There are many standard sizes of motherboards, and the different sizes provide different advantages and disadvantages. In this video, you’ll learn about the ATX and microATX standards, as well as the smaller ITX standard motherboard form factors.
-Inside of every computer, whether it’s a desktop computer or a laptop computer, there’s a main system board we call the motherboard. The motherboard can have a number of different form factors. You’ll find some very large motherboard, you’ll find very small motherboards. But there are some very distinguishing characteristics that can help you determine exactly what size motherboard you’re working with.
One is obviously, the physical size of the motherboard itself. They are designed to fit into a certain size case. There are standard sizes that will fit standard cases. That way, when you purchase a motherboard, you can also purchase a case and everything matches up. So when you’re ready to build your own computer, you’ll know that all the parts will fit.
There’s a very basic layout for all of the motherboard pieces and as we learn more about the motherboard, you’ll see that the basic layout stays the same, regardless of who’s making the motherboard. There’s not a lot of room for changes, and generally certain components on the motherboard tend to fit next to other components because it makes some logical sense, when you look at the flow of the information.
There’s also some very standard interfaces on the motherboard. One of these is for power. The standard power connector is one that is the same regardless of what motherboard you’re using. So, you should be able to take it out very quickly on your motherboard to help to see how large the motherboard is or where the power supply needs to be located.
Air flow is also an important consideration for motherboard. We want to be sure that we get plenty of cool air coming across the motherboard, because every component on this device is going to start heating up as you use it. Especially the chipsets and the CPUs on these devices get very warm. So we want to be sure there’s plenty of space to get a lot of air flow going across and that these different heating components are distributed across different areas of the motherboard.
If we were to go to Wikipedia and look at all of the different models of motherboards, there are over 40 different types of motherboards. Now fortunately for the A+ certification, you won’t need to know 40 different kinds of motherboards. And as we go through this video, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the different motherboard types.
The A+ certification focuses on what these days are the two most popular motherboard form factor types. One type is the ATX and as you can see on this diagram, I have a standard ATX motherboard. And I also have a Micro-ATX. It’s called the Micro-ATX because it’s just a little bit smaller than the standard ATX.
The other type of motherboard we’ll like at is the ITX. And you can see three of them are listed here– the Mini, the Nano, and the Pico ITX. And as you can see, we’re getting smaller and smaller and smaller motherboards because a lot of our computing needs these days are going to be smaller and smaller form factors.
These days, a standard motherboard type it you’ll see really in most desktop systems is an ATX form factor. ATX stands for Advanced Technology Extended. And it’s been around for quite some time– since 1995– and there have been a number of updates through the years. But we still call this the ATX form factor size. You’ll generally see two types of power connectors on the ATX motherboards.
If you’re working with an older motherboard, you may see a power connector on that motherboard that is 20 pin, but most modern motherboard are going to have 24 pin connectors for that motherboard. You might also see additional power for the motherboard in the form of a 4 or 8 pin connector, as well.
There are other types of connections on this ATX motherboard. There’s usually an input/output backplate that goes onto the back of the computer, so that you have a place to plug in your monitor, and your keyboard, and your mouse.
There’s also ways to modify a lot of these, especially if you’re building your own motherboard. And you’ll find that the ATX form factor is still very popular. You’ll still find ATX motherboards manufactured today. It’s a very common way that you can synchronize up all the different components of a computer that you might be building by standardizing on this ATX form factor.
This is an ATX motherboard that I have in my studio. It’s the ASUS Maximus VII Hero. This ATX motherboard has the 24 pin power at the bottom. You can see it also as the 8 pin power connection, as well.
There’s room for a CPU to be installed. I’ve got PCI slots. And if you’re going to be installing a desktop motherboard these days, this is about the largest form factor you’re going to find. It’s the ATX. If we want a smaller size motherboard, maybe something that could fit into a smaller case, then we’ll want to look at a different set of form factors for out motherboards.
One size down from the text motherboard is the Micro-ATX. It’s just a little bit smaller than the ATX motherboard. And as you can see here, we don’t have quite as many expansion slots available on this device because we just don’t have that much real estate available.
It does have some backward compatibility with the ATX motherboard. You get an ATX case and still fit a Micro-ATX into that ATX case, because it has very similar mounting points. Very easy to mount this into the exact same size as an ATX motherboard would go. It also uses similar power connections and similar power requirements as well.
It’s a popular form factor. It’s not as large as an ATX. It’s something you could fit into a little bit smaller of the case. And it fits very nicely on a desk and you’ll find them actively manufactured, even today.
Here’s a close up shot of that Micro-ATX motherboard. It’s an ASUS PSVD2-VM SE. This is a motherboard that has, again, place for power. You can see the 24 pin power connection. You’ve got a place for your CPU. There’s a memory slots on this particular motherboard. And only three expansion slots on this particular model. We’re limited by the size of this device.
And you can see everything’s a little bit closer together. That’s one of the disadvantages of having the Micro-ATX. now? Everything is in that smaller form factor. You don’t have quite as much expansion as you might have on a normal ATX-sized motherboard.
We’re putting our computers everywhere these days. They’re in our cars, they’re next to our televisions, and we’re finding so many different things to do with these computing platforms that we now need smaller and smaller motherboards, as well. One series of smaller motherboard is the ITX form factor. These were created by Via Technologies in 2001. And one nice thing about these is, that there are some very small form factors they can fit almost anywhere.
The Mini-ITX is one that is compatible in the screw sets with ATX and the Micro-ATX. And it may seem where dev a very large case and a very small motherboard inside of it. But the idea is that you could use exactly the same screw layout and have smaller and smaller cases and use the smaller ITX form factor.
The small form factors are used for single purposes generally, because there’s not a lot of expansion. So you’re really using this motherboard for a single use. It might be for streaming media when you’re plugged into a television. Or you might use this for a security system that might be in your house that you could hide away, where nobody can find it.
This is a VIA EPIA-M910 Mono-ITX motherboard. And you can see the power connection is right here, at the top. Notice how much smaller the motherboard is now that we’re looking at that standard size power connection. You can see there’s one expansion slot. Not much room for much else. And we just have enough room to fit a couple of memory modules here on the side. It’s a very small motherboard, but if you have a single use or you don’t need a lot of expansion, this may be the right motherboard to use for your purposes.
And if you thought the Mini-ITX was small, look at these other ITX models. The Nano-ITX, the Pico-ITX, and the Mobile-ITX. These are all to scale. And you can see that we’re getting smaller and smaller and smaller motherboards. And as it implies, the mobile ITX might be perfect to have as a mobile computer that would be inside of a car or some other mobile device.
You can see the motherboard themselves are very tiny. The CPU itself takes up a huge amount of room on the Pico-ITX. But it just depends on what your requirements are, and what you need these devices to do. They don’t have a huge amount of computing power. You can’t perform a lot of different expansion to the motherboard. But all you need is that single purpose, the ITX motherboard may be for you.