What are the Benefits of Using NVMe Add-in Cards

NVMe has been a buzzword for a while now. Ever since its debut, we have seen super-fast flash storage slowly propel into the mainstream market. What was once considered a novelty for even the most elite group of gamers, is now finally the money’s worth. As soon as prices dropped we saw these fast drives garner more attention and find their way into more PC builds.

We’ve already discussed how fast NVMe drives can be compared to their SATA counterparts. The difference is night and day. Paired with the new PCIe 3.0 slots and NVMe, which was made especially with flash storage in mind, we’ve seen speeds three to four times faster compared to SATA. This is all very impressive on paper but it’s actually a huge benefit in reality as well.

As with most components in the PC market, there are different form factors to NVMe SSDs as well. We’ve already discussed the M.2 form factor previously in great detail, so this article will be a guide to NVMe add-in cards.

NVMe Add-In Cards: The Basics

Before we even begin to start talking about NVMe SSD add-in cards, let’s get the initial confusion out of the way that most people have. M.2 NVMe drives and NVMe SSD add-in cards are not different in terms of the technology used. The only difference is in the form factor and the connectivity. M.2 SATA drives are a whole other story as they only use the M.2 form factor with a SATA connection, not PCIe or NVMe. Strictly speaking, M.2 NVMe and NVMe SSD cards have no difference in terms of how they transfer data.

The main difference between an M.2 NVMe drive and an NVMe card type SSD is the interface. Although both use PCIe, an M.2 drive will usually utilize an M.2 PCIe x4 slot on your motherboard while add-in cards can use the x4 or x8 slots (some can even utilize the x16 slot but that is extremely rare) located below the CPU socket. These plug in the same way you would plug in a graphics card. In short, the only real difference is not in speed, reliability or efficiency but simply in the form factor and the connectivity technique.

Benefits of an NVMe Add-in Card

After reading through the above explanation of what an NVMe add-in card actually is, you might be wondering what is the purpose of buying one. True, when you compare an M.2 drive with an add-in card SSD both will have about the same performance on paper and in real life (assuming both use the same PCIe generation and the M.2 drive utilizes NVMe). Well, there are a few key benefits to an add-in SSD card.

Compatibility:

The biggest benefit of an add-in card is the compatibility. While almost every high-end motherboard will have an M.2 slot with the new PCIe 3.0 interface, we can’t really promise the same for the lower end of the market. Budget motherboards might skimp out on the M.2 slot by using an older Gen2 PCIe connection or using a slower x2 slot. Some of these cheaper motherboards might not even have an M.2 slot. That is where add-in cards can be really useful. Nearly every motherboard will have a couple of x4 or x8 slot s that you can use for plugging in sound cards or in our case, NVMe SSDs. If you want super fast storage but your motherboard doesn’t have M.2 support, add-in SSD cards are the way to go.

Aesthetics:

This might sound a bit strange at first but you might be actually surprised that some of these add-in cards can look really good. It’s a strange thing to say for storage drives but in a day of sleek looking PC builds what else can you expect? A lot of people prefer using an add-in card because of the aesthetics it provides. Personally, we tend to agree with that mindset as it can make a somewhat empty build look a bit more complete. Is this worth spending more money on? Definitely not. Does it look much better than an M.2 drive that hides in your motherboard? Absolutely.

Final Thoughts

After reading all of the above you might be asking yourself the question if you need an NVMe add-in card. While we can’t give a definite answer to that we can definitely acknowledge the fact that NVMe add-in cards are a dying breed. The reason they were popular during their debut was simply that M.2 didn’t exist and when it did support was limited. With the rise of the tiny form factor, most people don’t want to waste an x4 or x8 slot on their motherboard if they want to plug in sound cards or other devices. Another issue is thermals. Plugging in an add-in card right below the graphics card can limit the airflow of the GPU. To wrap it all up, we believe that in 2019, add-in cards are not really practical. You do not need one if your motherboard has an M.2 slot. The only reason to buy it would be if your motherboard lacks the M.2 slot or you really love spending money just to make your case look like it has more stuff packed in. And, in case if you are looking to buy the best Nvime add-in card, check out our favorite picks here.

#PreviewNameSequential Read/Write SpeedFlash memory typeDetails
1noneZotac Anniversary Edition PCIE SSD2800 MBps / 1500 MBps MLC
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2noneKingston Digital KC10002700 MBps / 1600 MBps MLC
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3Corsair Neutron NX5003000 MBps / 2000 MBps MLC
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4Intel Optane SSD 900P2500 MBps / 2000 MBps3D Xpoint
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5Plextor M8Pe2300 MBps / 1300 MBpsMLC
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#1
Previewnone
NameZotac Anniversary Edition PCIE SSD
Sequential Read/Write Speed2800 MBps / 1500 MBps
Flash memory typeMLC
Details
Check Price
#2
Previewnone
NameKingston Digital KC1000
Sequential Read/Write Speed2700 MBps / 1600 MBps
Flash memory typeMLC
Details
Check Price
#3
Preview
NameCorsair Neutron NX500
Sequential Read/Write Speed3000 MBps / 2000 MBps
Flash memory typeMLC
Details
Check Price
#4
Preview
NameIntel Optane SSD 900P
Sequential Read/Write Speed2500 MBps / 2000 MBps
Flash memory type3D Xpoint
Details
Check Price
#5
Preview
NamePlextor M8Pe
Sequential Read/Write Speed2300 MBps / 1300 MBps
Flash memory typeMLC
Details
Check Price

Last Update on 2019-12-12 at 01:26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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