As the time goes on, also so does the technology. For many years the ultimate performance drive choice was an SDD with SATA interface. These SSDs can reach read/write speeds of 600MB/s! That’s very impressive when comparing with traditional mechanical HDDs. However, since 2014/2015 there is Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) SSD, better known as M.2 interface SSD.
When we talk about SSDs, the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional 2.5-inch form factor SSD. The main idea behind 2.5-inch form factor is that these SSDs have the same dimensions as laptop HDDs do. So you can upgrade your old HDD with SSD, have no problem fitting them in. Meanwhile, for Desktop PCs, you could mount 2.5-inch SSDs in a 3.5-inch drive bay using a simple bracket. These days most PC cases have their own bays for mounting 2.5-inch drives.
It is clear that SSDs don’t have to be that big to fit into 2.5-inch form factor. Actually, in average 2.5-inch SSD, there is a lot of unused space. They can be much smaller and use space more efficiently. Especially now, when everything gets smaller and faster, it’s clear that 2.5-inch factor SSDs will eventually fade away.
You can get m.2 SSD with SATA 6Gb/s interface or PCIe interface. Speeds can differ a lot based on the interface. PCIe tends to be as much as five times faster than SATA. However, both of these m 2 SSDs offer great speeds, capacities as high as 2TB and space efficiency at the same time.
Before you continue reading, we would like to mention that there are some restrictions when getting yourself a m 2 SSD. If you want to use NVMe drive as a boot drive, your motherboard BIOS have to support this drive. Of course, M.2 NVMe drives also require an M.2 slot. Some motherboards only provide PCIe x2 connections to the M.2 slot. This means that those who use older systems, including all current AMD platforms, will have to stick with a standard SATA-based SSD.
1. Samsung 960 PRO Series
Samsung 960 PRO Series is our top pick and best M.2 SSD out there. There is no competition to 960 PRO. It’s super fast. There aren’t any competition to 960 PRO regarding speed and performance. V-nand Flash offers us a maximum Sequential read speed can is 3500MB/s! No other m 2 SSD comes near this number. If you don’t worry about your budget and want a top-shelf SSD, go for it. With a maximum capacity of 2TB, you will have plenty of space to store your programs and games. Just snap it into your M 2 SSD slot and enjoy how this drive can read and transfer/read gigabytes of data just in few seconds. There is nothing faster than 960 PRO..
2. Samsung 960 EVO Series
This M.2 SSD is another great choice if you seek performance but don’t want to spend a fortune on your storage device. You can get the same capacity m 2 SSD as PRO series, but it will be slower. However, we wouldn’t call 960 EVO slow. Only M.2 SSD that is faster than EVO Series is Samsungs PRO series. Why should you get EVO instead of PRO? It’s much more affordable, and in real life usage, you wouldn’t tell the difference unless you sit with a stopwatch and count every second. In fact, when comparing price and performance, 960 is one of the most reasonable M.2 SSDs on the market.
Toshiba OCZ RD400 Series is another great choice if you’re after high performance. The speed of OCZ RD400 Series can’t quite match Samsungs 960 series, but they are still really good offering you with an ability to read up to 2.6GB/s and write 1,6Gb/s. That’s a lot! One of the Pros of Toshiba is 128GB capacity. It’s a great buy if you want extra performance but don’t want to spend tons of cash on an SSD. Most of us don’t even need Terabytes of space for our programs and games. Store software that have to perform well on M.2 SSD and for rest you can use HDD or SSHD.
Intel not only makes world performance leading CPUs but also some nice SSDs. Intel 750 Series is a great proof to that, offering awesome read/write speeds. This SSD may seem a bit different straight from the package than other M.2 SSDs mentioned here. 750 Series can be only used in systems with PCIe 3.0 slot. It offers up to 4 times performance when compared to SATA drives. The only downside of this SSD is its price. We would think twice before getting an Intel 750 Series or Samsung 960 series. Price difference isn’t so huge but 960 PRO offers quite a bit more performance.
Intel SSD 600p Series looks like an average M.2 drive with its form factor, unlike 750 Series. This M 2 SSD is very affordable with a price for a 512GB version below 200$. Like all top-end M.2 drives also Intel SSD 600p uses PCI Express 3.0 x4 interface. The only downside of this SSD is its write speeds. They can’t exceed 560MB/s. That’s not much better than SATA-based SSDs. However, read speeds are still lightning fast. Overall Intel SSD 600p is a great buy for an budget M.2 SSD.
Sandisk X400 is a great buy if you’re after affordable and pretty cheap SSD. Although some SATA-based SSDs offers better performance, Sandisk offers an M.2 form factor and small dimensions. It’s a great buy for small and compact PC systems. Another nice thing to note is good 5-year warranty. You can’t go wrong with this M.2 SSD. Speeds may not exceed 600MB/s, but it still very capable and most important thing – affordable.
2. Samsung 850 EVO
Perfect for ultra-thin laptops and small, well-performing PC systems. Powered by Samsungs leading V-NAND technology. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than other SSDs in this group, but its Samsung – king of SSDs. You also get Samsung Data Migration and Magician software for easy installation and SSD management. 850 EVO M.2 is just for 10$ more expensive than 850 EVO SATA and uses far less space.
Western Digital is better known for their well performing and leading HDDs, but as more and more people use SSDs, WD has made their own WD Blue M.2 SSD. This is another great M 2 SSD for a superb price.WD claims that their SSD has an industry-leading 1.75M hours Mean Time To Failure (MTTF). In two words: it’s reliable. M.2 Blue is optimized for multitasking and simultaneously running resource-heavy applications. We would definitely choose this SSD over most SATA based SSDs.
How to install M.2 SSD?
Installing an M.2 SSD is easy, all you have to do is plug the drive into the m.2 slot and attach one screw. That’s it! However, before you do so make sure that m 2 SSD is compatible with your hardware. Installing m.2 SSD onto laptop may be a bit more complicated, due to the harder access. You may have to unscrew some extra screws to locate the slot.
If you have a desktop PC, make sure you have a motherboard with Intel’s Z97 or X99 chipset. The Intel Z97 chipset with the LGA 1150 socket, which is used on many motherboards, reserves two PCI lanes for M.2 drives, meaning that bandwidth can’t be higher than 1GB/sec.
If you want to have all benefits that m 2 SSD can offer – use a PC with an Intel X99 chipset. This means you have to have an LGA 2011-v3 processor plus Haswell-E part. Yeah, that can be expensive! However, now you can experience the full potential of PCI-based M.2 SSD. You always want to invest into an SSD that can use its full potential, running at its top speed.
With these motherboards you can truly enjoy all benefits of M.2 SSD:
What is NVMe?
We often mention NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express), but what is it? NVMe basically makes communication between software and the latest PCIe SSDs possible. NVMe is a successor to AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) that “speaks” with SATA devices. NVMe ensures that your PCIe SSD will be doing its top performance. Making it for up to five times as fast as SATA with a lower power consumption. NVMe is supported in all X99 and Z97 motherboards.
Speed is probably one of the most important criteria when choosing an SSD. The SATA 3.0 connection restricts the speed of an SSD to somewhere around 600MB/s. See our article about the Best SSDs for more information. The SATA 3.2 specifications introduced a new mixed approach for the M.2 interface just like it did with SATA Express. In a result, an M.2 card can use the existing SATA 3.0 specifications topping out at 600MB/s or it can use PCI-Express instead, leading to a speed of 1GB/s.
Keep in mind that 1GB/s is for a single PCI-Express lane. You can have/use up to four lanes with M.2 reaching speed as high as 4.0GB/s! And that’s why M 2 SSDs is future – fast and small. Make sure your PC motherboard supports four lanes for maximum performance.