Is M.2 SSD Worth It?

by Paul | Last Updated: July 10, 2021

Enabling storage expansion with a small form factor. Is no longer foreign that the design of storage devices especially internal/external drives is evolving with a focus to improve speed and reduce size. Using drives usually means there will be the use of a cumbersome connection but as technology improves this is gradually phasing out.

Is M.2 SSD worth it?

Yes, it is. M.2 SSD is a representation of storage devices that manufacturers shrink the size without sacrificing speed. It uses PCI express and faster ones use the newest versions of PCIe. Let us look at what m.2 really is and its benefits. The size and ample storage that this hardware provides is great for people who value portable computing systems.

What is M.2 SSD?

Expanding the capacity of computer storage is rampant especially for gamers and the group of “Tech lords” that love to build their personal computers from scratch. There are two categories of internal drives: Hard Disk drive and Solid State Drive.

The M.2 SSD falls into the latter category, it is a flash memory i.e., no moving parts are used for mounting cards internally. The M.2 SSD is different from a regular 2.5 SSD because it has a totally different form factor and connects to a different type of slot.

The m.2 was formerly the Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF), the change in name came with a good upgrade, a major one is a speed. It is an NVMe that uses the PCIe connection mechanism. Let us look at one comparison: the SATA(ACHI) has a speed of 600mb/s while the m.2 has a speed of 3.5gb/s.

More Details on the M.2 SSD

An m.2 drive can use either the normal SATA or the PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) interface which is faster, depending on its kind and functionality, but it connects directly into the motherboard in both cases.

The m.2 is not limited to just storage as certain desktop PC accessories, such as wireless adapters, are available in the m.2 form factor, but the most frequent application for M.2 is SSD data storage, which basically replaces (in function) the 2.5 storage drives that are usually placed in a special case and then connected to the motherboard through a SATA connection.

Now, remember it was pointed out earlier that the m.2 is faster but it is worth noting that m.2 SSDs with the SATA interface isn’t necessarily faster than traditional 2.5 drives; they simply take up less space and have a neater appearance.

You’ll need to make sure your m.2 SSD drive supports the NVMe interface protocol if you want better performance. So, it is not just the form factor that matters, the interface is also crucial.

Another exciting feature of the m.2 SSD is that it has four PCI lanes instead of one, this means that it can offer significantly more bandwidth than the SATA 3. The design of m.2 indicated that expansion slots have risen to the top of the priority list when designing a modern computer system and it accommodates this change.

Features that make M.2 SSD worth it

Size

The m.2 card is small, the width is always 22mm for all three types and the length varies. This length determines the amount of NAND flash chips that can be used i.e., an increase in capacity. As with every purchase, the purpose is primary so getting an m.2 is not any different.

When you are trying to get a size suitable for your needs, you must check the number of solid-state drives that will fit into this form factor. Remember, it is hardware and like all hardware, run usage or a capacity overkill will lead to overheating of the device resulting in performance issues.

With this understanding, attributing the right capacity to the device purchase will save you a headache in the long run.

When compared with the mSATA, you can see that they are narrower, and using the size of your CPU as a criterion for purchase, you can get a networking card that will provide the best performance. The m.2 SSD offers further expansion as it is available in two sizes: single-sided and double-sided versions.

Multipurpose

Everybody loves options, we like that our phone chargers can double as a headphone charger or a blazer can be used for different purposes, the m.2 gives you utilization options as you can use it for GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (including NFC), and WWAN. It can also be used as a USB, for audio, display, and I2C bus. This all depends on your motherboard.

Performance

Asides from consuming lower power in comparison to other SSD types, it is great for heavy-duty performance. We are talking 4k gaming, 4k movie streaming, the whole works! If you are looking for a little boost in performance especially in gaming, getting the m.2 might not give the best utility when the cost-benefit ratio is analyzed.

Understanding this is key before making a purchase, it is better to go for the basic SSD for a little boost and m.2 for the maximum boost in performance.

Related Questions

Is there a significant difference between using m.2 for SATA or NVMe?

For SATA you are looking at maintaining the status quo i.e., using compatible hardware with what you currently have and boost speed a little which means 6Gb/s. For NVMe, this is for the speedsters that are really looking to boost speed and there are two options for them.

The first is a module that runs on PCIe x2 and this is equivalent to about 15Gb/s. The second is a module that runs on PCIe x4 which is equivalent to about 31Gb/s.

Bringing back the issue of compatibility, it is worth noting that even though the m.2 serves multiple purposes it cannot be used for both SATA and PCIe, it is either one or the other i.e., you either purchase one that runs on PCIe or one that runs on SATA.

How much does the m.2 cost?

There is no one price but you can get it for as low as $27 and as high as $400 (excluding shipping). The higher the price the better the capacity.