Hardware Guide - PCI Express M.2 Drives

Written by Jon Sutton on Thu, Dec 25, 2014 4:30 PM
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If you’ve been keeping an eye on the rapidly changing world of storage mediums you might have heard whisper of PCIe M.2 drives. For the uninitiated these are basically SSD storage drives that plug straight into the PCI express ports on your motherboard, rather than the traditional SATA 6Gbps which most of use.

The first few of these aforementioned PCIe M.2 drives have already hit the market, from the likes of Samsung and Plextor. On the standard Samsung 840 EVO SATA SSD available right now, you can expect Read and Write speeds of 540MB/s and 520MB/s respectively. This seems fairly impressive on the surface, but these new M.2 drives are already capable of 1,170MB/s Read speeds and 930MB/s Write speeds, blowing away the hottest SSDs on the market.

In previous years you might have seen M.2 crop up under the name Next Generation Form Factor, or NGFF. It came along and replaced the mSATA standard in mobile devices and notebooks, primarally because it's thinner at just 22mm, but also stretch up to 110mm in length, similar in size to a stick of RAM.

In terms of size they’re unparalleled, but it comes at the cost of some of your PCIe lanes. On many older motherboards this can result in slower speeds, but on the newer X99 chipsets you can expect blazing fast performance.

Extremely low power consumption coupled with a high degree of reliability make these an enticing prospect for system builders who want to push the boat out. For many this makes them an ideal prospect for laptop builds, but it seems that there is a demand out there from desktop users. There’s no denying that these are going to offer some incredible loading speeds, but your wallet isn’t going to be too thankful.

As it stands M.2 drives are faster than anything else out there, but this comes at a significant cost. A 128GB XP941 Samsung M.2 SSD currently sets you back around £190, £35 more than the Samsung 840 Evo 500GB with double the storage space.

Do you think the M.2 drives are a worthwhile expenditure? Or do traditional SSDs provide more than enough speed for your needs? Let us know what you think!

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15:53 Dec-27-2014

I saw that the Samsung 850 Evo is built with a different kind of tech and design, using 40nm, resulting in great speeds and extreme lifespan (i think it has like a 10 year warranty). Even though Samsung is not my favourite company, I must admit they are amongs the guys that are really moving the SSD market to where it needs to be: lifespan and higher storage.

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08:55 Dec-27-2014

Shut up and take my PCIe lanes.

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09:39 Dec-27-2014

your 4790K can handle only 16 lanes, so if you wanna run one graphics card at x16 mode then you have no lanes left :P

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18:23 Dec-26-2014

just another gimmick interface, with sata express already seen on X99 boards I think M.2 will die out quickly especially since it eats certain bandwidth of cpu pci lanes :P

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14:04 Dec-26-2014

I can see myself using these in the future, but not now. They are not cost effective. I'm looking at doing my next build in late 2016/early 2017. If the price is better by then, I will definitely look in to it. If not, there will be some amazing SSD's for HDD prices by then.

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12:47 Dec-26-2014

i'm not even familiar with SSD, man i missed a lot on tech

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09:51 Dec-26-2014

should i put a gtx 970 on a h61 motherboard?

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19:23 Dec-26-2014

I have mine on a H87 board. I don't think your board is the real problem, if it has a PCI-E Gen3 16 lane slot your GPU should coup with it just fine. I advise you to pair it with a stable power supply and you souldn't have problems.

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19:25 Dec-26-2014

And also another thing, you should think changing your monitor, it's ridiculous to use a 970 for that resolution =D .

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04:10 Dec-27-2014

thanks ;)

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00:24 Dec-27-2014

i have a 700 watts power supply, so im ok with that?

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08:56 Dec-27-2014

Well, I don't think it's so much about the wattage, but a about the quality. I have a 450W PSU, but I spent on it 90€, if it'sa good brand you'll be totally fine. What do you have?

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03:07 Dec-29-2014

i spent like $70 on mine.

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00:34 Dec-30-2014

I actually wanted to know the brand, 'cause I've seen 1000W supplies which cost only 60-70€ and I don't trust them.

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09:14 Dec-26-2014

its a good leap forward but i cant but it :(

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01:15 Dec-26-2014

My mobo came with m.2. Plextor read/write is 750/500. If you get pciex4 you can get up 1200MB read you do lose 2 SATA ports but no worries. You dont need power/data cables either.

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00:49 Dec-26-2014

I think this is good, because its verry small, faster. And we don´t need cables anymore:D

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18:45 Dec-25-2014

only ****ty thing you cant put oc on that one.....

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17:50 Dec-25-2014

If you have a lenovo y510p then this is really the best way to do the SSD option and use the normal hhd as a media storage drive.

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17:23 Dec-25-2014

These are perfect for small form factor builds!

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16:35 Dec-25-2014

IMO M.2 drives are for someone who haves little space in his case and wants a more clean look. If I'm going to step up to these drives, I sincerly prefer the drives which work on normale PCI-E lanes.

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22:39 Dec-25-2014

same here.
there is a rog pci-e ssd,gets about 1gb/s read&write...but not as fast as these....it is only x4 or so,pci-e 2.0 aswell...

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09:09 Dec-26-2014

Then you must see this ssd Phoenix Blade 480Gb which can reach 2Gb/s, truly amazing.

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10:02 Dec-26-2014

Ive seen that as well the price is just ridiculous. Pcie x4 can handle 2gb/s. I think the m2. ports that are x4 can handle the same. Whats good about m2. is you dont lose pci slots just sata ports. My MSI m2. was rated at 750mb/s.

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10:03 Dec-26-2014

Downside though ive seen in a review that they run EXTREMELY hot. Hotter then most cpus at load with a good cooler.

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19:50 Dec-26-2014

Well, you don't lose physical pci slots, but the m.2 slot is a pci slot, so you actually utilise, if I remember well, 2 pci lanes. About the problem of overheating, where did you hear about that?

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