NVMe M.2 SSD is the latest in computer hard drive technology. What is it and how fast is it vs. legacy Hard Drives and Solid State Drives (SSD)?
You already know what a Solid State Drive (SSD) is and probably have one installed in your laptop or Chromebook. Compared to a traditional spinning hard drive, an SSD is much faster — which is why we recommend installing an SSD as the best way to improve the performance of an older desktop or laptop computer. That is until we started playing around with the new SSD standard – the NVMe M.2 SSD.
What is an NVMe M.2 SSD
The new way to increase your PC’s performance is by installing an NVMe M.2 SSD. NVMe stands for “Non-Volatile Memory Express” and is the newest protocol for accessing high-speed storage media and it has several advantages compared to legacy protocols. An NVMe drive is also an SSD, but instead of connecting it via a SATA III cable, it plugs directly into the motherboard via the M.2 PCIe slot, or into a traditional PCIe slot using an M.2 PCIe Adapter. The M.2 part refers to the form factor and how the drive connects to the motherboard. Surprisingly, the drive is only about the size of a stick of RAM. And while an SSD will drastically improve the performance over a traditional spinning hard drive, an NVMe M.2 is blazing fast in comparison. Think of it as SSD 2.0!
How fast is an NVMe SSD?
Here’s the high-level detail on the SPEC for each of the drive types available for home PCs:
- Traditional 7200 RPM HDD: 160 MB/s
- SATA III SSD: 600 MB/s
- NVME M.2 SSD: 3500 MB/s
Obviously, the NVME SSD speeds blow the others away. But when deciding to add one or not, you also need to take the other major components of your computer into account. For example, if you have an older PC with a third-gen Core i3, 4 GB of RAM, and integrated graphics, you’re not going to be able to get the advantages of the speed the NVMe M.2 SSD drive provides. Additionally, given that the tech is still fairly new, you will also be paying a premium for an NVMe M.2 SSD drive vs. the legacy SATA III SSD drive. However, if what you’re looking for is the best, and you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, the new NVMe M.2 SSD drives are the way to go.
If you want to upgrade, be sure to confirm your motherboard has the M.2 port or a spare PCIe slot for the adapter. If you’re not sure what kind of slots you have open on your computer, refer to the manual or manufacturer’s site. Or, you can use the free tool Speccy from Piriform. Piriform is the team that created another very popular utility, CCleaner.
Which NVMe M.2 SSD Should I Buy?
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re looking to upgrade your computer and improve performance, your first purchase should be a new NVMe M.2 SSD (hard drive). The drive I prefer and recommend as of May 2020 is the Samsung 970 EVO Plus. The 2TB model is the best value but the 1TB is also amazing. Adding one of these will blow through through the 600 MB/s limitations of SSD SATA cables. By plugging directly into the motherboard, an NVMe M.2 drive provides read/write speeds of 3,500 MB/s and faster – which obviously blows away a typical SSD. If you have one installed on your computer, let us know how much of a performance boost you received. Or, if you haven’t installed one yet, read our guide on how to install one.