Knowing the types of motherboards is handy for pretty much anyone who uses a computer. Well, the motherboard is the main module or the component that connects all the other components of a computer.
It’s true that many individuals consider CPU and RAM to be the most important parts of a motherboard. However, all the other components of your computer are connected to the same component.
For instance, components like PCI slots, capacitors, USB ports, M.2 slots, and everything else are connected to the motherboard. So, without a motherboard, your computer cannot perform at all.
Below, we discuss the motherboard form factors that are available in the market today. We introduce the different types of motherboard options so you can decide which one is better.
In fact, different types of motherboard options are used to solve different types of problems. So, those motherboards have become a crucial part of further advancements.
There is no shortage of motherboard form factors to consider. But the thing is that not all those products retain their popularity and consistency. Also, the other options are slow in adoption.
With that said, this article explains aspects like form factor, its importance, and different types of motherboard.
Introduction to Motherboard Form Factors
In simplest terms, motherboard form factors represent the specifications of a given motherboard variety. It includes options like the type of the board, its dimensions, the availability of the ports, power supply, etc.
It also offers all the necessary details. As a result, anyone can check if that product is compatible with the consumer’s requirements. You can have different types of form factors, and they are designed to serve different purposes.
For instance, a full-sized motherboard will have a large number of PCIe slots compared to a mini-ATX board. That’s just a simple example for your information.
Generally, motherboard form factors differ depending on the advancements of the technology. When computer technology gets advanced, the manufacturers of motherboards tend to change the standards of their products. The standards of a motherboard assure the size as well as the layout.
It is true that the changes in form factors take place gradually. However, the evolvement is regular. In 1995, ATX boards were introduced along with their standards.
Twelve years later, ATX boards received an update. Those boards are known as ITX as of today, and they are much smaller than their ancestors. Also, they maintain their own standards.
The requirement for ITX boards emerged because the changes took place related to the demand for the computer. For instance, many computer users wanted to use smaller, compact systems with more portability.
Form factors are generally based on aspects like subsets and supersets. Form factors determine to which requirement they cater. To make it clearer, a desktop computer will have more connection ports and sockets compared to a multimedia system.
Also, multimedia systems don’t have the ability to add extra cards. However, you can expect the same with a desktop PC. That is because the types of motherboards used in these two systems are different as they cater to different requirements.
With a small motherboard, you can expect better convenience in terms of portability. However, they may lack additional ports and slots that are available in bigger versions.
Components Included in All Types of Motherboard
Regardless of the type of motherboards, they have several important, must-have components. Each of those components is assigned a different task. You can read the below section and learn those components.
01. CPU Socket
CPU Socket is a must-have component no matter what type of motherboard we are talking about. It is the socket where your CPU is mounted.
Well, Intel and AMD are the main manufacturers who make processors. They are installed on different sockets. Also, you cannot use those processors interchangeably on sockets.
A CPU socket is made with hundreds of pins or pinholes to establish a connection with the processor. Both companies (AMD and Intel) have released different sockets over the past period. Those sockets support a specific generation of processors.
VRM is the shortened form for Voltage Regulator Module. It regulates the voltage received from the power supply and offers the correct voltage to the CPU. The regular power supplies offer a +12V DC EPS power connecter.
The VRM converts that voltage to a smaller value (between 1.1V to 1.4V). A VRM has three main components called Choke, Capacitor, and MOSFET. Those three components ensure a regular, stable controller power supply to the motherboard.
03. DIMM Slots
Dual In-Line Memory Module (often known as DIMM) slots are essential to install your RAM sticks to the motherboard. RAM sticks have volatile memory, and they store data temporarily.
Different types of motherboards can have different numbers of DIMM slots. For instance, some motherboards have 2 DIMM slots while others may have 8 of them.
04. PCI Slots or Expansion Slots
PCI is the abbreviation for Peripheral Component Interconnect. Those slots are there to connect peripheral devices to the motherboard directly. The most common type of PCI slots is PCI-E X1 and PCI-E X16.
When it comes to older types of motherboards, you can find AGP slots. Those are used to install video cards. However, they are now being replaced by faster PCI-E slots.
Also, here is the full PCI vs. PCI Express comparison for your reference.
SATA stands for the term Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. Basically, it is an interface that builds a connection between the motherboard and a storage device (SSD).
Compared to other components, SATA or SSD drives are connected to the motherboard with seven pins.
This could be considered one of the latest inclusions of modern-day motherboards. This module can be used to establish Wi-Fi, SSD, Bluetooth, and other types of connections.
This module lets PCI, USB, and SATA buses get through. With that said, pretty much all the Intel and AMD motherboards come with at least a single M.2 slot.
Even if you check different types of motherboards, they all have a dedicated audio section. This specific section is located next to the audio jacks. You can easily identify it by looking at the PCB circuit and several capacitors.
In addition, you can see high-end motherboards with more components in the same section.
08. CMOS battery
CMOS is another non-volatile memory that comes with any type of motherboard. You can find it easily because it has a round shape with silver color. It is responsible for storing all the information related to hardware.
For instance, it has information related to CPU, RAM, and Disk Drives. In addition to that, the same module stores the correct time and date as well.
Basically, headers are sort of connectors that appear in the form of pins. They are used to connect various types of peripherals to the motherboard. For instance, it connects components like chassis fans, CPU fans, USB, audio (front panel), etc.
Each of these connectors comes with different configurations. Also, they work at a specific voltage.
10. Power Connectors
The motherboard cannot work unless you provide a power supply. There are different types of power connectors assigned to different components. Some of those components don’t even want additional power connectors.
They draw power from the slots themselves. You can find two main power connectors, namely ATX and EPS. The pin configuration will vary on different types of motherboards.
Well, the ATX is designed to provide power to different sections of the motherboard. On the other hand, EPS is dedicated to providing power to the VRM unit we explained earlier.
All the motherboards come with an input/output section. Usually, this is located in the rear part of the motherboard. This section connects input and output devices like mouse, keyboard, HDMI, LAN, VGA, and audio.
Different types of motherboard
All right. Let’s take a look at the different types of motherboards now. There are six varieties, and below, we mention them with a brief description for your information.
01. AT Motherboard
AT motherboards are pretty large. They do have a few hundred millimeters of dimensions. These dimensions are not suitable for mini desktops (that is a no-brainer). In addition, the larger dimensions of these motherboards make them incompatible with newer drivers.
Generally, these motherboards have sockets and six-pin plugs that work as power connectors. The power connectors are pretty similar, so individuals will find it difficult to use them properly. These motherboards were produced back in the ’80s, and they were around for quite a while.
02. ATX Motherboard
The next entry on this list of different types of motherboards is the ATX variety. They are Advanced Technology Extended. These motherboards were introduced in the ’90s, showing significant advancements compared to AT variety.
These motherboards let you connect parts interchangeably. Also, they are relatively smaller compared to their ancestors. The connector system had some great improvements.
03. LPX Motherboard
LPX is a different variety compared to previous types of motherboards. They contain output and input ports on their back. In addition to that, they were introduced to a riser card along with more slots. Later on, even ATX motherboards took some features from these LPX motherboards.
Nevertheless, there are some low-quality types of motherboards that don’t have AGP slots to connect. Instead, they have a direct connection to the PCI.
04. BTX Motherboard
BTX stands for Balanced Technology Extended. They were created to be compatible with the newer technological advancements that required plenty of power. Also, these motherboards were an answer to the extensive amount of heat.
But Intel discontinued the manufacturing of these motherboards in 2006. These motherboards can be found with Gateway Inc., Dell, and MPC. Also, even Mac Pro uses some elements of this motherboard variety.
05. Pico BTX
In fact, “Pico” is a term used to represent the smaller size of these motherboards. These motherboards have up to two expansion slots. These motherboards indeed have similar top half compared to the regular BTX variety.
They are designed for riser-card or even to be compatible with half-height applications as well. BECAUSE OF THOSE MOTHERBOARD FORM FACTORS, Pico BTX motherboards fall into the digital line.
06. Mini ITX
These motherboards come with dimensions of 17 X 17 CM. These motherboards were introduced back in 2001 by VIA Technologies.
In general, these motherboards are common with SFF computer systems. That is specifically because these motherboards are known for lower power consumption.
In addition to that, this types of motherboard tend to cool down very fast. You can find these motherboards in many home theater systems.
Motherboards come in various form factors, each catering to specific needs and constraints. The ATX, micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX form factors are the most commonly used in the consumer market, offering a balance between size and functionality. On the other hand, the EATX and FlexATX form factors cater to specialized requirements, providing more expansion slots and customization options or compact designs for space-constrained systems, respectively.
Understanding the different types of motherboard form factors is crucial when building or upgrading a computer system. It ensures compatibility with the computer case and other components, allowing for seamless integration and optimal performance.
Q1: Can I use a micro-ATX motherboard in an ATX case?
Yes, micro-ATX motherboards are designed to be compatible with ATX cases. They use the same mounting points and connectors, allowing for easy installation.
Q2: Are Mini-ITX motherboards less powerful than ATX motherboards?
Mini-ITX motherboards are not inherently less powerful than ATX motherboards. They may have fewer expansion slots, but they can still accommodate powerful processors and offer similar performance in compact systems.
Q3: What are the advantages of using an EATX motherboard?
EATX motherboards offer more expansion slots and connectors than standard ATX motherboards. This allows for greater customization, such as adding multiple graphics cards or additional storage devices.
Q4: Can I use a standard ATX power supply with a Mini-ITX motherboard?
Yes, Mini-ITX motherboards are designed to be compatible with standard ATX power supplies. However, due to their smaller size, they may require adapters or specialized cables for proper connection.
Q5: Is there a specific form factor required for gaming PCs?
Gaming PCs can use various form factors, depending on individual preferences and requirements. ATX, micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX form factors are commonly used for gaming builds, providing a good balance of performance and size.