Is SATA SSD outdated?

Solid state drives (SSDs) have become the standard for PC storage in recent years, providing faster performance and reliability compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Most consumer SSDs utilize the SATA interface, which has been around for over 15 years. With new SSD technologies like NVMe emerging, some may wonder whether SATA SSDs are now outdated.

What is SATA?

SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. It is an interface protocol for connecting storage devices like hard drives and SSDs to a computer’s motherboard. SATA was introduced in 2001 as the successor to the Parallel ATA (PATA) standard. The key advantages of SATA over PATA are:

  • Higher transfer speeds – SATA started at 1.5 Gb/s, compared to 133 Mb/s for the original PATA standard.
  • Smaller cables – SATA uses much thinner 7-pin cables vs the bulky 40-pin ribbons cables used by PATA.
  • Native hot swapping – SATA devices can be connected and disconnected while the system is running.

There have been several updates to the SATA specification over the years:

SATA Version Year Introduced Max Transfer Speed
SATA 1.5 Gb/s 2001 1.5 Gb/s
SATA 3 Gb/s 2004 3 Gb/s
SATA 6 Gb/s 2008 6 Gb/s

The most common SATA version today is SATA 3 Gb/s, also known as SATA III. All modern motherboards support SATA ports and connectors, making it the ubiquitous interface for internal storage.

Advantages of SATA SSDs

Despite newer interfaces, SATA SSDs remain popular for both OEM systems and DIY builds. Here are some of their benefits:

  • Price – SATA SSDs are now very affordable, with 1TB models readily available under $100. They provide excellent value for everyday computing.
  • Compatibility – SATA works with all modern motherboards without any additional configuration needed.
  • Good enough performance – While not as fast as NVMe, SATA SSDs are still several times faster than HDDs for booting, loading, and daily tasks.
  • Mature technology – SATA SSD reliability and firmware is now very refined after years on the market.

For budget builds, office workstations, and upgrading older systems, SATA SSDs make a lot of sense. Their convenience and affordability is hard to beat.

Disadvantages of SATA SSDs

However, SATA SSDs do come with some downsides and limitations:

  • Interface bottlenecks – The SATA interface maxes out at 6 Gb/s, or about 550 MB/s. This limits the performance capabilities of even the fastest SATA SSDs.
  • No support for NVMe features – NVMe SSDs support technologies like multiple I/O queues that further reduce latency.
  • Higher power consumption – SATA SSDs use more power compared to M.2 NVMe drives since they have to run conversion modules.
  • Older AHCI driver – The SATA AHCI driver has not changed much over the years, while NVMe drivers see active development.

For these reasons, SATA SSDs are no longer suitable for high-end builds aimed at gaming or professional workloads. To fully utilize modern PCIe Gen3 or Gen4 interfaces, NVMe SSDs are required.

NVMe SSDs – The Future of Storage

NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express is a host controller interface and protocol designed from the ground up to take advantage of PCI Express bandwidth. NVMe SSDs communicate directly with the CPU over dedicated PCIe lanes.

Here are the main advantages of NVMe SSDs over SATA:

  • Higher speeds – NVMe SSDs offer sequential reads up to 7,000 MB/s, compared to just 550 MB/s max on SATA SSDs. That’s over 10x faster!
  • Lower latency – The NVMe protocol reduces command processing overhead for very low latency.
  • More bandwidth – PCIe Gen3 x4 provides up to 4 GB/s of total bandwidth, Gen4 doubles this to 8 GB/s.
  • Multi-core support – NVMe uses multiple I/O queues to process requests from multiple CPU cores for parallelism.

Thanks to these benefits, NVMe SSDs are the standard for high-performance storage. They are required to fully take advantage of the capabilities of modern PCIe interfaces. All major SSD manufacturers now offer NVMe models.


Most NVMe SSDs today utilize the M.2 form factor. M.2 SSDs plug directly into the motherboard using PCIe lanes from the chipset. They provide extremely small physical sizes together with massive performance.

M.2 SSDs support PCIe Gen3 x4 or PCI Gen4 x4. This gives them a huge speed advantage over SATA SSDs. Top models like the Samsung 980 Pro can reach 7,000 MB/s sequential read and 5,000 MB/s write!

PCIe Add-in Card SSDs

For the absolute highest performance, there are NVMe SSDs that occupy a PCIe x16 slot like a graphics card or other add-in card. These cards utilize a direct connection to the CPU so are not limited by chipset PCIe lane availability. Peak transfer rates can exceed 14,000 MB/s with the latest PCIe Gen5 models.

However, add-in card SSDs are expensive and appeal solely to enthusiasts and workstation builds. For most consumers, M.2 SSDs provide the best combination of speed, capacity, and affordability.

Should You Upgrade from SATA to NVMe?

If you currently have a SATA SSD, is it worthwhile upgrading to an NVMe drive?

In most cases, there is no urgent need to swap your SATA SSD just for the sake of it. The performance difference in real-world use may not be noticeable. However, when building a new high-end gaming PC or workstation, choosing an NVMe SSD is highly recommended.

Here are some good scenarios for upgrading from SATA to NVMe SSDs:

  • Building a new PC aimed at high framerate 1440p or 4K gaming. NVMe SSDs can load game assets faster.
  • Needing very fast storage for video editing, 3D modelling, simulations etc. NVMe improves workflow.
  • Requiring the fastest boot and application load times. NVMe boots in seconds.
  • Current SATA SSD reaching end of life after years of service. A good time to switch interfaces.
  • Buying a motherboard with M.2 PCIe 4.0 support. Pair with a fast Gen4 NVMe SSD.

For more moderate use like web browsing, office work, even mainstream gaming, SATA SSDs are still very capable. The convenience and affordability can make them a smarter choice for SSD upgrades and replacements.

SATA SSDs Are Still Useful

Although NVMe is the future, SATA SSDs are far from obsolete. Here are some examples where SATA SSDs still make perfect sense in 2023:

  • Older systems – SATA SSDs can breathe new life into aging PCs and laptops without NVMe support.
  • Cheap storage upgrades – A SATA SSD with 500GB – 1TB capacity costs much less than an equivalent NVMe drive.
  • Extra game storage – Storing a Steam library of older/indie games that don’t need NVMe speeds.
  • Boot drives in budget builds – SATA SSDs are great for booting into Windows quickly on cheaper PCs.
  • External SSDs – Most affordable portable USB SSDs are based on SATA chips.

SATA SSDs hit the sweet spot of good real-world performance, capacious storage, and affordable pricing. They will continue serving in households and offices worldwide for years to come.


SATA SSDs are certainly not obsolete in 2023. Their simplicity, compatibility, and low cost keeps them relevant for a wide range of uses. However, for uncompromising speed, NVMe SSDs are now the interface of choice for high-performance storage.

NVMe delivers up to 10x the bandwidth of SATA along with reduced latency and multi-queue support. Top-tier NVMe SSDs are necessary to take full advantage of modern PCIe 4.0 motherboards and their capabilities.

SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs can co-exist peacefully. Each has strengths in different applications. Over the next several years, expect to see NVMe become standard for all new PC builds, while SATA remains popular for upgrades and secondary storage duties.