Solid State Drive Connectors By Josh Blagden | JB - Mac Help | JBlagden

Solid State Drive Connectors       By Josh Blagden


Solid State Drives use a handful of different connectors. They can use SATA, mSATA, PCIe and M.2, and then Apple has its own proprietary connector which it uses in its current Macs.


Many Solid State Drives use SATA, which is a connector that every laptop and desktop from the last 5 years or so is equipped with. It might not be the fastest connector, but it does a good job. Pretty much every computer made in the last five years has SATA and it’s pretty fast. For more information on SATA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA


mSATA is a connector which Solid State Drives might use if they’re inside ultrabooks. It’s pretty much the same as SATA, it’s just a bit smaller. For more information on mSATA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#Mini-SATA_.28mSATA.29


M.2 is a connector which some laptops and desktops can use. It’s desirable because it’s can be faster than SATA and it’s less expensive than PCIe. It’s a great way to get a faster Solid State Drive without having to spend too much on Solid State Drives. Some laptops and many premium desktop motherboards have built-in M.2 connectors. There are two types of M.2: AHCI and PCIe. The ACHI version is the same speed as SATA III, while the PCIe version (AKA NVME)is a four-lane PCIe 3 connection (32 Gigabits/Second). For more information on M.2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.2


PCIe is a connector which is sometimes used to get even more performance out of a Solid State Drive in a desktop. The great thing about PCIe is that it can get up to 180 gigabits per second of thoughput. The  downside is the cost. PCIe-based flash costs significantly more than mSATA, SATA an M.2-based flash because the flash actually needs to be made faster. For more information on PCIe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express




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Now, Apple uses a custom connector for its current Macs. It’s like M.2 NVMe but the spacing is different. This makes it prohibitively expensive to get a reasonable amount of storage in a recent Solid State Drive-equipped Mac.

Take a look at the price difference between Apple’s proprietary Solid State Drives and Samsung’s M.2 Solid State Drives:

Apple’s Solid State Drive Upgrade prices: 128GB = $200, 256 GB = $400, 512GB = $300 ,1TB=$500** . 

Samsung’s M.2 Solid State Drive Prices: 120GB= $78, 250GB = $100, 512GB = $170, 1TB = $367

Sandisk’s M.2 Solid State Drive Prices: 128GB = $53, 256GB = $95, 512GB = $130, 1TB = $260


 If Apple had simply used the standard M.2 connector, you could get 512 gigabytes of storage for $160 and a terabyte for $300. Apple’s proprietary connector might be faster than M.2, but it’s not very good in terms of cost; it’s just too expensive. It’s this sort of thing which makes me glad that I have a regular 2011 MacBook Pro instead of a newer Retina MacBook Pro.


** These prices are just estimates based on Apple’s upgrade pricing. Apple charges $300 to go to the next tier of storage, i.e. to go from 128 GB to 256 GB or to go from 256 GB to 512 GB.

© Joshua Blagden & Justin Barczak 2013-2015
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