Buying storage for your PC is a delicate balancing act between performance, capacity, and price. While NVMe M.2 drives are clearly more powerful, SATA SSDs provide a budget conscious option. However, which drive will outlast the other?
A NVMe M.2 drive and a SATA SSD actually have very similar lifespans. NVMe M.2 drives use nearly identical storage technology as SATA SSDs, but with a faster way of connecting to your motherboard. This means that NVMe M.2 drives and SATA SSDs are in a two-way tie for first when it comes to longevity.
Let’s find out if NVMe M.2 drives or SATA SSDs age faster.
A Quick Primer on NVMe M.2 Drives
These are some of the most exciting drives, and they’re changing how we look at data storage. Well, a NVMe M.2 drive doesn’t really change how the data is stored, but it does change how the data is read.
NVMe M.2 drive plugs directly into your motherboard. This is the biggest change between SATA SSD drives and NVMe M.2 drives. This direct connection allows for data transfer that can be 5 or 6 times faster than with cabled drives. This significantly changes the capabilities of PCs especially for individuals interested in resource-intensive processes like gaming and graphic design.
However NVMe M.2 drives aren’t quite taking over for SSD—and even HDD—just yet. These drives have the best performance, but that also comes with the highest price tags:
|1 TB 6 Gb/s SATA Hard Drive
|1 TB SATA SSD
|1 TB PCIE4 NVMe Drive
This often means that PC builds use a NVMe M.2 drive for the OS and SSD storage for other storage.
It’s worth taking a closer look at the differences between NVMe M.2 drive and SSD drives.
NVMe M.2 Drives VS SATA SSDs
There’s still a lot of discussion about the differences between NVMe M.2 drive storage and SATA SSD drives. We’re going to break down their similarities and differences.
The first thing to note is that they, technically, have the same storage. They use similar storage technology which means they have very similar capacities and limitations when it comes to raw storage. They start to get different when we look at speed.
They differ when it comes to how fast they can go. A NVMe M.2 drive is lightning fast compared with the more modest SATA drives: with M.2 drives hitting 7,000 Mb/sec read speeds, with SATA SSDs topping out at 500-600 Mb/sec.
This comes down to how they physically interface with your motherboard. The speed difference comes down to NVMe M.2 drives just having a superior way of interfacing with your motherboard.
Price is also a big consideration. With more speed, comes more cost. NVMe M.2 drives are very expensive. This is always the case with newer, performance-oriented tech upgrades. SATA SSDs used to be the hottest thing in the PC building world, and they also used to command high-end prices. The cost of NVMe M.2 drives will likely drop as they start to become the new standard.
Another consideration in this head to head is how well they work with existing tech. You can likely connect a NVMe M.2 drive with most modern motherboards, but only the latest are fully capable of using them to their full potential. A SATA SSD, on the other hand, is likely going to work with nearly every motherboard out there. Just like cost, we’ll likely see this trend level out over time.
Here’s a breakdown of how these two drives stack up.
NVMe M.2 drive
- Considerably faster
- Smaller form factor fits in more compact PC cases
- Opens up improved potential for gaming and resource intensive operations
- Much more expensive than other types of storage
- Older motherboards won’t have the necessary compatibility to make good use out of these drives
- Similar storage when compared to NVMe M.2 drives, just not as fast
- More motherboards support SATA SSD storage
- Increasingly affordable
Do NVMe M.2 Drives Last Longer?
All right, now things are going to get a little bit complicated, but that’s okay. We’re going to walk you through the intricacies of figuring out how long a NVMe M.2 drive last. Let’s start with figuring out how we measure the life expectancy of these drives.
When it comes to measuring the life expectancy of these drives, we need to look at two separate factors. These drives age based on both the total time they’ve been active, and how much reading and writing the drive is doing.
Here’s an easy analogy. Your car is going to age based both on the amount of miles you drive it, and how long you’ve owned it. A car that drives a thousand miles a week is going to age a lot faster than a car that only drives 10 miles a week.
When it comes to NVMe M.2 drives, this is called “write endurance.” This is expressed as a volume of data. You can think about this as the total volume of data that your drive can handle.
The write endurance for a Samsung 970 EVO 250 GB drive is 150 TB:
This means you can write and rewrite data on that drive up to max volume of 150 TB before it starts to fail. The drive only holds 250 GB which means you can write and write over its maximum volume 600 times before it starts to fail.
Most users won’t even get close to those maximum numbers. Even if you run a cyber secure drive wipe, that would only dent roughly 1/600th of the write endurance. Adding and deleting 30 GB video games will hardly even scratch the surface.
The other type of age is known in the business as MTBF or meantime between failures. This is the length of time your device should operate normally before it starts to experience mechanical, electrical, and logical failures.
Again, our friendly neighborhood Samsung 970 EVO 250 GB is rated with an MTBF of 1.5 million hours. That’s 171 years.
It’s not like these drives never fail, but they are much more long-lived than their HD and HHD parents. With all of this said, you’ll get a similar lifespan from a SATA SSD. They use the same tech, just different connectors. There are going to be some differences, but these add up to rounding errors.
NVMe M.2 Drives Advertised Lifespan by Brand
Now we need to look at some specific brands of NVMe M.2 drives. Let’s see how they compare and how they can trust when it comes to what they advertise their maximum life spans.
We’ll be using the manufacturers’ advertising data for our comparisons. Real-world testing by users is likely going to yield different information, but that data just hasn’t been compiled yet. This information should be extremely close to what actual PC users are going to experience in their day-to-day lives.
We talked briefly about the Samsung EVO series, but let’s give them some more attention. Their NVMe M.2 drives are built like trucks. While they all share the lifespan of 1.5 million hours for MTBF, they do have different write endurances.
In general, the more storage a drive has, the more write endurance it has. Samsung’s 2 TB drive is rated with a write endurance of 1.2 PTB (AKA 1,200 TB), which is about as close to impossible to wear down as you can get for general users.
You’d have to build a machine designed to age that drive’s write endurance to start denting it.
The WD_BLACK line of products outclass Samsung when it comes to longevity. Not only will they last longer, they can also handle more work. However, when we’re talking about numbers this big, how much does an extra 20 years of use count for most users?
Let’s look at the WD_BLACK SN750 NVMe SSD. This drive comes in a 250 GB model with a very reasonable price tag. It is rated for 1.75 million hours MTBF which is .25 million better than Samsung. This translates to roughly 199 years of performance.
This is technically better, but both drives last until the year 2300.
Sorry in advance to digress, but that’s now reminded me of Busted’s infamous song:
Okay, it’s 700 years out, but still. Let’s get back to things.
WD_BLACK’s write endurance is what’s special here. Their 250 GB model has a write endurance of 200 TB which is better than Samsung by a long shot. This scales up with their higher volume models as well.
What Causes an NVMe M.2 Drive to Age Faster Than Normal?
NVMe M.2 drives have one big concern when it comes to aging faster than normal. These drives are much more susceptible to heat damage then their SATA SSD counterparts.
There’s a few big reasons for the added risk of heat. The first is that SATA SSD drives are built with some natural heat shielding. That extra casing around your SATA SSD drive provides it with a small amount of heat mitigation.
The more expensive M.2 drives also have built-in heatsinks, but the budget ones are often “naked” and you may need to add third party heatsinks:
The second is that your SATA SSD drives are typically offset from the motherboard. That cable gives them the advantage of being away from heat sources which keeps them cooler and helps them last longer.
Your NVMe M.2 drive is going to be right in the heart of the action. They’re often next to your graphics card which is effectively a small space heater that lives inside your computer. NVMe M.2 drives can overheat very quickly which can take that impressive write endurance and lifespan and start shaving off time and data integrity before you know it.
This is why a lot of NVMe M.2 drives ship with their own heat mitigation. Some even come with heat sinks that are designed to mitigate a lot of this risk. Gamers and other users that put a high demand on their PCS are going to need to come up with better heat mitigation solutions if they use NVMe M.2 drives over SATA SSDs.