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Thoughts on SSD's, M.2 Ultra NVMe's, and Computer Expansion

TigerTheFrog

Amateur
I recently got a new computer from Purrfect Audio. Over the last few weeks I’ve learned a thing or two about adding SSDs to computers. As the Amazon Prime Day sale is coming up, there will undoubtedly be deals, so I decided to share what I learned. If I get anything wrong, please correct me.

Regular SSDs
can reach over 5 Gb per second, three times the speed of a regular hard drive.

M.2 Ultra PCIe Ultra NVMe SSDs can reach 26 Gb/second, fourteen times the speed of a regular hard drive. There are also M.2 drives connected with SATA—they are no faster than a regular SSD. So make sure you buy the right one.

As you can get M.2 Ultra PCIe SSDs for similar prices to regular SSDs (my ADATA M.2 Ultra was $120 during a sale, less than a Samsung EVO), it might seem like a no-brainer to get them instead. First you need a place to hook them up. My new motherboard has two M.2 slots. But for every one I connect, 2 SATA connections don't work.

m_2 1.jpg

What I decided to do instead was hook up a PCIe card that has two slots, one NVMe and one SATA M.2. So I got full speed from the NVMe as well as new spot to add more storage—and I didn’t lose any SATA connections on the NVMe. There is also a connection on this card for the SATA cable. This kit came with heat sinks, which I didn't use.

m_2 2.jpg


Note that SSDs are rated in terms of top potential speed, but yours may not go that fast. The only way to know what’s going on in your computer is to use Benchmark Software. I use the free Crystal DiskMark and DiskInfo utilities, which you can get HERE. There are also ones that come packaged with your SSDS or are on the company websites.

Per my benchmarks, both of my Samsung EVO sample drives average 4 Gb per second, while my Crucial boot drive gets the full 6 Gb/second, and my ADATA M.2 Ultra gets the full 26 Gb/second. I’m not dissing Samsung, because those drives are older and I didn't test them when they were new, but I am saying don’t be afraid of other brands just because they cost less. Read reviews just like you would for a sample library. Compare warranties. My ADATA has a five year warranty.

GETTING CONNECTED

The connections to your SSDs affect the speed.
Like processors and your SSDs themselves, these pipes to your drives are constantly going through new generations. Getting faster.

For example, SATA I (1.5 Gb/sec), SATA II (3Gb/sec) and the current SATA III (6 Gb/sec). So no SSD can go faster than 6 Gb/sec) if it is hooked up with a SATA III cable.

PCI Express (aka PCIe) The current standard is PCIe 4, and PCIe 5 is here, although my spanking new motherboard only has PCIe 3. Each PCIe bus can provide faster thoroughput if it has more lanes. PCIe busses vary in size from one to 32 lanes.

PCIe-Lanes-1.jpg

You can connect any card to any PCIe connector. It just might not run as fast. Most computers have one 16 lane PCIe port, which is used for the graphics card.

So if you have a really old motherboard and you connect your M.2 card to a one lane slot, you might not get full speed. Do research in advance and check out the benchmarks after you get it.
You can find out more about PCIe cards in this video.


USB
has advanced from USB 1.1 (12 Mb/sec) to USB 2.0 (480 Mb/sec) to USB 3.1 (5 Gigabits/sec) and USB 3.1 2nd gen (10 Gb/sec). Type-C is just 3.1 second gen with a different connector. So is a USB 3.1 second gen connection as good (or even better) connector to a SATA? On paper that seems to be true, but some say there are drawbacks, as hooking up external drives might be taxing on your CP

Firewire IEEE1394 connections are 400 Mb/sec, while Intel/Apple’s Thunderbolt are speed demons: Thunderbolt 1 (2 lanes of 10 Gb/sec) and Thunderbolt 2 (20 Gb/sec) and Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gb/sec)

DRIVE BAYS Did you know that a regular-sized drive bay can hold two SSDs? Totally okay to do and all you need is a kit like this. It comes with everything you need, including a splitter for a power cable, and SATA cables

double drive.jpg


SSDs need power and SATA connections not just drive bays. While you can easily split power cables, you can’t split SATA. If you want more SATA than is on your motherboard, you can install a PCIe card that gives you a few more internal SATA connections. You can also get one that has external SATA ports, if you need to put your drives outside your computer.

This is why you need to think ahead about what you might want to do in the future with your computer, and make the best use of SATA, PCIe, and drive bays. Scanning NewEgg and Amazon, you can find out about all the things you can do with inexpensive PCIe cards, including adding USB, Wi-Fi, Thunderbolt, Firewire, etc.
 
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TigerTheFrog

TigerTheFrog

Amateur
So far I'm not seeing outstanding deals on M.2 PCIe Ultras on Amazon Prime Day.


The best I've seen is a Crucial 1 TB M.2 for $79. But the write speed is 2 Gb/sec, slower than a regular SSD.

Not much of a deal when you consider I got my 26 gb/sec ADATA SX8200 Pro 1 Tb M.2 for $120 in an Amazon flash sale.

Today on Prime Day, my ADATA going for $149, which is its usual price. There is a coupon for 10% off, but I think there are strings attached.
 

Pictus

Active Member
The Crucial P1 is a QLC SSD, I do not like, but they are OK for storage drive.
The ADATA SX8200 Pro and HP EX950 are screaming fast. :2thumbs:
They also have the potential to stand a lot more than what is advertised.
The ADATA XPG Gammix S11 = ADATA SX8200
The ADATA XPG Gammix S11 PRO = ADATA SX8200 PRO (The PRO versions got updated controller)

 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Regular SSDs can reach over 5 Gb per second, three times the speed of a regular hard drive
Right, but that spec means next to nothing for music and audio. That's how it is with most computer specs - they're great for techbro cocktail parties and little else.

What is important is that SSDs find the data and transfer it into RAM hundreds of times faster than spinning drives.
 

dzilizzi

I know nothing
Tell me about this PCIe card - I've was thinking about getting one for my new computer but was not having luck in finding one. i think I was googling the wrong thing.

thanks!
 
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TigerTheFrog

TigerTheFrog

Amateur
Right, but that spec means next to nothing for music and audio. That's how it is with most computer specs - they're great for techbro cocktail parties and little else.

What is important is that SSDs find the data and transfer it into RAM hundreds of times faster than spinning drives.
Loading faster into RAM is 100% of what I'm talking about M.2 Ultra.
 
OP
TigerTheFrog

TigerTheFrog

Amateur
Tell me about this PCIe card - I've was thinking about getting one for my new computer but was not having luck in finding one. i think I was googling the wrong thing.

thanks!
Which card? The one with M.2 Ultra and M.2 SATA? There are dozens of them. Go to Newegg.com or Amazon and search for M.2 PCIe card.

I strongly advise that you try to get one with the bracket already attached. They sell these things like IKEA kits these days, so the same card will work all over the planet. It's a lot of work assembling these things with the teeny-tiny screws they require. The screw that attaches a M.2 is the smallest screw I've ever seen, so definitely work out some system where it can't fall on the floor when you're assembling the card, and in particular, attaching the M.2 to the card.
 
OP
TigerTheFrog

TigerTheFrog

Amateur
The Crucial P1 is a QLC SSD, I do not like, but they are OK for storage drive.
The ADATA SX8200 Pro and HP EX950 are screaming fast. :2thumbs:
They also have the potential to stand a lot more than what is advertised.
The ADATA XPG Gammix S11 = ADATA SX8200
The ADATA XPG Gammix S11 PRO = ADATA SX8200 PRO (The PRO versions got updated controller)

Yes, the ADATA SX8200 Pro is a speed demon. It's designed as a Samsung killer. :grin: I'm very pleased with it. A lot of drive for $120!

But when you read comments on Amazon, you'll see some people complaining that they aren't getting full speed out of it. And this, I believe, has to do with how they are hooking them up-either with SATA or a slow PCI bus. I don't see how this could happen if they were plugging them straight into their motherboards.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
I've never been to a techbro cocktail party, by
Loading faster into RAM is 100% of what I'm talking about M.2 Ultra.
I predict you will notice zero difference in the real world between that and any other SSD.

Don't get me wrong - SSDs are fantastic. But adding a card to run M.2 or whatever, feh.

By the way, I've posted before that I bought a $40 SATA 3 (600 megs/sec) SSD-holding card. The same SATA 3 SSD connected to my computer's internal SATA 2 (300 megs) slots acts exactly the same in the real world.

Benchmarks, yes. Using it, identical.
 
OP
TigerTheFrog

TigerTheFrog

Amateur
I've never been to a techbro cocktail party, by


I predict you will notice zero difference in the real world between that and any other SSD.
As I said, I've seen tremendous difference. Every day, all day long for nearly two weeks now. I only put libraries that are reaaaallly slow to load on my M.2 Ultra. If the day ever comes that I don't see a major speed boost on a specific library, I will put that library back on the regular SSD. But it hasn't happened yet. All rocket fuel so far.

That's why people like Jim Roseberry, who builds computers every day for musicians (that's all he does), puts this information on M.2 drives on his site and expands about the speed boost in conversations with customers like me. And following his advice is why I'm lucky enough to enjoy the benefits.

My sole intention for writing about it here was only to try to help other musicians.

By the way, I've posted before that I bought a $40 SATA 3 (600 megs/sec) SSD-holding card. The same SATA 3 SSD connected to my computer's internal SATA 2 (300 megs) slots acts exactly the same in the real world.

Benchmarks, yes. Using it, identical.
There are many possible explanations for why that happened. My Samsung SSDs get 4 Gigabits (not mb) per second. On a SATA II they would get 3 Gb/sec and on a SATA III they would get 4 Mb/sec. I doubt I would notice any difference.

In any case, the lack of difference you experienced between 3 Gb/sec to 6 Gb/sec does not give you the final word on what works between a maximum 6 Gb/sec SSD and a 26 Gb/sec M.2 Ultra drive. Don't knock it until you try it. Maybe go to a friend's studio that has one and see for yourself.

Anybody who buys an M.2 Ultra and doesn't see a huge improvement can just send it back. As I said in my original post, not everybody will achieve the maximum result without an ideal connection. Like all improvements you can make, it depends on a lot of things about your computer. :)
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
True, the difference I was thinking about is streaming, not necessarily loading - but now that you mention it, there was no difference in loading times between the 3 and 6 meg busses (which to me implies that bus speed isn't a factor).

How long does it take to load your templates?

My big one used to take about 1:45. Now the latest Logic can hold off loading things until you need them, which brings that down to 12 seconds (10 seconds if I just load my empty "autoload").

If M.2 is worth it to you, great. I do admit to having a quirk that causes my anus to chafe when people quote benchmark specs. Yeah it's irrational, but it's an internal sore spot that started when I was wading through letters to the editor of a magazine I edited. The benchmark fetish letters drove me up the wall.
 

Pictus

Active Member
They use the same controller/memory as MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro, Silicon Power and Corsair MP510, so they are
probably good drives as the mentioned ones.
 
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