eMMC vs. SSD storage: what’s the difference?
The best answer: Embedded Media Card (eMMC) and Solid State Drive (SSD) storage have a lot in common, including the use of NAND flash memory. However, SSDs almost always offer superior performance and are available in much larger sizes for mass storage. In most cases, if you’re not looking for a cheap PC, we recommend going with an SSD over eMMC storage.
What is eMMC storage?
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MultiMediaCard (MMC) storage was the forerunner of what is commonly known as Secure Digital (SD) storage. MMC still exists in multiple forms, but you’ll likely find its embedded version (eMMC) more often.
eMMC storage is mostly found in phones, as well as some of the best budget laptops. The “embedded” part of the name comes from the fact that the storage is usually soldered directly to the device’s motherboard. eMMC storage consists of NAND flash memory—the same you’ll find on USB thumb drives, SD cards, and solid-state drives (SSDs)—that doesn’t require power to retain data.
The low-cost nature of eMMC storage makes it ideal for cost-effective hardware, including truly budget PCs. However, it is also found in some premium devices where manufacturers try to keep costs down. The Surface Go 3 is a prime example of a laptop with an excellent display and a high-end design that nonetheless has an eMMC storage option. Steam Deck is another high-end device that offers eMMC storage along with SSD storage.
How fast is eMMC storage?
The current standard for eMMC storage is v5.1A, which can effectively offer transfer speeds of up to 400MB/s. That’s not necessarily slow, and SATA SSDs will hit the same level.
However, it’s not just the overall transfer rate that determines how a device’s performance will be affected. eMMC storage typically works with fewer memory ports than an SSD, which means it can still deliver at the same speed, but not at the same volume.
Think of it like a highway: the more lanes there are, the more cars you can move at once. eMMC is a single lane each way, while an SSD is a multi-lane highway. You’ll be going the same speed on either, but the on-ramp to get to the highway won’t be as slow on the highway.
If you want storage that can deliver data as quickly as possible, you’ll want to check out a PCIe NVMe SSD. Some of the best SSDs can achieve read speeds of over 3500MB/s on the PCIe 3.0 standard, while the newer PCIe 4.0 standard can double the speed. Write speeds are slightly slower in both cases, but still much, much faster than eMMC storage. PCIe 5.0 is also on the way, which will push speeds even further.
How big is the eMMC storage?
If you’ve been shopping around for a budget laptop or tablet, you’ve no doubt noticed that many come with 32GB or 64GB storage. These are the most common eMMC storage sizes, but you can also find 128GB and 256GB storage. eMMC storage works best with small file sizes (those lines in the road don’t get clogged as easily), so if you tend to work with large files, you’ll certainly want to look at an SSD.
SSDs are available in much larger sizes, typically from 128GB up to several terabytes. They are also usually considerably more expensive. If you are looking for an eMMC drive, always keep in mind the cost of cloud storage fees that you will undoubtedly end up paying in the end. Sizes like 32 GB and 64 GB no longer hold up; If the price of cloud storage is close to the price of an SSD, you might be tempted to pay more up front and not worry about it later.
There’s also the matter of upgrading your own PC after purchase. The “onboard” part of eMMC storage means it won’t replace anything, while many (not all) laptops have an accessible M.2 slot. This allows you to choose a smaller SSD, saving money at checkout. You can wait for a sale on your preferred storage and upgrade whenever you want, expanding storage without much hassle.
Should you avoid eMMC storage?
Smaller, cheaper eMMC storage isn’t necessarily bad. There’s definitely a market for it, especially in the budget laptop category. When it comes to durability, you’ll no doubt see a screen or touchpad deteriorate long before the eMMC storage degrades to an unusable condition.
Whether or not you should avoid eMMC storage is more based on your budget and what you’re using your device for. If you need an affordable tablet or laptop for browsing the internet and watching some streaming media, eMMC storage should be fine. Keep in mind that eMMC storage isn’t made the same, and you’ll certainly want to check speed benchmark reviews before making a final decision.
If you plan to use a laptop for just about anything else, including gaming and productivity, you’ll certainly benefit from an SSD. Like eMMC storage, not all SSDs are made equal, and there is a lot of slow hardware available. Read reviews and check benchmarks to make sure you’re getting a drive with the speed you need. Our collection of the best SSDs has a ton of great options.
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Samsung’s 980 Pro is just ridiculous. It offers data transfer speeds of up to 6900MB/s, provided you have a PCIe 4.0-compliant motherboard and processor.
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If you have a compatible PC, something like XPG’s Gammix S70 PCIe 4.0 SSD will absolutely rock your world. Buy it in 1TB or 2TB sizes.