A motherboard is an inseparable part of your computer system. Whenever you’re trying to build a PC for yourself, you are likely to come across a term called form factor, which may leave you scratching your head.
There are quite a lot of form factors out there. However, the most commonly used ones are EATX, ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ATX.
In our guide below, we have detailed every relevant aspect of each of these form factors so that you can have your pick out of them.
So, let’s begin!
EATX vs ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX Motherboards
Advanced Technology eXtended (ATX) is the most popular motherboard form factor in the contemporary world.
Introduced in 1995, ATX overcame the shortcomings of its predecessor, the IBM Baby AT form factor, especially in terms of space optimization and overall hardware interchangeability.
Today, due to its reasonable cost and countless possibilities of building that it offers as well as the relative ease that comes with the process of building, ATX is the most abundant form factor of motherboards that any manufacturer has in the market.
If we talk about Extended ATX (EATX), it is essentially a slightly larger version of ATX, in which you will find the best VRMs, the greatest range of connectivity options, and the strongest build.
However, in the case of EATX, the case compatibility of your mother will be a bit worse and the price will be comparatively greater.
Anyhow, with no hardware restrictions and the ability to integrate custom liquid cooling loops in PC enclosures nowadays, AEX and EATX guarantee you the most robust computer systems possible.
Your PC will support overclocking, massive power supplies, multiple full-length GPUs, large heat sinks, lots of fans, or reservoirs, cooling blocks, radiators, and tubing.
If you’re someone with no experience in building computers, ATX is your best entry-point due to its configuration flexibility.
Developed in 1997, just a couple of years after the advent of ATX, Micro ATX is probably the least popular form factor amongst the ones mentioned in this guide.
Apart from being slightly shorter and having lesser expansion slots, Micro ATX is largely identical to ATX, whether we talk about the chipsets, VRMs, or connectivity options.
If we talk about the casing of Micro ATX, this form factor is supported by almost all full-tower and mid-tower enclosures by replacing a few standoff screws. There are even more options available in the market for micro-towers specific to this form factor.
You may enjoy the same flexibility, ease of use, and hardware compatibility as even some full-tower ATX cases but you will most probably be contained to closed-loop AIO liquid coolers instead of fully custom open-loop liquid cooling with multiple radiators and a reservoir.
The major drawback of this form factor is that nowadays, there are far fewer high-end Micro ATX motherboards with Intel and AMD chipsets than both ATX, EATX, and Mini ITX, considering the substantial rise in the popularity of Small form factor (SFF) over the recent years.
Anyhow, Micro ATX can still be a brilliant choice for you if you’re looking for something smaller than a full or mid-tower build while trying to avoid the complications that come with SFF PCs.
Micro ATX is also the cheapest option amongst all the options in this guide.
Mini Information Technology eXtended (Mini ITX) was developed by a company called VIA Technologies back in 2001, and over the years, it has gained massive popularity and transformed into the form that we are familiar with today.
Despite being the smallest mainstream form factor in the market, it has many motherboard options that are capable of supporting even the most powerful CPU and GPU combinations.
The majority of these options have a fantastic build quality and overall design. Better still, it makes your whole computer system extremely portable.
However, the drawbacks this sleek and relatively smaller form factor brings cannot be overlooked. The first one is that due to lesser space availability in SFF cases, hardware compatibility becomes pretty restrictive.
So, you will need to carry out extensive research to ascertain which components you can fit, ultimately, installed into your chosen case.
Furthermore, since a larger chunk of SFF cases doesn’t support full-sized ATX power supplies, you will need to get yourself an SFX power supply.
Another major issue is that of large heat dissipation from the components installed on Mini ITX. Since you won’t find many fans with support for your PC’s enclosure, you will have to resort to air-cooling.
When it comes to the cost of Mini ITX motherboard, excluding premium variants of EATX motherboards, they are the most expensive of all.
On top of that, there are always new versions of Mini ITX motherboards getting introduced into the market so you might end up regretting the purchase of a Mini ITX motherboard that receives a new and tweaked version shortly after.
Why do the Size of a Form Factor Matters?
The size of a specific form factor can be crucial for the overall build of your computer system.
Amongst the form factors under discussion in this guide, ATX is the standard-sized motherboard, EATX, as its name suggests is larger than ATX whereas Micro ATX is smaller than ATX, followed by Mini ITX.
The smaller motherboards are made possible from the larger ones by removing some extension slots from a motherboard itself, meaning that there will be lesser space for additions of say, a graphics card or other components.
For example, the change from ATX to Micro ATX is brought about by the loss of some PCI slots. ATX motherboards usually come packed with six PCI slots (3 PCI-E x16 and 3 PCI-E x1) while Micro ATX motherboards have three (1 PCI-E x16 and 2 PCI-E x1).
Mini ITX motherboards, on the other hand, have only one PCI-E x16 slot.
On some occasions, a smaller motherboard may also take it in terms of RAM and USB ports. It means that there can be only two slots of RAM in a Micro ATX in comparison to ATX’s four, though this commonly doesn’t happen.
Due to fewer PCI and RAM slots, you may notice that the smaller form factors can’t handle the heavy processes like overclocking as well as the larger form factors.
For a larger form factor, you require a larger CPU case. If you bring aesthetics out of the equation, any small form factor will fit just fine into that larger case as well.
So, if you ever feel that you need to make a change from one larger form factor to a smaller one, say ATX to Micro ATX, you can do so without having to spend more money on buying a new case.
However, remember that a larger form factor won’t fit into the case-specific to a smaller form factor.
Which Motherboard Form Factor Should You Go For?
If you’ve gone through everything written above, you will probably have an idea now on which form factor suits you the best. However, if you don’t, continue reading.
If you are looking to build a budget-friendly PC and you need it mainly for light usage i.e. browsing, reading emails, playing low-end games, then go with a Micro ATX motherboard.
On the other hand, if your budget is fully flexible and you are an avid gamer, then you need a form factor that provides you the best possible features, and in our list, ATX or EATX fall into that category of form factors.