Welcome to another blog. This time I’m going to discuss M.2 SSD. Specifically, I’m going to compare M.2 SSD to the border adds to the half inch form factor SATA SSD and then I’m going to discuss the broader implications of M.2 technology.
What is M.2 SSD?
So here we have an M.2 SSD. It can be compared to the size of a human finger. It really is a very small storage device and that’s a great deal to the hardware. In terms of looking at the thing, we’ve got the flash memory chips on the top and this is indeed a single-sided M.2 SSD. When you turn it over, there aren’t many components on the other side of devices. So it really is a small piece of storage technology. And just to give you a little bit of background, M.2 SSD is a fairly new standard for connecting SSD and other devices, things like Wi-Fi adapters and Bluetooth adapters as well into computer motherboards. And M.2 replaces mSATA and was initially known as a next-generation form factor or NGFF. And today, M.2 increasingly being used to connect devices, not just to desktop motherboards with also to the motherboards used in laptops and tablets. Many modern desktop motherboards now have one, two or three M.2 slots. Now, different M.2 cards have different notches or cutouts in the connector to prevent them from being connected to slot incompatible with that device and also for being inserted the wrong way around.
M.2 cards come in a variety of length and width which are coded into a four or five digit number. So for example, this M.2 SSD uses a very common 22 x 80 mm form factor meaning, but it’s 22 millimeters wide and 80 millimeters long. Other common sizes for M.2 devices in general are1630, 2230, 3030, 2242, 3042, 2260 and 22110. They said if you’re fitting an M.2 SSD into a desktop PC, it’s most likely to be a 2280 device. This particular M.2 SSD is a SanDisk X400. The capacity is 128 gigabytes or comes up to 1 terabytes X400 SSDs. SanDisk also sells X400 SSDs in the 2.5-inch form factor. And if we put the M.2 X400 next to 2.5-inch form factor cousin, you can see how incredibly small the M.2 SSD really is and it’s amazing to think that fairly soon we will have multi-terabyte SSDs in the M.2 form factor.
Again, comparing an M.2 SSDs with a 2.5-inch form factor model, we should note that all modern 2.5-inch form factor SSD have got a SATA 3 interface and this means they can transfer data at up to six gigabits per second. In contrast, M.2 devices can feature a SATA PCIe or USB interface. Although in practice, desktop and M.2 SSD will either use a SATA or PCIe bus. Now here, this particular X400 SanDisk M.2 SSD has a SATA 3 bus exactly the same as that in it 2.5-inch companion here and therefore, both of these SSDs both end up to the traditional 2.5-inch form factor model or transfer data up to six gigabits per second. So they come out exactly the same. However, some SSDs have a PCIe interface and that can transfer data up at to 32 gigabits per second or the five times faster than traditional SATA 3. And for many people, achieving PCIe speed is what really matters when you’re purchasing an M.2 SSD. And in turn, that means if you are going to get yourself an M.2 SSD, be very careful to be clear about your purchasing a PCIe over the SATA3 device. The PCIe devices are much faster although of course, PCIe M.2 drive costs more than the SATA drives.
To fit a traditional two and a half inch SSD, you’ll need to connect a SATA data cable. Also, you need to connect a SATA power cable and they need to mount the SSD in your computer. In contrast, connecting vertical M.2 SSDs is a lot easier. We need to remove the returning screw and the M.2 SSD goes into the socket and get the screwback to the socket.
In years to come, I think we will look back at the introduction of M.2 sockets on desktop PC motherboard, there’s a real signature, a really important PC innovation. Now partially that’s because if you can plug it at M.2 SSDs, you can get much faster data transfer speeds if it’s a PCIe SSD. That’s said, of course, we’ve had PCIe slot SSD for the motherboard for a long time to plug directly into standard PCIe slots and today you could actually buy PCIe card which will take multiple M.2 SSDs in great configuration. So the speed issue is not reliant on the introduction of M.2 and in fact, it goes beyond just the M.2 socket. But I think the really important thing is actually more than just the fact that for years and years and years when we built desktop PCs, we basically had a case which contains three chunks of technology and those chunks have been the motherboard, the processor, the cooler, and the memory. They’ve been a power supply and they’ve been the drives. But now with the introduction of M.2 on a standard desktop motherboard, you can build a PC if you like in two chunks; the motherboard including the processor, the cooler, the memory and the storage and then the power supply. And indeed, we’ve already got the motherboard with two or even three and two sockets. So it’s now possible to build really powerful multi-drive PCs without any drive bays at all. And that I think is a really important change the computing industry. It’ll alter the way we design and build desktop PCs and their form factor for a long time to come.
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