What is a Form Factor of a Motherboard?

by Arslan Ashraf

What is a Form Factor of a Motherboard?

A motherboard is a computer’s main PCB or printed circuit board that acts as a central communications backbone network through which all components and external peripherals attach. It powers all the connected components like CPU, GPU, volatile memory, and several others, plus it supervises their performance. For your information, motherboards come in several form factors. But what is a form factor of a motherboard, and how does it affect a PC’s utility? Well, we are covering all such queries in this post so keep reading it until the end. 

But before heading into our main topic, let’s look at its history and current-era manufacturers. In 1981, IBM engineer Patty McHugh invented the motherboard for the first time, known as IBM’s “Planar Breadboard”. But now, several brands are manufacturing it, including Acer, ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte Technology, Micro-Star International, and more. Now that we know the history of the motherboard let’s explore more about this component. We will discuss its functions and its several types based on different form factors. 

What are the Features of a Motherboard?

A motherboard has the following features:

  • Supports various types of components.
  • Carries a single type of CPU, a few types of memory, drives, and more.
  • Provides ports to attach the floppy drive, hard drive, and optical drives via ribbon cables.
  • Video cards, hard disks, and sound cards must be consistent with the motherboard to function correctly.
  • Motherboards, cases, and power supplies must be compatible to work properly.

What is a form factor of a motherboard?

The form factor stipulates the overall size and shape of the motherboard. In addition, it determines several other parameters, including casing, power supply, mounting holes, and physical layout of the motherboard. For your information, the most common form factor is ATX, but it has developed into several other types, including micro-ATX, mini-ATX, nano-ATX, and pico-ATX. In addition, another type of mobo’s form factor is ITX which is even smaller than the ATX. Its further revolutions include micro-ITX, nano-ITX, pico-ITX, and more.

What are the different types of motherboard form factors?

All the above-mentioned form factors play a vital role in several utility aspects. In this article, we’ll focus chiefly on this feature, reviewing an inventory of the foremost common utterly different form factors and their benefits. The form factor is one of the essential aspects of the motherboard that you must consider while buying one. So let’s discuss all types of motherboard form factors!

ATX (Advanced Technology Extended)

Introduced in 1995, the ATX was the primary computer motherboard to not solely embody I/O support (serial, parallel, mouse, etc.) but to position all the connectives directly on the motherboard. Before the ATX, only the keyboard connector was connected to the motherboard, but now, things are different. Numerous variations of the ATX were afterward introduced, with each smaller and more significant kind factor, together with the microATX and mini ATX. 

In addition, ATX motherboards usually live 12 inches x 9.6 inches (30.5cm x 24.4cm) and may work within middle or full tower cases. The additional size means that this sort of motherboard comes with multiple PCIe lanes giving multi-GPU support. Hence, suits gamers and enthusiasts that are trying to take full advantage of the most recent gambling hardware. Additionally, the ATX motherboards feature higher RAM capability and are typically higher for extreme overclocking.

BenefitsDisadvantages
Higher RAM capacity  Features multi-GPU support  Offers extreme overclockingCostlier  Won’t fit within smaller cases

Micro ATX

Micro ATX motherboards were introduced in 1997. The Micro-ATX measures 9.6 inches x 9.6 inches (24.4cm x 24.4cm). Like Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX motherboards are appropriate for smaller builds and ideal for any budget. Micro-ATX options all the core technology, like DIMM slots for RAM; however, it is additionally suited to one GPU set-up. This is often a result of the motherboards typically escorting just one PCIe lane. 

Moreover, as they’re slightly larger than Mini-ITX, these motherboards can’t fit into the little Mini-ITX chassis. However, it can simply be put into middle or full tower cases. Plus, the airflow and cooling operations are silent since these are small. Additionally, a Micro-ATX board can only have most of the 4 PCIe enlargement slots due to its smaller size. Additionally, the Micro-ATX sometimes offers itself at a lower cost than the ATX motherboard.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Can fit into most cases  Ideal for single GPU setups  Ideal for any budgetDoesn’t support multi-GPUs  Not fitted to extreme overclocking  

Mini-ITX

The Mini-ITX boards are even more compact than the micro ATX having the dimensions of 2.7 inches x 6.7inches (7cm x 17cm), excellent for little, space-saving PCs. The motherboard options all the core parts as well as DIMM slots for RAM, usually 1 x PCIe lane, and a plethora of USB property ports. Despite their small form factor, these motherboards have everything you wish as a foundation for a small, nonetheless mighty recreation PC.  

With a Mini-ITX motherboard, you can produce your own Mini-ITX PC. Utilizing space-saving components can lead to a lightweight and budget-friendly system that you simply can still pack with some unimaginable gaming hardware. A laptop designed with a Mini-ITX may well be used for simple, everyday tasks like internet browsing, word processing, and paying attention to music. 

BenefitsDisadvantages
Ideal for tiny cases  Typically low price  Doesn’t support multi-GPUs  Not fitted to extreme overclocking  little RAM capability

Nano-ITX

The next compact form factor on the list is nano-ITX with dimensions of 4.7 inches x 4.7 inches (12 cm x 12 cm). This type of board can be used for bright entertainment, like PVRs, media centers, smart TVs, in-vehicle devices, and more. Therefore far, there are four Nano-ITX motherboard product lines: VIA’s EPIA N, EPIA NL, EPIA NX, and VIA EPIA NR. These boards are obtainable from a suitable type of makers supporting varied, completely different CPU platforms.

Micro Pico-ITX

The Pico-ITX is the smallest sort of motherboard type considered in this list. Its measurements are 3.9 inches × 2.8 inches (10cm x 7cm); it’s 75% smaller than the Mini-ITX. The reason why VIA developed this size was to give an innovative and better board to smaller IoT devices. In addition, the Pico-ITX, with an x86-based-platform and low-power consumption board, may be an excellent selection for embedded systems applications. I love industrial automation, in-vehicle computers, digital signage, and more.

Brief Comparison of the Motherboard Form Factors

Form factorManufacturerDate Measurements 
Standard-ATXIntel 1995Typical size is 9.6 inches × 12 inches though some corporations extend that to 10 × 12 in.
Micro-ATXIntel 1997A smaller variant of the ATX factor form (about 25% shorter). Their size is 9.6 × 9.6 in.
Mini-ITXVIA2001Mini-ATX is significantly smaller than Micro-ATX. Mini-ATX motherboards are 5.9 inches × 5.9 inches in size.
Nano-ITXVIA2003Targeted at clever virtual leisure gadgets which include PVRs, Car PCs, and skinny gadgets. Size is 4.7 inches × 4.7 inches.
Pico-ITXVIA2007The maximum size of the Pico-ITX board could be like 3.9 inches × 2.8 inches. 

Does motherboard form factor matter?

The short answer to this question is yes. The motherboard form factor matters to you as a PC builder because it decides the size and shape of the motherboard. It also determines the number of expansion slots, which is crucial if you want to add more devices to your PC. In addition, the motherboard doesn’t result in the performance of a computer. However, with overclocking the computer’s totally different components resembling the electronic equipment and also the GPU, that’s wherever the motherboard has a bearing on performance.

Which Motherboard Form-Factor should you Choose?

Selecting the proper size and kind factor is one of the foremost vital aspects. If you wish for ample storage space and want an alternative to multiple high-end graphics cards or custom water-cooling loops, ATX is your choice. But this will suit you if you don’t mind an even bigger case dominating your table rather than needing an extraordinary performance while playing games or creating content. But if you want to build a compact PC, consider micro-ATX or mini-ITX in such cases.  

Conclusion 

A motherboard is a computer’s central communications backbone association point. They are the connection point through which all parts and external peripherals connect. The form factor decides the specifications of how a motherboard is built, from the size, shape, casing, power supply, mounting holes, and overall layout. A different form factor and even smaller than the ATX is the ITX, which is extremely smaller than the micro-ATX. ATX marks a great change in the architecture of the motherboard and other parts, such as the cabinet and the power supply. 

The Micro-ATX is a growth of ATX and supports both Intel and AMD processors. Mini-ITX is a low-power consumption motherboard layout of 6.7 x6.7 inches. Nano-ITX is another type of motherboard form factor that measures 4.7×4.7 x0.7 inches. The Pico-ITX is the minimal type of motherboard form factor in this list. But Unless you are building one thing notably tiny, the two best choices are ATX and Micro-ATX, or M-ATX for short. They will dictate a variety of necessary factors in your PC’s look, feel, and overall part options.

Arslan Ashraf

Arslan Ashraf is a tech enthusiast and an experienced technical writer at GamingDairy. He has been writing all types of guides, tutorials, and tips for gamers, developers, and other people who use computers. His way of writing is quite unique: he starts with testing every single piece of Hardware and does a long list of experiments before writing the actual masterpiece. Well, if you have any queries, ensure to connect with him!