As regular readers will have noticed, an article was published most recently, serving as a guide for the most popular chassis sizes. As this article speaks of ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX case sizes as a reference for specification differences, it’s clear a motherboard guide was needed in order to provide additional information in regards to component sizes.
Covering the most common sizes amongst the gamer audience, standard ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX will be covered in this article. Explaining each and every feature as well as the differences between each form-factor, gamers will have a much clearer view on which motherboard will be right for their builds.
As the physically largest of all three motherboards, naturally, this gives the ATX form-factor additional space for hardware implementations and the widest amount of features. Ranging from 4-7 PCIe slots, those looking to build a system with up to 4-way Multi-GPU configurations will be able to do so with a board of this structure. Since this feature requires support from a hardware manufacturing level, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s website or retailer listing, including the type of support required whether that be AMD CrossFire or Nvidia SLI. Giving way for the most amount of physical storage drives, ATX motherboards feature 4-12 SATA ports along with the usual options for M.2 SATA, internal and external USB 3.0, as well as a large quantity of fan headers for additional cooling.
While the need for storage drives can easily be omitted by purchasing lesser number of drives which are denser in size, for those looking to implement a RAID solution the ATX motherboards is the most efficient way to go. With additional features such as Quad-Channel memory support and up to X8 DIMM slots viable for use, those looking to build a system with the largest quantity of hardware with the greatest possibility for connectivity expansion will find the standard ATX motherboard to their liking.
Taking a slight reduction to expansion and connectivity, the Micro-ATX motherboard has clearly proven to be the most sensible of choices, striking a fantastic middle-ground between standard-ATX and the ultra compact Mini-ITX. Retaining support for 2-way Multi-GPU configuration only strengthens the official support of Nvidia SLI being restricted to X2 GPUs. As game development has continuously proved throughout the most recent years, the time and effort that’s needed to implement 3-way and 4-way GPU configuration on the current and most dominant API – DirectX 11, isn’t worth the investment, as scaling beyond 2-way Multi-GPU doesn’t result in any noticeable gains if any at all.
While the Micro-ATX form-factor does include X4 PCIe expansion slots, GPU support as previously stated is limited to X2, with the remaining slots being used for sound cards or Wi-Fi cards. Allowing up to X8 SATA ports with the majority of boards opting for 4 or 6, DIMM slots are retained to a maximum X4 with a select number of motherboards limited to X2. As Micro-ATX is physically smaller than the standard ATX motherboard, it can be installed in ATX cases, giving additional room for those building a custom water-cooled system.
Designed to support the minimal amount of hardware for those looking to build a small-form-factor system, Mini-ITX is the ideal choice for console-size gaming PCs as well as home entertainment systems. Limited to just X2 DIMM slots, it’s highly advised to install a greater density of RAM than what’s actually needed as this can save money in the long run when it comes time to upgrade. With no support whatsoever for Multi-GPU configurations, Mini-ITX gives way for the installation of just X1 graphics card without any additional PCIe slots for adapter cards being feasible.
Fitted with additional features not commonly found on larger size boards, Mini-ITX implements Bluetooth connectivity as well as On-board Wi-Fi – proving great for those intending to use the system as a HTPC. Since Mini-ITX motherboards can also be installed in larger cases in the same manner as Micro-ATX, those building a custom water-cooled system will be provided with plenty of space to do so should they opt for a larger case.
To find out which Motherboard delivers the features you need that’s suitable for your gaming preferences, check out our selection on DinoPC.