Whether you want to buy the right solid-state drive or just want to know what that even is, don’t worry. In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about solid-state drives, that way you’re equipped to make an informed buying decision. SSDs are only growing in popularity as time progresses, and in ten years, who knows? They may have taken over the market entirely.
Let’s get into it.
What is SSD (Solid State Drive)?
An SSD, or Solid State Drive, is a flash storage drive with no moving parts. No moving parts are where the “solid-state” part comes from. The flash memory used within an SSD is similar to that present on, say, SD cards, but generally of a much higher quality. This means an SSD will typically be far faster and hold more storage than other flash storage methods.
But how does SSD compare to an HDD?
What makes an SSD different from an HDD (Hard Disk Drive)?
An HDD, or hard disk drive, is a storage drive with a spinning disk , or platter, inside. This is a moving part, and so it has a few limitations that SSDs do not have. Most namely, hard drives are limited by RPM (revolutions per minute), or the speed at which they can spin and read their disks. Hard drives also need to be much larger to make room for these moving parts.
Since SSDs don’t have these physical limitations to worry about, they can read and write data far faster than a mechanical hard drive. This also allows them to shrink down in size, significantly.
The difference between 2.5-inch SSDs and M.2 SSDs
If you were to open up a modern 2.5-inch SSD, you’ll likely find that the actual storage device doesn’t fill up the entire drive casing. This is because it doesn’t need to- SSD technology allows it to reach far smaller sizes than an HDD is capable of, as we mentioned above.
Because of this, there are two main form factors for SSDs: 2.5-inch SSDs, and M.2 SSDs.
2.5-inch SSDs are built to work in the same places as a 2.5-inch HDD. This includes the same SATA and power connectors and allows SSDs to replace slower HDDs in things like laptops and gaming consoles.
M.2 SSDs are built with an M.2 form factor. This is about the length of a USB flash drive, but wafer-thin. In order to use an M.2 SSD, your laptop or desktop PC needs a dedicated M.2 slot. M.2 slots are becoming the standard on modern PCs, but are less likely to be compatible with older machines.
M.2 SSDs are also distinct from 2.5-inch SSDs in that they don’t always use SATA for data transfer. Instead, some use PCI Express bandwidth instead…which we’ll explain below.
The difference between SATA SSDs, NVMe SSDs, and PCI Express SSDs
There are two main form factors for SSDs: 2.5-inch and M.2.
2.5-inch will always be limited to SATA speeds and power, but M.2 doesn’t have to be. In addition to using SATA speeds, some M.2 SSDs are shipping with an NVMe standard.
NVMe stands for “Non-Volatile Memory Express”, and it refers to M.2 SSDs that use PCI Express bandwidth to achieve faster speeds. On some motherboards, using an NVMe SSD may also disable a PCI Express or SATA slot due to overall bandwidth limitations.
On occasion, you may also see PCI Express SSDs- specifically, those with a dedicated PCIe expansion card. These are relatively niche for consumers, though they may be an alternative to NVMe SSDs for those who don’t have an M.2 slot on their motherboard.
Understanding SSD speed
Your typical SATA SSD is already far faster than a SATA HDD- up to three times faster, in some cases. But what about NVMe or PCIe?
While using an NVMe or PCIe SSD will always be faster than a SATA SSD. SATA SSDs have limits to roughly 560 MB/s read, while PCI Express/NVMe speeds can go as high as 3200 MB/s.
This makes NVMe SSDs the best choice for your operating system or favorite games where it’s supported, with SATA SSDs in a respectable second and HDDs in far last.
The pros and cons of an SSD vs HDD
Let’s stack up and the pros and cons of an SSD when compared to an HDD.
- Far faster- even SATA SSDs can be 2-3x faster than SATA HDDs. Bring NVMe/PCIe into the mix and it gets even crazier
More expensive. A solid-state drive will always cost much more than a corresponding hard drive, unfortunately, and that’s unlikely to change.
- Smaller form factor. While 2.5-inch HDDs exist, they’re even slower than their 3.5-inch counterparts. Plus, no hard drive will ever be as small as an M.2 drive.
Shorter lifespans- at least in an enterprise environment. For consumers, neither an HDD or SSD would ever reach the natural end of its lifespan before a decade has passed or the drive has undergone severe damage. Even so, the nature of SSD technology does give it a shorter lifespan.
- Less prone to damage. Since there are no moving parts, SSDs are more likely to survive falls and vibrations than HDDs.
- Far less heat. No moving parts = no friction = no heat generated by anything but electricity moving through the drive.
Parting words and recommendations
Continue Reading: Everything You Need To Know About HDDs (Hard Drive)
Now that you have a proper understanding of SSD technology, we’ll leave you with a few recommendations.