Essentially, M.2 is a PCI express interface that conforms to an industry specification for small form factor internal drives and PCI express devices. It is physically narrower than current mSATA devices, but M.2 SSDs can come in much longer lengths where IC space is required to increase storage capacity.
They are designed for high-performance in space and power constrained devices like tablets and ultrabooks. Whilst this is where they began life, as prices drop, they are finding their way into desktops and workstations where their performance is favoured over mSATA.
This new standard holds lots of possibilities as previously the performance of SSD drives was restricted by the legacy SATA drive interface which would allow operation at speeds of around 600MB/s.
M.2 SSDs are available in two types to access the revamped PCI express interface that supports the current SATA AHCI controller but also a newer standard called SATA NVMe . This newer standard makes performance of 1GB/s easily achievable and with the future release of further enhanced interfaces, 10GB/s will soon be possible.
The new SATA NVMe standard is essentially a direct connection of the M.2 SSD drive to the PCI express bus, which vastly improves performance because it’s not routed through the slower SATA AHCI Controller on the motherboard.
Of course, the potential of M.2 is vast, particularly where data intensive workloads exist. With our heritage in digital content creation and AV applications we believe there is great scope to integrate M.2 into our product line-up and we are actively exploring the opportunities.