NVMe SSD is faster than SATA solid state drives. If you have a gaming PC, it might have an M.2 slot for installing this small, high-performance drive.
Many people may not be familiar with computer hardware. We understand some intuitive things, such as speed and sensitivity. Especially for gamers, even a very short delay will have the consequences of failure.
As the hardware requirements continue to increase, the delays caused by SATA ssd are becoming more and more intolerable.
What is NVMe SSD and is it necessary?
What SSD performance boils down to is how quickly it lets you move data from storage (non-volatile, slower) to DRAM (volatile, faster).
The NVMe protocol – short for non-volatile memory express – was created to make the most out of solid state drives in combination with the PCI Express (PCIe) interface. Its predecessor AHCI (paired with SATA) was originally intended for mechanical hard drives. The newer protocol includes many efficiency improvements to deal with parallel transfers and the low-latency nature of SSDs. If you are new to NVMe and want a primer on the concept, start with this introduction by Intel.
When shopping for a new SSD, it’s important to remember that M.2 is just a form factor that says nothing of performance. Some M.2 SSDs operate over the SATA interface and have the same performance limitations as a 2.5″ drive. If you have a relatively modern motherboard, it most likely has a PCIe/NVMe-capable (and therefore much faster) M.2 slot, so this is the type of drive to look for.
What to Look for In an NVMe SSD
Believe it or not, today’s SSDs– despite their smaller form factor– can carry up to 4TB of storage space on a single drive. Still, finding the best NVMe SSD is trickier than it might appear. In this part of the guide, we’re going to discuss what you need to watch out for before you buy.
The sweet spot for price versus storage space is typically about 500GB to 1TB, but there are a lot of great options that have more space if it’s in your budget. A smaller drive with only 256GB is fine if you’re working on a tight budget and only need to speed up a few apps and files, but don’t bother with anything smaller than that. In general, try to buy a drive that has about 20 percent more capacity than you intend to use. Filling one of these drives to full capacity will actually tend to slow it down.
Before you buy an NVMe SSD, make absolutely sure that your computer actually supports this style of SSD. If your motherboard doesn’t have an open slot for an NVMe SSD you’re better off just buying a traditional SSD. Some older motherboards have M.2 slots that aren’t compatible with NVMe SSDs, so make sure to double-check. Additionally, some laptops have NVMe SSDs that are soldered to the motherboard, in which case you don’t have the option to upgrade yourself.
Read and write speed
In terms of performance, look primarily at how fast the drive can read and write. Bigger numbers are better, so a drive that reads at 3GB/s and writes at 2.5GB/s will be significantly faster than one that only reads at 1.2GB/s and writes at 900MB/s. Slow NVMe SSDs are still much faster than traditional hard drives, but you can pay a premium for truly impressive speeds.
Next, we have the interface, which is different from the form factor. This is the part that is used to connect your SSD into your laptop or desktop. For instance, PCIe SSD interfaces only fit in your desktop.
The SSD’s interface is the method it uses to connect with other components in your system (SATA, PCIe, SATAExpress, etc), as opposed to the form factor, which can be thought of as the size and shape of the drive.
SSDs come in a variety of different interfaces, based primarily on the performance requirements for that particular SSD and your system.
The Serial ATA (SATA) interface, which uses something called a blade-connector and requires a SATA cable, is used with 2.5” SSDs (and also HDDs). M.2 drives contain a single bladed-connector.
Our Top Picks:
|Samsung 970 Evo 1TB||0.87 x 3.15 x 0.9 in||1.92 ounces|
|WD Black NVMe SSD||0.87 x 3.15 x 0.09 in||0.27 ounce|
|Plextor M8Pe M.2||3.15 x 0.15 x 0.87 in||0.32 ounces|
|Adata XPG SX7000||3.15 x 0.87 x 0.14 in||0.28 ounce|
|Intel Optane SSD 900P||12.9 x 10.7 x 8.9 in||1.5 lbs|
The Samsung 970 EVO is the best NVMe SSD on the market, at least in our opinion.
As the successor to the Samsung 960 EVO series, the 970 Evo is arguably the representative of high-performance NVMe drives.
In contrast to the 960 EVO, it can be seen that the 970 EVO is mainly upgraded with a new Phoenix master. The flash has been upgraded from the previous 48-layer stack to the 64-layer stack, while the cache has been upgraded from the previous LPDDR3 to LPDDR4.
This has led to further improvements in performance, especially in terms of write speed and random performance growth, as well as a significant increase in reliability, a rise in data life from 400 TB to 600 TB, and a 50% increase in capacity.
More important for consumers, the warranty time of the 970 EVO series has also increased from the previous three years to five years, reaching the level of the Pro series, and the price is cheaper than the existing products.
The Black NVMe SSD is available in 250GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities. Of course, the most popular one is the 1TB version, because the mainstream products are now almost 1TB.
Compared to the first black standard WD Black PCIe SSD, the WD Black NVMe SSD uses the standard M.2 2280 specification, supports the NVME protocol, and uses a new master, which greatly improves the speed.
In addition, the layout puts the main control in the middle, and the flash granules are placed on both sides in order to improve the heat dissipation efficiency and facilitate the data channel wiring.
According to official data, the WD Black SSD can reach 1.2 joules/GB, which can reduce energy consumption by more than 25% compared to 1.5 joules/GB and 2 joules/GB of similar products.
Without a doubt, the Plextor M8Pe NVMe SSD is – despite its high price tag – a spectacular drive.
The M8Pe is Plextor’s top-of-the-line product, boasting the company’s best performance scores across the board.
Games load quickly and, even when gaming while performing another task on the side, my PC remains responsive. It’s safe to say this drive was designed with gamers in mind, especially those who like to multitask.
This storage device delivers a wonderfully smooth gaming experience, even when it comes face-to-face with games that require demanding read/write operations and processing. Although the Plextor M8Pe 512GB SSD is last on our list, it’s not last in our heart!
If you want a cheap M.2 NVMe, then Adata’s XPG SX7000 is one of the best options.
It is faster than any SATA drive. As long as you don’t plan to do a lot of random writes or remix IO, it’s a very cost-effective NVMe drive, perfect for gaming PCs.
In fact, whether you should spend a lot of money to buy the fastest SSD, after all, compared to mechanical hard drives, the price of the SX7000 is much higher.
If you want to assemble a new computer and want to avoid ugly chaotic cables, then this M.2 drive may be the best choice.
If you want the fastest solid state drive available today, Intel’s new Optane 900P is definitely one of them.
Its core secret is the 3D XPoint technology jointly developed by Intel and Micron, which is transformed from NAND technology and brings more benefits.
In fact, the speed of 3D XPoint is so fast that the 280GB model can achieve the highest performance, which is the same as the higher capacity 480GB.
However, if you don’t want more capacity, the 280GB model can be used as a faster boot disk and provide storage for your favorite games.
It should be noted that the Optane 900P is currently not suitable for notebook computers. It can only be used as a PCIe slot or a 2.5-inch U.2.
The beauty of SSDs, is that now there are high-performance SSD memory controllers available, basically anyone with the manufacturing facilities and access to high-speed NAND flash memory can build a great SSD. Addlink has proved that by pairing the widely available Phison controller with Toshiba’s 3D TLC memory and creating the impressive S70 drive.
It’s also managing to sell this performant SSD for an impressively low price too. It may not be quite as quick as the Samsung 970 EVO, but it’s not far off, and a good bit cheaper too.
The 1TB drive is great value too, but if you’re only after a relatively small 512GB SSD for a speedy boot drive, and as the home for your most oft-played games, the Addlink S70 is a great shout.
SK hynix’s Gold P31 touts market leadership as the first retail SSD product to launch with 128L NAND flash. With SK hynix’s newest NAND reaching incredible bit density, the Gold P31 hits the market at very low pricing. Listed at just $75 and $135 for the 500GB and 1TB models, respectively, the Gold P31 is a fantastic value that will make you think twice about spending that extra $25-$50 on the Samsung 970 EVO Plus.
SK hynix’s Gold P31 is very well suited for those looking to increase their laptop storage not only to gain capacity but to gain battery life, too. While Adata’s SX8200 Pro performs well against the Gold P31 in benchmarking, the SK hynix is much more power-efficient, which will lead to longer off-the-charger sessions.
But, while the Adata is the better buy for desktops and the SK hynix is best for laptops, the Gold P31’s much stronger write performance and ultra-high efficiency make it the better well-rounded choice for many users.
Laptop users who don’t need more than a terabyte of storage and prioritize battery life should definitely put the new SK hynix Gold P31 at the top of their drive list.
If you are looking for the fastest possible storage device for your PCIe Gen4-capable system, Samsung’s 980 PRO is the current performance leader. The 980 PRO and its proprietary Elpis controller outperform the competing range of Phison-based SSDs by a sizeable margin – reaching speeds of up to 7,000 MB/s (sequential read) and 5,000 MB/s (sequential write), as well as up to 1,000,000 IOPS in the 4K random read/write areas.
In spite of its name, the 980 PRO is more of a successor to the 970 EVO Plus than to the 970 PRO. Previously, the entire PRO lineup has been based on higher-end MLC (multi-level cell) NAND memory chips.
With the 980 PRO, Samsung instead makes the transition to cost-effective TLC (triple-level cell) NAND. Outside extremely storage-intensive workloads this will make little difference, but it should be noted that the endurance rating is lower than the 970 PRO (and also lower than the Phison drives listed below).
Team Group’s T-Force Cardea Zero Z340 SSD isn’t much more expensive than most entry-level M.2 SSDs. Still, with the latest mainstream hardware under the hood, it’s a good choice for gamers looking to stretch their budget a bit for something more consistent and reliable.
The drive offers a good bang-for-your-buck upgrade or a good option for those planning their next PC. It’s a responsive SSD that not only offers up multi-gigabyte performance; it’s rated for killer write endurance over its five-year warranty period. Plus, it comes with a slick graphene and copper label to handle heavy workloads without overheating, even without airflow in our test system. If you want to use a heatsink with your M.2, the label won’t prevent it like the heatsinks on some SSDs, like Patriot’s Viper series.
In our testing, we found that the combination of the Phison E12S controller and Micron 96L flash performed fairly well. Notably, the drive delivers faster performance than the older hardware powering the Seagate FireCuda 510 and is more efficient, too. But it isn’t the best of the best.
If you’re looking for great value for the long haul, then the Adata XPG SX8200 Pro SSD is one of the best M.2 SSDs you’re going to find.
It has respectably-high sequential read and write speeds compared to its nearest competitors, the WD Black SN750 and Samsung 970 EVO Plus, but it’s the SSD’s outstanding durability that defines it. With an MTBF rating of 2,000,000 hours and a TBW score of 1280 at 2TB – the highest TBW of the PCIe 3.0 M.2s on the list – and 160 at 256GB. It also has a 5-year warranty, so no matter the capacity you buy, it will keep hustling along, even if it’s a tad bit slower than the rest.
Where it does fall short compared to the SN750 and the 970 EVO Plus – by a good bit, in fact – is its random access speeds. The XPG SX8200 Pro is a little under half as fast as the two competing SSDs, so if you use batch programming to generate a lot of new files for work, like invoices or database entries, then you might notice that the XPG SX8200 lags somewhat. That isn’t most people, though, who will find the XPG SX8200 Pro more than fast enough for general use, gaming, and creative work.
Best NVMe SSD FAQs
How do we test NVMe SSDs?
We put every SSD we get in the PC Gamer labs through their paces in various benchmarks made up of a mix of synthetic tests and real-world applications. To ascertain a drives sequential throughput, we use ATTO SSD Benchmark for compressible data (a best-case scenario) and AS SSD for incompressible data (more realistic). We also test random throughput with AS SSD and a combination of CrystalDiskMark 7.0 and Anvil Pro.
When it comes to the real-world tests, we time how long it takes to copy a 30GB game install across the drive and use PCMark10 and Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, which includes a level load test. We also check operating temperatures to ensure that the drive isn’t getting too hot and throttling.
Can I fit an NVMe SSD on my motherboard?
The M.2 socket has been included on motherboards of all kinds for many years now, so the chances are that there’s a spare slot sitting inside your existing gaming PC. Check out your motherboard’s specs page online before pulling the trigger on an NVMe SSD purchase, though, to be sure. Those harboring a board that’s a few years old now, do yourself a favor and make sure it supports booting from an NVMe drive first. Not all older motherboards do, especially if you’re going back multiple CPU generations (maybe a full upgrade’s due, if so).
Will it Work on my Laptop/Desktop PC?
In order for the aforementioned drives to work with your computer, it must have the proper slot and support for PCIe/NVMe. But there may be exceptions: Even without an M.2 slot on your (desktop) motherboard, you may still be able to use one in a full-size PCIe x4 slot using an adapter. But if you want to run your OS from the drive, your motherboard must still support booting from PCIe, which is no guarantee with older motherboards.
All recent, high-end ATX-size motherboards, on the other hand, include at least one M.2 slot and will be able to run a modern SSD at PCIe 3.0 speeds at a minimum. With an older board, you might not be so lucky. In any event, it’s always best to check the manual before buying a new drive.