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ATX Form factor
ATX form factor is an early type of motherboard that came as an improvement to the AT form factor. This had the best technology of the time. This PC motherboard superseded the Baby AT design and allowed full-length expansions to be plugged into every socket, replacing the Baby AT design. By rotating the CPU and memory 90 degrees, the ATX layout made it possible to connect full-length expansions. Instead of pulling air through the chassis, the power supply blows it over the CPU.
As an early PC motherboard, the ATX was the first to include the various I/O interfaces (serial, parallel, mouse, etc.) on the motherboard itself, and was also the first to have all the connectors assembled directly onto the motherboard.
The ATX form factor was subsequently adapted into microATX, Mini ATX, FlexATX, and Extended ATX, among others.
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Types of ATX
In the pico BTX motherboard form factor, the standard 12.8 x 10.5 inches (325 x 267 mm) is miniaturized. Pico BTX motherboards measure 8 x 10.5 inches (203 x 267 mm). This is smaller than many current “micro”-sized motherboards, hence the name “pico”. This motherboard shares a common top half with the other sizes in the BTX line, but supports one or two expansion slots, and is designed for half-height or riser card applications.
Other smaller BTX sizes include: microBTX at 10.4 × 10.5 in (264 × 267 mm) and nano BTX at 8.8 × 10.5 in (224 × 267 mm).
Specification Year Dimensions of motherboard Expansion slots
BTX 2004 10.5 × 12.8 in (266.70 × 325.12 mm) 7
microBTX 10.5 × 10.4 in (266.70 × 264.16 mm) 4
nanoBTX 10.5 × 8.8 in (266.70 × 223.52 mm) 2
picoBTX 10.5 × 8.0 in (266.70 × 203.20 mm) 1
As part of the official specification, a heat sink is now attached to the CPU, and is referred to as a “Thermal Module” throughout, as it is no longer attached exclusively to the motherboard, but rather to the casing, so in an event of mechanical shocks, the inertial load caused by the mass of the heat sink will no longer damage the motherboard. Also related: Best AMD motherboards in 2023
As a structural interface between the heat sink and the chassis, there are four mounting holes with distances of approximately 4.4 inches by 2.275 inches (55.79 inches by 111.76 millimeters). Due to the fact that it also requires some stiffness for this attachment, it is referred to as the Support and Retention Module (SRM).
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Motherboards: When to Use What
Two RAM slots and a PCIEe slot are present on this bare Mini-ITX motherboard.
In fact, you can build almost any type of home PC with these motherboard types, whether it’s a gaming PC, an entertainment computer, or a dynamo for Office 365.
We’ll discuss the trade-offs associated with each form factor next.
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There are many reasons why you might want to consider an ATX board over a MicroATX board for your first gaming PC-building endeavor. First, ATX boards provide more space, which makes them better for making gaming PCs. Second, the extra room supplied by ATX boards makes it easier to install the components in the right places.
There is no reason to stay away from an ATX system if you are a first-time PC user and are looking for something smaller and lighter. You may find it a bit more difficult to put everything together, but it is still possible. When choosing a MicroATX case, it is important to remember that if you decide to build something smaller, you don’t want one that also accepts ATX. Also, some MicroATX cases are slightly wider than ATX-friendly mid-towers, so make sure you check the case dimensions carefully. Also related: Best AMD motherboards in 2023
There’s not much space inside the Mini-ITX case, so it’s the “hardest” of the three. It is possible to make a solid gaming PC from a Mini-ITX board, but you need to take into account airflow, cooling, and headroom for graphics cards. A Mini-ITX case doesn’t have a lot of space, especially when compared to an ATX case.
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Home Theater PC (HTPC)
If you add another device to an already overflowing entertainment center in your living room, space is often the most important concern. The Mini-ITX really shines in this area, since it provides an entire PC for the living room in a small form factor. If you want it to fit under your TV, you will need a smaller case that works with Mini-ITX boards. Of course, you can purchase an ATX case that will work with Mini-ITX boards. Read more on best motherboards with integrated graphics
Considering how large the buying market is for smaller motherboards, we would be remiss if we did not mention Intel’s NUC motherboards, which are a great way to build computers that are extremely compact, yet capable. NUC motherboards measure about four inches by four inches, and the cases are extremely small.
It is generally the case that NUCs come in a kit that includes a motherboard, processor, discrete graphics cards (which vary by kit), and RAM. Adding storage, peripherals, or any other computer accessories is up to you; however, currently, NUCs are unable to accept full-size graphics cards. Therefore, NUCs are only suitable for people who want to stream video, manage home media libraries, or play casual games on their PCs.
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You can find a great deal on a family PC, but you don’t have to buy one that is very powerful, since they are mostly used for streaming videos, emailing, social networking, and web games. The best choice is to look at what’s available on sale, and you can then let that tell you how the build will proceed. If space is an issue, you might want to take a look at a MicroATX or Mini-ITX motherboard.
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With a small touchscreen attached, this futuristic PC is white and clear.
The ATX specification has been around for a long time. It is hard to dislodge something like Windows XP that has lasted so long. Intel attempted to replace ATX with BTX in 2004, but it never took off.
The Asus Prime Utopia motherboard concept was very cool and very different from anything we have now. At Computex 2019, computer manufacturers are still experimenting with alternatives to ATX. Due to its two-sided design, the voltage regulator modules (VRMs) are located on the rear, making them easier to cool and therefore more efficient. Also, a dedicated cooling chamber is located at the rear. It’s mounted vertically for improved stability.
Asus made the I/O ports modular, so you can add just what you want, like extra Ethernet ports or a lot of USB ports, and you can eliminate the microphone and headphones altogether. Due to the fact that the graphics card is located at the back, the Utopia has four m.2 slots, which frees up much space and reduces heat concerns.
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