Computers / Buying Guide

Recommended SSDs by Form Factor

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So, you’re in the market for a solid-state drive? Are you looking for a 2.5" SATA III SSD or a M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD? If that sentence confused the heck out of you, you should probably keep reading.

2.5" Form Factor

There’s nothing wrong with running an old school 3.5" HDD (hard disk drive) in your desktop computer… if you don’t mind looking at the Windows startup screen for more than a minute. Replace it with a 2.5" SSD (solid-state drive) to enjoy faster boot times and performance in general. Because of its smaller form factor, it won’t exactly fit in your 3.5" drive bay. A quick fix is to grab a simple 2.5 to 3.5" bracket.

   WD 4TB Red 5400 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal NAS HDD                     Sony 960GB G Series 2.5" SATA SSD

Some desktop cases even have a separate drive bay dedicated to 2.5" SSDs, so you don’t even have to replace your current HDD (or buy a converter bracket). Adding an SSD to your HDD instead of replacing it is a great way to get faster data-transfer rates and a large capacity for storage. Just make sure you install the OS and your most-used apps to the SSD to take advantage of the faster data-transfer rates. Photos, videos, and other apps that you don’t use as often can stay on the 3.5" HDD. Most 2.5" SSDs will utilize the SATA III (Serial AT Attachment) interface. Providing up to 6 Gb/s, the 2.5" SATA SSD can potentially reach up to 600 MB/s. Did we mention that the SSD doesn’t have any moving parts? This makes it less prone to mechanical failure, compared to the 3.5" HDD.

Samsung’s line of 850 Evo 2.5" SATA III SSDs features a great combination of performance and capacity. You can purchase a 250GB model and use it in conjunction with an HDD or go all out with the 4TB model.

Crucial also offers the MX300 series. The 2.5" SATA III SSDs come in 275GB, 525GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities.

Crucial 275GB MX300 SATA III 2.5" Internal SSD

M.2 Form Factor

While most desktop computers have the space for a 2.5" SSD, laptops are all about providing fast performance in a compact form factor. And while most laptops may have utilized 2.5" SSDs in the past, modern notebooks have moved on to the M.2 slot.

M.2, the interface formerly known as NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor), is located on modern motherboards. Replacing the mSATA form factor, the M.2 is more flexible because it supports both SATA and PCIe, where mSATA was stuck with SATA. M.2 is also more flexible than mSATA because it can vary in length. That’s why you may see something like M.2 2280. 2280 refers to the dimensions. The first two numbers refer to the width (it’s usually 22mm) and the last two or three digits refer to the length (in this case, 80 mm). Some other numbers you may see are 2230, 2260, and 22110.

ADATA Technology 256GB Ultimate SU800 M.2 2280 3D NAND SSD

M.2 SATA SSDs are still limited by the SATA III interface, so if you want the most out of your M.2 SSD, it’s recommended that you go for a M.2 PCIe SSD. An M.2 PCIe Gen 2.0 x2 SSD can reach up to 1000 MB/s, and a M.2 PCIe 2.0 x4 SSD can get up to 2000 MB/s. There is also a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface that reaches up to an insane 4000 MB/s. You may also see NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express), which is an interface protocol for PCIe drives. NVMe is the industry standard for M.2 PCIe SSDs, and was designed specifically for flash memory, to deliver high bandwidth and low-latency access.

Samsung offers Evo and Pro models for M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs. The Evo series comes in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacities, while the Pro series has 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities. If you’re okay with just a M.2 SATA SSD, Intel® has you covered with its E 5400s series, available in 240GB, 360GB, and 480GB capacities.

Samsung 512GB 960 PRO M.2 Internal SSD

Which SSD appeals to you the most? Is it the traditional 2.5” SATA III SSD or the modern M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

2 Comments

Nvme for me. Put it in my PC build over M.2. Lost two SATA ports though but it’s worth it

Nvme for me. Put it in my PC build over M.2. Lost two SATA ports though but it’s worth it

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