What is NVMe SSD drive: PCI Express, slot

What is NVMe SSD drive: PCI Express, slot

When buying a faster computer, we are accustomed to paying attention first of all to the number of processor cores and the amount of RAM, and only then evaluate the parameters of the storage. However, the last few years have seen a real revolution: new NVMe drives have significantly increased computers' performance. Here we will tell you about their advantages and explain how they differ from traditional solutions.

What makes NVMe special?

NVMe stands for "Non-Volatile Memory Express". The advantages of this type of storage are that it is equipped with a revolutionary PCI Express interface and does not need a constant power source to maintain data storage. Now about all this in more detail.

When performing operations by the operating system or database, the efficiency of writing and reading a disk has a very strong effect on the speed. The faster the drive, the better performance the RAM and processor will provide.

The most traditional and still used disk technology is HDD (Hard Disk Drive), which consist of rotating platters on which data is written.

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HDD bandwidth is about 150 MB/s, and their speed usually does not exceed 80 IOPS. This is a very low performance for tasks dictated by today's time. A more advanced type of disk, SSD (solid state drives), has significant advantages over it, since it does not have mechanical elements, and the cells that make it up can take on a huge number of states. SSDs deliver performance of 550MB/s  and 5000 IOPS or more. But they also have a significant drawback - this is the SATA (Serial AT Attachment) transfer protocol used in them, which slows down interaction with other components…

And here we get to NVMe drives! Instead of SATA, they use the new PCI Express protocol, which reduces the latency of read and write commands, organizes better request queues, and allows simultaneous writes to memory cells from the same queue (all these advantages were deprived of SATA). NVMe drives achieve a throughput of 3.5 GB/s when reading data and 1.5 GB/s when writing, and their speed can reach as much as 400,000 IOPS.

NVMe drives are best suited for applications that require high speed communication between the CPU and the database. Of particular interest are NVMe drives for gamers: these drives allow games to load and run when opening screens much faster than on a conventional hard drive. Small sizes of NVMe SSDs make it possible to use them also in game consoles.

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Can I replace my HDD with NVMe?

And here comes the question: can I already upgrade my computer by buying NVMe? Not every computer will support this technology. There are a couple of parameters that are absolutely necessary:

- Your motherboard must support NVMe interface (or PCIe mode). You can try to check it yourself by googling your device or in the motherboard documentation on the manufacturer's website. NVMe SSDs can work with PCI Express 3.0 or later motherboard interface (more preferred options are PCI Express 4.0 and we are waiting for PCI Express 5.0 to arrive on the market).

  •  Built-in M.2 slot must be installed.
  •  And finally, it is important to have a new version of Linux, Windows, Chrome OS or Mac OS (NVMe most likely will not work on older versions of operating systems).
  • Your cloning software must also support NVMe.

Note. What if my computer doesn't have M.2 slot, can I still switch to NVMe drive? There is a solution. You can use an external SSD with a Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port.

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Which disk to choose?

We didn't mention another feature of NVMe technology that makes it revolutionary. NVMe drives have become available for everyone. Today, for about $100, you can get a decent drive that is several times faster than a SATA drive. For example, ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro 1TB ($117 on Amazon) or HP XS900 Pro 1 TB ($99). If you want to spend a little more money and get a PlayStation compatible drive, you can look at Seagate FireCuda 530 1TB, Kingston Fury Renegade 2TB, WD Black SN850 or other similar M.2 PCIe Gen4 drives.

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