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NVME vs SATA vs mSATA SSD – Learn the Difference

When it comes to SSD storage, you have to consider the speed with which you will be accessing it as well as its cost. However, all SSDs are not the same and here we aim to look at NVME vs SATA vs mSATA SSD to see what they are all about.

In short, NVME SSDs work through the computer’s (fast) PCIe interface to transfer data. SATA (Serial ATA) SSDs, on the other hand, use the same (slower) SATA interface used by HDDs, and mSATA uses the smaller mini-SATA standard.

They differ not only in terms of their performance but also with the interface they work from on the computer.

Well, with speed in question, SSDs are here to save the day. They are much faster than regular hard drives but they will also cost you a little bit more than a hard drive would in terms of per GB cost.

A Look at SSDs

Many people already know what an SSD is and how it is used. But, to be on the same page, SSDs are storage devices for data.

Just like regular hard drives (HDDs), SSDs are used to store non-volatile data on drives that do not need to be powered on to keep the data.

However, unlike HDDs, SSDs do not use moving parts. Instead of a rotating metallic disk and a seeking arm, SSDs use semiconductors to store data.

Because there are no moving parts that can limit the speed at which data is accessed, SSDs are much faster at both reading and writing data, making them the better candidate for applications where fast data access is required.

The first SSDs were ridiculously expensive, but with time, they have gotten more and more affordable and you can now get some good ones for just a few dollars.

Right now, if you want to revamp an old, slow computer, all you’ll need to do is check if it’s compatible with any of the SSDs available in the market. If it is, you can easily clone the hard drive data to the SSD and switch it out.

Also Read: 5 Best Motherboards with M.2 Slots in 2020

NVME

NVME stands for Non-volatile Memory Express. This is a standard that’s used for communications and has been widely applied in SSDs.

NVME SSDs use the PCIe bus to communicate and transfer data. Because the PCIe bus is very fast and it has a more direct connection to the CPU, users get great performance. This extensively emphasizes the fact that an NVME drive is capable of very fast read and write speeds.

NVME SSD Performance

We have mentioned that NVME SSDs are fairly fast because they make use of the computer’s PCIe connection. T

hey are also very scalable and are built to support a lot of applications from single user’s data to large-scale enterprise datacenters. But, just how fast are they?

NVME can support up to 64,000 queues and almost remarkably, each of these queues can individually support 64,000 commands.

Queues are a function that relates to the expected workload that the device will get as well as the number of cores that the CPU. Each core then has at least one completion and one submission queue. Higher queue counts are usually better and mean you can push the device’s performance.

Some of the fastest NVMEs can reach up to 4GB/s (That is GigaBYTEs per second not GigaBITS) is or read speeds and can write out at about the same. This translates to about 32 Gigabits per second.

In addition to that, these drives can perform about 300,000 Input/output operations per second (IOPs).

An NVME SSD
There are small form-factor SSDs for smaller portable devices like laptops. Source: microcontrollertips.com

SATA

A SATA SSD utilizes the same SATA interface that is used by regular hard drives. This makes them look almost similar to a hard drive and because they use the SATA ports, their performance is not as good as NVME SSDs.

Even though SATA SSDs are the poorest performing SSDs, even the worst ones are still better at read/write speeds than a regular hard drive.

Also, because they are less performant, SATA SSDs are some of the cheapest ones available and you can get a good deal on one and speed up your computer if you have a regular HDD.

Also Read: Where is Motherboard in Device Manager? 

SATA SSD Performance

Because of the SATA interface which serves as a huge bottleneck, SATA SSDs can support a maximum read speed of roughly 4.5-5.5 Gb/s though the SATA interface itself is rated for 6 Gb/s. This value is often approached with devices that make use of the faster SATA III interface.

Furthermore, with a SATA SSD, you will get fewer IOPs than with some of the higher grade SSDs but this will not necessarily translate to a huge difference in real-world performance.

Nevertheless, compared to an average 5400 RPM harddisk which operates at 800 Mb/s, SATA SSDs are still lightspeed faster.

A 2.5 Inch SATA Port
SATA SSDs are great because they can fit into the already-existing SATA Port on the motherboard. Source: digitaltrends.com

MSata SSD

Just like the SATA SSD uses the SATA interface on your computer, the mSata SSD makes use of the mSata interface for data transfers.

The biggest difference between this and the latter is their sizes. An mSata hard drive is much smaller and hence better for use with mobile devices like laptops etc. More on this will be discussed in the comparison.

MSata SSD Performance

Just like the SATA SSD, mSata also faces the same limitations of a 6Gb/s maximum theoretic bandwidth that’s capped by the SATA 3 interface.

It also has a higher latency and fewer IOPS compared to NVME SSDs.

On the bright side, it is also not likely to cause any significant dips in performance when you opt for an mSata SSD as it will still run fast, especially for users who are switching from an HDD.

NVME vs Sata vs mSata SSD
Mini-SATA SSDs fit into a smaller profile SATA slot. They are common in laptops and other portable devices. Source: techtarget.com

NVME vs SATA vs mSata SSD

Now that we have a good idea about the above SSD types and a little bit about how they perform in normal usage, let’s see how they all stack up against each other in a few aspects.

Speed is the first thing most users consider when talking about SSDs. In this sector, the PCIe-powered NVME SSD takes the cake for the fastest SSD device in terms of both read speeds, IOPs, and even bandwidth.

An mSATA SSD requires a connection to the device’s SATA Host controller to work. A PCIe card or NVME will use the PCIe bus instead.

SATA SSDs come in a variety of sizes that include 3.5 and 2.5 inches. NVME SSDs happen to be a little smaller and can be used in smaller form-factor boards or devices that support it. MSata SSDs measure about 50.95 by 30 millimeters so they too are quite small.

PCIe NVME SATA follow a different sizing convention as they fit in the M.2 slot of a motherboard.

When it comes down to cost, NVME SSDs happen to be the costlier alternative due to their overall performance as well as their compact form factor. SATA drives come up much cheaper because they are a little slower.

With compatibility, you’re better off taking a SATA SSD because the SATA interface is more common on PCs.

For a Consumer Here is the Summary

  • For Speed NVME is the best with upto 32 Gbps speeds
  • For economical solution SATA or mSATA are better at 6 Gbps max speeds
  • mSATA and SATA have the same speeds, the difference is the size.
  • mSATA is suitable for smaller devices like laptops.

Also Read: Do Motherboards Come with Cables?

Conclusion

When looking at PC storage, it is always important to take the performance of a storage device as well as its cost into consideration.

Although some storage devices fall under the SSD umbrella, the performance you can get from each device will vary depending on the one you pick, the quality of the device itself, and your computer.

So, when pitting NVME vs Sata vs mSata SSD, we have to consider a lot of things about each of the individual technologies to come to a working conclusion about which one can be best suited for the needs we have.

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