Motherboards: ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX

by | May 31, 2018

A motherboard is the most essential component of any PC build because it defines compatibility and upgradability of a system. It is responsible for establishing a connection between other components of a computer which arguably makes it very important.

If you are unsure about which motherboard you want to get, This is the perfect guide for you. We will be discussing the working on a motherboard, It’s compatibility and different form factor, Followed by our recommendations for the best motherboards.

Different Sizes Of Motherboard

Motherboard sizes are referred to as form-factors, Which can be confusing if you don’t know what they mean. In this section, we will take a look at each form-factor and what’s the difference between each one of them.

Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX vs EATX
FormatProsCons
EATX
  • Enthusiasts-Tier overclocking
  • More PCIe lanes
  • High Ram capacity
  • Ideal for 4-way GPU builds, servers and High-End workstations
  • Very expensive
  • Requires a lot of space
ATX
  • Excellent overclocking potential
  • Easy to find compatible components
  • Usually features great aesthetics
  • Little expensive
  • Also requires a lot of space
Micro-ATX
  • Very affordable
  • Kinda Portable
  • Small enough for a on-desk setups
  • Decent overclocking
  • Lower at RAM capacity than ATX
  • Not ideal for Multi-GPU setups
Mini-ITX
  • Affordable
  • Very Portable (Ideal for LAN Parties
  • Makes great HTPC
  • Not a great choice for overclocking
  • Minimal RAM capacity
  • No Multi-GPU Support

How to choose the best motherboard?

Sizes

We discuss each motherboard size in great detail later in this article. Here is a quick summary of it.

  • Mini-ITX – Great option for HTPC and compact gaming builds. You can build portable computers. These are Ideal for low-performance oriented systems.
  • Micro-ATX – These are great for budget-friendly builds, most mATX components cost significantly less than Mini-ITX, This is because their manufacturing and architecture don’t require such high definition. These are also great for HTPC, and compact gaming builds, mATX cases even come with handles, so these are easy to carry if you often join or host LAM parties.
  • ATX – This form-factor is the most common and can be used for almost any kind of build. They are noticeably bigger than Micro-ATX motherboards. These are great if you want to skip the hassle of finding compatible parts and assembling them. As already mentioned, These are great for almost any kind of build, with enough space to offer, very effective cooling solutions can be implemented which makes them an excellent choice for overclockers.
  • EATX – An extended version of the ATX form factor. Great for high-end workstations and gaming builds.
Motherboard Buying guides for different form-factors

Determining Compatibility

Motherboards are the central connection pathway for all the components, there can be complications when it comes to compatibility. Firstly, Let’s clarify what factors influence compatibility.

CPU Socket

It refers to the architecture a CPU uses, manufacturers like Intel and AMD have their standards. Intel has LGA1151, LGA1150, etc; While AMD has, AM3+, AM4, etc.

The new 8th generation Intel processors use the same socket as older generation (LGA 1151), yet they are not compatible with same motherboards, This is because of minor architecture changes and implementation of new features.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rShVLBIR2VA
Motherboard Buying guides for popular CPUs

Chipset

Unlike socket which is a part of the processor, Chipsets are a part of motherboards. The new generation of Coffee Lake processors are compatible and overclocking on Z370 chipset motherboards. Example, ‘Z’ series of motherboards communicates that motherboard supports CPU overclocking.

Learn more about Chipsets, Resources – Wikipedia

Motherboard buying guides for different Chipsets

ATX, Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX – What do they mean?

Each refers to a form-factor which are basically the standards used by manufacturers to label electrical and physical compatibility of components with other hardware. A Mini-ITX motherboard will be compatible with a Mini-ITX case and power supplies.

ATX

ATX is the most common size of motherboards usually preferred for high-end gaming systems and workstations. ATX motherboard measures 305mm x 244mm, It is one of the larger motherboards sizes. An average ATX motherboard comes equipped with multiple PCIe slots, great cooling solution, and support for RAM of up to 64GB.

Despite sounding as the optimal choice for only enthusiasts, It is commonly used for mid-ranged builds as well. Reason being, It’s big enough size, implementing cooling solution is comparatively cheaper and much easier, It is far better at dealing with heat than any of the smaller form-factors.

eATX or extended ATX

It is uncommon and mostly used by enthusiasts for their high-end gaming builds and workstations. It is nothing to consider unless you are building an enthusiast grade computer. As the name suggests, They are an extended version of the ATX form-factor and can measure up to 305mm x 330mm.

XL-ATX

This form factor is very rare and was was introduced a few years ago. A bigger version of the ATX motherboards, These are the definition for high-end gaming systems, Featuring compatibility of 4-way SLI and Crossfire configurations, They are no wonder targetted towards high-end tier of workstations of gaming computers.

Micro-ATX

Much like the Mini-ITX boards, These are quite small, measuring about 244mm × 244 mm. Being quite larger than the Mini-ITX boards and slightly smaller than the ATX form-factor, These maintain a perfect balance in terms of hardware compatibility and portability.

Mini-ITX

Mini-ITX motherboards are commonly used for building HTPC and console killer systems. They are currently the smallest form-factor available which can house in a GPU and up to 32 GB DDR4 memory (Average board on the market), Mini-ITX is also an optimal choice for portable computers built to enjoy LAN parties. An average Mini-ITX measures 170mm x 170mm and can be easily housed in almost any case, be it ATX, Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX.

CPU/GPU vs Motherboard – Which should you choose first?

When building a PC, There is no a right or wrong way, while following a pattern can help you ignore most compatibility issues. Choosing the CPU/GPU first or the motherboard? Both the methods have their downsides. We are not going to discuss this in detail, Usually, it’s a better idea to do research on latest available processing units then find a motherboard which can accompany them, We strongly recommend you follow the same process, especially if you are building your first PC.