Does The M.2 Brand Matter? (Should You Just Buy ANY SSD?!)

M.2 NVMe drives are getting more popular than ever and this means more brands are entering the market. We’ve got tried and true brands and budget newcomes all selling M.2 NVMe drives with equal stats, but is a name brand really better?

The brand of your M.2 drives matters most when it comes to build quality. M.2 NVMe drives offer transfer speeds that are several times faster than SATA SSDs. At the end of the day, you’ll probably be fine with a SATA SSD unless you’re building a performance gaming PC or using software that demands high data transfer rates.

Before covering whether a specific brand matters, let’s unpack the M.2 NVMe vs SATA SSD debate and see who really comes out on top.

A Quick Introduction To M.2 NVMe Drives

A WD Black NVMe M.2 SSD drive
A WD Black NVMe M.2 SSD drive still in its plastic housing

M.2 NVMe drives are a combination of the newly popularized M.2 form factor and the NVMe data transfer protocol.

M.2 drives have been around for a while, but they’ve just started to get popular outside of use in laptops and other smaller-sized devices. They boast a streamlined way to add more storage and a connection type that interfaces directly with the motherboard rather than connecting through cables.

M.2 drives don’t always have to be faster than your old SSD. It’s all down to their connection type. An M.2 SATA drive will have comparable, if not identical, speeds as your SATA SSD. Things really start to change when we get to M.2 NVMe drives.

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express. It’s a data transfer protocol that has left SATA in the dust. SATA connections typically max out around 600 mb per second while NVMe drives can top 6 gigs per second. That’s a massive step up.

One small thing to keep in mind is that you could, technically, have an NVMe SSD drive. These are fairly rare, but they do exist. This is just to highlight that NVMe and SATA are data transfer protocols while M.2 and SSD are form factors.


An older SATA6 SSD with SATA cable attached
An older SATA6 SSD with SATA cable attached

Let’s break down the fight of the century when it comes to data storage. There’s a lot of debate around which type of storage drive to purchase—and good reasons to get either one!

Let’s start off with the biggest, and loudest, difference between the two: speed.

Advertised Read And Write Speeds

Speed is the biggest issue when people talk about M.2 NVMe vs SATA SSD. Here’s the breakdown.

M.2 NVMe drives are faster by a longshot. These drives can transfer data in gigs per second while SATA SSDs top out at 600mb per second for a high-end model. In terms of read and write speeds, there’s just no way to beat an M.2 NVMe drive.

Now, there’s another very important question here. Does this matter? We’ll go over the real-world impact of these speed differences in just a little bit.

Storage Volume

The maximum storage volume between these two devices is pretty comparable. They run very similar technology when it comes to how they store data which means that they’re going to have similar limitations.

We’ll get into this a little bit more detail in just a second, but the biggest limiting factor is cost. You can buy an 8tb M.2 NVMe drive, but at over $1,000, it might cost more than the rest of your PC build while an equivalent sized SATA SSD is going to be less than half of that price.

Cost And Compatibility

A GEN4 M.2 SSD means that it supports a PCIE 4.0 slot in the motherboard
A GEN4 M.2 SSD means that it supports a PCIE 4.0 slot in the motherboard

Cost and compatibility or two issues that are so closely linked we need to discuss them together.

A SATA SSD drive is not only going to be more affordable, but it’s also going to be more compatible with a greater range of motherboards than an M.2 NVMe drive. This just means that it’s simply easier to find high-volume SATA SSD storage that you can be very confident we’ll work with just about any motherboard.

M.2 NVMe drives are still expensive (in relative terms). They’re cutting edge technology and you’ll be paying a cutting-edge price for your upgrade. They also only work with the newest motherboards which means an additional expense of upgrading your MB just to max out the stats on your storage and data transfer.

One Big Difference You Might Not Know

Let’s talk encryption. SATA SSDs can be encrypted to very high standards, but M.2 NVMe drives come encrypted to the latest industry standards. This means that M.2 NVMe drives are much more secure.

It’s not just their encryption that makes them so secure—it’s also their physical connection.

Your M.2 drives connect directly to your motherboard in the heart of your PC. In order to remove that device, someone would need to open up your computer case and remove the M.2 drive right off the MB.

SATA SSDs can have much more accessible connections. They are often on external ports (such as video editors who use USB drives for their SSD), and can even be in hotswap ports. This might not be the biggest concern, but if you want to optimize your security as much as your speed, M.2 NVMe is the way to go!

Does Getting An M.2 Even Matter When Compared To SATA?

This conversation can get a little tricky, but we’re going to talk through it step by step so we can really grapple with the details of comparing M.2 NVMe drives with SATA SSDs.

The quick takeaway here is that if you’re computing for performance and you need the highest possible data throughput for your use, you’ll be able to make good use of an M.2 NVMe drive. On the other hand, most users—even gamers—should be fine with SATA SSDs.

General Use

Here’s where things start to get really interesting. Most users are going to be fine with a SATA SSD. This comes down to the fact that the vast majority of computing jobs just can’t make good use of the M.2 NVMe standard just yet.

When we say “good use” we mean something more than just speed. Software that needs to access the speed granted by NVMe just isn’t very popular yet. This is especially true for consumer-grade applications.

Games, software, and applications can make great use of the top SATA SSD speeds. If you’re just gaming for personal enjoyment, using your computer for work emails and Netflix, or even doing basic photo, video, or sound editing, you should be more than alright with a SATA SSD.

Gaming And Performance

Playing Serious Sam on a 27 inch 4K monitor
Playing Serious Sam on a 27 inch 4K monitor

Now let’s talk about people who could make good use out of the speeds granted by M.2 NVMe drives.

First up are PC builders who just want maximum performance. Building a performance PC is a lot like building a muscle car. You’re not always building for use, but for the performance itself. If you’re just after raw power, M.2 NVMe is the right move for you.

Next up are the performance gamers. If you’re going pro and want to cut through those loading screens like butter, an M.2 NVMe drive can really help with transferring data from your storage drive.

The last group to consider are people who use their PCs for performance-demanding work. Certain computing tasks can see their time cut down by a factor when switching to M.2 NVMe storage. People who edit photo and video content can also see a noticeable increase in data transfer when working with large files.

Why Not Use Both?

One of the best decisions you can make is to simply use both types of drives. This is an incredibly common set up for performance PC users that want to optimize clear data throughput, but don’t want to break the bank by completely upgrading their storage. Here’s how it works:

  • Upgrade the drive that houses your operating system and key pieces of software to an M.2 NVMe drive. This means that your operating system and the software you use most often will have the fastest possible speed.
  • Next, use a traditional SATA SSD drive to house files and other programs. This will give you the most storage for your money as well as fairly impressive speeds. Housing those secondary files and programs on a SATA SSD drive is a great way to make the most of both your PC Building money and performance.

Does The M.2 NVMe Drive Brand Matter?

Someone holding an M.2 SSD Samsung 970 Pro drive
Someone holding an M.2 SSD Samsung 970 Pro drive

When you’re picking an M.2 NVMe drive, it can be tempting to either splurge on a big name brand or go for a budget alternative you might not have heard of until you saw it. However, we should look at what brands actually delivered when it comes to M.2 NVMe drives.

Here’s how it all breaks down.

Models VS Brands

The first thing that we need to keep in mind is the difference between models and brands.

A given brand can have several different models of storage drives. These models can feature low-end, budget alternatives as well as high-end performance options. It’s pretty common to see more variation between models than between brands.

This leads us to the biggest difference between these drives. It’s all about build quality.

Build Quality

An M.2 SSD with a screwed in heatsink attached
An M.2 SSD with a screwed in heatsink attached

In the PC part world, brands build their integrity based on build quality. Rigorous testing ensures that your M.2 NVMe drive can handle the speeds that it advertises. One big thing to consider is that M.2 NVMe drives generate tons of heat and use an equal amount of energy.

More established brands are going to be testing and building for these stressful conditions while budget alternatives might be cutting corners to save you this money. The best thing you can do is to research the reputation of a budget brand and see if you’re saving money because they are a smaller company or because they’re cutting corners for build quality.

cropped A picture of me Tristan
About Tristan Perry

Tristan has been interested in computer hardware and software since he was 10 years old. He has built loads of computers over the years, along with installing, modifying and writing software (he's a backend software developer 'by trade').

Tristan also has an academic background in technology (in Math and Computer Science), so he enjoys drilling into the deeper aspects of technology.

Tristan is also an avid PC gamer, with FFX and Rocket League being his favorite games.

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