The Evolving World of SSD Form Factors

Solid State Drives have opened up a world of possibilities due to the many advantages they offer over traditional hard drives.

Here’s how SSDs compare to rotating media:

  • Smaller
  • Better read and write performance
  • Use less power
  • More durable
  • Weigh less

These characteristics make SSD an ideal technology for use in a number of applications.  Their size, speed and durability are particularly desirable for use in portable computing devices, like laptops, tablets, cell phones and portable media players.  Their durability is a distinct advantage in embedded systems, industrial devices and military applications.

Until now, the use of solid state drives was limited by their high price and by the lack of standards that capitalized on SSDs many advantages.  However, both these factors have been changing.

Currently, HDDs and the most common Solid-State Drives can be used relatively interchangeably.  Both are being manufactured in the most common form factors of 2.5” or 3.5.”

In addition, HDDs and SSDs generally connect to systems in the same way, usually with SATA connectors.

But now that more manufacturers have entered the market, bringing down SSD prices, many new form factors and connector types have emerged and are evolving to take advantage of flash media’s speed and small size.  Here is an overview of some of the current and upcoming SSD Form Factors:

Micro SATA

The Micro SATA standard was part of the Version 2.6 ssd form factorsSATA specification released in 2007.  It defines a connector to support 1.8” hard drives.  These drives have been popular in iPods and mobile PCs, but they are not as commonly used today in consumer products.


The mSATA standard was announced in 2009. It was developed with SSDs in mind.  msata ssdBecause an SSD can meet desired performance levels when it is the size of a business card, the speed and reliability of the SATA interface needed to be integrated with a small form factor connector.  (mSATA drives are similar in appearance to mini-PCI Express cards, but are electrically incompatible.)  The mSATA connector allows companies to increase the storage offerings of their products without compromising valuable space.  In laptops, mSATA drives are typically used as a boot drive in conjunction with a 2.5” HDD for storage and are currently supported by a range of laptop models including many from Lenovo and Dell.


The SATA µSSD, just announced in August 2011, ussd sata bgais the physically smallest SATA  implementation to date.  The µSSD standard allows SATA to be delivered using a single ball grid array (BGA) package. BGA is a surface-mount package with no leads utilizing an array of solder balls for electrical interconnection. BGA is soldered on to the mother board, supporting the SATA interface without a connecting module. This is an ideal solution for embedding storage in small form factor devices such as tablets.

PCI Express

Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots are buses for attaching hardware.  People have become used to using them to connect sound, video and network cards to a motherboard. PCI Express is the latest revision of the PCI standard and includes many improvements that make it possible for SSDs to be manufactured that deliver a new level of performance when pcie ssdused with PCIe slots in computers.  This standard primarily allows current PCs and servers to unlock SSD read/write speeds not supported by other connection methods. PCI Express Mini Card is a form factor based on PCI Express.

SATA Express

SSDs and hybrid drives are already pushing the limits of existing storage interfaces. SATA Express is a new specification under development that should be completed  by the end of the year.  It combines SATA software infrastructure with the PCI Express interface to deliver high-speed storage solutions. The technology will provide a means to increase device interface speeds to 8Gb/s and 16Gb/s from the current 6Gb/s.

From Aleratec:

Aleratec offers three hard drive duplicators that are mSATA compatible when used with the Aleratec 50mm mSATA SSD to SATA Adapter – Part 350118:

1:5 HDD Copy Cruiser IDE SATA Hard Disk Duplicator – Part 350112
1:1 HDD PortaCruiser – Hard Disk Drive Duplicator and RAID – Part 350108
1:1 HDD Copy Cruiser Mini USB 3.0 SATA Hard Disk Drive Duplicator – Part 350115

The 1:1 HDD PortaCruiser – Hard Disk Drive Duplicator and RAID is also MicroSATA compatible when used with the MicroSATA to SATA Adapter – Part 240151.

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