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How to Choose between NVMe and SATA SSDs

Choosing between NVMe and SATA SSDs? Explore the pros, cons, and real-world performance differences to pick the perfect solid state drive for your PC, gaming rig, or laptop. Learn about compatibility, cost, and use case considerations in this comprehensive guide.

How to choose between NVMe and SATA SSDs

When you're faced with the decision of whether to go for a SATA SSD or opt for an NVMe SSD for your laptop or gaming rig, there are some key things to keep in mind. While NVMe SSDs are generally speedier than their SATA counterparts, the real-world difference in day-to-day tasks may not be immediately noticeable for most regular users.

However, if you're into resource-intensive activities like gaming or high-performance computing, the speed advantage of NVMe can become more apparent. To make the best choice, it's important to first check if your system is compatible with either NVMe or SATA SSDs.

You should also weigh your budget against the performance gains and consider the specific applications you'll be running. By doing this, you can make sure your SSD selection aligns perfectly with your unique needs and preferences.

With solid state drives becoming standard in most modern PCs, consumers are faced with choosing between two main options - NVMe and SATA SSDs. On the surface, they may seem similar - both offer far faster speeds than old hard disk drives. But there are some key differences between these two solid state drive interfaces that impact performance and price.

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is the newer, faster standard that is quickly gaining popularity, especially in high-end gaming rigs and workstations. SATA SSDs have been around longer and tend to be more affordable. So how do you choose?

In this article, we'll dive into the pros and cons of each type of SSD and discuss the factors you should consider when deciding between NVMe and SATA. We'll look at real-world speed tests and benchmarks that showcase the performance differences. Cost and compatibility will also be examined, as NVMe can require more expensive motherboards that specifically support it.

Choosing the right SSD matters - it can have a big impact on your PC's speed and responsiveness for years to come. This guide will help give you the knowledge to pick the best solid state drive for your specific needs and budget, whether you go NVMe or stick with SATA. Let's get started!

Understanding NVMe and SATA


NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express is the newer interface designed specifically for solid state drives. It was created to replace the older AHCI protocol and SATA interfaces, which were designed for slower mechanical hard drives.

Samsung 980 Pro - An M.2, PCIe 4.0 SSD sporting a PCIe interface
Samsung 980 Pro - An M.2, PCIe 4.0 SSD sporting a PCIe interface | Source: Samsung

NVMe utilizes a streamlined command set and queueing methodology to reduce latency. It connects drives over PCIe lanes, allowing for much higher bandwidth. This enables NVMe SSDs to reach incredible speeds not possible with SATA.


SATA or Serial ATA is the long-standing interface used to connect SSDs and HDDs in consumer PCs. SATA was introduced in 2003, while NVMe didn't emerge until 2009. SATA sends commands serially and has higher overhead than NVMe.

Samsung 870 EVO - A 2.5″ SSD sporting a SATA interface
Samsung 870 EVO - A 2.5″ SSD sporting a SATA interface | Source: Samsung

But it's important to note that the SATA interface itself is not wholly responsible for limiting SSD performance. Even when using the exact same NAND flash memory, an SSD with NVMe can far surpass speeds of a SATA SSD.

For example, the SATA III specification theoretically caps speeds at 600 MB/s. But a high-end NVMe SSD can reach 3,000+ MB/s read speeds thanks to PCIe and the efficient NVMe protocol.

So in summary - NVMe is the new kid on the block purpose-built for SSDs, while SATA is the older standard hampered by legacy mechanical drive designs. But SATA SSDs are still fast and their long history makes them more affordable and compatible.

Comparing Performance

When it comes to speed, NVMe SSDs are the clear winners. The two most important performance metrics are sequential read/write speeds and random read/write speeds.

In sequential transfers, NVMe dominates. Top-tier NVMe drives can reach sequential read speeds over 7,000 MB/s and writes around 5,000 MB/s. The best SATA SSDs max out around 550 MB/s sequential reads and 500 MB/s writes.

NVMe vs SATA (Sequential Speeds)
NVMe vs SATA (Sequential speeds)

Random access performance shows a similar gap. NVMe drives boast random read IOPS in the range of 750,000 and write IOPS of 700,000. SATA SSDs manage under 100,000 IOPS for both reads and writes.

This performance advantage comes from NVMe's ability to queue and process multiple commands in parallel. PCIe x4 connectivity also plays a key role by providing higher bandwidth.

Real-world benchmarks further demonstrate the advantage. In testing, NVMe SSDs can load Windows 10 in under 10 seconds, while SATA SSDs take 15-25 seconds. Game and application load times are consistently faster with NVMe storage.

Of course, for many everyday tasks, a SATA SSD will provide smooth performance. But for more intensive workloads like 4K video editing, 3D modeling, or high FPS gaming, an NVMe SSD is recommended to optimize the experience.

Comparing Cost

Along with higher performance, NVMe SSDs also come with a higher price tag. There are a few reasons for this cost premium:

  • NVMe requires more advanced controllers to handle the PCIe interface and NVMe command set. This adds to the component costs.
  • The dense NAND flash memory chips used in higher-capacity NVMe drives are more expensive than slower QLC NAND used in many SATA SSDs.
  • NVMe drives come in a wider range of capacities topping out at 8TB. Larger drives command more premium pricing.
  • As a newer standard, NVMe hasn't yet achieved the economies of scale of the mature SATA SSD market.

For equivalent storage sizes, NVMe SSDs are generally 50-100% more expensive than SATA alternatives. A 1TB NVMe SSD might cost the majority of options falling between $100 or less, while high-performance ones can reach up to the $150 range. In comparison, a 1TB SATA model typically costs between $38.99 and $75. The price per gigabyte for SATA SSDs can be as low as $0.07, whereas NVMe SSDs can cost as much as $0.15 per gigabyte.

M.2 NVME 1 TB (Average price in USD over last 18 months)
M.2 NVMe 1TB (Average price in USD over last 18 months) | Source: PCPartPicker

Of course there are many exceptions based on specs and sales pricing. But the underlying cost of NVMe technology remains higher. For budget-focused builds, a SATA SSD provides plenty of bang for the buck. Enthusiasts and professionals requiring max throughput will find NVMe worth the premium.

Use Case Considerations

With NVMe SSDs being faster but costlier than SATA, it's important to weigh your specific needs and use cases when deciding between them.

For intensive workstation uses like 4K/8K video editing, 3D modeling and CGI rendering, the incredible speeds of NVMe are highly beneficial. The massive files and complexity of these operations make NVMe's advantages clearly worthwhile.


On the flipside, for mainstream office work, web browsing and general consumer use, a SATA SSD still provides excellent performance. Unless frequently working with huge files over 50GB, average users may not tangibly notice the NVMe difference for common tasks.

Gaming presents a middle ground. The faster load times and asset streaming of NVMe improves the gameplay experience, especially at higher resolutions and frame rates. But in many cases, a SATA SSD still loads modern games smoothly.

Also consider form factors - M.2 NVMe drives are ideal for small form factor and portable builds. 2.5" SATA SSDs excel for upgrading existing desktops and servers. Ensure your PC's motherboard has an M.2 slot and NVMe support before choosing the former.

Evaluate your budget tradeoffs as well. If trying to maximize SSD capacity for the money, SATA remains king. But for the highest throughput to enhance productivity, NVMe is the enthusiast's choice.

Other Factors

Along with performance and cost, there are a few other key considerations when deciding between these two SSD interface options:


To use an NVMe drive, your system's motherboard needs an M.2 slot and must support NVMe. Some older motherboards may be limited to SATA only. Always verify compatibility before purchasing an NVMe SSD.


Both SSD types are rated for similar lifespans. Top NVMe drives are warrantied for 1,200-1,800 TBW (terabytes written) matching high-end SATA models. Real-world endurance is largely the same.

Power Efficiency

At idle and low loads, NVMe drives can consume slightly more power. But under peak load, NVMe is more efficient thanks to its parallelism and performance advantages. For laptops, NVMe idle power could reduce battery life.

Form Factors

NVMe comes in M.2 and U.2, while SATA offers 2.5-inch and M.2. M.2 NVMe excels for space-constrained builds, while 2.5" SATA is preferable for hot-swapping.


Both NVMe and SATA SSDs are inherently more reliable than mechanical hard drives thanks to having no moving parts. Enterprise models offer advanced reliability and data integrity features.

Evaluating these secondary factors helps ensure you choose the right SSD based on your specific PC's capabilities and intended use case. Understanding both the performance and practical differences between NVMe and SATA is key.


Based on their distinct advantages and tradeoffs, here are some general guidelines on when to choose NVMe or SATA SSDs:

  • For professional media creation, NVMe is strongly recommended. The performance boost for large 4K/8K video and 3D assets is significant.
  • High-end gaming rigs also benefit from NVMe. Shorter load times and faster level streaming improve the gaming experience.
  • Budget-focused mainstream builds should stick with SATA. You still get great speeds for web, office work, and basic consumer use.
  • Small form factor PCs and laptops should leverage M.2 NVMe when possible for compact performance. But SATA M.2 works too.
  • For NAS, servers, and general storage needs - SATA offers excellent capacities for the money. NVMe is overkill for these use cases. But, if top-notch performance is your priority, opt for an NVMe server, as it stands as the swiftest server currently accessible in the market.
  • When upgrading an existing desktop with a 2.5" drive bay, SATA SSDs are plug-and-play. NVMe would require a motherboard swap.
  • If on a tight budget, get the largest SATA SSD you can afford. 500GB or 1TB provides flexibility. Add NVMe later when funds allow.

Do your homework on motherboard compatibility and measure real-world performance needs. With SSDs as fast as they are today, both NVMe and SATA will serve most users well. Pick what's right for your specific build and workload.


NVMe and SATA SSDs represent the two main solid state drive options available today. While both deliver far better performance than old hard disk drives, NVMe is the clear winner when it comes to speed.

NVMe leverages the efficient PCIe interface and streamlined protocol to reach blistering sequential and random access speeds. For demanding creative and professional workflows, NVMe is ideal.

But the mature SATA SSD still excels in terms of affordability and compatibility. For more budget-focused PC builds and common consumer tasks, a SATA SSD boots quickly and operates smoothly.

There are also considerations around form factors, power efficiency, and reliability. M.2 NVMe drives excel for space-constrained PCs, while 2.5" SATA models are great for upgrades. Both offer excellent endurance and durability.

For most shoppers, we recommend evaluating your current motherboard capabilities and compatibility as a starting point. Ensure you have PCIe and M.2 support before opting for NVMe.

Then assess your performance needs - intensive 4K video editing and high-FPS gaming demand NVMe's speeds, while web browsing and office work run great on SATA SSDs. Get the right drive for your workload.

NVMe and SATA SSDs share the same reliability advantages over hard drives. Determine whether the NVMe performance boost is worth the higher cost for your use case. Then equip your PC with the best solid state storage within budget.


What is the difference between NVMe and SATA SSDs?

NVMe SSDs utilize a newer, faster interface protocol and connect via PCIe to enable much higher sequential read/write speeds compared to SATA SSDs. NVMe was designed specifically for SSDs, while SATA is a legacy hard drive interface that creates a performance bottleneck.

How much faster is NVMe compared to SATA?

Top NVMe drives boast over 7,000 MB/s sequential reads and 5,000 MB/s writes. The fastest SATA SSDs max out around 550 MB/s reads and 500 MB/s writes. For random access, NVMe achieves 750,000 IOPS versus SATA's 100,000 IOPS.

Why are NVMe SSDs more expensive than SATA?

NVMe uses more advanced controllers, requires dense/fast NAND flash memory, and comes in higher capacities. As a newer standard, it also hasn't achieved the economies of scale of SATA yet. You pay a premium for NVMe's performance.

When should you choose an NVMe SSD over SATA?

For professional media creation, high-end gaming, and other intensive workloads that involve large files, NVMe is recommended. The speed boost improves productivity and performance.

When is a SATA SSD better than NVMe?

For budget builds and mainstream consumer use like web browsing, office work, etc. SATA SSDs still provide fast boot and load times. The NVMe premium isn't worthwhile for basic tasks.

What are the form factor and compatibility considerations?

NVMe uses M.2 and U.2 form factors, while SATA offers 2.5-inch and M.2. Verify your motherboard has PCIe and M.2 support before buying NVMe, as older boards may be SATA-only.

Is NVMe or SATA better for reliability?

Both are highly reliable with no moving parts. Top models from either interface offer similar endurance ratings around 1,200 TBW warrantied writes. For consumer use, reliability is equal.

What capacity NVMe or SATA SSD should I buy?

For general use, 500GB - 1TB provides a good balance of capacity versus price. Get the largest SATA SSD you can afford if budget limited. Add NVMe later as needs grow.

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Asa is a mononymous person and has been passionate about technology since in middle school. Asa has taken on the role of an editor at AFP1.
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