The Best Form Factor For Gaming PC: ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX

For the folks who are building their own gaming rig, or a PC from the scratch (or the other folks who need a motherboard for some other reasons), finding the right motherboard is such a big deal and choosing the right motherboard is pretty important because the wrong one would mean your system would either have far more resources than it would ever need or have resources that just aren’t enough. It would be nice to know exactly what one’s resource needs are, in regards to motherboards, but it’s equally important to know the options that one has in order to meet those needs. In this piece, we compare three motherboards that cuts across the various specification range. We compare the ATX, Micro ATX and the Mini ITX to see which actually works for your specific need.

The ATX

The ATX is the biggest of the three motherboard being compared here. It comes in the dimension of 305 mm by 244 mm, if you’re particular the “size” of what your system would look like in the end, this motherboard isn’t small, thus, the casing it would be contained in would be okay if it’s big, but not so much if the case can’t physically contain it. The ATX supports 4 RAM modules, which means you can have up to 64GB of RAM (if you set up a 4 x 16 GB array); that’s a lot of RAM that all but the most RAM-hungry softwares would ever need. The ATX offers 7 PCIe slots (although, 2 of those slots are limited in functionalities), this much PCIe gives the option to connect more graphics cards, internal modems and similar peripherals.

ATX

The Micro-ATX

The Micro-ATX sits in the middle of the other two motherboards, actually, it’s more accurately the “second biggest” motherboard, after the ATX. It is 244 mm by 244 mm, meaning it’s a tad shorter than the ATX and has more chance in fitting in cases. The Micro ATX has room for 4 RAM modules, and 4 PCIe slots.

The Mini-ITX

The Mini-ITX is apparently the smallest of the three motherboard. It measures 170 x 170 mm, and it’s not only small in size, but also in the number of RAM slots it has: just 2 of them, and it only has 1 PCIe slot.

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Despite its small size and configurations, it is still very much an option. The 2 RAM slots could have a 2 x 16 GB RAM arrangement, which is enough for regular tasks, and 1 PCIe slot could accommodate a graphics card, if that’s all you need; although, the placement of that PCIe slot is not the most ideal and you’ll have to consider the size of the graphics card you wish to fix in it.

The ATX vs. Micro ATX

The ATX vs. Micro ATX

There is a similarity between these two motherboards and to know which is better, we have to know which of them is appropriate in more situations.

Sure, they both have 4 RAM slots, but the ATX has 7 PCIe slots while the Micro ATX has just 4. However, it is a bit rare to find the need for 7 PCIe slots unless when building a high-end PC, needing to do stuff like setting up a quad-GPU array, and the 4 PCIe slots the Micro ATX offers is just enough for things such as a gaming PC. For most people (and in most cases), the Micro ATX motherboard is the better choice; unless the goal is to build a seriously high-end system, in which case, the ATX is more appropriate.

The Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX

The Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX

Between the Micro ATX and the Mini ITX, there’s a marked difference in the size, configuration, and application.

The Micro ATX is bigger in size than the mini ITX, the former has 4 RAM slots, the latter has two; its 4 PCIe slots against just 1 on the mini ITX. In reality, the micro ATX is much better than the Mini ITX, and it’s no surprise there. Asides the fact that the Micro ATX has more RAM and PCIe slot counts, the Mini ITX is inappropriate for all but the most basic system setups. Its (the mini ITX) PCIe slot is placed at the edge of one of its sides, and this makes connection a dicey deal when the motherboard itself has been set into its casing; even if you manage to get, say, a graphics card into the PCIe port, you’ll seriously have to think about overheating because chances are the there’s not much space around after a card has been fixed.

The ATX vs. mini ITX

The ATX vs. mini ITX

If we decide to compare the ATX and the mini ITX, we would be stating the obvious one too many times, it’s basically a comparison between the biggest and the smallest motherboard of the three options. However, the answer to the question of which is the better of the two isn’t all that obvious. You have 7 PCIe ports on the ATX, and just one on the mini ITX; this is just a classic case of “too much” and “too little”, 7 PCIe ports is more ports than a normal system setup would need, while 1 PCIe is barely enough for a solid setup. Two opposites, you might say, and If you’ve got to choose solely between the both of them, the ATX is the better one, simply because having more than you need is fairly better than not having enough.

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Which should you choose?

Putting it simply, the Micro ATX is the best choice for most situations. If you’re building a gaming PC, or a solid workstation, you need just the right amount of resources from a motherboard, and the Micro ATX would be just that. If you’re looking to build a true high-end PC system with maxed-out specifications, the ATX would do. But, if all you need is just a small PC: small in specification, small in size, the mini ITX would be ideal for that.