Should You Upgrade to NVMe? 6 Reasons to Stick With SATA SSDs
Whatsapp Pinterest
Advertisement

Buy a new computer, or looking to upgrade? You may have come across a newer type of storage known as NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express).

NVMe SSDs deliver significant speed improvements over the SATA SSDs that have become commonplace is computers today. A “slow” NVMe may still be three times faster than the SATA SSD that came with your laptop. Reviews will tell you that even if one NVMe brand performs poorly compared to others, it’s still better than SATA.

But is this really true, and should you upgrade to NVMe?

1. Your SATA SSD Is Not Why Your PC Feels Slow

A hard disk drive sliced in half
Image Credit: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Does your current experience feel slow? Are your apps taking too long to load? Are you noticing lag? If so, while a new storage drive may improve the situation, it depends on what kind of drive you currently have.

If your machine is running off a spinning hard disk drive, or HDD, then you will want to replace it with an SSD for speed. The time it takes to spin up an HDD does have a noticeable impact on speed, and replacing one with a SATA SSD is an easy way to make an old PC feel new again.

But if you already have an SSD, your problem more likely resides with either having too little RAM, an outdated or aging CPU, or the lack of a dedicated graphics card.

In other words, a NVMe SSD may make a computer feel fast, but a SATA SSD is not likely to make a PC feel slow unless you transfer large files often and are tired of looking at a progress bar.

2. SATA Drives Are Cheaper

When most of us think of storage, we think of space, not speed. SATA drives won’t give you as much speed as their NVMe alternatives, but they will give you far more storage for your money.

If you’ve outgrown your current drive, SATA SSDs can give you a terabyte or two of storage for the price of a high-performance 250GB or 500GB NVMe drive, like those from Samsung.

That said, NVMe prices are dropping. If you opt for one of the slower NVMe options, such as the entry-level drives from Intel or Western Digital, then the savings are smaller (but so is the noticeable difference in speed).

At that point, you have to ask yourself if you rather have a high-end SATA SSD or a low-end NVMe SSD. There are factors to consider here other than speed, such as the next reason to consider SATA over NVMe.

3. SATA SSDs Use Less Power

NVMe drives can achieve drastically faster transfer speeds than SATA drives, but they’re also drawing more power to do so. Some models have a similar impact on battery life as using a spinning hard drive.

You can see the same phenomenon when comparing PCIe SSDs vs SATA SSDs PCIe vs. SATA SSDs: Which Storage Drive Is Best? PCIe vs. SATA SSDs: Which Storage Drive Is Best? PCIe SSDs are faster than SATA SSDs. But you might not need it. This article explains how PCIe SSDs differ from SATA SSDs. Read More .

Storage drives generally aren’t the part of your computer that suck up the most power. But SATA SSD drives have reached a maturity point where they sip relatively little juice. Meanwhile, companies are experimenting wildly with NVMe drives. So while the format has the potential to use less energy, and some drives actually do, this isn’t yet the norm.

4. NVMe SSDs Are More Likely to Lose Your Data

This high performance and the resulting power usage has another consequence. NVMe SSDs can get hot, and this can lead to hardware failure and data loss.

Some NVMe drives run so hot that they’re recommended for desktop use, where you have the space for more airflow. Some units come with heat sinks.

Yet NVMe drives have started to appear in laptops and many people have installed them on their own without burning up all the tightly packed hardware. Ultimately, the likelihood of overheating depends on how hard you push your drive and how well you cool your machine.

If you’re a photographer or video editor who is constantly manipulating large volumes of data, or you’re a gamer pushing your machine to its limits for hours each day, you’re more at risk than someone primarily using their computer to type up documents. But even that doesn’t matter if your PC has poor ventilation.

You also want to pay close attention to which brand you buy.

5. SATA SSDs Work With More Hardware

SATA is not a type of hard drive. It’s the interface your hard drive uses to interface with your computer. The SATA standard was developed in the time of spinning hard disks.

When newer SSDs came along, manufacturers made them compatible with the same SATA port. This way you could replace your existing hard drive without needing an entirely new machine.

NVMe drives do not fit in SATA ports. They require m.2 ports What Is an M.2 SSD? The Pros, Cons, and How to Install One What Is an M.2 SSD? The Pros, Cons, and How to Install One Want your operating system to run even faster? The answer is to use an M.2 SSD drive. Here's what you need to know. Read More instead.

Many newer desktop motherboards come with m.2 ports as an added option, and more than a few modern laptops have done away with SATA entirely. But if you have an older machine, you likely can’t use one of these hard drives without getting a new motherboard or replacing your laptop. Even when you do get a new PC, an SATA SSD is still a good way to turn your old machine into a faster home media server.

6. SSDs Have Reached a Point of Diminishing Returns

A WD Blue NVMe SSD

Storage drive speeds are already so fast that when many people who switch from a SATA SSD to a NVMe SSD don’t even notice the difference.

Installing an NVMe drive will likely make your computer boot up faster, but how often do you restart your computer, and would you notice if the process took ten seconds instead of 20? Some apps will load more quickly, but that’s only if the code is optimized to do so. And when apps already launch in a fraction of a second on a SATA SSD, there’s only so much time you can shave off.

Where NVMe SSDs can have the biggest impact is transferring large files. If you regularly import RAW photos or move video files around, reducing that time by ten or twenty minutes is nothing to sniff at. You may want to pay a premium to reduce those transfer times.

But even when it comes to gaming, which many of these drives are advertised for, you won’t likely notice a big difference unless developers have optimized software to take advantage of the faster drives.

Who Should Buy NVMe SSDs?

NVMe drives are not bad technology. Enhancements that reduce latency and speed up simultaneous data transfers show how storage drives are improving. But like the early days of SATA SSDs, there’s a degree of cost (and to a lesser extent, risk) that comes with making the transition this soon.

When you need to get maximum performance from your machine, NVMe SSDs are without a doubt the way to go. When every minute spent transferring data is a minute you can’t work for a client, it makes sense to reduce that time however you can.

Yet, like having 16GB or 32GB of RAM, most of us don’t need that kind of power. It’s tempting to have the highest spec’d machine money can buy, but there’s no need to be wasteful, especially when you’re picking out components to build your own PC How to Pick the Right Components for Building Your Next PC How to Pick the Right Components for Building Your Next PC Building a PC is challenging, but get the hardware balance right and the result can be a computer that is as powerful as you need. Read More . For the majority of people, a SATA SSD still serves just fine.

Image Credit: breakermaximus/Depositphotos

Explore more about: Building PCs, Solid State Drive.

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Tony
    September 21, 2019 at 4:31 am

    I could not disagree more with what you wrote. Fear mongering, and old data. In the beginning of the SSD there was the same push back. Memory sticks are tested well beyond normal usage. Windows stores most programs and other items in a page file stored on the Nvme which in turn speeds up the whole system. Your argument is based on the fact that a processor and os... combined with secondary programs can not saturate the traditional ssd. Which of course they can. As a result ....you wait. Nvme time has come. SSD had a great a 40+ year run. Please consider your readers before sounding the alarm bells and lighting fire.

  2. Azmaria Post
    August 29, 2019 at 7:08 am

    While I think some computers aren't worth an NVMe, this whole article is like back in the last millenia where people said we would never need more than 640k of RAM or 2GB of hard drive space. This article is uneducated drivel. They're comparing two types of apples (SSD and NVMe) to coconuts (HDD). All fruit but apples are a lot easier to eat immediately and some apples are a lot tastier.

    • Bertel King
      August 29, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Azmaria. I think we're in agreement. Some computers, and some users, don't need an NVMe drive. That's all this post is saying. At no point do I claim that NVMe drives aren't faster or that there aren't people who already benefit from their improvements. In most technical respects, they are superior drives.

      SATA SSD and NVMe SSD are both different technically different from HDD, but they're all storage drives that perform the same role inside your computer. There are some people for whom a SATA SSD is all they need, just as there are people who still put HDDs in their machines because they're willing to sacrifice speed for maximum storage or to save money.

  3. LEO D RODRIGUEZ
    August 28, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Just started using nuc7i3 + 🚀 nvme... Everything is noticeable faster. Installing updating programs etc. If i save one hour. Its worth it.

    • mcorwin
      August 28, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      " If i save one hour. Its worth it."
      And what are you going to do with all that extra time? Play Candy Crush? Post more posts on Facebook?

      • leo
        September 10, 2019 at 9:09 pm

        play with your wife smart guy

    • Dyscyples
      August 28, 2019 at 8:18 pm

      What a shit article. The basis of the claims in this article lack real information. There are so many fallacies listed under each reason that readers without technical knowledge should seek out websites that provide actual analytical facts about SATA vs. NVMe drives. Use analytical and statistical facts to persuade the user to stick with SATA. Saying something runs hotter if you game or generally uses more power are not reasons to persuade, yet topics that should be discussed.

      • Bertel King
        August 29, 2019 at 6:22 pm

        MakeUseOf isn't a destination for benchmarks, it's a place to see complex topics portrayed more simply. If I've written something that's factually incorrect, please be more specific so that we can make a correction.

        Specific to your second point, saying something runs hotter or generally uses more power is precisely the kind of short summary I want when I'm trying to make sense of such a complex topic. The goal isn't to persuade people not to get NVMe, but to help people who are wondering when they're buying a new computer (or building one) if, given how they use their computer and what matters most to them, the choice warrants the extra money. If you prioritize performance, then the question for you isn't NVMe vs SATA, but which kind of NVMe to get.

  4. LEO D RODRIGUEZ
    August 28, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Everything is faster. Code not optimized. You wrong

    • leo rodriguez
      August 28, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      one last thing, there are a lot of background task that really benefit from NVME speeds, like virus protection. if you still use a HDD, good luck

  5. JP
    August 28, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I literally installed a new NVME yesterday and it was barely any more than a sata ssd. It's definitely faster than my old evo 850 which basically saturated the sata connection it was on. Is it night and day? Maybe not but everything just has an instantaneous feel to it now that sata didn't provide. I wouldn't upgrade for the sake of it but if you need a new drive anyways, the prices have come down a lot.

    • LEO D RODRIGUEZ
      August 28, 2019 at 3:03 pm

      Agreed

    • Bertel King
      August 29, 2019 at 6:27 pm

      Thanks for sharing. Your story is consistent with many that I've seen. The jump from HDD to SATA SSD is from slow to fast, whereas the jump from SATA SSD to NVMe SSD is from fast to faster. The difference may become more profound in the future, but right now it doesn't appear to be a change most computer users need to sweat about.

  6. Jason
    August 28, 2019 at 11:38 am

    I only paid $109 for a Sabrent Rocket 1 TB NVME and get 3500 Mbytes per second read and write speeds. It's a beast. So they are cheap, infact they cheaper now than sata SSD. I could not find a 1TB SSD for same price or cheaper.

  7. Jeff rogers
    August 28, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Don't really agree. Nvme drives are fasterz smaller and more likely to make Ito your next upgrade. Why invest in older tech ? My nvme ssd runs cooler than its previous data m2 ssd so don't agree with the heat argument

  8. Cristi_S
    August 28, 2019 at 5:20 am

    Aaahh those nice ripe grapes so high on the vine and the Fox on the ground staring at them, saying: "neah, they're no good"
    Once you see that NVMe baby loading windows in about 2 sec, so fast that the screen barely has time to light up... Or loading apps so fast you don't have time to twiddle your thumbs twice, you'll instantly regret not buying one sooner.
    Yeah, they require that the whole system be on par (a top CPU, lots of speedy ram and all that jazz). Go figure, that's just normal, otherwise it would be like paying for a 1Gbps internet connection only to connect it to a Celeron laptop that has a 5400rpm HDD and a 10/100 network card. Then complaining to the provider "i don't have the speed you advertise"... Well, doh!
    Yeah, NVMe is expensive, but they are Top products in the storage area... it's kind of normal? And get a load of this: so's the latest OLED TV or the best smartphone.
    You don't see comparisons on the internet between Note 10 and Galaxy A50 do ya? And why would that be? Well, maybe because they're in totally different classes, and who wants the best, will have to scrounge up the money to buy it? So comparing them would be pointless.
    Much like this article.

    • LEO D RODRIGUEZ
      August 28, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      Agree

    • Bertel King
      August 29, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Actually, many reviews of budget smartphones actually do mention how the experience compares to buying a flagship, and the reviewer often mentions that for many people there isn't a need to pay hundreds more for the higher-end device. That's because most people don't need all the bells and whistles that bleeding edge tech has to offer, and they're very interested in such comparisons because it helps them save money. By the time they actually need an NVMe drive or a new computer that comes with an NVMe drive, they'll be cheaper than they are now, which is already much cheaper than they were a few years ago.

  9. La grunille
    August 28, 2019 at 2:16 am

    Nearly none of that was true. Author is an idiot.

  10. Calin
    August 27, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    What about IOPS? Having 500 MBytes/s vs 3500 MBytes/s is not a big deal indeed because you need another device (SD card on fast reader or another NVME SSD or whatever). O n IOPS there is a different story, a story which you feel if you are a developer. I bought a Forsair NVME SSD of 960 GB for less than 150 USD and I got 3500 MB/s and 600k IOPS. A SATA SSD of ~1 TB has similar price but lower performance and as I said, you feel it at IOPS, trust me.

    • Bertel King
      August 29, 2019 at 6:36 pm

      I trust you. I didn't think of developers when providing examples of people who would benefit from NVMe drives, but I'm not at all surprised. Thanks for the input.

  11. dragonmouth
    August 27, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    "NVMe drives can achieve drastically faster transfer speeds than NVMe drives"
    That sentence makes no sense.

    "how often do you restart your computer, and would you notice if the process took ten seconds instead of 20? "
    Same argument can be made against getting an SSD to replace HDD, especially for those users running Linux who reboot once every few months, if not less often.

    • neal fildes
      August 27, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      the cost difference seems to be melting away. for the same cost why not go for it?

      • JMcGrath
        August 28, 2019 at 12:19 am

        All good points so far, and there are far more reasons that you *should* buy an NVMe drive!

        Another point to add is that while (some) PCIe drives consume more power, that is only during reads and writes. If the drive consumes say 2W vs 1W, but the drive is 5x faster, you are only consuming 2x the power for 20% of the time which actually makes the drive MORE efficient than a SATA based SSD.

        Heavier workloads, rendering, CAD, etc will all see a significant gain, and most standard users will notice a speedier system due to higher random IOPS

        • Bertel King
          August 29, 2019 at 6:59 pm

          A drive that uses 2W vs 1W is using twice as much power. Is it being more efficient? If it's transferring data five times as fast, then absolutely. But if you care more about power usage than performance, that doesn't change the true statement that the more powerful drive (using your example here) is still using twice as much power.

          There are definitely workflows where hard drive speed is the bottleneck. But for standard users, it really depends. There are plenty of product reviews out there that amount to "It seems like it might be faster, but I I don't really feel it."

      • hohara
        August 28, 2019 at 11:47 am

        "why not go for it?"
        How about If it ain't broke, don't fix it?

        • Bertel King
          August 29, 2019 at 7:01 pm

          That about sums it up.