August 11, 2022
eMMC vs. SSD: What Should You Buy?
What is the eMMC storage type and how does it compare to SSD? Get informed so you can make the best buying decision for you.
What is an eMMC?
The Embedded Multi-Media Card, or eMMC, is an embedded, non-volatile memory system that has both NAND flash memory and a flash memory controller integrated on a single silicon die and is fused onto the host device’s motherboard (where the “embedded” part of the name comes from).
MMC, from which eMMC was derived, was the predecessor to the modern Secure Digital (SD) card and eMMC shares much in common with the SD card format. SD cards have overtaken MMC as the favored removable flash memory card and SD slots are predominantly featured on devices today over MMC slots.
You’ll normally find eMMCs within devices such as Chromebooks, some budget laptops, tablets and mobile devices due to its smaller size, significantly lower cost per gigabyte and lower power consumption versus SSDs.
What is an SSD?
A solid-state drive, or SSD, is non-volatile, persistent data storage system on solid-state, NAND flash memory. They are the successor to the hard disk drive (HDD) and perform many of the same functions, but much faster. Additionally, SSDs have no moving parts and are less prone to breaking. Learn more about HDD vs. SSD here.
Unlike eMMC, SSDs are connected to the motherboard via SATA (Serial ATA) 3, mSATA, SATA Express or PCIe interface and they can be easily removed and upgraded. SSDs come in various form factors and connection protocols to meet the needs of users. They are commonly found in laptops, desktops and tablets.
How Fast is an eMMC?
eMMC storage is typically slower than SSD and allows for manufacturers to lower the cost of their devices.
SSDs have sophisticated firmware and capabilities relative to eMMC, plus as many as 20 NAND flash chips to distribute read/write tasks to. eMMC, on the other hand, have their read/write speeds bottlenecked since they’re trying to run the same tasks on a single NAND chip.
You’ll find the modern eMMC (version 5.1A) has transfer speeds that max out around 400MB/s, which is comparable to SATA SSDs. While eMMC has comparable base transfer speeds to a SATA SSD, it can’t handle the same volume of data transfer due to having fewer memory gates. It’s as if both roads have the same speed limit, but eMMC is a two-lane highway and SSD has six lanes, so the on-ramp is much faster and you’re less likely to get stuck in traffic.
How Fast is an SSD?
Newer SSD storage protocols like NVMe (Non-volatile memory express) allow for lightning-fast transfer speeds up to 3.5GB/s, with new PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs approaching 7.0GB/s. That’s much faster than eMMC, not to mention the volume constraints of eMMC storage.
If you’re looking to game, do video editing, or run more advanced applications, you’ll notice much shorter boot times, load times and less stuttering with SSD storage compared to eMMC.
eMMC vs SSDs: What You Should Know
- eMMC storage capacities are most often either 32GB or 64GB. Vendors do offer 128GB and 256GB capacities but they are rare. 32GB or 64GB may not seem like a lot for a modern device, but often these eMMC devices have cloud storage options and expandable via SD card or external hard drive.
- Storage capacities for SSDs usually start around 128GB and usually max out around 2TB in modern devices and oftentimes are upgradable in their host devices.
- eMMC uses NAND technology like SD cards and USB flash drives. It does not require power to retain data, unlike RAM for instance.
- The memory chips within eMMC tend to be lower quality and degrade over time more rapidly than an SSD would. It’ll still take a matter of years depending on how often you’re performing file operations and the hardware is likely to fail in some other respect before the eMMC fails.
- SSDs have firmware that intentionally spreads operations evenly across the drive so the flash memory doesn’t wear out as fast. eMMC storage does not have this capability and will wear out faster since all flash devices have a predefined lifespan due to a limited number of program/erase (P/E) cycles.
- eMMC storage works best when you’re dealing with smaller file sizes. Larger files will cause a speed bottleneck.
- Rather than being removable, the eMMC is fused into the host device’s motherboard. While they are technically removable and upgradable, if you’re not experienced in soldering, you’ll likely brick your device. This stands in contrast to SSD storage, which usually is easily removable and upgradeable by either unplugging the SATA cable or removing the M.2 stick and putting in a new one, for instance. If you’re wanting to upgrade your storage capacity in the future, keep this in mind.
- If you mostly plan on using your laptop or desktop for things such as streaming video, checking your email, social media, or casual computing tasks along those lines, a device with eMMC storage should work just fine for you. However, if you’re a web designer, video editor, music producer, or looking to game, you should consider a device with an SSD to prevent any problems booting up or running your applications.
We hope this guide has helped you in deciding whether to buy a device with eMMC storage vs. SSD. CDW sells devices utilizing both storage types from the best brands in tech, plus storage and hard drive components if you’re looking to build your own computer or upgrade your server memory.