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Everything You Wanted To Know About SSDs

One of the best things that ever happened to laptops and personal computers was the invention of SSD, or solid state drives. Picture your traditional HDD having superpowers and you’d have painted a pretty picture of what SSD technology is capable of.

But not all SSDs or solid state drives, or even SSD connection types, are the same. While SSDs are the evolution of your traditional SATA hard drives, compatibility is a big concern especially when you’re working with older motherboards.

Don’t worry because this article will tell you everything there is to know about SSDs, the different SSD types, and more.

First, What Exactly Is A Solid State Drive?

SSD or Solid State Drive is a new type of hard drive that utilizes a new way of storing and delivering information. Traditional HDDs rely on electrical signals being carried through a passageway made of vacuum tubes. But with SSDs, electrical signals are carried between transistors using solid materials.

Unlike a traditional HDD, SSDs is a static devices with no moving parts. It comes with its own integrated circuits that allow you to store information inside the drive. Because there are no moving parts, storing and transferring information is done at a faster rate. The SSD has non-volatile memory chips which have a unique controller, thereby removing all mechanical and moving parts. You end up with a device that’s more energy efficient because you don’t need motors and a power supply to make it work. In simpler terms, everything stored in an SSD like your OS and programs would load faster.

SSDs come in different sizes and shapes, as well as components, but their functions are one and the same.

What Makes an SSD Different From Traditional SATA Hard Drives?

Read or Write Data

An HDD uses a mechanical arm to write or read data and magnetic systems similar to how CDs and DVDs store or write data.

An SSD has a semiconductor IC or Integrated Circuit that’s responsible for storing information. It also has flash memory, similar to the technology found in USB sticks and memory cards. The IC is also responsible for other tasks such as cleaning, caching, and restoring data.

Build

SSDs don’t have mechanical or moving parts, so it’s already vibration-proof or shock-proof, while an HDD uses a magnetic discs that’s set to run for a specific amount of time. A traditional hard disk drive is more likely to slow down in performance over time because of wear and tear.

Heat Resistance

HDDs have a tendency to overheat more than SSDs. In fact, SSDs are known to be more heat-resistant because of the absence of mechanical parts even at high workloads.

Processing Speed

SSDs carry data through electricity, and with no moving parts to rely on, they’re reliably faster than an HDD. Solid state drives’ processing speed can go as high as 3500 Mbps, while HDDs can only go as high as 160Mbps.

Weight

Because of the SSD’s build, they’re lighter and more compact than the HDD.

What Are The 5 Types of SSDs?

We know what an SSD is and how it works at a glance, but did you know there are different types?

In this section, we’ll go over the different SSDs, their interfaces, connectors, and other functionalities (if ever).

SATA SSD

SATA or Serial Advanced Technology Attachment SSD is the most popular type of SSD and is the first SSD model released in the market.

A typical SATA SSD is about the same size as a SATA HDD and also has the same connector type

SATA SSD SSD Types

The SATA SSD uses Serial ATA to transfer data and is compatible with any desktop or laptop, even if the unit is about 10 years old or more. All you need is a 2.5-inch drive bay and a SATA cable.

SATA SSDs are also used by older computers that don’t have the new SSD connector and can only accommodate SATA cables. This makes it a great choice for upgrading an old laptop or PC’s HDD and giving it a brand new lease on life.

There are three versions of the SATA SSD, namely SATA I, SATA II, and SATA III. Here are the transfer rates for each version:

  • SATA 1.0: 5 Gb/s, 150 MB/s
  • SATA 2.0: 3 Gb/s, 300 MB/s
  • SATA 3.0: 6 Gb/s, 600 MB/s

M.2 SATA SSD

The M.2 SSD is a newer type of SATA SSD and is smaller and lighter than the SATA SSD. The M.2 SSD has a rectangular shape and looks like a smaller version of RAM.

M2 SATA SSD Types

An M.2’s dimensions are 22mm x 80mm (width by height) and come with NAND chips on both sides. They’re more convenient and can be installed into a motherboard that has an M.2 slot. If your laptop or PC has an M.2 slot, then you can definitely run with an M.2 SSD.

M.2 SSDs also come in different sizes, but here are the common dimensions:

  • M.2 22110 : 110 x 22 mm
  • M.2 2280 : 80 x 22 mm
  • M.2 2260 : 60 x 22 mm
  • M.2 2242 : 42 x 22 mm

The M.2 2280 is the most common type of M.2 SSD.

Note that the M.2 slot on a desktop’s or laptop’s motherboards can accommodate either a PCI-E bus or a SATA Bus, and can only have either an M.2 SATA slot or an M.2 PCI-E slot. That’s why you need to match your motherboard’s M.2 slots with the M.2 SSD you’re planning on buying.

mSATA SSD

mSATA SSD SSD Types

The mSATA SSD is a smaller version of the SATA SSD and is commonly installed in compact computers, mobile devices, or tablets that have an mSATA slot, or laptops.

The newest mSATA SSDs have a storage capacity of up to 1TB with a 6Gbps read/write speed. This SSD also boasts lower power consumption, making it more economical than the traditional SATA SSD.

Experts would still recommend going for a SATA SSD as long as your motherboard can equip it. Your device needs to have an mSATA connector if you want to install an mSATA SSD.

M.2 PCI-E SSD

M.2 PCI-E SSD SSD Types

The M.2 PCI-E SSD is the first SSD to ever use a PCIe connector type and allowed servers to increase their storage capacities and speeds. An M.2 PCI-E SSD can fit right into your motherboard’s PCIe ports, similar to how you’d install a PCIe network card or sound card. Right now, an NVMe SSD using a PCIe connection interface possesses the fastest computational speed at read/write bandwidth of 2000 Mbps up to 32Gbps.

You’ll need PCIe M.2 slots on your motherboard if you want to use an M.2 PCI-E SSD, and you also need to match the M.2 slot keys of both the motherboard and the SSD as well as its size.

M.2 NVMe SSD

M.2 NVMe SSD SSD Types

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express and is five times faster than SATA SSDs. These are relatively new and have only been out for a couple of years. The M.2 NVMe SSDs use a PCIe interface and connector type.

With that said, the M.2 NVMe SSD is more expensive and consumes a lot more power than SATA SSDs. A typical M.2 NVMe SSD would usually have an interface rate of 32 GB/s with 3.9 GB/s throughput, which roughly translates to having more speed for high-resolution gaming or video editing.

But as fast and as expensive as the NVMe’s are, this type of SSD has some disadvantages:

  • Some BIOS still don’t support booting OS from the NVMe SSD. That means you would need a new motherboard that has BIOS that supports this if you want to load up your OS on the NVMe PCIe SSD.
  • Some laptops can accommodate an NVMe SSD as long as they have a spare PCIe slot. If your laptop does not have a PCIe slot (or a spare one at that), then you might need to purchase a new laptop with an NVMe SSD already built in. However, these laptops are pricier.

Is There A Difference Between Cheap and Expensive SSD?

Choosing between SSD types is one thing, but another thing to consider when shopping for SSD is their price. Are you willing to go out and buy an expensive brand, or are you willing to work with a cheaper brand?

Is there an actual difference between SSD types if they’re expensive or cheap?

Let’s take a look at some important factors:

  1. Age is something you want to consider, so if you want to have a longer-lasting SSD, then you’ll want to go for a more expensive brand as they last for about 20 years or more, while a cheap brand could conk out after 5 years or so.
  2. Expensive SSDs have faster load times, so this makes it one of their better selling points. Even if you bought a mid-range brand, it will still perform better than the cheap brands.

What Are Some Factors In Choosing SSDs and SSD Types?

There are only about three things you need to consider when it comes to choosing what type of Solid State Drives you’re using:

  • Your budget
  • What your using it for
  • Motherboard compatibility

Motherboard compatibility ultimately makes or breaks your decision into choosing what SSD type you’re ending up with.

Older motherboards will most likely accommodate SATA solid state drives, even with or without the 2.5 inch bay. Modern motherboards allow for more flexibility as they have slots that support M.2 SSDs and 2.5 inch SATA SSDs. You can even install one M.2 SSD on your motherboard to host your OS and applications while you use the 2.5 inch SATA SSDs to host your files.

There are some old motherboards that can accommodate M.2 drives and if your motherboard has PCIe 3.0 slots, then you can use PCIe add-in adapter cards to let you use an M.2 SSD.

If you are lucky enough to have a motherboard that can support an NVMe SSD, you’re more or less going for it all the way. The budget shouldn’t be a concern at this point because you just want to have the highest storage capacity possible for an NVMe SSD.

Which One Should You Use?

Gamers are more likely to use the NVMe SSD, or any PCIe SSD because of the faster load time. Games start up and load faster than they should, even on a SATA SSD. Content creators that edit videos or audios will also be using these SSD types to process and render through large amounts of data with ease.

On the other hand, if you want something faster than your old HDD for everyday use, then SATA SSDs are more than enough.

For everyday performance that does not require high-intensity data speed transfer, you can get a SATA SSD. If you want more storage space without having to spend a lot more money, you can use your SATA SSD to host your OS and applications while storing all your data in your traditional HDD.

The Wrap Up

It goes without saying that the price of SSDs will continue to go down as more types of SSDs become available to the market. At this time of writing, you can probably score a 2TB NVMe SSD (Samsung) for less than $200, which is a far cry from what these NVMe PCIe SSDs were priced at when they first graced the market.

If you want more storage space and faster load times, then consider upgrading to any of the types of SSDs mentioned above.

James Stephenson

james stephenson profile picJames is a gaming and tech enthusiast. He has been playing computer games since the Commodore 64 days in the 80s. He has worked as a Broadcast Engineer with BBC News and knows a thing or two about building, fixing, and playing with PCs.