M.2 vs U.2

n our previous posts, we discussed the differences between various types of storage interfaces such as SATA, M.2 and NVMe. As U.2 chipsets and motherboards become more common, let’s compare M.2 vs U.2 – what they have in common, what sets them apart from one another, and which one might work better for you

What is M.2?

Standard M.2 form factor drive.
Standard M.2 form factor drive.

M.2 stands for two things; it is the form factor of an SSD as well as what type of connection it uses to attach to a computer motherboard. It is much smaller than a typical hard drive, but has considerably faster speeds due to being a solid state device (SSD).


What is U.2?

Another USB-based hard drive form that was once exclusively reserved for higher end computers and servers are now available on new chipset releases. These types of hard drives can also be plugged directly into some newer motherboard sockets.

Standard U.2 form factor and connection type.
Standard U.2 form factor and connection type.

Similar to M.2, they have a chipset connection but are available in 2.5 form factor like most standard-sized SATA solid-state drives. As you will see later in this article, they share many of the same benefits and drawbacks as M.2; however, they cannot be swapped out between each other due to different connector types.


M.2 vs U.2 – How are they the same?

NVMe M.2 and U.2 drives may differ in terms of speed, but they both share the same maximum data transfer rate of up to 32GB per second due to their connection through the PCIe bus with four lanes. Since these drives are unable to be bottlenecked by the number of cables or ports on a motherboard like SATA-based hard drives can be, it makes them compatible across all devices capable of using those ports.

M.2 vs U.2 – How are they different?


Motherboard connectionAlthough both M.2 and U.2 storage devices can speak to your computer through the same PCIe bus, each storage device uses its own unique plug-in format when connected to your motherboard port. For example, while an M.2 drive plugs in right on top of the board, U.2 comes attached to a long ribbon-like cable which resembles two full sized SATA connectors put together side by side with the added bonus of extra room for chipsets close to where this connection attaches – which allows for more ports available than an M.2 could offer at any given time.

Form factor – Though they are both classified as using the same type of flash memory storage, M.2 differs greatly from U.2 in terms of its size; whereas M.2 is just a small flat board, U.2 has the traditional 2.5 form factor you are used to seeing with most SATA SSDs.

Capacity – With its higher storage capacity, U.2 is an excellent alternative for those who are looking for greater storage space than M.2 typically offers – about 4TB+.

Which is best?

Choosing the right type of storage depends on what you’re looking for. Most people who need less than 2TB of space will prefer the speed and convenience of a M.2 NVMe drive such as the Samsung 970 series. If you are looking for more high-capacity drives or higher speeds in RAID arrays, U.2 might be a good option, depending on your motherboard’s compatibility.

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