Description: The second generation of mini SATA and an increasingly common SSD form factor, M.2 SATA SSDs come in a variety of sizes expressed as code. They are either 22 or 30mm wide and vary in length from 16mm to 110mm in 2022. You’ll see them sold as 2280, 1630, 3030, and so on, with the first two digits representing width and the last two or three digits representing the length of the device.
M.2 SATA SSDs have two U-shaped cutouts, or “keys”, near the edges, also known as the “M” and “B” keys. Most M.2 NVMe SSDs, on the other hand, only has 1 “M” key. There are exceptions to this, however, so be mindful of this when purchasing either storage device.
SATA bandwidth is slower than that of NVMe, but if you have an older motherboard, it may not support NVMe or PCIe bandwidths. Other motherboards come equipped with dedicated M.2 slots so you don’t have to consume SATA slots. Oftentimes, M.2 slots will support both M.2 SATA and M.2 NVMe SSDs. Make sure to check what SSD technology your motherboard can support.
Advantages: Significantly faster data transfer speeds vs. 2.5” SSDs. Can be installed in any motherboard supporting the M.2 interface, which is quite common amongst motherboards today. M.2 SATA drives are smaller than 2.5” drives--only about as thick as a stick of gum. Since they clip in directly to the motherboard, you save case space since you don’t need SATA cables.
Disadvantages: M.2 SATA SSDs are slower than NVMe SSDs and not all motherboards support M.2 connectors, although most modern motherboards do. M.2 SATA SSDs transfer speeds are limited by their connection protocol, much like their 2.5” SATA cousins. They are also a little more expensive than 2.5” SATA SSDs today.
Additionally, it can be inconvenient to install or replace an M.2 in an existing build since you’ll need direct access to your motherboard and may need to work around or even remove other components to install it.