PCIe SSD vs M 2: The Differences Between Both Storage Types

PCIe SSD vs M 2 is a topic many new PC builders find daunting when choosing the right storage for their rig. While both storage types may come in the M.2 form factor, they use different interfaces, which makes them provide different transfer speeds.

PCIe SSD vs M 2

We’ll be explaining the differences between these two storage types, providing you with enough information to make the right decision for your rig. Without much ado, let’s get right to it.

Features PCIe SSD M.2 SATA
Type PCIe is an interface. M.2 refers to the form factor of your drive, while SATA is the interface.
Data Transfer Rate Up to 1Gb per second Often uses the SATA interface, which offers 0.6Gb per second.
Connection Type Plugged into the motherboard to reduce latency Plugged right into the SATA interface on the motherboard.
Bandwidth High Medium


The Differences Between PCIe and M.2 SATA Drives

The main difference between M.2 PCIe and M.2 SATA drives is that the M.2 PCIe drive uses the PCIe interface while the M.2 SATA uses the SATA interface. While both drives may share the same form factor, their interfaces differ, and so does their speed.

It’s worth noting that PCle is more expensive than its SATA counterpart. While it has high storage capabilities, it’s still limited to certain capacities. In addition, consumes more power than its SATA counterpart.

If we talk about the M.2 SATA drives, they don’t have as much speed as the PCIe variant. Their speeds don’t differ much from what you get on 2.5-inch SATA drives. On top of that, M.2 SATA drives are more expensive than normal mSATA drives even though there isn’t much difference in speed.

– Interface

The Serial Advanced Technology Advancement (SATA) interface is arguably the most popular interface for connecting solid-state drives to a computer’s motherboard. It uses the AHCI or IDE command protocol, which was designed for low-spinning disks instead of flash memory. SATA’s transfer rate isn’t as high as what you get on the PCIe interface, as the most recent variation of the SATA interface, the SATA 3.0, can only transfer up to 600Mb per second. However, this data transfer speed is enough for most consumers.

The PCIe interface is an interface designed to supersede the bandwidth provided by the SATA interface. Therefore, it offers more speed and lower latency when compared to the SATA interface. Entry-level PCIe solid-state drives can provide up to three times more speed than SATA 3.0, thanks to the number of channels embedded in each interface. While SATA has up to 10 channels, PCIe is often designed with up to 25 channels or more.

Also, PCIe drives, also known as NVMe drives, have more lanes than SATA drives. One PCIe slot can have one, four, eight, or 16 lanes. Each of these lanes features two pairs of wires, which allows the slot to transfer and receive data. With SATA, you’ll have to add more devices to your setup to get more lanes, but with PCIe, you can have multiple lanes on one device, allowing for better and faster transfer rates.

PCIe supports the NVMe protocol, which compliments the PCIe interface and offers more efficiency when compared to the AHCI supported by SATA. The NVMe protocol was designed to help solid-state drives get past the bottleneck experienced by SATA SSDs.

– SSD Form Factor

M.2 is the SSD form factor or size of a solid-state drive. Contrary to popular belief, M.2. is not an interface like SATA or PCIe; instead, it’s the shape and size of the drive, which means that you can find both SATA and NVMe SSDs in the M.2 form. M.2 drives can be plugged directly into your computer’s motherboard without using extra cables. Unlike the typical 2.5-inch SATA SSDs, drives with M.2 form factors are significantly smaller even though they come in varying dimensions.

SSD Form Factor

Their ability to take up less space makes them the ideal storage devices for gamers, PC builders, and even commercial manufacturers looking to make portable devices. Even with their smaller sizes, M.2 drives have the capability to store as much data as their larger counterparts, with some of them being able to hold up to eight terabytes.

You need to make sure that your motherboard has an M.2 slot before purchasing an M.2 solid-state drive. You can find M.2 SSDs with SATA interface, PCIe interface with NVMe support, and PCIe interface without NVMe support.

M.2 solid state drives with NVMe support can provide five times more bandwidth when compared to an M.2 SATA drive. You’ll enjoy better speeds and performance for tasks such as file transfers, compression, decompression, photo editing, video editing, and more.

– Considering Both Drives

Now that you know the differences between M.2, SATA, and PCIe, it’s time to decide on the ideal one for your rig. And to do so, you’ll have to consider the factors we’ve outlined below:

– Compatibility With Different Systems

The first factor you need to consider is whether or not your computer supports the M.2 PCI express or M.2 SATA drive. If you have an older computer, your system may not be compatible with PCIe NVMe drives. Also, make sure that there’s more than one port for multiple PCI express connections if your computer does support PCIe.

The reason is that if you don’t have enough ports, you may have to sacrifice one of your devices, such as your graphics card, to utilize your storage device. Also, make sure that the PCIe connector has enough lanes, as insufficient lanes can result in your having to utilize a completely different drive from what you want.

– Price Points

As we’ve mentioned above, M.2 PCIe drives are more expensive than M.2 SATA drives. And the price becomes rather significant if you’re considering a PCIe with NVMe support. However, you need to carefully consider what you want to use your drive for before deciding whether you want the budget SATA drive or the more expensive PCIe-based NVMe drive.

Price Points

SATA drives are often cheaper than their PCIe counterparts. However, they utilize cables for their connections which can cause clutter in your setup and also restrict the airflow of your PC.

However, since the form factor can vary between devices, you may experience a difference in clutter and speed, depending on how you set up your PC.

For instance, if you intend to make large file transfers or play games at excellent speeds, then choosing a good PCIe drive with NVMe support is what you want to do.

On the other hand, if you’re building a rig for everyday use, then you can work with an M.2 SATA drive without a hitch. Expect the price difference between both drive types to be about $100 or higher.

– Speed

Another factor you want to consider when choosing between these two M.2 drives is the speed you want. As we’ve mentioned earlier, there isn’t much difference between the speed offered by the 2.5-inch SATA drive and the M.2 SATA drive. Although the M.2 version is smaller in size, both drives use the same interface and offer the same amount of read and write speed.

On the other hand, PCIe drives are faster than their M.2 SATA counterparts, depending on the lanes you have. An NVMe SSD with x1 lane provides up to 1Gbps; one with four lanes provides up to 4Gbps, etc.

While the M.2 SATA remains stuck at a maximum speed of 600Mbps, the PCIe version can provide more speed, depending on the number of lanes it has. For instance, the PCIe Gen 4 can get up to 8Gbps while the latest Gen 5 doubles that speed. However, keep in mind that you can’t just get a PCIe drive with more lanes just because you want to.

You may need to upgrade your computer’s processor to enjoy the excellent performance, or you might experience some discrepancies between your drive and what your PC can output.

Also, make sure to carefully check the read and write speeds offered by some brands, as many early-generation NVMe drives have lower speeds compared to what we have now.

– Drives’ Capacity

The last factor you should consider when deciding whether or not to get an M.2 SATA or M.2 PCIe drive is the capacity you’re looking for. M.2 PCIe drives come with limited capacities as many of them are capped out at 2TB.

Drives Capacity

While you can find models with a maximum cap of four or eight terabytes, you’ll have to fork out more cash as they tend to be more expensive. On the other hand, M.2 SATA drives can range from 500GB to 16 terabytes.

Benefits of Using M.2 PCIe

The M.2 NVMe PCIe drive offers a wide range of benefits including

  • Faster data transfer speed, depending on the number of lanes your drive has.
  • It comes with reduced latency.
  • It supports the NVMe protocol.
  • Uses no cable for its connection to the motherboard.

– Faster Speed

While the M.2 SATA remains stuck at a maximum speed of 600Mbps, the PCIe version can provide more speed, depending on the number of lanes it has. For instance, the PCIe Gen 4 can get up to 8Gbps while the latest Gen 5 doubles that speed. However, keep in mind that you can’t just get a PCIe drive with more lanes just because you want to.

– Reduced Latency

If you have even minor technical knowledge, you will know the importance of the latency factor in determining the smoothness of transfers that a drive can offer.

Reduced Latency

In simple words, lower latency is equivalent to the overall smooth functioning of your system.

Benefits of Using M.2 SATA Drive

The M.2 SATA drive comes with many different benefits, including

  • Low cost and larger capacities.
  • Low power consumption when compared to its PCIe counterpart.
  • It’s more compatible with a wide array of computers and works well with older computer generations.

– Value To Money

If you are on a budget and looking for something that provides the utmost value against your investment and the highest level of speed is not a major concern, then M.2 SATA is your best bet. This type of drive comes with larger storage options at affordable costs.

– Low Power Consumption

Another benefit of M.2 SATA drives that can’t be neglected is that it consumes less power than their counterparts.

Low Power Consumption

This sounds like a minor benefit but in the long run it can be light on your utility bills bring some relief.


As you can see from our comparison above, the M.2 PCIe and M.2 SATA SSD may share the same size and shape, but they feature different specs and protocols. You can tell the difference between both storage types by looking at the key notches on their sides. 

While the M.2 SATA drive has two key notches with one on either side, the M.2 NVMe SSD has just one key notch. Always keep in mind that M.2 simply represents the size and shape of the SSD, and SATA and PCIe are the actual determinants of the kind of SSD you should purchase.

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