When we work with computers, we expect them to work smoothly and fast, always demanding more. Hard drives are a big part of that and there is always room for improvement in them. But the speed of hard drives is starting to reach the maximum of what the SATA connection can take, so engineers have started developing hard drives that work with the PCI port. Their motto is “break the bottleneck”. Today, the most popular version of SATA is SATA 3.0, which can handle 600MB/s, but the newest version of PCIe – PCIe 3.0 has a bandwidth of close to 1 GB/s per lane, meaning that a x4 (4 lane) slot can handle almost 4GB/s of information, which is a huge difference. Even the older PCIe 2.0 can handle more than SATA, considering it is approximately half as fast as PCIe 3.0.
Accompanying this new technology is a new standard – M.2, which is being implemented into more and more computers, and, accompanied by the new NVMe interface, it will support hard drives with speeds we could not imagine a few years ago. The main idea behind it is a unified, fast and simple access to computer buses. To learn a bit more about PCIe SSDs and M.2, check out our article about PCIe SSDs HERE.
Right now this is relatively new technology and only a handful of companies have decided to take on the challange of making it. That is why the prices of these drives are relatively high for now, but it is also an investment into the future, considering You won’t have to worry about Your drive being too slow. Below is our comparison of the most popular PCIe-based hard drives at the moment.
Intel 750 Series Review
- Available in PCIe HHHL adapter version for the PCI Express Gen. 3 x4 slot or 2.5 inch version for the M.2 (SFF8643) connector
- Sequential read speed up to 900MB/s; sequential write speed up to 2200MB/s for the 400GB version
- Sequential read speed up to 1200MB/s; sequential write speed up to 2400MB/s for the 1.2TB version
- Random 4K read speed up to 430’000 IOPS for the 400GB version, up to 440’000 IOPS for the 1.2TB version
- Random 4K write speed up to 230’000 IOPS for the 400GB version, up to 290’000 IOPS for the 1.2TB version
OCZ RevoDrive 350 Review
- Sequential read speed up to 1000MB/s; sequential write speed up to 950MB/s for the 240GB version
- Sequential read speed up to 1800MB/s; sequential write speed up to 1700MB/s for the 480GB and 960GB versions
- Random 4K read speed up to 45’000, 90’000, 135’000 IOPS (for 240GB, 480GB and 960GB versions accordingly)
- Random 4K write speed up to 80’000 IOPS for the 240GB version, 140’000 IOPS for the 480GB and 960GB versions
- Uses PCI Express Gen. 2 x8 slot
Kingston Digital Hyper-X Predator Review
Kingston is also one of the companies leading the PCIe hard drive revolution with the Hyper-X Predator. It comes in two capacities – 240GB for $244.99/$232.94 and 480GB for $469.49/$449.99 (check prices HERE). Kingston has promised read speeds up to 1400MB/s and write speeds up to 600MB/s for the 240GB version and 1000MB/s for the 480GB version. Similarly to the Intel 750 series, Predator is available in the conventional PCIe version (slightly more expensive), or the M.2 SSD version. The conventional PCIe adapter version uses PCIe 2.0 x4 slot and has HHHL form factor. The M.2 SSD version has 2280 form factor, so be careful! Even if Your computer has the M.2 SSD connector, some notebooks might not have enough space on the system board for this SSD, as it is the biggest form factor of M.2 SSDs that go directly into the slot. The second two digits define the length of the card in mm and 80 is the longest. Check Your device specifications before purchasing this version of Predator! This drive has a 3 year warranty. Product dimensions: for the PCIe adapter version 7.1 x 0.8 x 4.8 inches (18 x 2 x 12.2 cm) and weighs 2.6 ounces (74 grams), for the M.2 SSd version 3.2 x 0.8 x 0.9 inches (8 x 2 x 2.3 cm) and weighs 1.6 ounces (45 grams).
- Available in PCIe HHHL adapter version for the PCI Express Gen. 2 x4 slot or 2280 M.2 SSD version
- Sequantial read speed up to 1400MB/s for both capacities; sequential write speed up to 600MB/s for the 240GB version, 1000MB/s for the 480GB version
- Random 4K read speed up to 160’000 IOPS for the 240GB version, up to 130’000 IOPS for the 480 GB version
- Random 4K write speed up to 119’000 IOPS for the 240GB version, up to 118’000 IOPS for the 480 GB version
OWC Mercury Accelsior E2 Review
- Available as working cards or as an upgrade kit for the older version
- Low profile form factor, uses PCIe Gen. 2.0 x2 slot
- Two integrated eSATA ports allow up to 32 GB of extra storage
- Sequential read speed up to 820MB/s; sequential write speed up to 600MB/s for the 128GB and 240GB versions
- Sequential read speed up to 758MB/s; sequential write speed up to 743MB/s for the 480GB and 960GB versions
- Random 4K read and write speeds up to 100’000 IOPS for all versions
ASUS ROG RAIDR Express Review
- DuoMode supports both Legacy and UEFI BIOS
- RAMDisk allows RAIDR to use available memory to speed up loading times
- HybriDisk uses SSD caching to increase the speed of Your HDD
- SSD Tweakit optimizes how RAIDR works to give up to 5% increased performance
- Sequential read speed up to 830MB/s; sequential write up to 810MB/s
- Random 4K read and write speed up to 100’000 IOPS
PCIe SSDs are the future so they will definitely improve in time, but for now the prices are high so the demand isn’t too big. Companies are only getting used to this technology so bugs and issues are almost guaranteed. From the SSDs we looked at, Kingston Hyper-X Predator, OWC Accelsior E2 and Intel 750 Series had the lowest price per GB with Predator at $1.02 for the 240GB and $0.98 for the 480GB versions, E2 at $1.00 for the 480GB and $0.78 for the 960GB versions, 750 Series at $1.02 for the 400GB and $0.88 for the 1.2TB versions. If speed matters to You the most, then Intel 750 Series provided the greatest random 4K speeds and write speeds, OCZ Revodrive provided the greatest sequential speeds with Kingston Predator not far behind. As these are SSDs, capacity is not the priority, but Intel stands out with 1.2TB available.
Our opinion is that Intel 750 Series is the best drive on this list, considering its relatively higher speeds and relatively low price per GB combined with the 1.2TB capacity. The fact that it’s made by Intel and has a 5 year warranty ensures quality. A bit more than a thousand dollars is quite an investment but if You’re looking for a futuristic upgrade then high prices are guaranteed. We hope our list of best PCIe SSDs of 2015 helped You choose the most suitable drive for Your needs.