What is an M.2 SSD?

An M.2 SSD is a small form factor solid-state drive, used in storage expansion cards in high-performance environments.

Solid-state drives (SSDs) store data on solid-state flash memory, rather than the spinning platters found in hard disk drives (HDDs). As such, an SSD is smaller and contains no moving parts. Formally known as the Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF), M.2 – pronounced “M dot 2” – is used in internally mounted storage expansion cards. Supporting multiple protocols including PCIe and SATA, M.2 drives are smaller than conventional SSDs, similar in size to a pack of chewing gum, 22 millimeters wide and 60 or 80 mm long. They do not need a cable to connect to a motherboard, instead utilising a dedicated M.2 slot. M.2 SSDs support non-volatile memory express (NVMe) drives, which enables a more efficient transport of data between storage systems and servers.

There are several benefits of using an M.2 SSD. Firstly, an M.2 SSD takes up far less physical space than a standard SSD, and weigh a lot less, around 7g compared to the 50g weight of a standard SSD. They also use less power. Secondly, an M.2 SSD offer vastly faster speeds, and NVMe SSDs offer lower latency, too. General tasks will feel smoother, as your operating system utilises your storage all the time. You’ll find your computer or laptop has much faster boot times, and if you’re using an M.2 SSD for gaming, faster load times. Thirdly, M.2 is a flexible interface, supporting PCIe, SATA, USB 3.0 Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

On the other hand, there are some downsides to M.2. The biggest is probably the cost – expect to pay a premium price for an M.2 SSD. Prices for standard SATA SSDs have fallen, so unless you require incredibly fast speeds, an M.2 drive might not be necessary for your needs. M.2 SSDs are typically used in newer mobile devices, and may not be compatible with older systems, something you need to bear in mind.