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Is M.2 faster than SATA SSD drives?

The most common connector for SSD drives currently, by far is standard SATA. This type of interface is built for traditional hard drives, and allows for speeds of up to about 600 Megabytes/second (6 Gigabits/s). The newer M.2 interface is much more compact and can be much faster than SATA, but only if using PCIe/NVMe (up to 32Gigabits/s). M.2 was originally built for laptops and ultra-books, as it is much more compact.

Some newer desktop motherboards include M.2 drive slots, which begs the question which is preferable, the M.2 or traditional SATA interface?

Essentially, the M.2 PCIe/NVMe interface can be 2-3x faster than SATA, with a few caveats:
- Both the motherboard connector, and the SSD have to use PCIe/NVMe, not SATA to get that higher speed. SATA-based M.2 connectors/drives will not be faster.
- many desktop motherboards have a SATA-based M.2 connector, so it will not be faster.
- the motherboard BIOS has to support booting from PCIe/NVMe drives in order to use one as a boot/OS drive.

Note: PCIe/NVMe drives are capable of 2-3x faster speeds than SATA3 SSDs, regardless of the connector.

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