Whether you’re building a gaming PC or a workstation, the first question that comes into your mind should have been related to motherboards.
It’s because the motherboard is the main hub that allows communication between all the components and the hardware accessories attached to your computer. Just think of it as an interface that allows hardware accessories and computer components to communicate with each other.
On top of that, it also “powers” some other components, like the graphics card and hard drive, through the PSU.
So now you must have known why having a solid motherboard is really important for your PC.
But when you search a decent motherboard on the web, you may get easily overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and types of motherboards out there. There are more than 5 types of motherboard commonly used (at least).
Among these Standard-ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX boards are the most common ones that are used in home and offices PCs. Therefore, we’ll discuss how each of them is different from others, in different aspects.
The first difference between these three types of motherboards is, of course, their respective sizes. An ATX board has the dimensions of 12 × 9.6 inches. Next come the Micro-ATX boards. These boards have the dimensions of 9.6 × 9.6 inches.
Since ATX boards are 25% larger than the micro-ATX motherboards, you can easily place a micro-ATX board into an ATX chassis, but not the other way around.
The last one, mini ITX board are the smallest common motherboards around us. Their dimensions are 6.7 × 6.7 inches. These boards are really beneficial in case you want to build an SFF PC.
As you may have realized by now, the size isn’t the only difference when it comes to motherboard types. Each of these types will effect your PC performance, through the number of components they can support.
Among these components, the first one is RAM.
Both ATX and Micro-ATX boards can support up to 4 RAMs, but that number is limited to only 2 in the case mini-ITX boards. However, you can have as much as 32 Gigs of RAM in a mini-ITX board (which is more than enough for modern games) through 2 RAMs of 16 GB memory.
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Now comes the PCIe Slots. These slots are used to install different components such as Sound card, Ethernet card, Graphics card, and PCie-based modem etc. This is an area where the difference between these motherboards is even wider.
Like RAM memory, ATX boards allow a maximum number of PCIe Slots, which is 7.
On the other hand, micro-ATX and mini-ITX boards are limited to 4 and 1 PCIe Slot respectively. In order to compensate the limited amount of slots, many manufacturers implement integrated components in the latter two types of boards.
Take a look at G31M-S Motherboard by ASRock, for example. It features on-board Intel GMA graphics, an Ethernet card, and HD Audio etc.
At last, comes the price.
Now you may think that ITX boards are the cheapest and the ATX boards are the most expensive options, but it’s not true in some cases. Many times it depends on the build quality of that particular board, and the manufacturer from which you’re buying.
That’s why there are certain cases when ITX boards went more costly than the micro ATX boards.
Now that you’ve learned all the major differences between ATX, micro-ATX, and mini-ITX boards, a question may come across your mind: “which is better for me”
Well, it actually depends on you.
If you want a gaming PC, then a micro-ATX board is your best bet. It’s because it has more RAM and PCIe Slots than ITX boards, and are cheaper than the full-ATX boards. Micro-ATX boards support dual-graphics card configuration too. (If you want to dig a little deeper, go to our specific guide for gaming motherboards)
In case you want to build a workstation, you should get an ATX board due to a lot of RAM and PCIe Slots.
And last, if you want to make a home PC, and intend to do nothing more than web-surfing and multimedia, mini-ITX boards would be a perfect match for you.