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The ExpressCard to NVMe adapter allows you to install any PCI-E based M.2 2242 SSD in your EC-equipped ThinkPad. It supports plug and play, hotswap, and is even bootable.
SSD is not included.
Any laptop with an ExpressCard slot is compatible. When it comes to ThinkPads, that includes:
- ExpressCard 34: T400s, T410/s, T420/s, T430/s, T510, T520, T530, T540p, W510, W520, W530, W540, W541, W700/ds, W701/ds, P50, P51, P70, P71
- ExpressCard 54: R51e, R52, R60, R61, R400, R500, T43/p, T60/p, T61/p, T400, T500, Z60m, Z61m, W500, X200/s/t, X201/s/t, X220/t, X230/t
EC54 devices can use the EC34 variant, leaving only a small cosmetic gap to one side. EC34 devices cannot use the EC54 variant.
What SSDs are compatible?
Any M.2 2242 PCI-E based SSD. SATA drives are not supported. The current compatible list is as follows:
- Toshiba RC100 (up to 480GB)
- Lexar NM520 (up to 512GB)
- Sabrent Rocket 2242 (up to 2TB)
- WD SN520 (up to 512GB)
I recommend the Sabrent Rocket 2242, since it's incredibly fast, widely available, and goes up to 2TB. The WD SN520 is more widely available in Europe, though.
What's the speed limit?
The ExpressCard slot is limited to a single PCI-E 2.0 lane. This means the theoretical speed bottleneck is 425MB/s real-world, which is roughly the speed of SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3).
Pre-Sandy Bridge models (T410/X201 and older) are limited to PCI-E 1.1, which is roughly 220MB/s. The P50/51/70/71 are capable of PCI-E 3.0, and can go up to ~900MB/s.
Is it bootable?
The adapter comes with a USB flash chip embedded inside, which can be booted from any stock BIOS. It contains the Clover bootloader, which has special NVMe drivers that can then boot your SSD. If you use Coreboot, you can boot directly to the SSD without touching Clover.