It goes without saying that not all motherboards are designed and manufactured in the same way. Those building a new computer know that the most essential component is the motherboard. Coming in various sizes and with different features, the choice isn’t as easy as some of us would like it to be. Furthermore, the price varies as well. The biggest struggle is knowing these differences and comparing their form-factors.
This guide will navigate between the main differences of motherboard form-factors, with the goal of helping first-time builders find the right one for their new computer.
A comparison of size — Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX
The dimensions are the first thing that sets these motherboards apart. The difference in size is more apparent when it comes to the ATX vs micro-ATX debate. Standard ATX motherboard has dimensions of 12.0″ x 9.6″ while its micro counterpart comes in the size of 9.6″ x 9.6″. Meanwhile, mini-ITX comes in the compact size of 6.7″ x 6.7″.
ATX vs micro-ATX
When it comes to the ATX vs micro-ATX comparison, it’s clear that, while the width is the same, the height is what sets them apart. Standard ATX has a couple more inches than its micro counterpart. Therefore, this motherboard can feature a few more PCIe lanes. This is a significant advantage for those looking for setups of multiple GPUs. Furthermore, the standard ATX allows the computer to apply numerous PCIe devices.
Meanwhile, mini-ITX differs in both width and height from both ATX motherboards. Due to that, these motherboards only have room for one PCIe lane. However, the smaller size offers other advantages. For example, they are a perfect fit for small cases. In fact, the size is what determines which PC case can be used, and, of course, which one can’t.
So, let’s say we are trying to build a gaming computer, but with a small form-factor. In this case, a standard ATX motherboard won’t be the best choice. What’s more, the micro-ATX might not be a good fit either.
However, for those thinking “the bigger, the better,” both standard and micro-ATX will prove to be a good choice. Medium and large cases can accommodate all motherboards, no matter their form-factor. Still, we should keep in mind that a small motherboard, like the mini-ITX, might look wrong in a large case.
On the other hand, smaller cases, meant for mini-ITX, can’t accommodate the standard ATX or the micro-ATX motherboard.
What are the pros and cons?
Bigger isn’t always better. Each motherboard has pros and cons and will prove to be the best choice, depending on the situation. The choice of the motherboard depends on the needs each builder has. Therefore, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
- A champion when it comes to overclocking
- Esthetically better
- Allows for more PCIe lanes
- Has more capacity when it comes to RAM
- The price is higher
- Can’t fit in small cases
- The price is a bargain
- Single-GPU champion
- Versatile when it comes to the cases
- Has more RAM capacity than mini-ITX
- Can’t use it for multi-GPS setups
- Not a good fit for overclocking
- Esthetically lacking
- The smallest size — fits any case
- Esthetically better in smaller cases
- The price is high
- Not a good fit for larger cases
- Doesn’t allow multiple-GPU setups
- Extreme overclocking isn’t an option
- Has room for only two RAM cards
The pros and cons paint a pretty clear picture already. The three fan-favorites among the motherboards all offer different things. Therefore, each of the three contenders can be a perfect choice, depending on the needs one might have.
However, for those who are still unsure which motherboard is the top choice for them, let’s dig a bit deeper. Here are a couple of scenarios that describe the situations where each of our three contenders would be perfect.
Micro-ATX — a gaming PC that won’t strain the budget
The micro-ATX is the best choice for those looking to build a stellar gaming PC without spending a fortune on it. Here’s the thing — a great gaming PC has to have a fantastic graphics card, an amazing processor, and incredible memory.
Therefore, if you’re on a budget, the only logical course of action is to spend the most of that budget on these three components. The rest can be more budget-friendly. And that’s where micro-ATX comes in. It’s the perfect choice if you’re looking for a low-cost (but not low-quality) motherboard. When on a budget, we have to sacrifice some things, and, in the case of gaming PCs, one of those things can be the motherboard.
Here’s the thing — when it comes to the ATX vs micro-ATX debate, the micro-ATX comes out as the winner when it comes to the budget. It has the same main features, so you won’t be missing out on anything crucial if you go for the micro version. However, ATX vs micro-ATX debate also shows us that the standard ATX is the champion when it comes to not only esthetics but also VRMs (for overclocking) and PCIe slots.
Most gamers looking for budget-friendly options don’t really have the cash for all these extra components that the standard ATX offers. However, since they don’t really need them — no harm, no foul.
Standard ATX — gaming PC that packs a punch
Standard ATX motherboard is better suited for high-end gaming PCs. It allows for multiple graphics cards, for one. Furthermore, it is a champion when it comes to overclocking, thus making it the perfect choice for those looking to push the processor to the maximum capacity. Finally, it’s just great to look at. It looks high-end, and we can even color-coordinate to make the entire thing look amazing.
Therefore, the standard ATX, or sometimes even the extended ATX motherboard is the perfect choice for a fancy (and expensive) gaming PC. It offers more features and the crucial variety when it comes to PCIe lanes and overclocking.
Mini-ITX — for a minimalistic design and a small form-factor
People who like their PCs to be form-fitting and small have to choose the mini-ITX. Sure, the micro-ATX might be a good choice as well, but those looking for the smallest option will be more than pleased with the mini-ITX.
LAN party lovers will see the benefits of mini-ITX right away. It isn’t easy to haul around a huge PC. Therefore, they will be looking for the smallest parts available, and that’s where the mini-ITX shines.
Bottom line — the choice is yours
As mentioned, the debate of Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX doesn’t have one clear winner. They are all winners, depending on your needs. This guide was designed to help each first-time builder find the perfect match for them, and, hopefully, that’s what we achieved.