5 Differences Between SATA and M.2

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What are the differences between SATA and M.2? The performance of the computer will highly depend on the type of interface used for the SSD or Solid State Drive.

You may notice it yourself but you may not know why and how actually it affects the performance.

This is because you are ideally not aware of the differences between the interfaces, such as SATA and M.2 for example.

To define these two storage technologies in simple words, it can be said that M.2 supports both non-storage and multiple storage use cases.

This means that M.2 is more of a connection specification or a form factor for a computer.

On the other hand, the term SATA refers to the bus interface and is exclusively designed to be used by the data storage devices.

However, there is more to know about these two storage technologies and their differences.

Though there are some overlaps between them there are some major differences that separate these two technologies.

If you are an IT professional you will find this article to be a good one to go through in order to know more about M.2 and SATA and their connections.

The 5 Differences Between SATA and M.2

Differences Between SATA and M.2

1. Full Forms

SATA is ideally the short for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. It is also referred to as Serial ATA more often.

On the other hand, M.2 was formerly known as Next Generation Form Factor or NGFF. M.2 typically does not have a full form but is pronounced as ‘m dot two.’

2. Refers to

Serial ATA refers to the computer bus interface. It is used to connect mass storage devices such as Solid State Drives, Hard Disk Drives, and optical drives.

Ideally, it connects the drives to the motherboard of the computer.

M.2, on the other hand, refers to a particular form factor.

It is certainly not a bus interface such as the PCIe or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express.

It is also not a protocol like the NVMe or Nonvolatile Memory Express.

3. Versions

The M.2 drives are available in different SATA versions such as the Crucial MX500 M.2 and NVMe versions such as the Samsung 970 Pro/EVO.

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However, other SATA form factors are 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch and the latest Revision 3.2.

4. Read and Write Speed

In terms of read and write speeds, the M.2 seems to blow its SATA counterparts out of the way.

Devices with M.2 specs can attain a read speed of up to 3,500 MB/s and write speeds of up to 2,700 MB/s, depending on the operating conditions and the varying configurations.

On the other hand, devices that work through a SATA interface can reach a read speed of up to 550 MB/s and write speeds of up to 520 MB/s, which is significantly slow in comparison to the read and write speeds of M.2 form factor.

5. The Cost Factor

Of course, all the added benefits offered by M.2 come at a cost.

When you compare the costs of M.2 and SATA, the former is much more expensive than the latter.

Which is Better to Use – SATA or M.2?

Apparently, it seems M.2 beats SATA by a significant number of points.

But before finalizing, it is good to take a deeper look at these two storage technologies to have a better understanding.

In addition to the major differences mentioned above, which are enough to decide which among the two is better, here are a few other facts that will help you to figure out which among the M.2 and SATA you should use in your computer.

Out of the three versions of SATA interface, the most popular and widely used version is SATA Revision 3.0 that came into the market in 2009.

This so-called SATA 6 GB/s was published by Serial ATA International Organization or SATA-IO.

Ideally, the SATA interface uses AHCI or Advanced Host Controller Interface protocol primarily.

It is this protocol that helps it to offer a transfer rate or throughput value of 6 GB/s and a theoretical data transfer speed of 600 MB/s.

On the other hand, the good thing about the M.2 specification is that it allows the manufacturers of the device to fit in flash storage modules inside the lighter and thinner devices.

For example, accommodating a usual 2.5-inch SSD inside a razor-slim notebook personal computer that you get today would be very difficult, if not impossible.

However, it will not be with an M.2.

Though you will find SSDs of the mSATA standard are still being sold today, typically the M.2 specification is considered to be the successor to the mSATA standard.

And, when you consider the two most important factors namely, the physical dimensions and the storage space offered, the M.2 SSDs seem to be a bit more favored.

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The M.2 SSDs can offer you a storage space of up to 2 TB, such as the Samsung 970 EVO M.2 SSD for example.

And, as for the physical dimensions, the norm of M.2 SSD is 22 mm by 80 mm.

However, the M.2 standard also supports other different dimensions. For example, the widths of the M. 2 standard can be:

  • 12 mm
  • 16 mm
  • 22 mm and
  • 30 mm.

And as for the lengths, it can be:

  • 16 mm
  • 26 mm
  • 30 mm
  • 38 mm
  • 42 mm
  • 60 mm
  • 80 mm and
  • 110 mm.

When it comes to data transfer speeds, the M.2 SSDs are capable of reaching higher speeds but it all depends on the type of storage interface you are using.

For example:

  • An M.2 SSD using a Serial ATA interface can attain a maximum speed of 600 MB/s.
  • An M.2 SSD that uses a PCI Express interface that allows it to use a Non-Volatile Memory Express and a host controller interface with a lower latency specification can reach a speed of up to 4 GB/s.

Therefore, you can see that the speed depends a lot on the interface as well as on the compatibility of the motherboards.

As for the SATA, the Revision 3.2 introduced in 2013 supports both Serial ATA and PCI Express in the SATA Express specification.

This can attain a data transfer speed of up to 1,969 MB/s on paper.

However, this should not be confused with the External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or eSATA.

And, also keep in mind that the SATA Express specification has not taken off well yet and the SSD makers seem to be quite apprehensive about this specification.

However, SATA offers some other important benefits with its additional features such as:

  • The hot plug support which allows the users to remove or attach a SATA storage device to a system when it is hot and still running without affecting the performance and
  • The Advanced Host Controller Interface or AHCI compatibility that supports hot plugging and drive optimization as well, which improves the performance while performing Native Command Queuing or NCQ.

Therefore, after all these facts discussed, you can surely decide which among the M.2 and SATA is good to use.

Still, for your benefits, here are the facts summarized for you to help you to make the right choice.

You should go for M.2 if any one or more of the following is applicable:

  • If performance is a priority to you
  • If you have a high-end processor in your system
  • If you usually work with demanding applications
  • If you want faster performance
  • If you pack a lot of flash storage into the chassis of the server like in the data center
  • If you need a lot of physical storage space in a much smaller card and
  • If you want to cut down on cabling.
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On the other hand, you can use SATA if one or more of the following is applicable:

  • If you are okay with a reasonably good performance
  • If you typically work with non-critical and less demanding workloads and use run-of-the-mill applications
  • If you are okay with lower data transfer rate
  • If you are okay with less storage space
  • If you are looking for easy availability and a widespread support from a large number of vendors dealing with this tried and tested storage technology and
  • If you are looking for something economical.

In short, if you are looking for a value proposition and not large space and high performance, SATA is good to use.

Otherwise, you should go for an m dot two.

Just keep in mind that when you choose to stick with the M.2 SSD, you should first make sure that your system supports using it in the first place.

Therefore, you should consider a few specific factors before you make the final choice which includes:

  • The type of interface
  • The protocol used
  • The capacity
  • The main board support
  • The socket and the module size compatibility
  • The NVMe mode support
  • The price
  • Your needs and preferences and
  • Other working conditions.

This will take just a few moments but will ensure that you have a higher value in return to your investment.

Also, remember, the M.2 drives do not use cables and are usually much smaller than its precursors.

And, if you need to remove an M.2 drive, it can really be a pain. For this, you may have to remove the graphics card to get access to it.

Conclusion

So, that is all that you need to know about M.2 and SATA.

Now, after reading this article you know what the M.2 and SATA terminologies mean with relation to storage.

Such knowledge will surely help you a lot to make a final decision.