Back in early January when the new Skylake ThinkPad models were announced, we were confronted by a little mystery regarding the storage used in various T- and X-series models: Models like the T460, X260, T560 and T460p all were announced to be available with a 256 GB PCIe SSD option. No big deal you might think, many new Notebooks these days are available with PCIe storage in the form of 2280 M.2 SSDs. However, unlike the T460s, which makes use of this form-factor, these other new models don´t offer 2280 M.2 slots, as their chassis architecture is still the same as the preceding Broadwell models, like T450, X250 etc. – so the question that presented itself was: In which form does Lenovo use PCIe SSDs in these models? Has Lenovo gotten 2242 M.2 PCIe SSDs to use them in these models?
Actually, the answer is: No. They don´t use 2242 M.2 SSDs. Instead, Lenovo utilizes a standard many people may have heard about, but which was never used in any ThinkPad, up until now: According to a statement of a Lenovo employee in forums.lenovo.com, these new models use 2.5″ SATA Express SSDs. A standard which hasn´t really taken off in the notebook space due to the rise of M.2 / NGFF (Next Generation Formfactor) SSDs, which are much more suitable for thinner and lighter Ultrabooks, which dominate the market today. As the models where this new standard is used a a little bit thicker then ultra-thin models like T460s or X1 Carbon, it makes sense for Lenovo to use the SATA Express form-factor, as it allows them to salvage the legacy 2.5″ form-factor a little bit longer and allow low-cost HDD options, but still offer the latest advancement in storage technology. SATA Express is also compatible with SATA, so if you buy a ThinkPad equipped with SATA Express, you can use normal SATA SSDs/HDDs as well.
An example for a 2.5″ SATA Express SSD would be the Toshiba XG3 PCIe NVMe SSD. Listed in the parts list of the T460p you will find a PCIe SSD made by Toshiba, so this is likely the SSD Lenovo uses here.
What do you think? Should Lenovo stick with 2.5″ and use SATA Express, or should they switch eventually all models to M.2, which would mean the death of HDDs? Tell us in the comments below!