Your choice of storage device can make a huge impact when gaming, the faster the storage device is the better your gaming experience will be. NVME and SATA drives are some of the fastest nonvolatile drives you can find, they are faster than traditional hard drives, which is what makes them a popular option for gamers.
NVME stands for non volatile memory express and it’s a protocol that is fairly new, it is common among M.2 drives and they offer extremely fast transfer rates. The SATA protocol also has the same goal in mind which is to transfer data and is pretty common among HDDs and 2.5 SSDs. This is the most popular protocol as it has been established for a long time.
Answer: For gaming, you will want to find M.2 drives that feature the newest protocol which is NVME, this is because it can be up to 5x faster than SATA SSDS. This performance increase can drastically increase loading times in games and make transferring large files extremely quick. The NVME protocol can allow for transfer speeds up to 3GB/s which is pretty amazing.
NVME Vs SATA What Are The Differences?
Storage devices can be extremely difficult to grasp, this is because there are different types such as SSDs, HDDs, M.2 drives, and RAM. NVME and SSD are completely different, they use different communication drivers, SATA uses the ACHI drivers which is mainly designed for HDDs. The ACHI driver can present a bottleneck for 2.5″ SSDs as they were made to handle the transfer rate of HDDs.
The NVME protocol aims to address the issue of the ACHI driver limiting SSDs by taking advantage of the PCIe bus. This allows the SSD to communicate with the CPU at greater efficiency, comparing NVME to SSD is an unfair fight, NVME will completely destroy SSD when it comes to speed. Currently, the maximum speed for NVME is 3.5GB/s whereas SATA can typically reach speeds up to 600MB/s
So, due to the immense bandwidth bottleneck the SATA bus presents, NVME which is fairly new came to address it. The PCIe bus is able to allow SSDs to perform at their true potential by widening the bandwidth, technically the transfer rate for PCIe 4.0 can reach speeds up to 64GB/s compared to the measly 600MB/s limit the SATA 3 bus has. NVME M.2 storage devices are made to connect directly to the motherboard, but not all motherboards will allow this as this technology is fairly new. It essentially works like a PCI-E expansion card, you just plug it in and it works.
What Is AHCI & Is It Better Than NVME?
AHCI stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface and it allows your computer to communicate with storage devices. This interface is what limits the SSDs performance as it was designed to mainly communicate with hard drives and it has never been optimized to allow for SSDs. This interface was released back in 2004, and it allows for hot swapping, this is when you unplug a drive when the computer is still running.
AHCI is perfectly fine when you’re using it with hard drives, this is because it was made for mechanical disks, but when an SSD is used with this interface, it creates high latency. This is because AHCI has a limited queue depth which will cause a bottleneck for SSDs. If you’re looking to build a gaming computer, pay close attention to the type of SSD you’re buying, M.2 drives can use the SATA protocol which won’t offer any benefits.
The NVME protocol has a goal of reducing CPU overhead which can drastically improve the efficiency and communication between the SSD and the CPU. Also, it aims to lower latency which is present with the SATA & AHCI interface. And it aims to increase the input and output operations per second which improves the speed the SSD can operate at. NVME was made to take advantage of the PCI-E bus and it can perform input and output operations simultaneously which is quite similar to how a graphics card works.
Is NVME Really Worth It For Gaming?
For gaming, NVME drives will reduce the loading time of many games, and this can be a huge benefit if certain games take longer to load. While the drives will not increase frame rate, if you’ve ever played games such as GTA V, you know how long it can take to load, especially on a hard drive. Compared to SATA, the loading times can be increased by up to 5 seconds, while it doesn’t seem like a huge difference, it is a fairly new technology that can improve over time.
If you’re on the hunt for an NVME drive, be wary of the M.2 form factor as some of them will use the SATA protocol. In this case, if they’re still using the SATA protocol, you will experience no difference in performance as it is essentially capped at 600MB/s. Also, not all motherboards will allow for the M.2 form factor, only recently made motherboards will support this type of installation. You install the M.2 drive directly onto the motherboard, and screw it in, it requires no power cables which can be a benefit as you need cables
If you’re still on a SATA SSD, you should not feel the pressure to upgrade to an M.2 NVME drive as SATA SSDs are still fairly fast and can load games in a timely manner too. NVME SSDs have far higher potential when it comes to reading and writing data, but this isn’t all that necessary for your gaming experience as it does not increase your FPS. The loading time difference between M.2 NVME and SATA can be up to a few seconds which does not seem all that important for gamers.
If you’re going to build a new PC, then you should go with NVME protocol as it’s new and it can allow SSDs to perform at their full potential. This is because it essentially increases the bandwidth allowing for data transfer speeds up to 3GB/s, sometimes much higher. If you already have a PC running on an SSD, you should not feel the need to immediately upgrade as it’s not a crucial upgrade. M.2 NVME drives will not increase your FPS, but you will notice loading times are slightly better.