ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini ITX Motherboards-Detailed Guide 2021

Building a gaming PC for the very first time might be very challenging for you if you don’t have knowledge about the components. Several companies are manufacturing different components for some specific use, like for high-end computing, Work Stations, and you don’t need them for gaming and vice versa. Although you don’t have to worry about it because we are there to guide you about these components and today, we have some motherboard to compare.

Newbies usually ask questions like ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini ITX boards, so you get the ultimate guide on this topic there. It doesn’t matter what type of PC you are building, but the thing to make sure is the compatibility of the components. ATX motherboards can’t fix in a case designed for ITX builds while for smaller motherboards, that’s not the case. You can put any ITX motherboard in an ATX case, but it looks weird because of extra space in the case.

Also, we need to make sure that the other components we have are also compatible with the motherboard or not. An example of this condition, you get 32GB of memory split into four modules while the ITX boards only have 2 DIMMs so it can give you a hard time. Without doing further ado, let’s start with the size and format of all these motherboards.

Read also: Best Ram for ryzen 7 2700x

The difference between micro ATX vs ATX is of expansion slots and some minor specifications, so we made a complete comparison chart between them. While if you compare ATX vs Mini ITX there, you will get something different, including size, features, and expansion slots.

1.ATX Motherboards

One of the most common types of the motherboard, which you will find in almost every high-end build is standard ATX boards. The regular size of ATX motherboards is 305×244 mm, but there are some other models too, like E-ATX, which has a higher number of expansion slots, and M-ATX, which is smaller than a regular board.

Overclocking power is a thing that most of the mid-end and high-end gaming users prefer. Of course, the size of any motherboard doesn’t affect its overclocking ability, but as ATX motherboards have enough room, and most of them are high-end boards, so they offer more power. Large size heatsinks over the VRM and MOSFETs are very common in ATX boards, which is a plus point in overclocking.

The memory support of these motherboards is better than the other two categories because it offers four DIMMs, which are enough for future expansion. Also, high-frequency memory modules are widespread in ATX motherboards as an example MSI B450 Tomahawk accepts 3400Mhz of memory modules while the m-ATX version only allows 2800-3200Mhz.

The connectivity options and storage interfaces in full-sized ATX motherboards are way better than the smaller variants. Usually, ATX motherboards serve a more significant number of USB 3.0 ports and have six or even more SATA slots. While they also offer a pair of M.2 slots which are absent in small motherboards.

The main difference between these motherboards is the number of expansion slots as ATX motherboards have space for seven PCI-E slots and allow you to install seven single-slot PCI expansion cards.

While if you got dual-slot GPUs, you can install up to four but need an eight expansion slots case. Also, the case compatibility of these motherboards is not like ITX and M-ATX motherboards as you can’t install them in smaller cases. With all these features and extras, these motherboards are much more expensive than any other category.

Usually, a regular ATX size motherboard costs you more than a hundred-dollar amount, which is way overpriced for any budget build. I would recommend you to get the ATX case with these motherboards and only consider them if you want all these features mentioned above.

Category

ATX

DIMMs

4x

SATA

6x

USB 3.0

4x

Expansion Slots

7x

PCIe x16

2x/3x

PCIe x1

5x/4x

PCIe x1

Up to 3x

Pros
  • Futureproof because of expanding options.
  • Seven PCI-E slots are enough for any build.
  • More USB 3.0 ports on the rear I/O panel.
  • Most of the models have a better VRM cooling system.
  • There is much room between components, so less heating.
Cons
  • Pricy than other categories.
  • It can’t universally fit into other cases like ITX.
  • You might pay for features that you don’t need.

Related: Best Motherboard for Ryzen 7 3700x

2.Micro-ATX Motherboards

Micro ATX motherboard vs ATX is not different because of the same features, but m-ATX offers excellent value for its price. In these motherboards, you have to pay for the features that you need, and you can skip multiple GPUs, High Phase Power Design, and other premium features. The average size of any Micro-ATX motherboard is 244x244mm, while it offers only four expansion slots.

The overclocking power of these motherboards is no different than any ATX motherboards, but due to small size and low power voltage regulators, it goes limited. Still, some models offer even better-overclocking performance but are a bit expensive and don’t worth the money. The memory support of these motherboards is the same as of ATX boards, as both of them offer four DIMMs with maximum memory support of 64GB.

However, some M-ATX entry-level motherboards offer only two DIMMs, and I would not recommend you consider them if you got more budget. Of course, if you need to expand the memory in the future in these motherboards, then you have to change them, which looks weird. The USB 3.0 ports are lowered to two in M-ATX motherboards, and also most of the M-ATX motherboards come with four SATA slots. These are not enough, but for high end builds, but if you are going with entry-level hardware, they offer the best.

Also, M-ATX motherboards have one M.2 slot, but some models come with two M.2 slots, which is a great deal. The expansion slots in M-ATX motherboards are four from which one will be PCIe x16 for graphics cards and two for expansion cards. However, some vendors like Gigabyte and ASRock offer two PCIe x16 slots in some of their entry-level models, which is a good thing.

If you don’t want multiple graphics cards, these motherboards will be the best choice for small builds. The price of M-ATX motherboards vs ATX motherboards is considerable because there are some features you have to negotiate on m-ATX. Mostly entry-level and budget gamers prefer M-ATX motherboards because these motherboards don’t ask for extra costs for features that you don’t need, including multiple GPUs, I/O covers, and other things.

Pros
  • It gives the best value for their price.
  • An excellent choice for entry-level builds.
  • Four DIMMS are plus point in small boards.
  • M-ATX is compatible with mid-tower and full-tower cases.

Cons
  • VRM cooling is in favor of ATX boards.
  • Four expansion slots only.
  • A low number of USB 3.0 ports.

3.Mini-ITX Motherboards

The last motherboard type in our list is Mini-ITX, and it is specific for those who like to have a small build on their desk or some side build for other activities like streaming, etc. These motherboards are the smallest you can get for your personal computers.

The average size of any ITX motherboard is 170x170mm, and there are ITX cases on which you can install them. The small size of Mini-ITX motherboards doesn’t affect the performance of your build, but you need to manage proper airflow in the case. As components on these motherboards are so close to each other, and there is not much space so they can heat up if your case doesn’t have a proper cooling system.

However, most of the ITX cases are built in such a way to provide the best cooling in them. The memory support of mini ITX vs micro ATX is much different because there you can split memory into two modules only. This limits the future expanding options regarding the memory as with time, we need more and more memory.

One thing where these motherboards have an advantage over M-ATX is they give better aesthetics as they fall in the premium category. The storage options and connectivity options in these motherboards are lowered, but still, they are enough for any compact build.

The thing where it got an advantage over m-ATX is built-in Wi-Fi, some expensive controllers which are best in their class, and other premium features. The SATA ports ITX motherboards offer are four while they also have one M.2 slot with a heatsink. The thing where these motherboards disappoint their users is the number of PCIe slots.

This motherboard has only one full-length PCIe x16 slot, which supports only one graphics card. PCIe x1 slots are absent in these motherboards, but it is packed with every feature for connectivity and other interfaces. So, with this, we can compromise on these expansion slots.

The price of Mini-ITX motherboards is higher than any Micro-ATX or standard ATX motherboard because small hardware is always expensive. These motherboards have premium features and some of the costliest controllers which affect the overall price of these motherboards. The comparison of micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX is considerable as both of these motherboards are much different from each other.

Pros
  • Best for compact builds.
  • Can be fit into any type of PC case.
  • Mostly equipped with premium features.
  • M.2 with the heatsink is a plus point.
  • It offers better looks than micro-ATX boards.
Cons
  • One PCIe x16 slot is not enough.
  • More expensive than M-ATX motherboards.
  • Overclocking power is average.
  • Two DIMMs are not enough.

 

ATX Vs Micro ATX Vs Mini ITX Comparison

Users who don’t have prior knowledge of hardware might find it very challenging to build their first gaming machine. There are a couple of things you need to know before buying hardware such as motherboard compatibility, PSU form factor, and much more. Taking care of this, we have made a comparison guide on ATX vs. Micro-ATX and ITX.

Starting with the ATX, which usually has extra expansion slots from the m-ATX; otherwise, they are the same enough. I would recommend you to go with this if and only if you want more expansion slots. In addition to some extra expansion slots, there are some significant differences as ATX boards have much room for heatsinks and other components, so they will never heat up.

Usually, most of the ATX motherboards come with 12 Phase Power Design VRM and offer excellent headroom for overclocking. While on the other side, M-ATX boards have 9 Phase Power Design VRM with four expansion slots. The third motherboard we had is specially built for small form factor computers and are very small in size. Along with the expansion slots, they also have a different number of SATA and USB ports.

ATX motherboards have 6x SATA3 slots with four USB 3.0 ports, M-ATX boards offer four or six SATA slots and two USB 3.0 ports. Mini-ITX motherboards have only four SATA slots and two USB 3.0 ports Both ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards offer four DIMMs while the MINI-ITX motherboard has only two DIMMs resulting in low memory support.

The case compatibility of these motherboards also matters as you can’t install the ATX motherboard in mini ITX case while you can install the Micro-ATX motherboard in both ATX and small cases. For ITX boards, that’s changed as you can install them in any casing, but it looks weird to use small boards in significant cases.

With all of these comparisons, you can conclude that each motherboard has its advantages and disadvantages, and its good to know about them before buying. I would say if you are building a budget gaming

Specifications

ATX

m-ATX

ITX

DIMMs

4x

4x

2x

M.2 Slots

2x

1x

1x

SATA

6x

6x

4x

USB 3.0

4x

2x

2x

Expansion Slots

7x

4x

1x

PCIe x1

5x

2x

1x

PCIe x16

2x

1x

1x

Conclusion

Building a gaming PC is not just buying components and putting them together because you have to consider a lot of things before getting any hardware. Most users buy the most expensive parts, but for every situation, that’s not the case because sometimes they might not be the best for you.

Taking care of this, we made a comparison guide on ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini ITX motherboards. Performance-wise these motherboards are not different from each other, but for features, they are much different. ATX motherboards are best if you want more expansion slots while M-ATX is useful if you wish to have budget hardware. While the third one is specific for small or compact builds mostly used as side PCs.