Question M.2 NVMe SSD - any expediency for office tasks and gaming?

Jan 8, 2021
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Hi guys,

I've heard that SSD speed boost through the NVMe protocol mainly applies to sequential data reads/writes (e.g. 4K editing) rather than to random reads/writes (e.g. gaming, office apps). In other words the article claimed that for random reads/writes NVMe is not much faster than SATA.

  1. Do you agree? If yes - is this statement true only when a SATA 3 bus (600Mb/s) is considered, while SATA 2 bus (300Mb/s) will be much slower compared to NVMe?
  2. Is there any difference in the results of the "NVMe vs. SATA" comparison when NVMe M.2 sits on PCIe 4.0 vs. PCIe 3.0 bus? In other words, among those - NVMe PCIe 4.0 vs. NVMe PCIe 3.0 vs. SATA 3 vs. SATA 2 - which ones are almost comparable when random reads/writes (e.g. gaming, office apps) are considered?
And finally:

3) How do x16 GPU slot, M.2 #1 slot and M.2 #2 slot share lanes if both M.2 devices (SSDs) are connected to PCIe bus? As far as I've read, if both SSDs are connected to SATA - the drop in their performance is just not possible at all, but is PCIe connection trickier from this perspective? My guess is: if there are totally 20 lanes available, 16 will be reserved by the GPU (dedicated use) and if I had only 1 SSD, it will use the 4 lanes left (also dedicated use) which will bring the max. possible speed (8000Mb/s). With a 2nd SSD added - shall it be 4 lanes split into 2 (per each SSD) or will rather GPU lanes be "borrowed"?

Thank you!
 
Jan 8, 2021
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Thank you so much @USAFRet, very informative videos! I watched a couple of others too and here is my conclusion:

  • for office/gaming and no huge (>30Gb at a time) data copying: buy SATA SSD - no difference in speed compared to NVMe PCIe 3.0 or even PCIE 4.0 SSD. However, if price for SATA SSD is close to that for NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD, buy it.
  • for heavy read/write tasks (huge file(s) transfer, video rendering, etc.) go for NVMe PCIe 3.0. Still no sense to rush for PCIe 4.0.
Agree? ;)

P.S.

For #3, that is totally motherboard specific as to how the lanes are handled.
I've heard it's important that M.2 slot doesn't "share lanes" with a GPU slot, which makes me think that MoBo where both x16 (GPU) and at least one M.2 slot use independent lanes is better, right?
 
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USAFRet

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Yes and yes.

Only very very recently are we seeing almost price parity between SATA III SSD and NVMe SSD.
If you can get the NVMe at the same or near the price of a good quality SATA III, then get the NVMe.

3.0 vs 4.0...Give it a few years.


In my own system, mostly SATA III SSD.
I put in an Intel 660p. It was on a deep discount ($88 - 1TB)
The 660p sequential benchmark is 3x that of a SATA III drive. So you would think everything is 3x faster.

Testing with Adobe Lightroom.

5 RAW files, with the exact same edits.
Same export settings.
Exporting to a 1 year old Samsung 860 EVO, 6 year old 840 EVO, and the Intel 660p.
Each iteration took the same amount of time, 15 secs.

There are many other things that influence performance than just the raw advertised speed.
 
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There are many other things that influence performance than just the raw advertised speed.
True 's that! By the way as we've started discussing SSDs, don't you mind to share your expertise on a few more points related to this topic?
  1. SSDs with DRAM are faster. Besides, DRAM is involved into a "Wear-levelling" technology (which I find very pertinent to the SSD tech "nature" itself, if its not a *** marketing of course).
  2. Among all types of SSD's NAND Flash, Multi-Level Cell (MLC) is probably the best choice (for consumer machines), as it's more durable than a Triple Level Cell (TLC), but not so expensive (and most durable) as a Single Level Cell (SLC).
  3. Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND in its turn should be 3D V-NAND (vertical NAND), not 2D NAND. Reasons: 3D is faster, it has 35'000 read/write cycles (vs. 10'000 of 2D), it's less energy-consuming.
  4. IOPS read/write spec is much more informative for an "average" use scenario than a Read/write in Mb/s (which is more relevant for transfers of huge volumes of data).
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on those!
 

USAFRet

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  1. Yes. Primarily, because that DRAM space is a fast cache. And wear leveling is NOT simply marketingspeak. It is a critical function of an SSD. Each cell has a "limited" number of write cycles. Wear leveling distributes data around, to level that use out.
  2. Yes.
  3. Meh....mostly irrelevant in the consumer space
  4. Yes. The big sequential number is often quoted. "NVMe is 7x faster than SATA III!!!" Until you find a 7 second operation does not magically turn into a 1 second operation.
 
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@USAFRet thank you, looks like I did a quality research, as very few corrections from your side - good!

Finally (to turn this SSD page) - what do you think about these technologies: Over-provisioning and TRIM Garbage collection ? Are they same good as a Wear levelling?

The former claims increase in SSD performance and endurance through reservation of some of the drive capacity from the user area in favor of the controller. The latter uses some data management technologies to improve performance and endurance.
 

USAFRet

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Over provisioning is mostly just leaving free space.
With some tools like Samsung Magician (for Samsung drives) you can artificially limit the user available space.
This absolutely prevents you and the OS from filling it up too much.
The drive firmware moves things around as needed.

TRIM is part of that wear leveling. When it sees some idle time, it frees up cells for use.
Nothing you have to personally manage.
 

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