People looking to build new computers often struggle with the battle of what motherboard form-factors (or sizes) they should go for and get tangled in the debate of Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX.
So, should you get Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX, or the standard ATX motherboard? Since buying a new motherboard is not an everyday action. As a result, you must first understand that all motherboards do not have the same build structure.
In this debate of ATX vs Mini-ITX vs Macro-ATX motherboards, we will discuss all the form factors you need to understand before you further progress your build.
Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX
- Buying Guide – Motherboard
- Size Comparison
- RAM Capacity Comparison
- PCIe Slots Comparison
- Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX motherboards
- Which Motherboard (Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX and ATX) Should You Choose?
- Which Model of Motherboard to BUY?
The best motherboards available in the market vary in nature, sizes, specifications, features, and overall costs.
Although there is a massive variety of motherboards made available in the market, the Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX, and ATX are the most talked about and trustworthy motherboards preferred by PC builders.
Buying Guide – Motherboard
If you are a PC builder then you must know that a motherboard is the most important component while building your computer. Your choice of motherboard will decide what kinds of upgrades you are able to do in your future.
Here are the major factors that experts have recommended before going on to buy a Motherboard.
1. Form Factor: The first thing that you need to determine is the Form Factor. Your newly bought motherboard must fit your case. So, be-aware of the size of your motherboard. You can do this by measuring your old motherboard and by doing size comparison.
The most common motherboard that is used in the market is ATX motherboard. ATX motherboard will allow you to add more expansion slots, and we all know how useful this feature can be.
2. RAM: Random Access Memory or RAM for short, is one of the fundamentals of a motherboard. Once you’ll choose a motherboard, it will determine how much and what kind of RAM you are going to get.
By doing some research, we have found that experts recommend choosing that motherboard which can handle and house at least 16GB RAM. Also, your chosen motherboard must also have a minimum of 4 or more memory slots.
This will give you the liberty of installing multiple RAM modules with a room for memory upgrades.
3. PCIe Slots: These are the expansion slots that allow the expansion cards to be connected. As PC builders, we know that this is one of the most vital things that we require. So, you need to determine first that how many PCIe slots you’ll need to meet your needs.
If you are a gamer and is looking for a motherboard, then you must go for the PCI express x16 slot with multiple ports/connections. You can also connect Wi-Fi adapters, sound cards, and various connectivity expansions.
When it comes to the size comparison in the debate of Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX motherboards, the first thing you should look at is your case’s size. It would be best if you first determined whether the selected case is large enough to accommodate the motherboard’s ‘ANY’ size.
If you are using a modern case, then according to the guideline most of the case builders follow, most cases are built with the features of the standardized layout. This means that they can easily fit any size of motherboards inside of them.
Now, let’s come to the actual sizes of the motherboards.
ATX Motherboard Size:
As it is evident that the standard ATX motherboard is the greatest in size among the three. It measures 12″ x 9.6″ in size. The enormous size of the ATX motherboard allows the builder to develop multi-GPU setups.
Alongside this advantage, the standard ATX motherboard also serves multiple PCIe lanes, thus allowing the user to utilize various PCIe devices.
Micro-ATX Motherboard Size:
The medium-sized motherboard among the three (Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX) is the Micro-ATX motherboard. It measures 9.6″ x 9.6″ in size. It is the same in width as the standard ATX motherboard but a bit shorter in height. It also offers a multi-GPU setup plus multiple PCIe lanes.
Mini-ITX Motherboard Size:
The shortest of the three is the Mini-ITX motherboard. It measures 6.7″ x 6.7″ in size. It’s both shorter in height and width in contrast to the standard ATX and Micro-ATX. The advantage they bring to the table is that if you are going for a minor case, Mini-ITX is the choice.
They only offer a single PCIe lane. However, let’s say someone wants to build their computer in a very compact manner and form factor. In this case, the Mini-ITX motherboard is the motherboard you should go for.
RAM Capacity Comparison
ATX (RAM Capacity):
The standard ATX motherboard usually comes with four RAM slots originally. If you buy the top variant of ATX motherboards, you will get access to almost eight RAM slots.
When it comes to the standard ATX motherboard RAM, they can support a minimum of 64GB. The medium-range ATX motherboards can go up to 128GB, and the most expensive ATX models can bear almost 512GB.
Micro-ATX (RAM Capacity):
Similar to the standard ATX motherboard, the Micro-ATX motherboard’s RAM also offers four slots. And the RAM capacity it can support is up to 64GB.
Mini-ITX (RAM Capacity):
Most commonly, Mini-ITX motherboards come with two RAM slots. Mini-ITX motherboards can most easily accommodate up to 32GB of RAM. This can only happen if the builder installs a 2 x 16GB kit.
Experts Review on RAM Capacity:
According to the computer building experts, for beginners at computer building, 16GB of RAM can serve the purpose of running almost everything out there without any constraints, from the majority of games to running heavy-duty software. They suggest that going for a RAM above 16GB (for instance, 32GB) can often be an excessive and not so necessary feature you can install in your setup.
For people who want to run those types of software that can eat up a chunk of your system’s memory, 32GB of RAM is necessary. Also, often new games are requiring more and more RAM to run as the innovation part in the games is getting upgraded with time.
But of course, those are again somewhat extreme cases that apply only to pricey cutting-edge motherboards.
Finally, as far as RAM is concerned in the Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX, even the Mini-ITX motherboard can cover all of your needs.
PCIe Slots Comparison
What is a PCIe slot? PCIe is a standard interface to connect components with high-speed. The purpose of PCIe slots on a motherboard is to add GPUs, Wi-Fi cards, SSD add-on cards, or some form of RAID cards.
When we debate the Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX motherboards, the most observable difference is in the PCIe slots available on all three.
ATX (PCIe slots):
Out of all the three most talked motherboards in the market, ATX motherboards have the most significant number of PCIe slots. PCIe slots on ATX motherboards can range from three PCIe slots (basic versions) to five PCIe slots (top variants). These multi-PCIe slots help you in developing a setup with multi-GPUs.
Micro-ATX (PCIe slots):
Unlike ATX motherboards, the Micro-ATX motherboard has PCIe slots ranging from one to three. This will also help you in building a multi-GPU setup.
Mini-ITX (PCIe slots):
As the name suggests, you can tell without any surprise that Mini-ITX motherboards have only one PCIe slot to offer.
Experts Review on PCIe slots:
Following the battle between Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX motherboards, experts say that even one PCIe slot is enough for beginners. You do not require multi-PCIe slots most of the time unless you are a fanatic.
According to experienced computer builders, if you want a multi-GPU setup and need to install sound cards, graphic cards, internal modems, and capture cards, these multi-PCIe slots will come in handy.
Further, these experts say that utilizing these multi-PCIe slots can cause mess, obstruction, and conflict in the space where you are setting-up your computer. The manufacturers of graphics cards are building substantially fat graphic cards with chunky coolers installed on them. This can create a problem for you, especially if you have a small form factor case.
Do keep in mind the practicality of these PCIe slots before you employ or buy any Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX and ATX motherboards.
Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX vs ATX motherboards: "Strengths and Weaknesses"
Based upon the user-intent to buy any of these motherboards, the easiest way to approach this is to narrow down all of them’ strengths and weaknesses.
So, take a look, and you can pinpoint the features which work for you.
Which Motherboard (Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX and ATX) Should You Choose?
After aligning all of the three most famous motherboard form-factors strengths and weaknesses, let’s go into some more detail about which can be the best option for you.
Gaming PC Setup
When it comes to the gaming world, a proper Gaming PC can enhance your game and take it to another level. We recommend that you go for a Micro-ATX motherboard due to the low impact of other components on your in-game performance. Only three components: Graphics card, Processor, and Memory, should take a chunk of the budget out of your pocket.
The ATX motherboard will give you more features like multi-GPUs, multi-PCIe slots, and more overclocking resistance. Micro-ATX has all the features except for the ones mentioned above. Other than those, micro-ATX has all the necessary features.
For a budget-minded gamer, this is the best option to go for. Micro-ATX is the best for configurations, although do consider ATX if you want those extra PCIe slots.
Micro-ATX will offer the best value for money. In contrast to both of these ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards, a Mini-ITX can also serve the purpose of a compact gaming PC, although, as per the limited RAM and one PCIe slot, Mini-ITX is not a good fit for a gaming PC.
Desktop PC Setup
Computer builders who are building their PC just to set up a Desktop for working, internet, movies, light online gaming, or some other not so heavy-duty setup, then, in this case, Micro-ATX is the winner again.
Micro-ATX is cheap, provides all of the necessary features, and will cover your needs more than you can imagine.
Desktop PC and Gaming PC Combo Setup
To kill two birds with one stone is what your approach is, then go for the ATX motherboard. It’s the most heavy-duty and top-line motherboard in the market with all the tweaks and tricks. This will make your life easier. And most of all, it’s a one-time investment as it is future proof.
Which Model of Motherboard to BUY? (ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX)
Here are a few best motherboards you can check out and see if they fit your needs.