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When will NVM Express flash drives appear in laptops and desktops?

NVM Express flash drives promise capacity and throughput, but there are some factors limiting adoption of the technology.

NVM Express flash drives are an alternative to SATA-based solid-state drives (SSDs). Currently, the SATA controller is a bottleneck that limits SSD performance. NVM Express (NVMe) SSDs use the PCI Express bus, which results in far better overall performance.

NVM Express drives began showing up last year. In June 2014, for example, Intel released the DC P3700 series, which boasts a 2 TB capacity and supports throughput of up to 2,800 MBps.

However, there are a few factors standing in the way of NVMe SSD adoption. The first is price. Just as SSDs were largely cost-prohibitive when first released so, too, are NVM Express drives. An Internet search revealed an OCZ Z-Drive 4500 series with a capacity of 3.2 TB for approximately $8,000. A more modest model from Intel with an 800 GB capacity was available for just under $1,400.

Will NVMe technology impact user adoption of flash? My guess is no, at least not anytime soon. For the most part, PCs have become commodity devices over the last several years.

For the foreseeable future, there will always be users, including serious gamers, video editors and engineers using CAD software, that require top-notch performance. These users will undoubtedly benefit from high-performance laptop drives. For others, it is difficult to justify the cost. After all, even a low-end NVM Express SSD costs quite a bit more than an entire PC.

Of course, computer hardware decreases in price over time. When price ceases to be a barrier to adoption, NVM Express technology may become more attractive to consumers, if for no reason other than that its small M.2 form factor will be a good fit for thin, lightweight laptops.

Next Steps

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This was last published in April 2015

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