When you shop for an SSD, you’ll encounter a number of different terms such as mSATA or PCIe. So what does it all mean? Here’s a primer on what you need to know.
To attach an SSD to your system, you need to connect it using a specific interface. Common interfaces are:
- PCIe and NVMe SSDs: PCI Express (PCIe) is normally used to connect graphics cards, network cards, or other high-performance peripherals. This interface gives you high bandwidth and low latency, making it ideal when you need blazing-fast communication between the SSD and your CPU/RAM. SSDs that use this connection type are based on the Nonvolatile Memory Express standard (NVMe), which offers higher input output per second (IOPS) and even lower latency than SATA (which we’ll get to in a moment). NVMe boasts up to 16 GBits per second of raw throughput which, thanks to multiple parallel channels, runs at up to 4,000 MB per second.
- mSATA III, SATA III, and traditional SSDs: Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) is an older interface that was designed specifically for storage, with speeds up to 6 GBit/s or about 600 MB per second. SATA is slowly being phased out by NVME, which is significantly faster. However, older PCs or laptops with a hard disk drive would still benefit from an upgrade to a SATA-based SSD.
SSDs are available in all sorts of storage capacity, starting at around 32 GB and ranging up to 5 TB in the consumer space. (Of course, capacity is significantly higher for enterprise grade storage, with commensurately higher prices.)
During the short-lived era of netbooks (remember those? They were cheap, but slow and flimsy), the famous Asus Eee PC series used 1-4 GB of SSDs as storage, from which parts of the operating system were run for faster access. This was the first mainstream use of SSDs. From then on, ultrabooks and eventually desktop PCs started to adopt SSDs. Common sizes today are between 250 GB and 500 GB, which is plenty of space to hold your Windows operating system, the most common programs, and a lot of your personal files.