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SATA SSDs vs. PCIe: Which Storage Drive is Best?

SATA SSDs are slower than PCIe SSDs. You might not even need it. This article explains the differences between SATA SSDs and PCIe SSDs.

Although PCIe SSDs are technically superior to SATA drives, that doesn’t mean they should be preferred.

This article will discuss the differences between SATA SSDs and PCIe SSDs. It will also explain what you need to know in order to make an informed purchase decision about an SSD.

What is a PCIe SSD?

Why are PCIe SSDs more expensive than SATA SSDs? It all comes down to performance. It does.

As a direct data connection to your motherboard, you can think of PCIe (Peripheral Complement Interconnect Express).

It is typically used with devices such as graphics cards. These devices also require extremely fast data connections. However, PCIe has been proven to be useful for data storage drives.

PCIe 3.0 can transfer at a speed of 985MB/s per lanes,. Since PCIe devices support 1x, 4x and 8x lanes respectively, there are potential speeds of up to 15.76GB/s. PCIe4.0 doubles this speed to 32GB/s and PCIe5.0 doubles it to 64GB/s. This is way beyond the SATA SSD range!

Does that mean that a PCIe SSD with 16x lane speeds is 25 times faster than a SATA SSD SSD? Although theoretically, it is possible, you won’t find a consumer grade SSD with this many data lanes.

You’ll usually choose between 2x or 4x which will result in a transfer speed closer than 3.94GB/s.

Even so, the only way you will notice the difference is when you transfer large files.

For example, if you are playing a videogame and need faster loading speeds for changing maps or starting the game up, both PCIe SSDs as well as SATA SSDs will work lightning fast.

SSDs with PCIe tend to have shorter battery life. Let’s say you are browsing the internet, using Google Docs, sending emails, or doing anything that is purely CPU- and RAM-intensive. You won’t notice a significant difference between SATA SSDs and PCIe SSDs in this case (since such activities don’t require a lot of data transfer).

However, if you are constantly reading or transferring data, PCIe SSDs use more energy and drain your battery life quicker.

PCIe AHCI SSDs vs. PCIe NVMe SSDs. NVMe is the better option if you have to choose between the two standards. AHCI is more recent and was originally designed for HDDs, SATA and other storage devices. This means that a PCIe SSD with AHCI might not be as efficient. NVMe was specifically designed for PCIe use, so it performs more.

 

You can find more information about NVMe in our guide: Upgrade to NVMe or Stay with SATA SSDs.

What is a SATA SSD?

Image Credits: Samsung

SATA (Serial ATA), is a connection interface that SSDs use to exchange data with your system. It was first created in 2003. This means that it has been around for a while to become one of the most popular connection types.

SATA SSDs are more compatible with older computers and desktops.

SATA SSDs are less performant relative to other forms. SATA 3.0 has a theoretical transfer speed at 6Gb/s (750MB/s). However, due to the physical overhead involved in encoding data for transfer it only has a practical transfer speed at 4.8Gb/s (600MB/s).

 

Although 600MB/s may seem fast, it is not as fast as PCIe SSDs.

Despite this, SATA SSDs can be more than enough fast for casual home users. A SATA SSD can transfer a whole CD’s worth data every second, so don’t let that deter you.

SATA SSDs are generally cheaper. Truth is, the price difference between SATA SSDs and PCIe SSDs can be significant. It is almost as large as the price difference between SSDs and HDDs.

Compare the Samsung860 EVO 500GB SATA SATA SSD price to the Samsung970 EVO 500GB PCIe SATA SSD.

 

Both drives are SSDs with the same capacity but the SATA SSD costs half as much as the PCIe SSD. This is true for all SSDs: SATA SSDs are less expensive than PCIe SSDs.

What are U.2 and M.2?

M.2 (“M dots two”) and U.2 (“U dots two”) are form factor standards that define the dimensions, shapes, and layouts for a physical device. Both the M.2 (or U.2) standards can be used with both SATA or PCIe drives.

M.2 is far more common than U.2, so if you are faced with a choice between the two, and don’t know which to choose, M.2 is safer. U.2 is mainly used to support the Intel 750 series SSDs.

Performance is identical to regular SATA SSDs when using M.2 with M.2. You can only use M.2 to create a PCIe SSD. This is more than enough for casual home users.

Plus, x4 SSDs tend to be more common than x2, and are not as expensive. So you might want to consider that option.

Note that an adapter can be purchased to convert an M.2 connector to a U.2 one or vice versa. However, these adapters might not fit your needs.

 

RELATED: What is SSD Storage and How Does It Compare to HDD?

SATA SSD vs. PCIe SSD: Which SSD Type is Right for You?

Two key factors will influence your choice between SATA SSDs and PCIe. Your budget and your expectations regarding performance are two key factors. SATA is the best option if you have a limited budget. For file transfers that are frequent and require high performance, PCIe is the best choice. Both can be used in the M.2 format factor.

You’ll be fine if you have an HDD. SATA SSDs and PCIe SSDs perform better than HDDs when it comes to speed. You can’t go wrong with either. To ensure that you make the best purchase, PCIe SSDs are the option you have chosen.

We hope that you enjoy the products we recommend and discuss. MUO has sponsored and affiliate partnerships. This means that we get a portion of the revenue from your purchases. This doesn’t impact the price of your purchase and allows us to make the best product recommendations.

 

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