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What Is an NVMe Slot and What Does It Look Like?
March 7, 2023

What Is an NVMe Slot and What Does It Look Like?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you want to upgrade to an SSD, you’ve probably heard of NVMe. But what is it?

Have you ever wondered what the small port near your primary PCIe slot was? Maybe it even has a smaller chip plugged into it, but what does it do? Having more uses than one, the M.2 slot’s versatility makes it a worthy adversary on any motherboard.

On the other hand, NVMe has grown popular due to the rise of high-demanding applications and computing needs, but how does that compare to M.2 devices? First introduced in the late 2000s, here’s what NVMe is responsible for and what the NVMe port looks like.

What Is NVMe and How Does It Work?

NVMe, or non-volatile memory express, is a storage access and transport protocol that provides the fastest response time possible. It utilizes the onboard PCIe interface to transfer data rather than traditional SATA connections.

Unlike typical SATA connections, NVMe is optimized for solid-state storage devices. It takes up a fraction of the space and offers nearly 25 times faster than its SATA counterpart, making it a worthy upgrade for gamers and engineers alike. Furthermore, as its prices have continuously fallen, you no longer have to spend an arm and a leg to get high-speed storage for your computer.

Because many input and output operations are done in parallel, NVMe devices process data through the chip, similar to how multi-core processors work. This allows the NVMe device to work swiftly, catching up with the faster technology we have today, like DDR5 RAM.

Are NVMe and M.2 the Same?

Contrary to popular belief, NVMe and M.2 are not the same and are rather incomparable. They aren’t even interchangeable as M.2 merely signifies the form factor in the device’s shape(s) and size(s), whereas NVMe refers to how data is transferred. The M.2 slot is usually filled by an M.2 SSD but can also be used for other purposes.

NVMe specializes in minimalism and speed, directly connecting to the motherboard. Using the PCIe interface, the lack of SATA cables makes for a clean installation process for all users. Less clutter effectively results in better airflow and a cleaner final product.

What Does the NVMe Port Look Like?

NVMe ports are commonly found on laptops and desktops today, allowing access to flash storage for greater efficiency. The NVMe Port has a total of 34 pins with a small port shaped like the image above, and because they are much smaller when compared to PCI slots, locating these ports can be a challenge. Plastic covers often disguise the port to clean up the motherboard aesthetic, ultimately requiring some disassembly to access the port.

Since NVMe is merely the way data transfers, there is no ‘NVMe Port’ but rather an M.2 Port. Newer devices often utilize them for network or Bluetooth cards, similar to a laptop’s configuration. These are generally located between the graphics card and CPU or in one of the lower corners of your motherboard.

Those that do not have access to the slot can purchase a PCI adapter to utilize the hardware, although speeds may vary based on the hardware used. You can access NVMe functionality without upgrading your motherboard through third-party PCI cards offering M.2 NVMe slots.

Faster With NVMe

At one point in time, SSDs led the market with their high-speed transfer speeds. Flash memory and lack of moving parts promoted reliability and lack of potential component failures.

With NVMe leading today’s speed standards, it’s merely a matter of time before it is replaced with the next best thing. Until then, NVMe continues to innovate and pave the way as it dominates the market, holding its title as the fastest way to transfer data today.


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