A motherboard, also known as a mainboard or logic board, is the primary circuit board that makes up your computer system. In another way, it acts as a platform where most of the system’s components connect to coordinate and effectively perform their operations. If you’ve ever opened your computer, you’ve probably noticed that the motherboard is located at the bottom of the case. All other components can be placed inside the PC case but on the board, like RAM modules, graphics cards, GPU, hard drives, and several others.
Undoubtedly, there are millions of computer users, and each has its own utilities and way of building a system. Therefore, there are different motherboard sizes so that any user can create a custom system with any size. The most famous sizes among several include ATX, micro ATX, and mini ITX. In this post, we will compare Micro ATX vs Mini ITX vs ATX motherboards to find out which is best for you. You must read the whole post since the comparison is based on different aspects like usage advantages, downsides, and more.
Why do you need a Motherboard?
Repeating again, the majority of the electronic components of a PC or laptop are connected to the motherboard. If we look at the operation, a motherboard is like a device that connects all these electronic components. Computers are mainly built on the motherboard, incorporating essential elements such as CPU, RAM, HDD, graphics card, etc. Without a working motherboard, there will be no way for your computer to run. Due to all these reasons, it’s essential to have a mother circuit in a computing system.
Micro ATX vs mini ITX vs ATX – which is the best choice for you?
To understand some of these essential characteristics, let us first compare these form factors on various levels. We will compare all the motherboards mentioned above sizes in terms of size, RAM accommodation, and price. Let’s dive deep into the topic without taking much time!
Sizes of Motherboard
There are a variety of features and costs for motherboards. Still, only three are the main sizes of boards in terms of primary usage—mini ITX, micro ATX, and ATX. The biggest challenge for a first-time user is figuring out the difference between these motherboards’ form factors. To shop for the best motherboards, you need to understand what each one is designed for, specifically in terms of its assembled purposes. The main reason for the difference is to build a system with a custom design like compact, larger, or bigger as per the needs.
ATX: The ATX format is considered a default factor that most of the current-era PCs include. It’s popular and offers an adequate number of plugs and slots. It is most prominent at 12″ length x 9.6″ width (305mm x 244 mm).
Micro-ATX: The micro-ATX board has 2.4-inches less space for expansion slots because it is shorter than the default ATX size. It is the second largest with 9.6″ length x 9.6″ width (244mm x 244 mm) dimensions.
Mini-ITX: Mini-ITX computers are the smallest in the current discussion, with no expansion slots (for a graphics card) and only a few connections for storage and RAM. It is the smallest at 6.7″ length x 6.7″ width (170mm x 170 mm).
RAM Capacity Comparison
Another way to compare each size of the motherboard is by taking help from the RAM capacity and RAM slots. Mini ITX motherboards only have two RAM slots, while Micro ATX and ATX motherboards have four. In some high-end ATX motherboards, there are even 8 slots of RAM. Most Micro ATX and ATX motherboards can support at least 64 GB of RAM. But some best Micro ATX case motherboards can reach up to 128 GB, while certain can reach 512GB.
If two 16 GB RAM kits are installed on a Mini ITX motherboard, it is possible to install up to 32 GB of RAM. Those, however, are again somewhat extreme cases that only apply to expensive cutting-edge motherboards. A gaming setup that serves as a workstation might need more RAM than 32 GB if some programs are memory-hungry. It doesn’t matter what size the motherboard is, as even a Mini ITX motherboard can handle most gamers’ needs and requirements.
The price of a product is also one of the most important factors in making a buying decision. Considering the price when setting up a new computer is essential if you aren’t sure which model to buy. A form factor’s size does not always correlate with a price. In this regard, more essential form factors like the standard ATX are not always more costly than smaller ones. You may find that mini ITX motherboards are more expensive than a standard ATX or micro ATX, as some users prefer a more compact setup.
But still, the price has an impact on the selection but up to a certain limit. A typical ATX or Micro ATX motherboard starts at about $50 or $60, while a Mini ITX motherboard begins at around $100. Mini ITX solutions are a good choice when someone has a small PC space. Micro ATX motherboards are typically the best budget picks because they are easier to find at a lower price point. In Micro ATX vs ATX performance comparison, ATX motherboards offer the best overall performance for value for money.
The most common micro ATX motherboard is the cheapest and the most widely used. Beyond this, the materials and components quality that build the motherboard matters as well. In addition, there are also price considerations. You would think that Mini ITX motherboards contain a low price tag depending on the size, but you might be shocked when reality hits you. From a price perspective, mini ITX motherboards are the most expensive ones.
Which form factor is the best to buy?
The question remains: which motherboard should you buy after knowing the details? Well, each of the three can work well in certain areas, so you can choose one. But your motherboard should be selected according to your needs and size requirements. Your choice will depend on the type of PC you intend to build. Let’s review the essential qualities and specifications. Whether you should use PCIe or RAM slots depends on what type of PC you will make and how much PCIe you plan to use.
For Gaming PC
For the majority of gaming PC configurations, we recommend Micro ATX motherboards. ATX is only worth considering if you need those extra PCIe slots. It will typically be more affordable to purchase a Micro ATX motherboard than an ATX motherboard. So you will get more PCIe slots and more RAM for your money with a Micro ATX motherboard.
While ATX motherboards are still viable if you need extra PCIe slots, it offers little value for regular gaming PCs compared to Micro ATX. As a final consideration, Mini ITX motherboards may seem like a poor choice for gaming computers. Despite their price, they have limited RAM and a single PCIe slot. However, there is no better option if you want a small form factor.
Additionally, if all you want to do with your PC is surf the Internet, play multimedia, occasionally do some office work, or play some casual games, the affordable motherboard is the most suitable for you. Micro ATX motherboards are budget-friendly options and fulfill all your needs. A Mini ITX motherboard may be worth an extra $50 if you need to build a highly compact PC.
For Gaming PC or Workstation
You may be interested in the extra PCIe and RAM slots if you intend to use your PC for gaming and professional software. In such a case, ATX is our recommendation. Although if we compare Mini ITX vs Micro ITX case size, Mini ITX is small in size, it usually has less cooling capacity, which will pose problems if your PC is under a heavy workload.
A bit more about each board’s size
Now, we will discuss each form factor’s pros and cons and how they can be used in your work. These pros and cons will help you decide which you should buy when discussing setting up a new PC.
ATX is the most extensive form factor motherboard, introduced in 1995 by Intel. It is an old motherboard that rotated 90 degrees for better compatibility with motherboards from other manufacturers. The ATX motherboard has become a standard for server motherboards. The ATX motherboard comes with several useful features for server builders and IT professionals.
The motherboard is easily installed with an integrated power supply unit (PSU). It also has a fan controller, which can control the fans on the board. The ATX board also supports up to four PCI slots, installing multiple graphics cards into the board simultaneously without using any extra cards or cards between them. The ATX motherboard is easy and cheap to build, but it’s not as flexible as other server motherboards like the new Micro-ATX or Mini ITX.
REASONS TO BUY
✓Designed for overclocking
✓More RAM available
✓A more significant number of PCIe lanes
✓Better for aesthetics
REASONS TO AVOID
✗In most more minor cases, it won’t fit
In comparison to standard ATX motherboards, Micro ATX is a newer technology and quite in the market. It has the same features as ATX, but Micro ATX vs ATX, Micro ATX is smaller. This type was launched in 1997, and it was designed to be backward-compatible with an ATX motherboard. There are the same mounting points and I/O panels as ATX. As with the standard ATX, the micro ATX motherboard uses similar chipsets.
Micro ATX is slightly more than half the size of the standard ATX motherboards. Micro ATX is a small form factor board with a smaller footprint than the standard ATX. Despite being smaller, it offers the same features as the standard ATX. Standard ATX motherboards usually have seven PCI/PCI-Express slots. On the other hand, micro ATX can only expand by four slots. Micro ATX is the most affordable option if you plan on building your PC.
REASONS TO BUY
✓RAM capacity is higher than on mini-ITX
✓Suitable for single-GPU
✓PC buildsIt fits into most cases
REASONS TO AVOID
✗It’s not ideal for extreme overclocking
✗Incompatible with multi-GPU configurations
✗Generally lacking in aesthetics
Mini-ITX motherboards are gaining popularity because they are small, compact, and fit into any case to make them look more attractive. Due to their unique form factor, they have recently become a hit in the IT industry. They were designed for high-end gaming PCs with components like graphics cards, CPUs, and memory modules usually found in high-end gaming computers. Since these components are generally expensive, companies often use mini-ITX motherboards to save money when purchasing them from online retailers.
It was initially created for PC units that do not have fans in the cooling system and users seeking to reduce their energy consumption. This board is perfect for those users who want minimal noise when working with PCs. Even the expansion slots are similar to ATX motherboards; it has four mounting ports. Moreover, there are two expansion slots on these MOBOs. Furthermore, the Mini ITX can only support two RAM modules because of its size.
As there are two 16GB kits available, the maximum memory loaded is 32GB. This setup will easily handle all the latest games and peak performance. Mini ITX poses some challenges with its compact design, though. Some PCI-Express slots are located on the edge of a system, resulting in a very tight fit. Those planning to purchase a graphics card on the bulky side might have trouble fitting it in. In short, mini-ITX motherboards are perfect for those who want to build a compact PC but can compromise on some connectivity options.
REASONS TO BUY
✓It has better aesthetics than micro-ATX
✓For more minor cases, this is the best option
REASONS TO AVOID
✗Not suitable for multi-GPU systems
✗Expensive than micro-ATX
✗Two RAM slots are typically available
✗Not suitable for extreme overclocking
✗Not ideal for larger enclosures
Every PC user has their own requirements and preferences, so there is no single correct choice for everyone. Each motherboard is different for several reasons, and size or form factor is one of them. In some conditions, they work well, and in others, they don’t. Are you looking for something affordable? Are you looking to upgrade your PC to a more compact one but confused about which motherboard size to choose? Do you need something portable? We already explained the difference between Micro ATX vs Mini ITX vs ATX motherboards.
For the sake of simplicity, the ATX is an all-rounder and has a default motherboard size with pretty much everything that a user needs. It’s perfect for building a top-tier gaming system for gaming, content creation, or other load-intensive purposes. On the other hand, if you want to build a compact but excellent gaming system, you can go for the mini ITX board since it’s a perfect middle ground between ATX and micro ATX. The micro ATX suits those who don’t put too much load on the system but rather need a super-compact personal computer.