ATX vs. Micro-ATX vs. Mini-ITX: What are the differences?

ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX

What Is The Difference Between ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX

The motherboard is one of the crucial pieces of components when it comes to PC. The motherboard is the component where you connect all the other parts like CPU, memory, GPU, SSD, etc. While purchasing a motherboard based on features is essential, it also equally important to know which form-factor the motherboard is. Or, in simple terms, what is the physical size of the motherboard. A motherboard’s form factor can determine the number of slots or expansion, how many features it has, what cost it’ll be or whether or not it’ll fit inside your cabinet.

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In this article, you’ll know everything about this form-factor and which one you should choose when building your first PC. So let’s go through it one by one.

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Types Of Motherboard Form-factors

Every motherboard comes in either of these three form factors or sizes.

  • ATX
  • Micro-ATX
  • Mini-ITX

Any form-factor motherboard offers all the minimum requirements need for a user. Whether it is for gaming, productivity, office work, casual usage, etc., any size board has sufficient features to do the job. But as the sizes are different, each motherboard offers something extra or less depending on that.

However, there is also an EATX form factor, which is more significant in size than all of the other three form factors. EATX is not often used for general usage. Even for gaming and productivity build, the EATX motherboard is overkill. This type of motherboard is also very costly. So we’ll not talk about that here.

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ATX

ATX board

In 1995 ATX or Advanced Technology eXtended was first introduced as a common motherboard form-factor for computers. In terms of form factor, ATX is the largest of the other two. The dimension of an ATX motherboard is 12” x 9.6”, considered a full-size motherboard. Being a full-size motherboard, these boards can offer you the maximum number of slots, whether for RAM or NVM-e M.2 and PCI-e expansion.

ATX motherboards can support up to 4 memory slots (also up to 8 for some very high-end motherboards) and 7 PCI-e expansions for the graphics cards and SSDs. That’s why the ATX form-factor board is used inside a PC explicitly built for productivity, such as video editing, graphics design, 3D modeling, and rendering or VR gaming.

Besides memory slots and PCI-e expansion, this type of motherboard can also have the maximum port in I/O and fan headers on the board. Usually, high-end motherboards come with the ATX form factor.

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Pros

  • Item 1Maximum number of memory
  • Multi-GPU support on SLI or Crossfire
  • Feature-rich
  • Better Performance and overclocking

Cons

  • Required more space
  • Expensive

Micro-ATX

 Micro-ATX

Micro-ATX was first revealed in 1997 with a little smaller size than ATX. In terms of form-factor, it comes after the ATX. The dimension of the Micro-ATX motherboard is 9.6” x 9.6”. It offers a compact size that shares almost all the features, RAM slots, and I/O from an ATX size motherboard but with an exception in the number of PCIe slots. While ATX has 7 PCIe slots, on the other hand, Micro-ATX has only 4 PCIe slots, which is a con over the ATX board.

This form-factor is the most common among the users. Micro-ATX boards are also cheaper than ATX and quite affordable in terms of price. That’s why most common PC users or budget gaming PC builder uses the Micro-ATX board, as it offers much value in terms of price and features.

Micro-ATX boards also have 4 memory slots for your maximum memory requirement. But it has less PCI-e x 16 expansion than ATX. That’s why you can not set up multi-GPU with this board. However, some Micro-ATX board has the Multi-GPU support, but the price is quite same an ATX board.

Pros

  • Best for the budget PC
  • Low price than ATX
  • The same amount of memory slot as ATX
  • fits inside most cabinet

Cons

  • Less PCIe expansion
  • Little bit less performance than ATX

Mini-ITX

Mini-ITX

Mini-ITX or Mini Information Technology Extended is the smallest form-factors in terms of motherboard sizes. While “Mini” sounds bigger than “Micro,” it is smaller than Micro-ATX. The dimension of this form-factor is 6.7” x 6.7”. As the size very small, this type of board offers fewer slots, expansion, and features. Even though Mini-ITX offers fewer features than Micro-ATX, surprisingly, Mini-ITX is costlier than a Micro-ATX.

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Mini-ITX form-factor board comes with only 2 RAM slots and 1 PCI-e x 16 expansion for the graphics card. So you cannot equip more than 32GB of memory. However, 32GB is quite a much memory for gaming, 3D rendering, or even streaming while playing games.

Mini-ITX build is perfect for those who want a very compact PC. Moreover, a single GPU is also sufficient for most games, so using this motherboard for gaming PC will not cause any problem. But due to having only 1 PCI-e and only two memory slots, this form-factor is not suitable for a workstation PC.

Pros

  • Very small and compact size
  • Best for portable PC
  • Require less space
  • Less power usage

Cons

  • Only 2 memory slot
  • Only 1 PCI-e expansion
  • Expensive than Micro-ATX

ATX vs. Micro-ATX vs. Mini-ITX

So far, we have talked about each form-factors and what they offer. Now let’s get in-depth about the differences between ATX vs. Micro-ATX vs. Mini-ITX and compared them to each other.

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Quick Comparison Table

ATXMicro-ATXMini-ITX
Size12.7” x 9.6”9.6” x 9.6”6.7” x 6.7”
Memory slotsup to 4 slotsup to 4 slotsonly 2 slots
PCI-e slotsup to 7 slotsup to 4 slotsonly 1 PCI-e x16
PriceHighLowHigh
CompatibilityCompatible with only ATX supported cabinetCompatible with most cabinetsCompatible with most cabinets
AestheticsGoodAverageGood
OverclockingIntense overclockingNormal overclockingNot good for overclocking
FeatureFeature-richFeature-richLow features

Differences

Size And Compatibility: This is the most obvious difference between these form factors. ATX is the largest form-factor board. ATX form-factor considers a full-size board. A full-size ATX is 305mm x 244mm. After that, here comes the Micro-ATX form-factor. The board is 244×244 mm. And last and smallest form-factor is Mini-ITX, which is 70 by 170 mm. Here is an image of the three boards side-by-side

ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX  Size

The motherboard form factor is a consideration point when it comes to buying the case. However, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX can be compatible with most cabinets, but for an ATX, you need a bigger case. You don’t want to buy a small case for an ATX board and try to fit it inside the case. It is not possible. Also, purchasing a large case for a Mini-ITX board is looks wired. A bigger size case also requires quite a decent amount of physical space on your desk, which also needs to be considered.

RAM And PCI-e Slots: RAM capacity also an essential piece of information to look at. Depending on your purpose to build the PC, memory requirements can vary. ATX and Micro-ATX motherboard can hold up to 4 slots for memory, which is up to 64GB. However, some high-end ATX boards have up to 8 slots. On the other hand, Mini-ITX has only 2 slots, which means you get up to 32GB.

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Unless you are not looking to build a workstation with a Mini-ITX board, most of the case 32GB memory will be enough for gaming or productivity tasks. But having more slots for RAM can be used for future upgrades.

For gaming, the PCI-e slot is where you connect the graphics card. With that said, ATX boards have 7 PCI-e slots, which are 3 is PCI-e x 16 for the GPU. Micro-ATX has up to 4 PCI-e slots, and Mini-ITX has only 1.

Price: Price is the factor that ultimately decides whether you can afford it or not. The Micro-ATX form factor is the cheapest among the other two. Not only just more affordable, but it also offers a better overall value for a budget build. You’ll get surprised, even though Mini-ITX is smaller and has fewer features, but costlier than the Micro-ATX.

No doubt, the ATX form factor is the expensive one. Compared with the other two form factors, ATX is bigger in size and offers more features and overall performance. ATX motherboard can justify its price if you need those extra slots and performance.

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Choosing The Correct Form Factor For Your Need?

So far, we have discussed all three form factor and understand the features, specification and pros n cons each motherboard provide. Now the main question is Which form factor motherboard you should get for your need? For this answer, first, you figure out which purpose you will use the PC. Is it for gaming? Or any productivity like video or photo editing? Or are you going to build a workstation? Or you use it for general office works?

With that let’s see which form factor is perfect for which cases?

Which Form Factor Motherboard Is Good For Gaming PC?

If you are building a gaming PC, the Micro-ATX form factor is perfect for you. It doesn’t matter if it is for a budget gaming PC or a high-end gaming PC. Micro-ATX board offers all the requirements you need. 4 RAM slots and 4PCI-e slots are way more than you ever need.

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Again if you want those extra PCI-e slots for multi-GPU setup or to maximize your storage, or if you’re going to overclock CPU and GPU to gain the maximum performance, you may consider an ATX board but keep in mind that it’ll cost you a couple of bucks more.

I won’t recommend using a Mini-ITX unless a small and compact PC is your no.1 priority. Other than that, Mini-ITX doesn’t offer much. In fact, it has fewer features also the price is high.

Which Form Factor Motherboard Is Good For Workstation PC?

For a workstation PC, it is highly recommended to use an ATX form factor motherboard and use those extra RAM and PCI-e slots. But if you want to use your gaming PC for some little productivity work such as video editing or 3D rendering, micro-ATX can fulfill your requirement.

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However, if you need a high-end workstation build for high-quality video production or VFX or data mining, machine learning, etc. In that case, those extra more RAM slots and PCI-e for multi-GPU setup can improve performance.

Which Form Factor Motherboard Is Good For Desktop PC?

If you are building a desktop PC for some general usage like some office work, internet browsing, or watching movies, Micro-ATX is what you are looking for. It is cheap and justifies its price according to what it offers. You don’t need to think much for a Desktop PC build. Micro-ATX is what you need. Also, it gives you options to upgrade the PC in the future.

However, you can also use Mini-ITX for this kind of build. Again as I said before, Mini-ITX is perfect for a small compact PC, and it does cost you more, but a compact PC looks better on a desk.

Conclusion

At this point, you have a better understating of all the different motherboard form factors. As said, each form factor offers something more or less. The motherboard is also something that you choose with an upgradability option in the future. Price can also be a significant factor as not all come with the same price. So, depending on your requirement and how much you are willing to spend, choose the correct motherboard.

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