Beyond SSDs - Testing an NVMe M.2 Drive

M2 Drive

For many years the hard drive was the typical bottleneck of any well-endowed computer. The first response to any complaint about a slow computer was "add memory" after which came the answer "sorry, the hard drive is slowing your down and unless you want to buy SCSI, your stuck." And then came the SSD drive and it freed us from the bottleneck, sort of... And then came the NVMe M.2, with a prosumer price, the speed are still unbelievable!

My first SSD was a 128GB Vertex 3 by OCZ. It was awesome and my favorite part was the sticker that came with it, "My SSD is faster than your HDD!" At the time the Vertex was faster than just about any SSD as well, but that didn't last long. That was a short 5 years ago (2011), and about 5 SSDs ago. I had several Vertex drives and then settled into the Samsung line. At work I used lots of Samsungs and they were all of the sudden everywhere.

Size Does Matter

When I first tried SSD, I was convinced I could just put the OS and applications on the system drive and everything else on a second data drive. I filled up the 120GB and then ended up installing a lot of application on the D: tree (D:\Program Files(x86)\ As the prices came down over time, I moved up and then moved up again. My last SATA SSD was a 512GB Samsumg 850 and it has done well for me for the last 2 years.

The Evolution of Hard Drive Speed

For a fun little experiment, I decided to hook up a test environment with a pretty solid build and try a couple of different HDDs out for speed.

Western Digital 500GB SATA Blue
The first drive I tested was a classic 500GB spinning SATA drive. This is Western Digital Blue drive (nice drives for backup and archive).
Samsung 850 SATA SSD
The second drive I tested is a 512GB Samsung 850. This has been my goto drive for laptops at work and has always performed well for me. Notice the massive difference, particularly in the sequential read and write. 5x the speed was a huge step forward. The power savings of these drives makes them perfect form latptops and portable devices. The fit into existing slots with no interface differences.
Samsung 950 PRO NVMe M.2
When I bought the Samsung 950 Pro M.2, it really didn't research the specs heavily. I had bought a new motherboard and didn't really even know what a M.2 slot was. I started reading up on the technology and decided to give the new interface a try. One thing was shocking to me, the sequential read and write speed actually matched the specs on the sales description (normally things that are listed as "up to...." don't perform at that level. Another 5x speed on sequential reads and 3x speed on sequential writes is no joke. This drives is 25 times as fast as my spinning disk, and although it is three times as expensive for the same size, it is well worth it. 

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