How is NVME different from SATA?

How is NVME different from SATA?

In this article, we will try to quickly and as simply as possible figure out whether it is worth overpaying for the most advanced technologies in SSDs, whether it makes sense to buy the fastest drives and what performance gain in real tasks can be obtained from SSDs relative to traditional hard drives.

The modern market is replete with solid state drives, differing from each other in terms of volume, speed and reliability. Despite the impressive variety, all of these devices can be divided into two broad groups: SATA and NVMe. But what is hidden behind these abbreviations and what are the advantages of this or that interface?

Installing an SSD in an old computer will give it a second life, even if the processor has changed its first ten, and the RAM is barely enough for the minimum system requirements of the operating system. Returning to a PC where the OS is installed on a regular HDD is at first shocking – it seems that the computer is infected with a virus and generally does not work as it should. Boot Windows in seven seconds, instantly react to user input – it’s all about SSD.

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) Is an interface protocol created specifically for solid state drives (SSD). SSDs have no moving parts and are in many ways more durable than HDDs. At this point, SSDs are already the primary storage source for smartphones and tablets. That said, SSDs are more expensive than hard drives and are often used as cache memory in combination with hard drives to speed up computer systems.

Prior to the introduction of this interface, when installing SSDs, it was accessed through interfaces such as Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and Serial ATA (SATA), which were historically used with not as fast hard drives as SSDs. However, SSDs have a clear advantage due to faster access through the PCI Express (PCIe) serial bus standard.

SSDs use the legacy AHCI protocol, which was originally developed for magnetic hard drives. It absolutely does not take into account the features of the solid-state drive, it limits it. For NVMe, Intel has developed its own interface – disks have become more efficient to work with a large number of simultaneous requests, faster access to RAM for data. An NVMe drive can handle more requests per unit of time (IOPS).

The history of the emergence of NVMe

In 2007, Intel announced the NVMHCI specification, and the full version of the standard was introduced in 2011. For the first time, SSD adapters with an NVMe controller that were installed in a PCI-E slot were manufactured by Integrated Device Technology (IDT) in 2012. The first drive for servers with NVMe in the U.2 form factor was released by the Samsung group in 2013. There are also other form factors that are not much different from U.2 in terms of performance and were created solely for commercial purposes.

NVMe Form Factors

At the moment, the main form factors are:

Expansion board PCI-E 4x… This form factor is used in servers and PCs. PCI-E 16x dongles are also available that can accommodate 4 M.2 drives, but these are less common.

U.2 – Server form factor that supports hot swapping. Outwardly, the devices differ little from ordinary SATA drives (perhaps with a more massive cooling radiator), they have the same connector shape as SATA / SAS. This allows you to work with them in the usual way (installation in “old” server baskets, mounting / dismounting).

M.2 Is a form factor built for mobile PCs. M.2 connectors are also commonly found on server motherboards and desktop boards. In older motherboards, this connector is designed for installing only SATA drives (or other expansion cards, such as wireless network cards). But in more recent boards, you can also connect NVMe SSDs to this connector.

Intel Ruler SSD – hot-swappable server form factor.

Samsung NGSFF – Server form factor, also hot swappable.

Benefits of using NVMe SSDs

Let’s compare the performance of an Intel D3-S4510 (SATA) SSD and an Intel P4510 (PCI-E) SSD, as well as the performance of a virtual server located on a SATA or PCI-E SSD:

It can be seen from the table that the main advantages of using an NVMe drive are:

  • The write latency of an NVMe-enabled SSD is lower than that of a SATA SSD, making it faster to write data to disk.
  • Fast page opening and backups compared to SATA SSD.
  • High speed of data processing. NVMe works over PCIe, which provides a maximum speed of 3.2 Gb / s, which is 2-3 times faster than SATA SSD.
  • Able to handle more requests per unit of time (IOPS) than SATA-SSD.

When to buy NVMe

Recently, the cost of NVMe drives has approached the cost of SATA SSDs. Before purchasing a drive, you need to check the device’s motherboard for NVMe support:

  • There is an M.2 slot and NVMe support in the motherboard BIOS (it may be worth updating the BIOS, as NVMe support may be added in newer versions).
  • There is a free PCI-E slot and there is NVMe support in the motherboard BIOS. Most likely, you will need an adapter from PCI-E to the interface used by the drive (for example, M.2).

In this case, you will surely get a performance boost that will be noticeable even on a regular PC (for example, the speed of loading the OS and shutting down the computer, opening applications, copying data, great responsiveness when working).

What is the bottom line ?:

Now you know what NVMe SSDs are and what kinds of them exist. If, when choosing an SSD, you are not guided primarily by price, then it is better to give preference to an NVMe model with a colossal margin of performance than to save a thousand rubles and get a SATA drive that was outdated a few years ago. 1500 or 2500 MB / s for reading shows SSD – it doesn’t matter, choose according to your wallet and preferences.

Much more important is the question of the reliability of SSDs, which tend to “die” suddenly and without preliminary symptoms. This is one of the reasons why it is better to give preference to branded drives with a long warranty and high MTBF (or the amount of data written). To upgrade a gaming laptop or ultrabook, if it will be used not only for web surfing, but also for professional programs (Photoshop, Vegas, 3ds Max) – it will not be superfluous either.

Source: and and


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