When you are shopping for a new SSD (solid-state drive) or pre-built gaming laptop, you may come across wildly different prices which do not seem reasonable. For instance, if you are looking to buy a refurbished MacBook Pros, PCIe-based flash storage is costlier than mere Flash storage. What you are looking at are PCIe and SATA SSDs, one of which is technologically superior to the other. However, that doesn’t mean you need to give preference to the more robust one, always.
In today’s article on gaming hardware, we will explore the differences between SATA and PCIe SSDs. We will also briefly touch the features that differentiate M.2 form factor standard from U.2, and what distinguishes AHCI standard from NVMe. These are crucial pieces of information you need to have at your fingertips to make an informed decision when looking to buy an SSD for gaming.
Differences between PCIe and SATA
Why are PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) SSDs much more desirable and costlier than SATA SSDs? Does it all boil down to performance? Yes, quite so. PCIe can be thought of a more direct data connection to the motherboard.
It is usually employed with devices such as graphics cards that also require super-fast data connections. But PCIe SSD has equally shown its usefulness for data storage drives.
PCIe transfer speeds trump those of SATA
PCIe 3.0 offers you an effective transfer speed of 985Mbps per lane, and owing to the fact that PCIe devices are able to support 1x, 4x, 8x, or 16x lanes, what we have are possible transfer speeds that are as high as 15.76Gbps. These speeds are way higher than those of SATA SSDs.
But does this imply that a PCIe SSD having 16x lanes is 25-times faster compared with a SATA SSD? Yes, theoretically speaking. However, you will not get a consumer-grade SSD which has such numerous data lanes. Typically, you will be choosing between 2x and 4x, implying a max transfer speed that is closer to 3.94Gbps.
And even so, you are just going to see the difference between SATA and PCIe SSDs when you are transferring large files, which take some time.
For instance, if you are playing a video game and only require faster load speeds when the game is starting up or changing maps, the 2 types of SSDs will be lightning fast.
PCIe SSD has worse battery life
If you are basically working in Google Docs, browsing the web, sending emails, or other tasks that are primarily CPU- or RAM-intensive, then you will not observe much of a difference between PCIe SSD and SATA SSD. This is because this sort of activities does not require huge data transfer.
But if you are reading and transferring data constantly, then PCIe will make use of more energy and drain your battery life faster than SATA.
Serial AT Attachment was created back in 2003, implying that it’s had a fairly long time to consolidate its ranking as one of the most popularly used connection types in modern times. Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, abbreviated as SATA or Serial ATA, is a kind of connection interface that is employed by solid-state drives for communicating data with your system.
SATA SSD offers better hardware compatibility
If you purchase a SATA solid-state drive, it is quite guaranteed to be compatible with any desktop or laptop you’ve, even if it is a 10-year-old computer.
SATA SSD gives a poorer comparative performance
As of yet, SATA 3.0 remains the most prevalent form of solid-state drives, with a theoretical transfer speed of 6Gbps (750Mbps). However, as a result of some physical overhead which takes place when encoding the data for transfer, the SSD actually offers a practical transfer speed of 4.8Gbps (600Mbps).
Though 600Mbps is quite fast, it is not anywhere close to the transfer speeds of PCIe SSDs.
Having said that, SATA SSDs have ample data transfer speeds, ideal for gamers and casual home users. To gain a practical understanding of how fast a SATA SSD is, it can transfer a whole CD’s worth of data every second.
SATA SSDs are usually cheaper
This may be the most important factor that the majority of gamers and home users consider when for SSDs. The fact is that the price difference between PCIe SSD and SATA SSD is quite significant and is almost as much as that between SSDs and HDDs.
Though the 2 drives are SSDs offer equal capacity, the SATA type is nearly half the price of the PCIe solid-state drive. This observation holds valid across the board — SATA SSDs are less expensive as compared with PCIe SSDs.
What of AHCI vs. NVMe?
If you ever have to pick one out of both standards and can afford PCIe SSd for gaming, opt for NVMe as AHCI is older and was created for HDDs (hard disk drives) and Serial AT Attachment. This implies a PCIe SSD that makes use of AHCI may not deliver its maximum potential. NVMe was specifically designed to be used with PCIe, so it gives a better performance.
M.2 and U.2: What Are They?
M.2 (pronounced M dot two) and U.2 (pronounced U dot two) are form factor standards, specifying a physical device’s dimensions, shape as well as layouts. The 2 standards are employed in collaboration with SATA and PCIe solid-state drives.
M.2 is the prevalent standard, so if you’ve to choose out of the two and are not sure of the one to go for, pick M.2. U.2 is primarily employed for Intel 750 series drives, and you will not find several others supporting it.
When utilizing M.2 for your SATA SSD, the performance you will get is exactly the same as the one you will observe with a regular SATA form factor. When making use of M.2 for a PCIe drive, you are capped at x4 lanes that are still OK for gaming and home use.
Further, x4 solid-state drives are more popular than x2 drives and aren’t that much more costly. Thus, you might also choose that. Do note that you can purchase an adapter, which transforms an M.2 connector into a U.2 connector or vice versa. This kind of adapters, however, may not be fitting for the physical confinements of your device.
PCIe vs. SATA SSD — Which Is Better for Gaming?
The 2 types of SSDs are ideal for gaming as they will be lightning fast, especially if you only require faster load speeds when your game is starting up or changing maps. Since a SATA SSD will offer you quality performance, just like the PCIe type, the primary factor you might want to pay attention to when shopping for drives for your game is, price. If you are on a tight budget, SATA is your best bet. If what you need is max. performance for frequent file transfers, it is advisable you go with PCIe.
Both solid-state drives are most convenient to make use of in the M.2 form factor. And PCIe and SATA drives are demonstrably better in comparison with HDDs as regards speed, so you cannot really go wrong either way.