ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX – What’s The Difference?

 The most important thing to remember is that not every case will support every form factor. Make sure your case supports the size of motherboard that you choose before buying it! If in doubt, go with Micro ATX as it offers the best combination of performance and price for most builds

One of the hardest questions to answer when planning a computer build is “What motherboard should I get?”  I spent the entire day trying to find the right answer to this question so that you could make an informed choice in selecting the right motherboard

 There are many things you need to consider such as what size case will hold your components and what type of power supply you need. The three most popular form factors, or sizes, of motherboards (mobo for short), are ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX.

 Below, we will compare these three motherboard sizes and try to answer the question: “Which motherboard size to choose?

ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX
Size
PCIe Slots
The Pros and Cons of Each Form-Factor
Which Motherboard Form Factor Should You Choose?
Motherboard For Gaming PC
1) Less power consumption
2) Smaller footprint
3) Lower price
4) Cooler operating temperatures
5) Less power supply requirements
Motherboard For Workstation
Motherboard For Desktop PC
What To Do Next

ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX

To begin, let’s take a look at an example of each type of mobo so you can see what they look like. First up is ATX, which was first introduced in 1995 by Intel. ATX is meant for mid-sized cases where there should be more features than Micro ATX motherboards offer but not as much as full sized ATX boards have.

Next up are micro ATX boards. These were first introduced by Intel in 1997 to be used with custom built computers that were smaller than full sized towers. They are known for being extremely versatile and fit into almost all cases on the market today.

Lastly, we have Mini ITX boards. These were introduced by VIA in 2001 to be used with slim sized cases where space is a major concern for the user. They are also very versatile and fit into most modern cases on the market today.

Size

Now that you know what each board looks like, let’s compare their specs. The first thing we will look at is size. ATX motherboards measure 12″ x 9 1/4″ which is pretty large compared to micro ATX boards which measure 9 1/4″ x 9 1/4″. The small size of Mini ITX boards allows them to fit into basically any case on the market today without compromising too much performance as seen below

PCIe Slots

Next, we’ll take a look at the number of expansion slots each board offers. ATX boards offer 7 to 9 expansion slots depending on the manufacturer and case compatibility. Micro ATX boards generally have 5 to 7 expansion slots, though some can support up to 11. Lastly, Mini ITX boards are known for only having 1 or 2 PCI-E / PCI / AGP expansion slots which limit their ability to upgrade in the future

Now that we know about the size and the number of available slots, let’s talk about what types of expansion slots are actually used by each mobo size. Here’s a quick breakdown:

ATX – PCI-E x16 (video card slot), PCI-E x1 (network card slot), PCI, ISA x2

(sound card slot) 

Micro ATX – PCI-E x16 (video card slot), PCI-E x1 (network card slot), PCI, ISA x2 (sound card slot)

 Mini ITX – PCI-E x16 (video card slot), CF/SD/MMC Card Slot

The final thing I want to mention is power. The larger boards, ATX, and full sized micro ATX, have more power phases which can mean better overclocking capabilities.

The Pros and Cons of Each Form-Factor

We’ll review the advantages and disadvantages of each type of form factor so that you’ll get a better understanding of which one will meet your requirements the most effectively.

FormProsCons
ATX* More suited to overclocking
* Supports multiple-GPU setups
* A large number of PCIe slots
* More capacity RAM
* Can’t fit in the majority of smaller cases
*Expensive
Micro-ATX* The cheapest choice
* Suitable for PCs with a single GPU
* Fits into nearly every case
* More capacities of RAM than mini-ITX   
* Not suitable for multi-GPU configurations
* Not the best choice for overclocking extremes
* Most often, they are not aesthetically appealing.
Mini-ITX* The most suitable alternative to use for cases with smaller sizes** Costs more than micro-ATX
* Doesn’t appear right in larger cases
* Will not work with multi-GPU configurations.
* Not the best choice for extreme overclocking
* there are only two RAM slots

Which Motherboard Form Factor Should You Choose?

The best way to find the perfect motherboard for your gaming needs is by considering what you plan on using it with. Will this be an office PC or do I need something more than just web browsing and emailing? Is there another device in my household also running games like Minecraft, World Of Warcraft, etc.? If so then let’s dive deeper into some common-sense cases:

Motherboard For Gaming PC

Is Micro ATX good for computer gaming? Yes, it is. Here are the top 3 reasons why you should stick to micro atx form factor despite difficulties in building a custom pc with a small budget.

1) Less power consumption

A micro ATX motherboard consumes less power, therefore, uses fewer resources from the power supply unit. There are very few high-end components on a motherboard which also decreases the total wattage used by the computer system. That’s why people often choose higher wattage PSUs when they build their PC but that isn’t necessary if your motherboard is an entry-level one. This makes upgrading to a stronger GPU or CPU much easier since all you need to do is change existing hardware instead of buying everything all over again because your old PSU can support everything.

2) Smaller footprint

Micro ATX motherboards take up less space so there is a free slot in your case for another component during upgrade or if you want to add new hardware. This way, you can save money by not having to buy a bigger case when you want to add an extra GPU or just have more internal storage since the components will be placed closer together and airflow increased without having to customize the existing one. You can also put your custom rig on a small desk where it wouldn’t fit otherwise because of huge traditional atx cases which take up even more space than MB itself.

3) Lower price

If we go strictly by dimensions then we get that micro atx is quite smaller and leaves likely less space for components. Smaller size means lower material used which in turn leads to decreased price. That’s why there are multiple MB and GPU options available making your upgrade even cheaper than upgrading a full sized motherboard and CPU combo.

4) Cooler operating temperatures

Airflow is increased by a smaller form factor since all the components are placed closely together and better airflow means cooler running hardware which not only increases the life of your system but also decreases the risk of overheating (and consequently, decreases in performance). This makes micro atx equally suitable for overclocking as well as undervolting if you don’t want to go extreme with voltage levels.

5) Less power supply requirements

As already mentioned above, Your ps needs to provide lower wattage to power the mATX motherboard than ATX one. A simple calculation proves that you can save 80 bucks on ps alone if you upgrade your motherboard and CPU combination. Even if you don’t want to replace old hardware, it’s still nice to know that there are at least some savings due to decreased power consumption which will be seen on your electricity bill as well (and you pay for every unit of energy).

With all the advantages of micro atx above, it’s easy to understand why this form factor has become so popular among gamers who are on a tight budget but looking for a new PC with increased performance. It increases the life span of components further by limiting heat dissipation through airflow and decreases the size of the whole rig too which makes transportation easier. So, with all the reasons mentioned above, it’s easy to understand why starting from gamers and leaving normal users apart, even most of the companies choose mATX form factor for their business PCs.

Motherboard For Workstation

Have you ever wondered why ATX is good for high-end computers? Well, the answer is relatively straightforward. When it comes to overclocking capabilities of microprocessors, the motherboard plays an important role in determining how much can be pushed out of a particular model.

ATX comes out with a more enhanced power delivery capability that ensures that an overclocked CPU has enough power supply which means that it can handle your overclock without draining too much power. This allows you to push the limit up to its maximum which in turn will make your system run faster than usual without any problem. Also, a higher wattage rating allows more heat dissipation due to the better construction on the motherboard’s side.

However, having said all these benefits are still not adequate if there are other secondary features such as having multiple PCI-E slots at hand. This is because if you are about to run a beast of a graphics card such as AMD Radeon R9 295×2 or Nvidia GeForce Titan Z, then it is advised that you should go with ATX over Micro ATX for the simple reason that there will be plenty of room to accommodate those dual GPU monster without taking up so much space and allowing airflow to dissipate the heat generated by both cards.

Motherboard For Desktop PC

Many small-form-factor desktop PCs use mini-ATX mainboards because they are much easier to find, cheaper, and require less power. This makes them perfect when building budget or mid-range computers. Another reason why mini-ATX is good for desktop pc can be because of its lower power consumption at idle mode compare to a bigger form factor board especially if you have an SLI or CrossFire setup, which requires multiple PCI Express connectors. 

What To Do Next

We hope that this article has helped you decide which motherboard to choose, but it’s important to remember that no one size fits all. The three major formats each have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs, so it may be worth looking at more than just the mainstream options before making a final decision.