid Mode and everything about rapid mode.

Advantages of NVMe SSD over SATA SSD in different tasks on the computer

Windows startupWindows loads faster on NVMe SSDs, startup times can be 25-30% faster than SATA SSDs.
Launching programsHow much faster programs load on NVMe SSDs depends on them, on their complexity. But in most cases, the advantages of NVMe SSDs over SATA SSDs are negligible.

Games The advantage of NVMe SSDs only at the stage of the game launch, sometimes can reach a double reduction in the launch time. But in some games, the launch times are the same on both NVMe SSDs and SATA SSDs. 
Copying dataOn SSDs, NVMe can potentially be up to 6x faster.
Working with hypervisorsOn SSD NVMe: Virtual operating systems are noticeably faster than SATA SSDs;
A full installation of virtual Windows 10 takes 20 minutes, while on a SATA SSD it takes at least 30 minutes;
Creating a fixed virtual disk is 2-4 times faster than a SATA SSD; Pausing and resuming a virtual machine is instantaneous, while on a SATA SSD, we still see a progress bar of these operations.
Rendering videoThe benefits of NVMe SSDs are negligible.

NVMe Vs SATA SSD: M.2 Slot

M.2 slots are more reliable than SATA ports as mechanical SSD connections. They are integrated into the motherboard and eliminate the presence of problems, like with a SATA 2.5 SSD, due to damage to the power cable and SATA cable, or loosening of their connectors.

Connecting an NVMe SSD to an M.2 slot of a PC is very easy, you don’t need to be a computer scientist to do this. It is also easy to install an NVMe SSD into the M.2 slot of the laptop. For notebooks of any type, the M.2 drive is notable for the fact that it does not take up space for a 2.5 drive. The small M.2 form factor is ideal for Ultrabooks and other small portable devices.

NVMe Vs SATA SSD: Price 

SSD NVMe is becoming more affordable every day. Today, the cost of a SATA SSD is only slightly less than an NVMe SSD. So, the price of SATA 2.5 drives with a volume of 480-512 GB (it is simply unprofitable to take a smaller volume today) starts.

It’s just that the SATA 2.5 SSD market has a wider selection of bottom devices, which we still won’t buy, having examined them with the naked eye.

Readout differences between NVMe X4 Vs X2 Slot SSD, we have also prepared different tests and results.

NVMe SSD vs. SATA SSD: which is better

So which is better, an NVMe SSD or a SATA SSD? Well, of course, SSD NVMe, but it is an NVMe-drive with support for PCI-E 3.0 x4 or 4.0 x4. Others – with support for PCI-E 2.0 or PCI-E 3.0 x2 – are simply irrelevant in the future. But this is provided that your computer has native support for the M.2 PCI-E and NVMe slot. If you only have one M.2 slot, get a minimum of 500GB NVMe storage and take full advantage of this device. Do not be led by the stereotype that you need to take a 120 GB SSD only under Windows, times are changing.