eMMC vs. SSD: How to Choose the Right Storage Device

Published:2024-06-25

Prof. David Reynolds stands as a luminary in the field of electrical engineering, renowned for his expertise in integrated circuits. Holding a distinguished position as a Professor of Electrical Engineering, Prof. Reynolds earned his acclaim through decades of research, teaching, and industry collaboration.

Storage technologies have become a critical component of modern electronic devices, influencing performance, capacity, and user experience. Digital storage has evolved significantly, with the transition from HDDs to SSDs being the most recent advancement. Nevertheless, as is common with contemporary technologies, the variety of SSDs available can be overwhelming, making it challenging to determine the optimal choice. SSDs surpass HDDs for most users. However, eMMC storage devices are still prevalent and frequently used in conjunction with SSDs.

 

Two prominent types of storage used today are eMMC (embedded MultiMediaCard) and SSD (Solid State Drive). Understanding these technologies is essential for making informed decisions about device purchases and usage. The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive comparison of eMMC and SSD storage technologies. By exploring their architectures, performance characteristics, use cases, and more details, readers will gain a thorough understanding of each technology's strengths and weaknesses, helping them make better-informed choices.

 

 

Overview of eMMC Storage

MultiMediaCard (MMC) storage preceded the widely recognized Secure Digital (SD) storage. While various forms of MMC are still available, its embedded version (eMMC) gained popularity for a period. Today, eMMC is viewed as a more outdated storage option. It's faster than older HDDs but can be slower and have less capacity than SSDs.

eMMC, or embedded multimedia card, is a sophisticated, managed NAND flash memory designed for mobile applications and remains the preferred memory solution for many consumer electronics, including tablets, smartphones, GPS systems, eReaders, and other mobile devices.

("Managed" means it includes not only NAND flash memory but also controller/interface circuits to enhance performance and manage processes.)

eMMC storage was primarily found in phones and some of the most affordable laptops. The "embedded" part of the name refers to the storage being soldered directly onto the device's motherboard. eMMC storage uses NAND flash memory—the same technology found in USB thumb drives, SD cards, and SSDs—which retains data without needing power.

The cost-effectiveness of eMMC storage made it ideal for budget-friendly hardware, including inexpensive PCs. However, it also appeared in some premium devices where manufacturers aimed to reduce costs. The older Surface Go 3 is an example of a laptop with an excellent display and high-end design that nonetheless offered an eMMC storage option. Similarly, the Steam Deck, released in early 2022, is another high-end device that provides eMMC storage alongside SSD storage.

 

 

Overview of SSD Storage

An SSD, or solid-state drive, is a storage device used in computers, utilizing non-volatile storage media to keep persistent data on solid-state flash memory. SSDs have replaced traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) in many computers, performing the same basic functions but with significantly greater speed. An SSD allows the operating system to boot faster, programs to load more quickly, and files to be saved at a higher speed. Although SSD technology has existed since the 1950s, it only became available to consumers in the 1990s.

Like eMMC storage, SSDs use NAND flash memory to read, write, and store data, and they include a controller to manage data and interface with the computer during read or write operations.

SSDs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and technologies. Among the popular technologies are QLC and TLC SSDs, with speed being the main differentiator. Understanding the differences between NVMe, SATA, and M.2 SSDs can also help avoid confusion and potential issues.

SSDs are now ubiquitous in modern computers. While there are ongoing discussions about the longevity of SSDs compared to HDDs, they generally offer superior performance in regular use cases.

Traditional hard drives consist of a spinning disk and a read/write head on a mechanical arm called an actuator, reading and writing data magnetically. This magnetic mechanism, however, can result in mechanical failures.

In contrast, SSDs have no moving parts to break or spin. The primary components of an SSD are the flash controller and NAND flash memory chips, designed to deliver high read/write performance for both sequential and random data requests. SSDs are versatile and used in personal computers, laptops, gaming systems, digital cameras, music players, smartphones, tablets, thumb drives, and even integrated into graphics cards. However, they are generally more expensive than traditional HDDs.

The growing demand for higher input/output (I/O) capabilities in businesses has driven the development and adoption of SSDs. SSDs offer lower latency than HDDs, making them efficient for handling heavy read and random workloads. This low latency is due to the SSD's ability to read data directly and immediately from the stored data.

High-performance servers, laptops, desktops, and any applications requiring real-time data delivery benefit greatly from SSD technology. Enterprise SSDs are ideal for offloading reads from transaction-heavy databases, mitigating boot storms in virtual desktop infrastructures, and storing frequently accessed data locally in hybrid cloud environments.

 

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Architecture

 

eMMC Architecture

Components and Design

The architecture of eMMC includes NAND flash memory and a controller, which are integrated into a single package. This integration simplifies the design and manufacturing process, making eMMC an attractive option for many devices.

 

How eMMC Works

eMMC functions by using the flash memory controller to manage data read and write operations. The controller handles error correction, wear leveling, and other crucial tasks to ensure reliable performance and longevity of the storage device.

 

 

SSD Architecture

Components and Design

An SSD typically consists of NAND flash memory chips, a controller, and a cache. The controller manages data read and write operations, while the cache helps speed up these processes. The design can vary, but the goal is to maximize performance and reliability.

 

How SSDs Work

SSDs operate by reading and writing data to NAND flash memory cells. The controller plays a crucial role in managing these operations, performing tasks such as wear leveling, error correction, and garbage collection to maintain the drive's efficiency and longevity.

 

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Storage Capacity

Storage capacity is another clear advantage for SSDs. Most eMMC drives offer between 32GB and 256GB, with the maximum currently available being 512 GB. Capacities of 64GB and 128GB are quite common for eMMC. While eMMC storage can be produced in larger capacities, the limited number of NAND gates results in slower data transfer speeds, making eMMC more suitable for smaller capacities.

In contrast, SSDs are available in a wide range of capacities, from 128GB to several terabytes. This greater capacity is more practical for computers or any device that requires substantial storage, as the typical eMMC sizes can quickly become insufficient after loading an operating system and essential programs.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Read/Write Speeds

On average, SSDs are faster than eMMC storage drives due to the number of NAND gates in each drive. To reduce costs, most eMMC drives have only one NAND gate, while SSDs can have as many as 20.

eMMC storage offers average data transfer speeds of up to 400MB/s. Although this is relatively fast, comparable to SATA SSDs, the limited number of NAND gates in eMMC drives restricts their speed. More NAND gates allow for higher data transfer rates.

The fastest PCIe 3.0 SSDs outperform eMMC drives, reaching speeds up to 3,500 MB/s. PCIe 4.0 SSDs are even faster, doubling those speeds. Data write speeds for SSDs are also significantly higher than those of eMMC drives.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Performance

 

 

Benchmarking eMMC vs. SSD

When comparing the performance of eMMC and SSD, several metrics and benchmarking methods are used to evaluate their capabilities:

  • Sequential Read/Write Speeds: SSDs generally offer significantly higher sequential read and write speeds compared to eMMC. While eMMC might achieve speeds up to 400 MB/s, modern SSDs can exceed 3500 MB/s for reads and writes, especially with NVMe interfaces.
  • Random Read/Write Speeds: This measures the performance of small, random data blocks, which is crucial for operating system performance and multitasking. SSDs outperform eMMC by a wide margin in this category.

 

Real-world Performance Tests

Real-world performance tests involve using typical consumer tasks to measure the effectiveness of eMMC versus SSD:

  • Boot Times: Devices with SSDs typically boot up much faster than those with eMMC. An SSD can boot an operating system in 10-20 seconds, while eMMC might take 30 seconds or more.
  • File Transfers: Copying large files or many small files simultaneously will show a stark difference, with SSDs handling these tasks much more efficiently and quickly.
  • Application Launching: Opening heavy applications like Adobe Photoshop or modern games is significantly faster on SSDs.

 

Synthetic Benchmarks

Synthetic benchmarks provide a controlled environment to measure storage performance using standardized tests:

  • CrystalDiskMark: A popular tool that measures sequential and random read/write speeds. SSDs usually demonstrate vastly superior performance metrics in these tests.
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark: This tool tests storage performance with various file sizes, showing SSDs' consistent superiority across different loads compared to eMMC.

 

User Experience

User experience can be the most telling comparison, as it reflects everyday use rather than just raw numbers:

  • Speed and Responsiveness: SSDs make devices feel much snappier. Tasks like switching between applications, opening files, and general navigation are noticeably quicker.
  • Multitasking: SSDs handle multiple simultaneous tasks better due to their higher IOPS, reducing lag and delays often encountered with eMMC storage.

 

Speed and Responsiveness

Speed and responsiveness are critical aspects of the overall user experience:

  • System Responsiveness: SSD-equipped systems are more responsive during intensive tasks like video editing, programming, or data analysis. eMMC systems may struggle under similar workloads.
  • Interactive Performance: Actions such as clicking, dragging, and typing feel more immediate with SSDs, enhancing the overall fluidity of interactions.

 

Application Load Times

Application load times are a practical measure of storage performance:

  • Heavy Applications: SSDs significantly reduce the time required to load heavy applications like games, development environments, and creative software.
  • Frequent Access: Applications that are accessed frequently benefit from SSDs' faster data retrieval speeds, providing a smoother experience for the user.

 

In summary, while eMMC can suffice for basic tasks and budget devices, SSDs offer superior performance in almost all aspects, making them the preferred choice for any application requiring speed, reliability, and multitasking capabilities.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Durability and Lifespan

 

Wear Leveling Techniques

Both eMMC and SSDs use wear leveling to distribute write and erase cycles evenly across the memory cells, extending their lifespan. However, SSDs generally employ more sophisticated wear-leveling algorithms, contributing to better durability and longer life expectancy.

 

Endurance Ratings

SSDs typically offer superior endurance and durability compared to eMMC storage. They utilize wear-leveling algorithms and advanced error correction mechanisms to extend the lifespan of NAND flash memory cells. Consequently, SSDs can handle more read/write cycles, making them ideal for heavy-duty computing environments and high-performance computing (HPC) applications.

While eMMC storage is durable enough for standard consumer use, it may only tolerate prolonged periods of intensive data access or write-heavy workloads. Users should be cautious when using eMMC-based devices for tasks involving frequent file transfers.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Functions

eMMC is typically used as temporary storage in portable devices, while SSDs serve as permanent storage solutions. Choose the type of storage based on your specific needs and the intended use of the device.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Number of NAND gates

Both operate on NAND principles, enabling faster data processing. However, eMMC typically has only one NAND gate, while SSDs usually have multiple, making SSDs faster at reading and writing data compared to eMMC.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Connections

eMMC is often soldered directly onto the motherboard, whereas SSDs are usually connected via the SATA interface. If your laptop lacks a SATA interface, you will need to use eMMC.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Power Consumption

 

Power Efficiency of eMMC

eMMC storage is designed for low power consumption. It is typically used in mobile devices, tablets, and other compact electronics where energy efficiency is crucial. eMMC chips consume less power during read and write operations compared to traditional hard drives, making them suitable for battery-powered devices. Their idle power consumption is also relatively low, contributing to the overall power efficiency of devices using eMMC storage.

 

Power Efficiency of SSD

SSDs are known for their high performance and low power consumption, especially compared to mechanical hard drives. SSDs use NAND flash memory, which requires less power to operate. Advanced power management features in modern SSDs, such as DevSleep (Device Sleep), allow them to consume even less power when not in active use. Although SSDs generally consume more power than eMMC storage, they still offer a significant reduction in power usage compared to traditional spinning hard drives.

 

Impact on Battery Life in Portable Devices

The choice between eMMC and SSD storage can significantly impact the battery life of portable devices. eMMC, with its lower power requirements, tends to extend battery life in smartphones, tablets, and other compact devices. SSDs, while more power-efficient than traditional hard drives, may consume more power than eMMC, potentially leading to shorter battery life in laptops and other portable electronics. However, the performance benefits of SSDs, such as faster boot times and quicker data access, can offset the slight increase in power consumption, providing a balance between power efficiency and performance.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Use Cases

 

When to Choose eMMC

 

 

Best Fit for Mobile Devices

eMMC is an excellent choice for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Its compact size, low power consumption, and cost-effectiveness make it suitable for these applications where space is limited, and battery life is crucial.

 

Ideal for Budget-Conscious Solutions

For budget-conscious solutions, eMMC provides an affordable storage option without significantly compromising functionality. Devices like entry-level laptops, low-cost tablets, and other consumer electronics benefit from eMMC's balance of cost and performance.

 

When to Choose SSD

 

 

Suitable for High-Performance Needs

SSDs are ideal for high-performance needs where speed and responsiveness are critical. Applications such as gaming, video editing, and professional computing require the fast read/write speeds and low latency that SSDs offer.

 

Optimal for Data-Intensive Applications

For data-intensive applications, SSDs provide the necessary capacity and performance. This includes environments like data centers, cloud storage, and high-performance workstations, where large amounts of data need to be processed quickly and reliably.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Advantages and Disadvantages

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of eMMC

 

Advantages

Cost-Effectiveness

eMMC is a budget-friendly storage option, making it ideal for cost-sensitive applications such as entry-level smartphones, tablets, and other consumer electronics.

 

Power Efficiency

eMMC consumes less power compared to SSDs, which is beneficial for battery-operated devices, helping to extend battery life and reduce energy consumption.

 

Compact Size

The compact size of eMMC makes it suitable for devices with limited space, such as mobile phones, tablets, and compact embedded systems.

 

Disadvantages

Limited Performance

The performance of eMMC is generally lower than that of SSDs, with slower read/write speeds and higher latency, which can be a drawback for performance-intensive applications.

 

Lower Capacity Options

eMMC typically offers lower storage capacities, which may need to be improved for users with large data storage needs.

 

Less Suitable for Intensive Applications

Due to its limited performance and capacity, eMMC is less suitable for intensive applications like gaming, video editing, and large-scale data processing.

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of SSD

 

 

Advantages

High Performance

SSDs deliver high read/write speeds and low latency, making them ideal for performance-demanding applications such as gaming, video editing, and professional computing.

 

Larger Storage Capacities

SSDs are available in a wide range of capacities, from 120GB to multiple terabytes, providing ample storage for various needs, from personal use to enterprise-level data storage.

 

Improved Reliability

With advanced error correction, wear leveling, and other reliability features, SSDs offer greater durability and longer lifespan compared to eMMC, ensuring data integrity and consistent performance over time.

 

Disadvantages

Higher Cost

SSDs are generally more expensive than eMMC, with a higher price per gigabyte. This can be a significant factor for budget-conscious users and applications.

 

Power Consumption (for some models)

Some SSD models, particularly high-performance ones, may consume more power compared to eMMC, which can impact battery life in portable devices.

 

Larger Physical Size (for some models)

Certain SSDs, especially those designed for desktops and servers, can be physically larger than eMMC, which may not be suitable for space-constrained devices.

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Price and Market Availability

While both storage types are available online and offline, their pricing varies significantly. An SSD's cost depends on its capacity, underlying technology, and form factor, ranging from $15 to over $200.

In comparison, eMMC storage is generally cheaper. For example, a 64GB eMMC module from Kingston costs around $11, while a 32GB module is about $6. Although prices may vary slightly between manufacturers, they remain relatively consistent for similar capacities. It's also important to note that most people don't purchase eMMC modules separately, as they are typically embedded in the motherboard and difficult to replace. However, eMMC still influences the overall price of the device you purchase.

 

Key Differences Between eMMC and SSD

Here's a comparison table highlighting the key differences between eMMC (Embedded MultiMediaCard) and SSD (Solid State Drive):

Feature eMMC SSD
Storage Capacity Typically up to 128 GB, sometimes 256 GB Commonly ranges from 128 GB to 4 TB
Speed Slower, around 100 MB/s to 400 MB/s Faster, can exceed 500 MB/s to 5000 MB/s
Cost Generally cheaper More expensive
Durability Less durable than SSDs More durable with higher endurance
Usage Used in smartphones, tablets, some low-end laptops Used in laptops, desktops, and high-performance servers
Interface Integrated in the device, not upgradeable Uses interfaces like SATA, NVMe which can be upgraded
Power Consumption Lower, suited for mobile devices Higher, but provides more performance
Physical Size Very small and compact Larger, depends on form factor
Technology Based on NAND flash but simpler controller More complex controller technology

 

eMMC vs. SSD: Which is Better for Your Laptop?

 

 

eMMC is ideally suited for lower-end tablets and smartphones, where cost-effectiveness and compactness take precedence over raw performance and speed. It is perfect for casual users and students who mainly engage in web browsing, document editing, and multimedia streaming.

SSDs, on the other hand, serve a wider range of users, including gamers, content creators, and IT professionals. Their outstanding performance and reliability make them essential for high-performance computing environments, such as gaming systems, workstations, and servers.

Choosing between eMMC and SSD storage depends on factors like performance needs, budget, and intended use. eMMC offers a cost-effective solution for casual and budget-conscious consumers, while SSDs provide exceptional speed, reliability, and endurance.

Whether you opt for the budget-friendly eMMC or the high-speed SSD, selecting the right storage device ensures a seamless and tailored computing experience.

 

How to Choose the Right Storage Solution

 

Factors to Consider

When selecting a storage solution, several key factors should guide your decision:

  • Performance Needs: Assess what tasks the storage will need to handle. High-performance needs, such as gaming, video editing, and large data processing, will benefit more from SSDs, while eMMC might adequately serve basic tasks like web browsing and word processing.
  • Budget Constraints: Determine your budget for the storage solution. SSDs are generally more expensive than eMMC, but prices have been decreasing, making high-capacity SSDs more affordable.
  • Device Compatibility: Ensure that the storage solution is compatible with your device. Check the specifications of your device to see if it supports NVMe or SATA SSDs or if it only accommodates eMMC storage.

 

Step-by-Step Selection Process

 

1. Identify Your Use Case:

  • For basic use (web browsing, document editing), eMMC might suffice.
  • For intensive use (gaming, professional applications): SSD is recommended.

 

2. Set Your Budget:

Establish a maximum amount you are willing to spend on the storage upgrade.

 

3. Check Compatibility:

Verify the types of storage your device supports. Consult the user manual or manufacturer's website for detailed specifications.

 

4. Compare Options:

Look at different models of SSDs or eMMC storage within your budget. Consider factors such as read/write speeds, storage capacity, and brand reliability.

 

5. Consider Future Needs:

Think about your future storage needs. Investing in a higher-capacity SSD now might save you from needing an upgrade sooner.

 

6. Evaluate Reviews and Benchmarks:

Read reviews and check benchmark results for the storage options you are considering. This will provide insights into real-world performance and reliability.

 

7. Make a Decision:

Based on your performance needs, budget, device compatibility, and the research you've conducted, choose the storage solution that best fits your requirements.

By following this structured approach, you can make an informed decision that balances performance, cost, and compatibility, ensuring you choose the right storage solution for your specific needs.

 

When Need to Replace eMMC with SSD?

Despite the superior performance of SSDs, you might still hesitate to buy one, wondering if it's worth the expense for your laptop.

Consider this scenario: you download your favorite game but have to wait several minutes for it to run because your laptop uses a slower storage device instead of an SSD. Your laptop might even get stuck, causing you to lose the game. In contrast, a laptop with an SSD provides better performance and faster read and write speeds, enhancing your gaming experience.

Additionally, if your laptop's hard drive has limited capacity, you may need to remove applications or delete files to free up space. However, a laptop with an SSD offers more storage space, allowing you to save more of your important files and applications.

While SSDs are smaller than HDDs, they offer larger capacities than eMMC, sufficient for installing Windows 10, Office-related software, and even Photoshop. However, it's important to note that once your SSD is more than 75% full, its performance may be affected.

For better computer performance, consider upgrading from eMMC to SSD. In the following part, we will show you how to replace eMMC with SSD without losing any of your original data.

 

 

How to Replace eMMC with SSD

Solid-state drives (SSDs) have become more affordable over the years, making it easier to replace eMMC storage. The first step is to download AOMEI Backupper on your computer.

To upgrade from eMMC to SSD, you can use the "Clone" feature of AOMEI Backupper. The following detailed steps make the process straightforward and quick.

 

Step 1: Download Software

First, connect the SSD to your PC and ensure it is detected. Then, download, install, and run AOMEI Backupper on your computer.

 

Step 2: Select Disk Clone

From the left-hand menu, click on the "Clone" option and select "Disk Clone."

 

Step 3: Choose Source Drive

Select the 64GB eMMC as the source drive, then click "Next."

 

Step 4: Choose Destination Drive

Choose the connected SSD as the destination drive, then click "Next."

 

Step 5: Click SSD Alignment

To enhance the read-write speed of the destination SSD, check the "SSD Alignment" box. Start the cloning process by pressing the "Start Clone" button.

 

Step 6: Change Boot Order (Optional)

Once the cloning process is complete, you can change the boot order in BIOS to prioritize the new SSD. Alternatively, you can replace the old hard drive with the cloned SSD to boot from it.

 

Using AOMEI Backupper, cloning eMMC to SSD is a stress-free process. Ensure your computer recognizes only the new SSD as the storage drive, allowing you to utilize its capabilities fully. Windows will automatically mark one drive as offline if both are detected.

 

Conclusion

When choosing between eMMC and SSD, consider the specific requirements of your use case. For budget-conscious users and basic tasks like web browsing, email, and document editing, eMMC provides a cost-effective solution and is ideal for budget-friendly devices where low cost and simplicity are prioritized over high performance. Conversely, for users needing higher performance and flexibility, SSDs are advisable as they excel in high-performance tasks such as gaming, video editing, and large data processing and offer faster boot and load times, upgradability, higher storage capacities, and enhanced long-term reliability and durability. By aligning your storage choice with your specific needs and budget, you can ensure optimal performance and value from your device.

 

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FAQ

  • Which is more durable, eMMC or SSD?

    SSDs are generally more durable than eMMC storage. SSDs typically have higher endurance and faster data transfer speeds, which makes them better suited for intensive applications and frequent write operations. They also use more advanced flash memory technology, which can better withstand the wear and tear of regular use compared to eMMC.

  • What is the difference between eMMC and SSD Steam Deck?

    The Steam Deck with eMMC storage offers 64GB of slower, integrated storage and is more affordable. In contrast, the SSD versions use faster NVMe technology, come in larger capacities of 256GB or 512GB, and provide better performance, making them suitable for more intensive gaming needs.

  • Which is better, SSD HDD or eMMC?

    Hard disk drives (HDDs) are the least rapid storage options but offer substantial storage capacities. eMMC storage is slower than SSDs. In comparison, SSDs incorporate more sophisticated firmware and functionalities and utilize 20 NAND flash chips to allocate reading and writing operations effectively.

  • Is eMMC better than UFS?

    Due to its half-duplex nature, eMMC can either read from or write to memory, but not both at the same time. In contrast, Universal Flash Storage (UFS) operates in full-duplex mode, allowing it to perform read and write operations simultaneously. UFS is quicker than eMMC and supports advanced functionalities, including Deep Sleep mode, write booster, and notification throttling to the host system.

  • Is UFS better than SSD?

    SSDs generally deliver superior performance compared to UFS, particularly in terms of consistent data transfer speeds.

  • Is an SSD that much better than EMMC in a Chromebook?

    Yes, SSDs typically offer faster read and write speeds compared to eMMC, which means they can significantly improve the overall performance of a Chromebook.

  • What size SSD for Home Assistant yellow?

    32GB is more than sufficient for running a home assistant by itself.

  • How do I know if my device uses eMMC or SSD?

    You can determine if your device uses eMMC or SSD by checking the device specifications in the user manual or on the manufacturer's website. Additionally, storage type information is often listed in the device settings under storage or hardware details.

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