ATX vs mATX vs ITX

Aegir

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Does downsizing remove features? Are those features actually useful or relevant?
Does it limit speeds? Create compatibility issues? More difficult to cool?

Let me know your experiences.
 

Denpepe

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It all depends on what kind of a machine you want to build. Usually the smaller the case compared to the contents and heat generating parts the hotter it will run.

Now the smaller the mobo, the less features you will have, but do you need them? having 3-4 PCIe slots if you are only ever going to use 1 is pointless.

I had a mATX PC for a while but it was not much smaller then an ATX mid tower, your case choice will matter a lot in ease of building and cooling options and what hardware you can cram inside.
 

Aegir

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What features would I lose exactly?

Just slots? Or are we talking specialized chips or something that delivers more interesting functions?
 

Ehren8879

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mATX really only limits your motherboard options. Feature limitations are primarily a vendor decision.

In the AMD world it's difficult to find a mATX board with the same premium options as ATX. On the ITX side, the premium boards are there, but at a price premium.

Unless ITX is a requirement for a specific application, I'd recommend sticking with ATX and a compact case if space is an issue.
 

lopoetve

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It all depends on what kind of a machine you want to build. Usually the smaller the case compared to the contents and heat generating parts the hotter it will run.

Now the smaller the mobo, the less features you will have, but do you need them? having 3-4 PCIe slots if you are only ever going to use 1 is pointless.

I had a mATX PC for a while but it was not much smaller then an ATX mid tower, your case choice will matter a lot in ease of building and cooling options and what hardware you can cram inside.
What features would I lose exactly?

Just slots? Or are we talking specialized chips or something that delivers more interesting functions?
It depends on the motherboard. You lose slots and M2 connectors first; things like the VRM/etc may be closer together generating more heat (less room for active cooling on them too). There are high-feature mATX and ITX boards out there, you just have to find them, and htey're limited (as said) to the single slot most of the time. Also often carry a price premium.

My gaming system is a Z170 mATX board - only PCIE card I needed was the GPU. Still has high-end audio. Still has high-end everything else. Limited on drive slots, limited on expansion, but it's a gaming box - doesn't need all that. My workstation is an ATX and may move to eATX.
 

Epos7

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I'm a big proponent of ITX builds, but there are a few tradeoffs.

The biggest is just the time investment in building the thing. Working in smaller spaces is more difficult and takes more planning. Cooling needs to be thought out.

I don't feel like I'm losing any features on ITX. I don't need more than one PCIE slot, and I have two m.2 slots.
 

pendragon1

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Does downsizing remove features? Are those features actually useful or relevant?
Does it limit speeds? Create compatibility issues? More difficult to cool?

Let me know your experiences.
yes, limited space the smaller they get.
maybe, thats up to you.
not for stock setting but may limit overclocking.
no.
yes sometimes, depends on what youre building in. a tiny itx case will never have the same airflow as an atx/matx case and tend to be hot and noisy comparatively.
 

firas

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it depends on the model, an ITX ROG Strix will always have more features than most ATX motherboards but it's bigger ATX sister will have more features than it.
 

echn111

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An ITX board should do pretty much everything an ATX board does but it'll have less ports, fan headers, slots etc. Whether those are important to you depends on you. In most cases it's not a big deal.

And if you're going AMD, you'll have less choice. Was looking for an itx x570 board, and there were only 3 to choose from. And then I wanted one with two M.2 NVMe SSD's and 3 fan headers, and that limited my choice to "one" motherboard to pick. Saying that, now that AMD has done so well, I'd expect a lot more choice when it comes to B550 ITX boards.

It's certainly more challenging to build an ITX system, especially a quiet but powerful one, and you'll need to spend more time on it, and likely more money. It can be done, but not as easily as an ATX build.

Saying that, I'd find it hard to go back to ATX. Those huge cases and M/B's are just seem too big for me, I can't put them on my shelf, and they really look out of place in my study. That's personal preference and completely subjective and situational, but the main point is that this is one of the main reasons why people go ITX. If aesthetics and portability matter, if you're putting it your study next to certain types of furniture, your surround sound audio system and all that, ITX is great as the size gives you much more flexibility. But if you mainly care about pure functionality, pure price/performance, I'd recommend avoiding ITX and go ATX.
 

CraigHB

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I thought about mITX at one point, I mean who doesn't want a smaller box. Though in the end you really need an mITX tower to support everything and it doesn't really save all that much space. Then it creates some thermal issues. So my last build of a few months ago is plain ol' ATX. I think they're going to have to do some further reduction in size and power consumption to make mITX more practical.
 

Aegir

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What about this: Smart phone powered media box.

If I get any modern phone, root it and install a lighter, more free OS like Lineage, what's stopping me from using a USB-C hub and connecting that permanately to a 4K TV, along with whatever other peripherals I like?

Now it's small enough to just velcro to the back of a TV and stick on an adhesive passive heatsink for long term use.

Well, the only thing better would be an x86, or at least Windows compatible, smart phone with 4k support, but do those even exist?
 

pendragon1

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What about this: Smart phone powered media box.

If I get any modern phone, root it and install a lighter, more free OS like Lineage, what's stopping me from using a USB-C hub and connecting that permanately to a 4K TV, along with whatever other peripherals I like?

Now it's small enough to just velcro to the back of a TV and stick on an adhesive passive heatsink for long term use.

Well, the only thing better would be an x86, or at least Windows compatible, smart phone with 4k support, but do those even exist?
intel makes compute stick and there is the fire stick to. but what does this have to do with your op?! if you have something youre trying to do, say so.
 

Ready4Dis

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I have a itx build, it's got AIO with a ryzen 1600 and a fury nano. Runs everything I need well. Stays cool and is very quiet. I have a rack mount server for those jobs, but my itx desktop is much smaller and I don't think I'll ever go back. I will get an atx or days for my server. My daughters LC is mATX so a shorter tower, but honestly not a big difference in space. It was the right price for a cheaper build. I don't feel like I missed out on anything. For my server I need more ports, space and slots. The only thing I MAY regret is if I upgrade my house to 10gb Ethernet, my ITX won't have a spot for a NIC.
 

defaultluser

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Why reuse a smartphoine, when they make dedicated android TV boxes with remotes?

https://www.androidcentral.com/best-android-tv-boxes

Don't build a PC just to watch media on your TV, and don't hack some old phone to do it either! -- that's what they built Roku/Android TV for. I only maintain my ITX HTPC for Steam games and web browsing.

Thanks to DRM, you're going to have to jump through a whole lot more hoops playing 4k video on your PC

Android TV boxes look a lot better than they used to. You can get pretty passable emulator support on them, and Steam Link means you don't need your HTPC in the same room(if you play slower-paced games, it's indistinguishable from the PC)
 
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Aegir

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Truth be told, I'm not here to actually build a media streamer or small game station. I'm mostly just interested in small hardware in the absolute technical sense:I want to know what is possible with small motherboards, even down to the phone or stick size, especially ones that have access to PCIe slots.
 

defaultluser

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Sorry man, you just described every piece of hardware on the planet: For every device in existence, someone has made a tiny version of it.

Motherboards exist in every complex electronic device. Therefore, there are small versions of almost every electronic device's motherboard.

You're going to have to be a little more specific, if all you want to do is have a technical discussion. For example, PC motherboards range in size of eATX down to Pico ITX:

VIA_Mini-ITX_Form_Factor_Comparison.jpg

Notebook motherboards are all custom designs.

The sizes of motherboards in consumer electronics are not restricted by standards like the PC world, and can vary all over the place. If you want something specific to talk about, why not check out some random tear-down articles on Ifixit?

https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown

And as-for your curiosity about PCIe slots: all modern consumer electronics use PCIe lanes to connect to external devices...but it's rare that they're made accessible to users outside of PC motherboards.
 
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Aegir

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I'm at such a level of ignorance that all I can do is ask vague questions until I acquire a foundation. Sorry. =p
Thanks for the info on that teardown website. Every bit of information helps.
 

defaultluser

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I'm at such a level of ignorance that all I can do is ask vague questions until I acquire a foundation. Sorry. =p
Thanks for the info on that teardown website. Every bit of information helps.

Sorry, just wast expecting a boundless question like that :D


You have to start somewhere! But I have to work tomorrow, so I'm all out f brainpower for the evening. Have fun exploring the site I linked!

I'll be happp to discuss thoughts you have on that site, or make more recommendations to check if you get bored.
 
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CraigHB

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Don't build a PC just to watch media on your TV, and don't hack some old phone to do it either! -- that's what they built Roku/Android TV for.
I have an Odroid N2 for my TV (https://www.hardkernel.com/shop/odroid-n2-with-4gbyte-ram/). It's tiny and quite powerful for what it does. Runs Linux and Kodi (CoreELEC). It's a computer in every sense in that it has a console and all the other inputs and outputs you expect. It does great for what it's designed to do, but I wouldn't want to replace my desktop computer with one. It would be pretty lacking. There are all kinds of tiny single board computers you can use for a lot of desktop stuff, but you give up a lot.
 

defaultluser

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Yeah, I keep forgetting that, after a year, they finally have all features working on Pi 4. A good value if you don't mind DIY
 

zeroARMY

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I really don't get why ATX is still a thing. Almost no one is adding another PCI-E card besides their graphics card.
 

pendragon1

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I really don't get why ATX is still a thing. Almost no one is adding another PCI-E card besides their graphics card.
there are a lot of different things that will go in a pci-e slot. just because you dont use it doesnt mean others arent.
 

IdiotInCharge

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For me, the 'need' for ATX died with multi-GPU. While that technology might return at some point, today I have only one card slot in use. I even tossed out all of the spinners!

Bigger issue is cooling, and noise. Shoving 200W of CPU and 300W of GPU into a shoebox and expecting anything close to pleasant levels of noise is a challenge that likely results in frustration.
 

defaultluser

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Having had all three. I like MATX the best.
I'd agree, with one caveat to that: you only aim to put it inside a full-sized ATX case.

Dealing with up-to 4 expansion slots in a case of under 40L can get troublesome.

If you want to go small BUT STILL *USE THOSE EXPANSION SLOTS*, , compromise on single-slot MiniITX, or go big case.
 

defaultluser

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Bigger issue is cooling, and noise. Shoving 200W of CPU and 300W of GPU into a shoebox and expecting anything close to pleasant levels of noise is a challenge that likely results in frustration.
Fractal Design Core 500 would like to have a word with you!

It has room for a 280 mm top-mounted radiator, and comes standard with 140mm rear fan. The GPU axials will be expelled by the rear, and the CPU + GPU intake is handled by your 2x 140mm radiator.

It's not like that's outlandish cooling on a forum like this - people will buy massive liquid foir muchj less than 500w peak (more like 400w sustained in games)
 
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pavel

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I'd agree, with one caveat to that: you only aim to put it inside a full-sized ATX case.

Dealing with up-to 4 expansion slots in a case of under 40L can get troublesome.

If you want to go small BUT STILL *USE THOSE EXPANSION SLOTS*, , compromise on single-slot MiniITX, or go big case.
Matx has very few case choices and many are pretty close in size to atx.

Itx is pretty good in theory but it is expensive for what you get. Not many expansion slots and fewer fan headers but you are paying for that compact size convenience.
 

Snowdog

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I'd agree, with one caveat to that: you only aim to put it inside a full-sized ATX case.

Dealing with up-to 4 expansion slots in a case of under 40L can get troublesome.

If you want to go small BUT STILL *USE THOSE EXPANSION SLOTS*, , compromise on single-slot MiniITX, or go big case.
mATX is about a lot more than just the extra PCIe slots over ITX. It's also more board more room for SATA ports, RAM slots, fan headers, NVME slots.

Typically mATX boards have all the same SATA,RAM, fan header and NVME slots as full ATX, While ITX is short changed on everything. Less RAM slots, Less fan headers, Less SATA ports, Less NVME, and they charge you more money for being shortchanged everything.

The only thing mATX short changes you on are the actual extra PCIe that almost no one uses. IMO mATX should be the standard now, but inertia is hard to overcome.

I want mATX for the previously mentioned extras (SATA ports, RAM slots, fan headers, NVME slots), and to have ONE extra PCIe slot open just in case something comes up in the future. No issue at all doing that in mATX.

I would be open to going full ATX, but my case search lead me to the Silencio S400 mATX case, that has the features I want. The S600 ATX is unfortunately not a bigger/better S400, but a more compromised design. So I pretty much have to move to a Fractal R6 to get the S400 features in an ATX case, and that is a lot more expensive and larger (~36L for the mATX S400, vs ~59L for R6).

For me, ITX is too cramped and restricive, while ATX is too big and expensive. Leaving mATX as my just right compromise in the middle.
 

kirbyrj

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mATX is about a lot more than just the extra PCIe slots over ITX. It's also more board more room for SATA ports, RAM slots, fan headers, NVME slots.

Typically mATX boards have all the same SATA,RAM, fan header and NVME slots as full ATX, While ITX is short changed on everything. Less RAM slots, Less fan headers, Less SATA ports, Less NVME, and they charge you more money for being shortchanged everything.

The only thing mATX short changes you on are the actual extra PCIe that almost no one uses. IMO mATX should be the standard now, but inertia is hard to overcome.

I want mATX for the previously mentioned extras (SATA ports, RAM slots, fan headers, NVME slots), and to have ONE extra PCIe slot open just in case something comes up in the future. No issue at all doing that in mATX.

I would be open to going full ATX, but my case search lead me to the Silencio S400 mATX case, that has the features I want. The S600 ATX is unfortunately not a bigger/better S400, but a more compromised design. So I pretty much have to move to a Fractal R6 to get the S400 features in an ATX case, and that is a lot more expensive and larger (~36L for the mATX S400, vs ~59L for R6).

For me, ITX is too cramped and restricive, while ATX is too big and expensive. Leaving mATX as my just right compromise in the middle.
The only problem with mATX is that a lot of boards are designed to be budget boards, and often you don't get the same VRM setup, etc. that you'd get with a higher end ATX board. There are exceptions, but you don't have as large of a selection. Often there is only 1 or 2 good motherboards across all vendors and they are either more expensive than they should be or difficult to find (case in point, I think I saw that Asus had a ROG LGA1200 mATX board and maybe MSI had one also that might be considered enthusiast level, and I only know of 1 X570 mATX board by ASRock which isn't as nice as the ATX counterparts). I agree with you though that mATX is a perfect size for me and I wish more manufacturers took it seriously as an enthusiast platform.

I haven't used the S400, but the comparably sized Masterbox NR400 is a great case. Too bad the larger ATX one is such a compromise (I was looking at it, but glad I didn't pull the trigger) because I really liked the NR400 build I did.
 
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Snowdog

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The only problem with mATX is that a lot of boards are designed to be budget boards, and often you don't get the same VRM setup, etc. that you'd get with a higher end ATX board. There are exceptions, but you don't have as large of a selection. Often there is only 1 or 2 good motherboards across all vendors and they are either more expensive than they should be or difficult to find. I agree with you though that mATX is a perfect size for me and I wish more manufacturers took it seriously as an enthusiast platform.

I haven't used the S400, but the comparably sized Masterbox NR400 is a great case. Too bad the larger ATX one is such a compromise because I really liked the NR400 build I did.
Agree with everything here. MB choice is not as good as ATX (same applies to ITX). Would be nice if there were more options, but you will still likely have a couple of good options.

S400 and NR400 share the same chassis (as do the compromised S600/NR600). NR400 is the Mesh version, and S400 is the Door and filter version. I prefer the door and filter version, but they are both really nice budget friendly mATX cases.
 

CraigHB

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Yeah it's too bad mATX never got the traction. It would be a better form for me as well. mITX as mentioned gives up a lot where mATX does not.
 

Aegir

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I wouldn't be surprised if this changed in the future.

I think the advent of smart phones and tablets will lead to a natural miniaturization of the PC, and mATX is the prime candidate.
Wait for the next AMD socket, and that will probably lead to a lot of new paradigms, just due to how old the current socket is.

That should influence Intel boards too, and so we might see more feature rich mATX motherboards pop up in general.
 

kirbyrj

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I wouldn't be surprised if this changed in the future.

I think the advent of smart phones and tablets will lead to a natural miniaturization of the PC, and mATX is the prime candidate.
Wait for the next AMD socket, and that will probably lead to a lot of new paradigms, just due to how old the current socket is.

That should influence Intel boards too, and so we might see more feature rich mATX motherboards pop up in general.
I've been waiting for a long time on that one though. Like ever since AM3+ and old 1156/1155 motherboards. I don't see that trend happening. I've seen a larger adoption of mITX in that time compared to mATX.

I don't think smart phones and tablets have any bearing on desktop motherboard sizing.
 

Aegir

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I've been waiting for a long time on that one though. Like ever since AM3+ and old 1156/1155 motherboards. I don't see that trend happening. I've seen a larger adoption of mITX in that time compared to mATX.

I don't think smart phones and tablets have any bearing on desktop motherboard sizing.
The only bearing I'd expect them to have is the fact that technology exists to do the whole SoC thing.
You're right. I doubt there's much overlap other than the fact that both use computer chips and PCBs.

I suppose it's up to the industry giants to determine where we go.
Hopefully they have at least a few high-end mATX offerings.
 

CraigHB

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I don't think smart phones and tablets have any bearing on desktop motherboard sizing.
Haha, if that were the case, they'd be getting bigger. There was a time before internet phones we used to joke about phones getting smaller and smaller, now they keep getting bigger to accommodate those web browser capable screens.

Though seriously speaking if they did something to eliminate the need for a chipset (PCH), which they already do to an extent, that would cut down quite a bit on the size requirements.
 

fullvietFX

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The only problem with mATX is that a lot of boards are designed to be budget boards, and often you don't get the same VRM setup, etc. that you'd get with a higher end ATX board. There are exceptions, but you don't have as large of a selection. Often there is only 1 or 2 good motherboards across all vendors and they are either more expensive than they should be or difficult to find (case in point, I think I saw that Asus had a ROG LGA1200 mATX board and maybe MSI had one also that might be considered enthusiast level, and I only know of 1 X570 mATX board by ASRock which isn't as nice as the ATX counterparts). I agree with you though that mATX is a perfect size for me and I wish more manufacturers took it seriously as an enthusiast platform.

I haven't used the S400, but the comparably sized Masterbox NR400 is a great case. Too bad the larger ATX one is such a compromise (I was looking at it, but glad I didn't pull the trigger) because I really liked the NR400 build I did.
Good mATX cases and mobos definitely don't around too often. I got lucky last gen with the ROG Gene and NZXT H400.
 

Snowdog

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I've been waiting for a long time on that one though. Like ever since AM3+ and old 1156/1155 motherboards. I don't see that trend happening. I've seen a larger adoption of mITX in that time compared to mATX.
From what I have seen there is still greater choice in mATX MBs than ITX.

But ITX MB are aimed more at high end, for the people buying $200+ boutique cases, while mATX seems aimed more at midrange and budget MBs. I am more interested in midrange, than boutique, so mATX choices better suit me.

Though if there was a really good ITX MB that had everything you wanted, you could still use it in an mATX case, while the converse is not true.


I don't think smart phones and tablets have any bearing on desktop motherboard sizing.
Agree. The miniaturization trend is more about laptops/NUCs, not self builds with GPUs.
 

lopoetve

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I really don't get why ATX is still a thing. Almost no one is adding another PCI-E card besides their graphics card.
Add in PCIE NVMe, audio card (I use a xonar in my gaming system), video capture cards, etc. Lots of things you might want to put in there. Additional networks, who knows.

I use ATX or E-ATX in my workstations, and mATX in my gaming system (don't need anything other than audio and the GPU).
 
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