ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX – Which Should You Choose?
by Rustam Iqbal
When building a PC, it’s a great challenge to pick the most compatible components. You may get confused or need an expert’s help to install the perfect CPU, motherboard, GPU, RAM, SSD or HDD, etc. The most essential component you need to install with some skills is the motherboard because the motherboards are created differently. They can vary in aspects as specs and features, size, and cost. The main thing that the beginners struggle with is to know the difference between motherboards form-factors. They often stuck with ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX – Which Should I Choose?
In short, to sort out the quarry, you must evaluate your needs and requirements because Micro-ATX is the perfect choice for the majority of people for their everyday use. ATX is preferable if you want more than four PCIe slots, and Mini-ITX is ideal only for those who want the most compact ever PC, but it would be a little bit hard to install a super gaming rig with this form factor. Choosing the perfect motherboard is not an easy task, or you can say it is crucial to decide which motherboard best suits you. By considering all these motherboards, the only thing that people differentiate between them is size. There are many differences among them, which we have rounded up in this post. The main thing when buying a motherboard is for what purpose you require them. So, before moving further, let’s look at the form factors or sizes of these motherboards.
ATX: 12.0” x 9.6” or 305 × 244mm
Micro ATX: 9.6” x 9.6” or 244 x 244mm
Mini ITX: 6.7” x 6.7” or 170 x 170mm
Most Important Things You Need To Know:
Let’s discuss other things that one should consider while choosing the ideal motherboard format.
As you can see from the above measurements, ATX is the largest format of all. The Micro-ATX is approximately 244x244 mm, which makes it a little smaller. And last but not least, there comes a Mini-ITX motherboard, which is the smallest and most demanding above all. We are only concerned about the size or dimensions when we need to consider whether our case is sufficient to fit the motherboard or not. However, worrying about the case being too large is not a problem now, as the latest and advanced feature cases have a standard layout meant to serve any size of the motherboard that can easily fit inside.
The most crucial factor that differentiates between the Mini-ITX and the two ATX boards is the number of RAM slots that the motherboard offers. Generally, the Mini-ITX motherboards offer only two RAM slots, while the Micro-ATX motherboards typically come with four. However, some top-class ATX motherboards provide as many as eight RAM slots.
Meanwhile, if a 2x16 GB kit is installed, the Mini-ITX motherboards can assist up to 32GB of RAM. On the other hand, most ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards accommodate at least 64GB, while few Micro-ATX units can reach as high as 128GB though some ATX cases can serve up to 512GB. But anyhow, these are in extreme cases that rely only upon expensive cutting edge motherboards.
Anyways, 16GB of RAM can run many latest and advanced games conveniently, although 32GB is quite enough for gaming rigs. However, systems with extra RAM are incredibly more future-secure. Apart from that, users who plan to use their gaming rig as a workstation may require more than 32GB of RAM to charge some memory-hungry software. As far as RAM itself is concerned, you don’t need to think about capacity, and even a Mini-ITX motherboard will fulfill most gamer’s requirements.
PCI Express Slots (PCIe):
Now let’s talk about another notable factor that differentiates between the three motherboards mentioned above formats: the number of PCIe slots they offer.
ATX motherboards play a leading role in this department, as most offer three PCIe slots, while some top-class models can serve as many as five. On the other hand, the Micro-ATX typically has one PCIe slot but can reach up to three, and Mini-ITX boards are limited with only a single PCIe slot. Visibly, extra portable PCIe slots are available if you plan about a multi-GPU system or install some expansion cards like capture cards, sound cards, and internal modems.
But of course, the number of slots is not everything; in this case, the question of free space is still there. Most advanced graphics cards are thick enough that their sizable coolers could potentially distract some of the slots. However, the case itself could probably obstruct the graphics card if we go for a small form factor case, so that is another point to consider.
And last but not least, there comes a matter of price. You must be thinking that Mini-ITX motherboards would be the cheapest among all due to their tiny size requiring less construction material, but the reality might surprise you.
The Mini-ITX motherboards are the most expensive of all, as far as the starting prices are considered. ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards generally begin at 50$ to 60$, while Mini-ITX motherboards start at about 100$. However, Micro-ATX models are the most affordable option as it is easier to find a high-end Micro-ATX motherboard at a reasonable price point.
Besides this, ATX models offer a great overall value for your money if you want additional PCIe slots. On the other hand, the Mini-ITX boards are only worth buying if you plan to build a compact gaming PC.
Form Factors Check:
Let’s have a thorough discussion about the various form factors.
Atx motherboards are the ideal option if you plan to build a high-end gaming CPU or a workstation. atx cases are highly equipped with four RAM slots that offer your PC’s expanded memory according to your extent and requirements. Each space accommodates up to 32GB of RAM.
It is a fair amount of RAM for high-end gaming purposes, as supervised in several benchmarks and tests. It is said that 8GB and 16GB RAM have no difference in frame rates and performance. But if you want to build the PC for a professional purpose or are a developer, then 32GB of RAM capacity would not be enough for you. Developers sometimes get annoyed when RAM’s immense apps make their system slow. This motherboard’s superclass feature offers 7 PCIe slots, which benefit Multi-GPU and the additional PCIe cards. This feature is limited only to the ATX motherboards.
ATX offers top-class and brilliant performance in all categories and can serve several additional upgrades to a PC. These motherboards are the most expensive and tend to be the most demanding than their competitors due to their versatile aesthetics and upgrades.
✓ Offers extra PCIe slot
✓ Top-notch performance
✓ Easy to install components
✗ Extra-large in size
Micro ATX Motherboards
The micro atx is the perfect option if you want to construct a budget-friendly gaming PC. It has almost the same specifications and features as ATX motherboards. The only difference between them is the availability of PCIe slots and size. It also has the support of 4 RAM slots, which are sufficient to fulfill your memory requirements. The most fascinating and attractive feature of this motherboard is that it is reasonable compared to other competitors. The micro atx motherboards are the most demanding and appealing product by prosumers, as it offers all the features required for gaming purposes.
These motherboards do not support Multi-GPUs and if you have a plan to build a PC with more than one GPU, then forget about the Micro-ATX. These motherboards have the quality to fix in almost every case due to their flexible size. The smaller size offers less onboard features but can provide more space for better customization. The latest models now support dual GPUs, but the prices are higher than the ATX cases, so it would be better to prefer ATX if you hunt for Multi-GPU support. It has the same components as the ATX motherboard to be replaced with each other if needed.
✓ pocket -friendly
✓ Capable of fitting in all cases
✓ The average number of RAM slots
✗ No multi-GPU setup
Mini ITX Motherboards
The Mini-ITX motherboards are the most compact and mostly used by the majority who want a portable PC. These motherboards only support two RAM slots, which means that it only offers 32GB of RAM if they pair up with a 2x16 GB kit installed in it. It would be quiet enough for a gaming PC, but this motherboard is not up to the mark for a workstation or a professional priority. The mini atx boards only serve a single PCIe slot, which means you can run only a single GPU on this motherboard.
It would be perfect for introductory level gamers, who want a smaller size PC, but keep that in mind that it is not suitable for high-end gaming. If we talk about the price factor, you would be surprised to know that these motherboards are more pricey than the Micro-ATX models who have quite prominent and improved features in them. Its high price is that it is the advanced addition in motherboard types and is the tiniest in size.
✓ Good aesthetics
✓ Less power consumption
✓ Light-weight and easily portable
✗ Single PCIe slot
ATX VS Micro ATX VS Mini ITX
We are here to discuss the different types of motherboards’ form factors. Let’s discuss the various pros and cons of each motherboard form factor in association with each other. Below we will discuss ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX to help you decide which one best suits you. At first, if you are keenly looking to build a high-end rig that benefits you for a couple of upcoming years and can afford the expensive boards, it would be better to go for an ATX motherboard. These motherboards’ design and looks are top-class and appealing compared to Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX motherboards, as they rarely come with premium aspects like overclocking and RGB lighting.
Meanwhile, if you can not afford the expensive one and don’t want to sacrifice the quality and features and have compatibility problems, we recommend trying Micro-ATX motherboards.
These types of motherboards still have a good reputation in the community. The majority want to buy Micro-ATX motherboards due to their reasonable cost and better compatibility with cheap cases. If we come to Mini-ITX motherboards, you should keep in mind that it is hard to find compatible components for such types of motherboards. Moreover, you will have fewer options when it comes to Mini-ITX setups. You might also face airflow in small cases, and you may need to go for liquid solutions. As far as looks are concerned, the Mini-ITX boards look more attractive and fascinating, especially those with custom liquid cooling solutions. You can also use a Mini-ITX setup as an HTPC system, and it would entertain you in your living room.
ATX VS Micro ATX
Let’s take a comparison under the subject of the two form factors ATX and Micro ATX. Atx motherboards are considered to be top-rated among its circle due to vast compatibility and top-class features. These motherboards can be placed in mid-tower cases, which means that if you want to use this board for mainstream gaming with an excellent cooling system, the ATX motherboard is the perfect option for you. The ATX motherboards usually come in a rectangular shape, while the Micro-ATX has a square shape. The difference in form is due to the number of PCIe slots each motherboard has.
When we talk about the availability, most of the top-class motherboards offer ATX cases, and you would not find any high-end motherboard with a Micro ATX form factor. So if you prefer a high-end system, you should buy an ATX motherboard.
Now let’s come towards the price; ATX motherboards are more expensive than Micro-ATX motherboards because ATX has a bigger size, different number of slots, and additional features. These motherboards also offer RGB lighting, while the micro ATX is best suitable for budget users who prefer a budget-friendly rig. As per size, make sure you buy a compatible motherboard before going for a large size ATX motherboard.
Now comes to the generic features, even most of the Micro-ATX motherboards offer you sufficient slots for gaming. Maybe you won’t be able to get the devoted sound card, LAN cards, and various PCIe devices. As Micro-ATX usually offers only two slots. Besides this, the ATX motherboards typically offer several PCIe slots, and you can also avail the facility of NVMe cards, Bluetooth and sound cards, and much more options. We have rounded up the points about ATX vs Micro ATX to help you decide which case best suits you.
ATX VS Mini ITX
Atx motherboards are usually known to be the best for high-end gaming rigs. However, it is said that these motherboards cannot deliver the best, and one of the biggest reasons for this matter is their larger size. The ATX board’s scope is much more significant than the Mini-ITX motherboard, and that is why if you are trying to build a PC, you can conveniently travel. A Mini-ITX motherboard is the best pick for this purpose, as larger motherboards have no compatibility with mini ITX cases.
As far as availability is concerned, you may not find many of the mini ITX motherboards out there. You might face some complications to reach it out, or maybe you wouldn’t find it much appealing as you were thinking. Besides this, most working motherboards have an ATX form factor, and you can easily find it anywhere in the market.
Now let’s talk about compatibility; a mini ITX motherboard typically works in combination with a small set of components if you are building a compact form factor PC, no matter how you talk about the case, power supply, or cooling solutions. However, mini ITX motherboards are hard to find and offer a standard set of features and specifications such as PCIe slots, RAM slots, and SATA slots.
Meanwhile, the ATX motherboards can serve many large components, whether there are RAM slots, multiple graphics cards, or extra stuff. Suppose you are willing to make a small form factor PC. In that case, you will have to consider that a mini ITX motherboard generally has graphics cards that are engineered to run with them, and the majority of the mainstream graphics cards have no place in a mini ITX case.
Now, if we come to the price, the ATX motherboards are expensive, but there is a high ratio of mini ITX motherboards in the market. As far as these cases’ design and outlook are concerned, they are a little pricier than their cost. We have discussed ATX vs Mini ATX so that you can easily decide which one best suits you.
Micro ATX VS Mini ITX
When we talk about Micro ATX vs Mini ITX cases or Mini ITX vs Micro ATX, we notice a minor price difference. Both of the motherboards are best suitable for budget users, although some elite-class Mini-ITX motherboards also. Generally, these motherboards are priced around 100$, though it will be easier for you to find a Micro-ATX motherboard because people prefer larger cases.
A Micro-ATX case can install a Mini-ITX motherboard as far as compatibility is concerned, but a Mini-ITX case can not serve a Micro-ATX motherboard. The same is the case for power supply and various components. Typically, mid-tower cases are smart enough to handle most high-end graphics cards, including the cards with tri-fan design. The choice is minimal in Mini-ITX, so if you are a passionate gamer and you want to buy a premium gaming setup, you should go for a Micro-ATX motherboard along with standard-sized components.
A notable difference between these two classy motherboards is that the Micro-ATX motherboards can offer many SATA ports that provide higher storage, so if you plan to use more than one or two drives, Micro-ATX is the perfect option for you. Similarly, if we emphasize the design and looks, the Mini-ITX motherboards play a leading role. So we recommend you to go for a Mini-ITX case if you like to spice up things.
Many users prefer to apply single-slot liquid-cooled graphics cards and custom liquid cooling solutions in their Mini-ITX setups, which looks stunning and fascinating. Besides this, if you own a Micro-ATX system, nothing can make it appealing and attractive unless you buy an expensive full-tower or mid-tower cases. The Mini-ITX will be perfect if you prefer portable devices because it is ideal for people who travel now and then.
Which Motherboard Should You Choose?
After having a detailed review of the qualities/utilities and specifications, let’s come to the main point which motherboard you should choose? You have some options like ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. It depends on what type of PC you will work with and how much you will use PCIe and RAM slots.
Motherboard for Gaming PC
We mostly prefer a Micro-ATX motherboard for a gaming PC installation and only advise ATX for those who like to add extra PCIe slots. The Micro-ATX motherboard always has excellent value for money, with more PCIe slots and quiet enough space for the RAM that a gaming PC would require, and it would be more budget-friendly than an ATX option.
As aforementioned, ATX motherboards are still feasible if you ask for extra PCIe slots, but as long as standard gaming PCs are concerned, it will barely provide something that a Micro-ATX substitute couldn’t. So, it is not ideal to choose a Mini-ITX motherboard for a gaming PC. After all, they are expensive and have only one PCIe slot and limited RAM. And if you want a compact form factor, then there is no good option other than that.
Motherboard for WorkStation
If you want to make use of your PC not only for gaming but also for specific professional services, then the extra PCIe and RAM slots might be fascinating. Mini-ITX would not attract you here, as it has limited space, and compact form factor cases don’t cool off as efficiently as they should. It can be later an issue if you want to take advantage of your PC in heavy workloads.
Motherboard for Desktop PC
In short, all you want to make use of a PC for is the internet, multimedia, some occasional office work, and casual gaming, and the perfect option is the affordable one. Being said, a Micro-ATX board would again be the ideal one, as it usually comes up with the lowest price tags and has everything you need. However, if you require a high-end compact PC, investing an extra 50$ on an ultimate Mini-ITX case might be worth buying.
Summing it up, priorities and requirements differ from person to person, so it is very complicated to rate any one of them as the best mainstream motherboard format.
Summing it up, we have rounded up a detailed guide about three mainstream motherboards such as ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX, and we also have discussed the comparison with the subject of ATX vs Micro ATX, Micro ATX vs Mini ITX, ATX vs Mini ITX.
Before buying a motherboard, it is better to understand the form factors. It will give a significant advantage to those who want to create their system for a specific purpose. If you wish to build your network for a gaming rig or make it for a workstation, choosing the right form factor is crucial. Going for the right form factor can lead you to the right path, similarly selecting the wrong case can take you to disaster and ruin your entire system.
So it is better to understand the logic and go for the right form factor. Priorities and requirements differ from person to person, so choosing the best motherboard are not easy. We recommend you to go through our detailed article, and decide which case is best suitable for you. Keeping in mind all the points before buying a motherboard will help you determine the appropriate motherboard.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ATX better than micro ATX?
The Micro-ATX is better in most cases. People prefer Micro-ATX because of its quality features and standard size. ATX is preferable only if you require more than four PCIe slots and other components with their extreme possibilities to build their gaming setup or workstation. Motherboards come in various sizes and formats, and choices differ from person to person. So it is tough to rate the best motherboard, as the user chooses the product according to their will and need.
What is the difference between a micro ATX and ATX motherboard?
The difference between these two motherboards is based on size and specs. The regular ATX is generally large and comes with up to seven slots, no matter if it is for PCI or PCI Express. Meanwhile, the Micro-ATX has an expansion of up to four slots. The manufacturer compensates for the limited slots; numerous peripherals are combined. By doing this, there is no need for an extension.
Will Micro ATX fit in ATX case?
The Micro-ATX was directly designed to be backward-compatible with ATX. Both of them support each other smoothly. The mounting points of Micro-ATX boards can easily adjust to ATX boards, and the IO panel is also similar. So we concluded that you could comfortably use Micro-ATX motherboards in full-size ATX cases.
Is micro ATX worth it?
A Micro-ATX motherboard always offers excellent value for your money. This classy motherboard still offers sufficient PCIe slots and additional space for all the RAM required to build a gaming PC. It is also ideal for people who can not afford expensive cases. People appreciate it because of its reasonable price. Finally, a Micro-ITX motherboard is usually the right choice for smart users.