The Best PCI-Express (PCIe) Solid State Drive (SSD) | 2015


• If you are looking for an M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) we advise you to click here.

PC enthusiasts give little credence to arbitrary product segmentation. We want the best parts, and we don’t care if they were never meant for our machines. From time to time, this desire has driven us to adopt enterprise-grade hardware with more brawn than consumer-grade gear. It’s also taken us into mobile territory, where lower-power components have appealing characteristics for smaller form factors and quieter cooling.

Now, imagine getting the best of both of those worlds—performance that trounces typical desktop parts in a tiny, mobile-friendly package. That’s the basic idea behind modern PCIe SSDs that target consumer market and promise speeds over 2GB/s.

For years, SSD’s thrived under the Serial ATA banner. New generations got bigger, faster, and cheaper. Prices continue to fall and densities continue to increase, but performance has been stagnating for a while. The problem is the SATA 6Gbps interface, whose limited bandwidth keeps modern flash storage from living up to its true potential.

Fortunately, SSDs aren’t inexorably tied to Serial ATA. They can tap into PCI Express, which promises substantially more bandwidth through faster signaling and multiple lanes. They can also ditch Serial ATA’s dated AHCI protocol for an all-new NVM Express protocol architected with solid-state storage in mind.

PCIe SSDs have actually existed for a while, but most early implementations used bridge chips tied to the very same controllers found in SATA drives. Those initial efforts are very different from the native solutions that have crept into the market over the past year. This new breed employs updated controllers that meld PCI Express and NAND interfaces on a single chip. Native connectivity promises to elevate SSDs to new heights, setting the stage for the next revolution in PC storage.

Our Best Recommendations For PCIe Solid State Drive (SSD)

The PCIe SSD market segment is very limited and there are only a few brands available on the market today and we will be recommending all of them in our list here starting from the most prominent and well-reputed manufacturer (i.e. Intel).

Note: The products prices are as of 23-Aug-2015 at 07:54 GMT -

Intel SSD 750 Series PCI-Express 3.0 MLC

Capacity Price Where To Buy
400 GB $449.99
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1.2 TB $1,179.99
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Product Manufacturer’s Description: The Intel Solid State Drive (SSD) 750 Series is Intel’s latest SSD for the high performance client and workstation storage market. Intel SSD 750 Series delivers the future of storage today with Intel’s first PCIe based consumer SSD, combining four lanes of PCIe 3.0 with state-of-the-art NMV Express (NVMe) interface for truly amazing performance.

Basic Features

•) Random 4K Read: up to 440,000IPOS
•) Random 4K Write: up to 290,000IPOS
•) Sequential Read: up to 2,400MB/s
•) Sequential Write: up to 1,200MB/s
•) 5 year limited warranty


Plextor M6e Series PCI Express SSD

Capacity Price Where To Buy
256 GB $349.99
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512 GB $599.99
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Product Manufacturer’s Description: Plextor introduces the M6e Series, a powerful PCI-e SSD designed exclusively for gamers and power users. Utilizing the PCI Express 2.0 X2 interface, the M6e bypasses the SATA bottleneck to provide users unparalleled performance and rock-solid reliability at speeds easily 1.5x faster than any SATA SSD. Complete your gaming system with Plextor’s M6e Series SSDs.

Basic Features

•) Lightning-fast boot-up times, application launches, and system responsiveness for an unbeatable feeling of speed
•) Maximum reliability with industry’s highest 5 year warranty. Take the M6e to the limits with Plextor’s best quality components and extensive failure testing
•) Sequential Read Speed: 770 MB/s – Sequential Write Speed: 625 MB/S – Random Read Speed: 105,000 IOPS – Random Write Speed: 100,000 IOPS
•) 5 year limited warranty


Kingston Digital HyperX Predator PCI Express SSD

Capacity Price Where To Buy
240 GB $400.00
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480 GB $782.00
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Product Manufacturer’s Description: HyperX Predator SSD offers large capacities and incredible speeds with both compressible and incompressible data to take your system to the edge. Faster than SATA-based SSDs, it delivers speeds up to 1400MB/s read and 1000MB/s write for ultra-responsive multitasking and an overall faster system. It features a PCIe Gen 2.0 x4 interface for high performance and an M.2 form factor to fit the next generation of desktops with an M.2 PCIe slot. A Half-Height, Half-Length (HHHL) adapter that works with many existing motherboards with at least a PCIe x4 slot open is available. The HHHL adapter comes with both standard and low-profile brackets to fit in slim profile desktop builds. Prey on the competition for years to come. HyperX Predator SSD comes with a three-year warranty and free technical support to keep you winning.

Basic Features

•) PCIe connection provides higher speeds than SATA-based solid-state drives for the ultimate computing experience
•) M.2 with Half-Height Half-length adapter to fit in both new and older motherboards
•) Powered by Marvell controller
•) Speeds up to 1400MB/s read and 1000MB/s write
•) 3 year limited warranty


OCZ RevoDrive 350 Series PCI Express SSD

Capacity Price Where To Buy
240 GB $449.99
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480 GB $659.99
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960 GB $1,099.99 Buy On Amazon

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Product Manufacturer’s Description: Imagine the faster file transfers, snappier boot ups, and system responsiveness that make SSDs superior to hard drives, and then multiply that by 3X to achieve the incredible speeds of the PCIe-based RevoDrive 350. Free up the bandwidth and see the productivity potential your workstation or performance gaming system was missing for so long, with up to 1800MB/s reads, 1700MB/s writes, and 140,000 random write IOPS.

Basic Features

•) Supporting intensive consumer workstation environments for developers, media designers, and performance gamers
•) OCZ’s VCA 2.0 technology enables drive-level management features such as Secure Erase, SMART, and TRIM
•) Utilizing the latest generation of 19nm flash for superior speeds and the best bang for the buck
•) Endurance rating ideal for heavy client workloads, warranted for 50GB/day of host writes for 3 years
•) Heat-dissipating alloy housing offers improved thermal management over previous generation
•) Eliminating the SATA bottleneck to deliver 1.8GB/s of bandwidth and 140,000 4KB random write IOPS
•) Up to 1TB (960GB usable) capacities for large-scale data users in media development and management
•) An easy-to-deploy, single card solution is bootable as a direct-attach device
•) 3 year limited warranty



The Benefits Of PCIe Solid State Drive (SSD)

The biggest benefit of PCIe-based SSD drives is increased performance. With other server-based SSD types, customers were able to forego the mechanical considerations of conventional hard disk drives(HDDs) — suddenly rpm measurements became irrelevant because there were no moving parts. But with those types of SSD, the SATA-based interface limits the capacity of the bus that transfers data from the SSDs to the processor.

“Some companies are cobbling something together that combines an HBA or RAID controller with a couple of off-the shelf SATA SSDs on the same board,” said Jim Handy, director at market research company Objective Analysis. “That works and brings a lot of speed, but it isn’t as good as PCIe SSD.”

The key to the higher performance of a PCIe SSD lies in the number of channels a vendor is able to run data through. According to Handy, the fastest SATA-based SSD is Intel’s 10-channel controller. Meanwhile, Fusion-io’s PCIe SSD devices have 25 internal channels, he said, although the company is using collections of smaller chips than the other vendors.

The higher performance of PCIe SSD makes it particularly suitable for buffering and caching applications, with content delivery high on the list of suitable applications. With vendors such as Cisco heavily promoting the use of video for customer applications, there is likely to be a large future demand for PCIe SSD. Other companies, such as LSI, OCZ Technology, Sun and Texas Memory Systems, are also lending credence to the PCIe SSD market with their own products.

PCIe SSD is also a suitable technology for loading databases to significantly increase performance. A few years ago, operating system vendors touted the possibilities of the increased memory addressing afforded by 64-bit computing, but who has the money for vast arrays of online memory? DRAM and flash-based SSDs are the next best option, especially if feeding data to RAM over a fat pipe. But most SSDs suffer from the same constraint, which is that a single bit of memory can only be rewritten a set number of times before it fails. However, SSDs generally include firmware to handle tasks such as error handling, which mitigates that problem.

Is It Worth Switching Entirely To PCIe SSD

With the obvious speed assets of having solid-state storage directly tied to the PCIe bus, is it worth switching entirely to PCIe, at least for your hot I/O needs?

I think the fun, glib answer is, “So, hey, if you have buckets of money and no constraints, then of course you’d want to do that.” Let me give you a more intelligent answer. Solid-state is not one thing, and I think all too often we view it as such. We already have solid-state drives, and now we’re getting people talking about putting PCIe into the server. We’ve gotten used to a hierarchy of spinning drives, and we will have a hierarchy of solid-state too, which only makes sense.

So if everything were the same price, then we’d put everything as high up the hierarchy as we possibly could, maybe higher than PCIe. Maybe we’d go straight to DRAM. But there are a range of prices with solid-state, and a range of performance. So we’ll end up with a range of solid-state.

So I don’t think it’s worth switching entirely to PCIe right now. It has its place, and people will find that place based on price/performance ratio, as they’ve always done.

Will the PCIe interface replace SATA for SSDs?

Eventually the replacement is likely, but it will probably take many years in the single-drive client PC market given two hindrances. First, some single-drive client platforms must use a common HDD and SSD connection to give users the choice between the two devices. And because the 6Gb/s SATA interface delivers much higher speeds than than hard disk drives, there is no immediate need for HDDs to move to the faster PCIe connection, leaving SATA as the sole interface for the client market. And, secondly, the older personal computers already in consumers’ homes that need an SSD upgrade support only SATA storage devices, so there’s no opportunity for PCIe in that upgrade market.

By contrast, the enterprise storage market, and even some higher-end client systems, will migrate quickly to PCIe since they will see significant speed increases and can more easily integrate PCIe SSD solutions available now.

It is noteworthy that some standards, like M.2 and SATA Express, have defined a single connector that supports SATA or PCIe devices. The recently announced LSI SF3700 is one example of an SSD controller that supports both of those interfaces on an M.2 board.

The Disadvantages Of PCIe SSD

PCIe is a multipurpose bus designed to carry all kinds of data to the processor, but its lack of specialisation also makes it difficult to programme. Storage commands are not defined for this interface in the same way they are for interfaces using storage controllers, such as SATA. While vendors are creating controllers that take advantage of the PCIe bus’s extra speed, the lack of standard commands for manipulating storage over PCIe will likely introduce interoperability problems.

Eventually, these storage commands are likely to be folded into PCIe, say analysts, but for now, vendors trying to use the interface as a means of storage I/O have to wing it. This leads to the perennial trade-off of storage interfaces: interoperability vs. performance. Just as with the early days of Fibre Channel, vendors are pursuing high performance but may not be able to guarantee that all of their equipment works together.

Although the PCIe bus itself is compliant, vendors have to create their own controllers to interface with that bus. Unlike established storage controller standards such as SATA, there are no standard storage commands for controllers interfacing with PCIe buses, making it difficult to ensure that one vendor’s controller working over a PCIe bus will work with another vendor’s controller, even if that too is operating over a PCIe bus.

Because there is no standard set of disk controls implemented in PCIe, standard disk features such as booting from the media and running operating systems on it are more difficult for vendors to implement in a standard way.

“What’s been happening with SSDs is that they’re emulating disks, but when you directly connect it to the PCIe bus, you don’t have to go through the disk controllers, which saves latency and increases performance,” said Hamish Macarthur, managing director of storage market research company Macarthur Stroud. But, he said, that makes it difficult to use the disk controllers to manage storage functions such as booting from the drive. “They are developing the protocols to boot, however,” he said. OCZ Technology, for example, announced a proprietary PCIe-based SSD late last year with the ability to boot its host machine.

The final problem for PCIe appears to be its unknown track record. Hard drives may be power-hungry and slow, but they are a tried and tested technology. Conventional SSDs use a combination of well-established technologies — DRAM and SATA or HBA interfaces — but even these products are still getting off the ground. Running high-performance storage over a bus that wasn’t specifically designed for it has a lot of people worried, said Objective Analysis’s Handy.


While power users and other folks with demanding storage workloads can extract a lot of additional performance from PCIe SSDs, there are fewer benefits for typical PC users right now, especially when one considers the additional cost. Revolutions tend to start on the fringes before amassing mainstream support, though. Prices will surely fall as more PCIe drives enter the market, and software developers will hopefully do a better job of exploiting solid-state storage as its installed base grows. We’ll be watching closely.


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