If you are on your way to buy a new motherboard, you must have come across the terms ‘form factor’, or initials like ‘ATX’ and ‘micro ATX’. These simply refer to the size of the motherboards and are important factors to consider when choosing a board that will fit in your PC case. But are there any other differences besides the size?
Turns out that motherboards differ greatly in terms of features and price when it comes to the various form factors. In today’s article, we will be taking a look at the most common sizes of motherboards and give you a detailed comparison of Extended ATX vs Standard ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX mobos.
ATX stands for Advanced Technology eXtended, and is by far the most popular size for desktop motherboards. Most full sized or even mid-sized towers you’ll find will have a ‘standard’ ATX board in them. Thanks to its incredible versatility and functionality coupled with a great feature set for the price.
ATX motherboards have endless possibilities when it comes to the component choices and are more than enough for any high-end gaming or enthusiast build. These usually have 4 RAM slots, 3-4 PCIe x16 slots, abundant fan headers and plenty of space for large heatsinks and water cooling blocks.
E-ATX is just a larger variant of ATX boards, with generally more slots for GPUs, RAM and storage. Some of the most high-end boards like X570s, tend to be Extended ATX simply due to sheer amount of performance and features these can pack. This form factor is the largest of the bunch and often includes 6-8 RAM slots, Quad-GPU support and enormous possibilities when it comes to custom liquid cooling setups.
- Best hardware compatibility and performance.
- Large number of PCIe slots.
- Great multi-GPU/expansion cards support.
- Highest RAM slots and capacity.
- Some of the motherboard and case options available.
- Largest and bulkiest of the bunch.
- Waste of space if you don’t plan to maximize on your build.
- The more feature-rich ones can get expensive.
EATX vs ATX
Since E-ATX boards are bigger than standard ATX boards, they tend to have better connectivity, better power delivery and cooling performance. If your requirements are high-end video editing, extreme overclocking or you don’t want to ever run out of ports, EATX is the way to go, but all this comes at a higher price and limited case compatibility.
That’s where the flexibility and affordability of ATX form factor comes into play. ATX mobos have all that you need for any moderate to high-end gaming or enthusiast class performance. Sure, they won’t have the same OC performance and the massive VRMs that the EATX counterparts do, but for an average to even demanding gamer, these will be more than enough. Given the popularity of ATX boards, you can easily find a reasonably priced product that’ll have all the features you need.
Micro ATX boards are not very popular among builders as they find themselves more in a jack of all trade’s category. ATX boards clearly outclass them in terms of features while mini ITX boards offer the most compactness you can ask for. But that doesn’t mean mATX has nothing going for them, in fact it offers a lot when it comes to overall value for money.
Micro ATX boards are typically sized at 9.6 inches squared which makes them ideal for most mid-tower or full-tower configurations. Although mATX boards are constantly improving at a fast pace, you won’t find as many great options as for an ATX form factor. There are some quite great options in the low to mid-range but not much when it comes to premium motherboards.
Apart from the size, the key differences between micro ATX vs ATX are almost half the number of PCIe slots on the former, less USB ports and sometimes two RAM slots rather than four. The obvious upside to mATX form factor is that it results in a more compact build and is usually among the least inexpensive among all form factors. Fortunately, these boards retain much of the flexibility and performance you can ask for and then some.
- Can fit in most mid and full-towers.
- Balanced feature set.
- Very affordable.
- Enough RAM support and connectivity for most PCs
- Might fall short on PCIe slots for multi-GPU setups.
- Slightly worse VRMs and cooling than ATX motherboards.
- Not the optimal option for SFF builds.
ATX vs Micro ATX
Micro ATX is the sweet spot for someone looking for a compact setup without sacrificing on all the essential features. If you want an SFF build that still leaves a decent room for connectivity and expandability, micro ATX is the right choice for you. You’ll usually get 2 full-length PCIe slots but having dual-GPU setup might make it cramped inside the case. The smaller surface area also means less powerful VRMs and slightly worse cooling.
Of course, not everyone is looking for the most OC performance or multi-GPU setups, and in that case mATX would be totally worth it. Micro ATX form factor is perfect for a budget build where aesthetics and enthusiast features are not important. In the end it’s not necessarily about better performance or what can fit the most expansion cards. You should be choosing one based on space utilization and your needs.
The final one is for those looking for the smallest build possible. Mini ITX motherboards are typically sized around 6.7 inches squared and are aimed at people who want portability or compactness over anything else. With such a small footprint, you’re expected to see compromise in features and accessibility.
Mini ITX mobos typically include 2 RAM slots, a single PCIe x16 slot and limited USB and SATA ports. The cases they’ll go into are also smaller which means you sacrifice the space for cooling or ventilation. If you want decent thermal performance from your system you need to carefully pick the power and cooling components. Given all the limitations, why do you even care about a mini ITX board?
Simple, because it’s cheaper and SFF builds look amazing. On the other hand, the components designed for mini ITX cases tend to be expensive, even more than the ones for EATX cases. That being said, for an average user these things aren’t big of an issue, and the money saved up front and convenience is a great deal.
These are not meant for high-end gaming or overclocking, but you can build a great entry-level PC on these tiny boards. Nonetheless, the popularity of mini ITX form factor is on a rapid rise and will keep its pace as long as companies keep developing smaller and more efficient components for PCs.
- Smallest form factor out there.
- Allows for extreme portability.
- Many great options from most of the popular brands.
- Struggle with thermal performance.
- Mini ITX cases and components tend to be very expensive.
- Only a single PCIe slot.
- Not all graphics cards will fit the smaller cases.
Micro ATX vs Mini ITX
The key difference between micro ATX and mini ITX is the obviously much smaller size of the latter. Apart from that, mini ITX boards will serve you only a single graphics slot as compared to two on most micro ATX offerings. You’ll also have to sacrifice on RAM support, USB connectivity and SATA ports when buying a mini ITX motherboard.
If you are looking for a bit more gaming juice out of your rig or are worried about future-proofing at all then it would be better to stick to micro ATX for now. With a mini ITX, you also have to worry about buying a special PSU (or even GPU) that can fit into a mini-ITX specific case. You have to decide what size you need and what you want out of your rig. Also, the cost of additional components and gear would be much higher in case of mini ITX.
EATX vs ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX – Which is Right for you?
|Size||PCIe Slots||Memory||SATA Ports||Cost|
|EATX||4 or more PCIe x16||6-8 DIMM slots, Up to 256 GB||6-8||Very Expensive|
|ATX||3-4 PCIe x16||4-6 DIMM slots, 64-128 GB||4-8||Expensive|
|Micro ATX||2 PCIe x16||4 DIMM slots, 64-128 GB||4-6||Very Affordable|
|Mini ITX||1 PCIe x16||2 DIMM slots, 32-64 GB||2-4||Affordable|
Why Choose EATX/ATX
EATX motherboards are clearly designed for the most demanding gaming performance and high-end workstation tasks. If budget is not an issue and you want the most intensive performance and space for custom liquid cooling, then you’ll find worth in E-ATX boards. However, ATX can save you some money and is more than enough for most users even if you are looking for overclocking or enthusiast grade features.
There are a lot of amazing motherboards to choose from in this form factor, which can be enticing but also confusing at the same time. Among EATX and ATX however, it totally depends on how much you’re willing to spend and if you want the latest and greatest hardware for your PC.
Why Choose Micro ATX
Micro ATX is the best option for most budget friendly PC builds. These motherboards will give you the most value for money by providing all the features you need at a reasonable price point. Most people are not looking for SLI/Crossfire or custom liquid cooling blocks, and in that case micro ATX will more than suffice.
Micro ATX motherboards are ideal for single GPU setups and have higher RAM capacity than mini iTX, which make them suitable for low to moderate gaming. You can install them on pretty much any case, which helps a lot if you don’t plan to get a new case.
Why Choose Mini ITX
Mini ITX is a great form factor for people who want their PC for multimedia, internet, some casual gaming and office related tasks. These fall short on anything more than moderate gaming or productivity tasks. If you want extreme portability and the smallest build possible, go with mini ITX.
These mobos are not designed for overclocking and hardcore gaming due to poor thermals and limited RAM and GPU support. These are also slightly more expensive than micro ATX and any sort of tinkering will require you to buy expensive ‘specialist’ parts, which are not welcome to most users.
With so many options floating in the motherboard market right now, it can be very hard to narrow down on the choices. Knowing what form factor will be the perfect fit for your build can greatly help with your motherboard purchase.
Hopefully, now you have a better idea on what to look for after reading this article. As with most other PC components, it all boils down in the end to your requirements and preferences.
So, do you think form factor is important? What form factor do you think you’ll be building next? Let us know in the comments below!