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PCIe vs SATA: which SSD interface should you choose?

Solid state drives have improved a lot in recent years. What was dear to most of us five years ago, now much cheaper. For now, there is a lot of confusion about the different types of SSDs and available interfaces. Almost all SSDs offer significant performance differences compared to a mechanical hard disk. SATA, NVMe, M.2 based SSDs are the most popular available at the moment, and people are not sure which one is right for them or which one is the best. This is exactly why we decided to discuss it today. Well, without further ado, let's analyze the two main interfaces that SSDs are available today: SATA and PCI Express.


Serial ATA and Peripheral Component Interconnect Express are the interfaces widely used by SSDs available on the market today. There are many key differences between these two interfaces that can create a lot of confusion among consumers. So let's take a look at these differences:

1. The connection

Serial ATA (SATA) the most common interface used to connect SSDs today. This interface has been around for a long time now. Do you know the SATA cables we use to connect our mechanical hard drives? This is exactly the cable also used for SATA-based SSDs. SATA III, the most recent iteration of the interface has a maximum throughput of 6 Gbps which is approximately 600 MB / s in real-time performance. Because of their popularity and the number of producers producing units based on SATA, i SSDs based on the SATA III interface are the cheapest SSDs available on the market today. These SSDs are usually 2.5 inches and can be found online for as little as $ 50.

The PCI Express interface is a high-speed serial expansion card format that uses point-to-point architecture. This is the same interface we use to connect our graphics cards. PCIe-based SSDs plug into an expansion slot on the motherboard, which provides both data and power connections. So what is their role in the SSDs you could ask for? Unlike SATA-based SSDs, PCIe can allow one more bandwidth through faster reporting and more lanes. Because of direct connection with peripherals, the SSDs based on PCIe they work much better compared to SATA counterparts who use cables to connect to the motherboard, which in turn leads to high latency. For example, the Samsung 960 Pro NVMe SSD boasts about 4-5 times the performance of the SATA-based Samsung 850 Pro.

2. Performance

The performance gap between SATA and PCIe is rather wide, as SATA III reaches 6 Gbps or 600 MB / s. On the other hand, two lanes of PCI Express 3.0 can provide more than 3 times the performance of SSD based on SATA III to almost 2000 MB / s . All of it consuming only 4% more energy than a SATA III SSD . This clearly has an advantage for the PCIe interface.

Even the cheapest PCI-based SSDs offer a significant performance gain over SATA-based SSDs and, if you use higher-end SSD devices, the performance will be much better. To date, the SATA III interface considered a package of bottle for SSDs because it limits to around 550 MB / s in real performance tests . If your requests are quite high and you want an SSD with higher performance, you probably know which interface you need to go to now.

SATA SSD speed


The SATA III SSDs they are usually available in a 2.5 inch form factor, which uses SATA cables for connection to the motherboard. As a result of indirect connection via cables, it could result in high latency that can affect the maximum potential of the SSD.

M.2 a new form factor slot on the motherboard to allow the installation of smaller SSDs in compact devices such as laptops. Nowadays, this slot has entered several ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards that are also used on desktops. There is a lot of confusion about M.2 SSDs among consumers. Make no mistake, the M.2 slots on the motherboard can have SATA and PCIe lanes going into the slot. This totally depends on the motherboard you are using. You'll have to dig into the specs to make sure that.

To example, Samsung 850 EVO SSD can be purchased with a 2, 5-inch or M.2 form factor. Both of these SSDs, regardless of the form factor you're looking for, exceed SATA III speeds usually 600 MB / s.


Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) a rapidly developing communication protocol that allows an SSD to effectively use a high-speed PCIe bus on a computer. PCIe the same interface used by graphics cards, sound cards and Thunderbolt. PCIe 3.0 offers almost 1 GB / s per lane . If you put a card in one four-lane slot, you will get bandwidth practically 4 times, a about 4 GB / s . Now this is incredibly fast, even if you compare it with SATA based SSDs. NVMe is in fact regarded as a replacement for the AHCI protocol, used today by most SATA-based SSDs. You can take a look at the performance of my Samsung NVMe SSD that I currently have on my Alienware 15 R3 laptop below.

PCIe SSD speed

Now, on the other hand, the M.2 slots we discussed above may have PCIe lanes going to the slot. Therefore, PCIe-based M.2 SSDs use the NVMe protocol to accelerate high speeds, easily managing speeds up to 2000 MB / s . Currently, the fastest consumer SSD in the world is the Samsung 960 Pro NVMe M.2 SSD which can provide sequential read speeds of almost 3500 MB / s . This is a huge step forward compared to the 550 MB / s offered by high-end SATA III SSDs. The NVMe protocol will only improve in the future, so if you want the best absolute speeds, PCIe-based SSDs are the ones you should watch.

In addition to this, Intel has been working hard on a newer and much faster SSD called Intel Optane Memory, based on its 3D Xpoint technology. Although Optane is based on PCI Express, Intel claims that Optane 4, 42 times faster than a NAND based NVMe SSD in terms of I / O operations per second. They also promise a lower latency of 6, 44 times in Optane . Although at the moment it is not possible to buy it, it is under development and should be available by the end of next year. So from this we can be sure that PCIe-based SSDs are the future.

5. Prices

We now know how faster solid-state drives based on PCIe are faster than those based on SATA. But all these performance improvements come at a cost. Although the prices of SATA-based SSDs have decreased by a considerable margin. If you take a look at the fastest SATA SSD you can buy, Samsung 850 Pro costs around $ 1000 for the variant from 2TB .

On the other hand, the newer and faster NVMe SSDs cost hundreds of dollars depending on the storage space you need. For example, the SSD Samsung 960 Pro faster to the world it costs almost $ 1200 for the variant from 2TB . These are very high prices for high speeds, especially considering that most of our PCs and laptops cost less than a thousand dollars. But if you still want to buy the best, you can buy it from the link below.

PCIe vs SATA: which SSD interface should you choose?

Now you know the differences between all the types of SSDs available on the market, you should have a better idea on which to buy. If you ask me, I would say that it totally depends on your needs. If you have a limited budget and you want a decent SSD storage, a SATA based SSD would do well. However, if you can't wait to make your system to test of future, then a NVMe SSD based on PCIe what you should do.

SEE ALSO: SSD and HDD: which is better and why?

Upgrading to an SSD?

Well, those were the differences between the two popular SSD, PCIe and SSD interfaces. I hope you can make the choice easily now. So, are you going to upgrade to an SSD in the near future? If so, let us know what the problem is, a SATA based SSD or a PCIe-based SSD. Let us know your thoughts and what you are looking for in the comments section below. Also, if you want to see other articles of this type, write us a line and we will take care of them.