In the modern world of computing, where technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, building a custom PC has become an exciting endeavor for many enthusiasts and professionals alike. The process of selecting and assembling components to create a personalized computer system allows individuals to tailor their setups to specific needs, whether it be gaming, content creation, or professional work. One critical component at the heart of every PC build is the motherboard, and among the various form factors available, the ATX (Advanced Technology eXtended) stands out as a popular choice.
The ATX form factor, developed by Intel, has become a cornerstone in the world of computer hardware. Its standardized dimensions, layout, and features provide a solid foundation for building high-performance systems. From compatibility with a wide range of components to improved airflow and expandability, ATX motherboards offer a host of advantages that make them a preferred choice for many PC builders.
In this article, we will take a look at the world of ATX and explore its significance in PC building. We will discuss the meaning and origin of ATX, its role in motherboards, power supplies, and PC cases, as well as its impact on system compatibility, expandability, cooling, and overall user experience.
Whether you are a seasoned PC builder or embarking on your first custom build journey, understanding the importance of ATX will empower you to make informed decisions and create a computer system that meets your unique requirements.
- What Does ATX Stand For?
- What are the Other Common Motherboard Sizes?
- Importance of ATX While Building a PC
- Pros and Cons of ATX
- What Does ATX Mean in Terms of PSU?
- What Does ATX Mean in Terms of PC Cases?
- Different Types of Cases for ATX Motherboards
- Popular ATX Motherboards
- Popular ATX Cases
What Does ATX Stand For?
In the context of motherboards, ATX stands for Advanced Technology eXtended. It is a form factor specification developed by Intel that defines the physical dimensions, layout, and various features of the motherboard.
The ATX form factor was introduced in the mid-1990s as an upgrade to the previous AT (Advanced Technology) form factor. The ATX specification brought several improvements and standardized the design of motherboards. Some key features of ATX motherboards include the following.
- Size and Dimensions: ATX motherboards typically measure 12 x 9.6 inches (305 x 244 mm). The size is larger than the previous AT form factor, providing more space for components and better compatibility with computer cases.
- Power Supply: ATX motherboards utilize a 20-pin or 24-pin power connector that connects to the power supply unit (PSU). This connection provides power to the motherboard and its components. Additionally, ATX motherboards often have an additional 4-pin or 8-pin CPU power connector to supply power to the processor.
- Expansion Slots: ATX motherboards feature multiple expansion slots that allow for the installation of additional components. The most common expansion slot type is PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express), which is used for graphics cards, sound cards, network cards, and other peripherals.
- I/O Ports: ATX motherboards provide a variety of I/O (Input/Output) ports for connecting external devices. These ports typically include USB ports, audio jacks, Ethernet ports, video outputs (such as HDMI or DisplayPort), and other connectors for peripherals.
- Improved Layout: The ATX specification introduced a more logical and standardized layout for components on the motherboard. This facilitated better airflow, easier cable management, and improved compatibility with computer cases.
The ATX form factor has become the de facto standard for desktop computer motherboards due to its flexibility, expandability, and widespread industry adoption. It provides a standardized design that facilitates compatibility between motherboards and computer cases, power supplies, and other components.
What are the Other Common Motherboard Sizes?
In addition to ATX, there are several other common motherboard sizes or form factors used in desktop computers. Here are a few notable ones.
- Micro-ATX (mATX): Micro-ATX is a smaller form factor compared to ATX. It typically measures 9.6 x 9.6 inches (244 x 244 mm). Micro-ATX motherboards offer a balance between size, features, and expandability. They usually have fewer expansion slots and connectors compared to ATX but can still accommodate a variety of components.
- Mini-ITX: Mini-ITX is even smaller than Micro-ATX and is designed for compact and low-profile systems. It measures 6.7 x 6.7 inches (170 x 170 mm). Mini-ITX motherboards are ideal for small form factor (SFF) builds or systems with space limitations. They typically have a single expansion slot and fewer connectors, but they still support basic functionality.
- Extended ATX (EATX): Extended ATX is a larger form factor compared to ATX. It extends the dimensions of the motherboard to accommodate additional expansion slots and features. EATX motherboards are generally used in high-end or enthusiast-grade systems that require extensive connectivity and multiple graphics cards. The exact size may vary, but it typically exceeds the dimensions of ATX.
- Mini-STX: Mini-STX (Mini Socket Technology eXtended) is an even smaller form factor designed for ultra-compact systems. It measures 5.8 x 5.4 inches (147 x 140 mm) and is primarily used in small, low-power PCs. Mini-STX motherboards typically have limited expansion options and are often paired with integrated or low-profile components.
- DTX: DTX is a less common form factor that falls between Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX in size. It measures 9.6 x 8 inches (244 x 203 mm). DTX motherboards provide a balance between compactness and expandability, offering more flexibility than Mini-ITX but not as many expansion options as Micro-ATX or ATX.
While ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX are the most prevalent motherboard form factors, other sizes may be available depending on specific manufacturers and specialized applications.
Importance of ATX While Building a PC
ATX is an important consideration when building a PC due to the following reasons.
ATX is a widely adopted standard for motherboards, cases, and power supplies. Choosing an ATX motherboard ensures compatibility with ATX cases and power supplies, making it easier to select compatible components for your build. This reduces the risk of mismatched components and ensures a smoother assembly process.
ATX motherboards typically offer more expansion slots and connectors compared to smaller form factors. This allows for greater flexibility in adding additional components such as graphics cards, sound cards, and other expansion cards. If you have plans for future upgrades or require multiple expansion slots, ATX provides the necessary room for expansion.
Cooling and Airflow
ATX cases are designed with larger dimensions, providing ample space for cooling components like fans and radiators. The increased size allows for better airflow, helping to dissipate heat generated by the system’s components. Improved cooling helps maintain optimal temperatures and reduces the risk of thermal throttling, which can affect performance and longevity.
ATX cases often come with features that facilitate better cable management, such as routing holes, grommets, and tie-down points. The larger size of ATX cases provides more room to manage and route cables neatly, improving airflow, aesthetics, and ease of maintenance.
Availability and Support
ATX is the most common form factor for motherboards and cases, meaning a wider selection of options is available from various manufacturers. This makes it easier to find the specific features, performance capabilities, and price range that meet your requirements. Additionally, ATX form factor components often have extensive support and compatibility with other peripherals and accessories.
While ATX is not the only option available, its popularity and wide adoption make it a reliable choice for most PC builds.
Pros and Cons of ATX
- ATX is a widely adopted standard for motherboards, cases, and power supplies. This ensures a wide range of options and compatibility when selecting components for your build. It allows you to choose from a vast selection of ATX motherboards, cases, and other peripherals, making it easier to find the components that meet your requirements.
- ATX motherboards typically offer more expansion slots and connectors compared to smaller form factors. This provides greater flexibility for adding additional components such as graphics cards, sound cards, and networking cards. If you have plans for future upgrades or require multiple expansion options, ATX provides the necessary room for expansion.
- The larger size of ATX cases allows for better airflow and cooling potential. It provides more space for installing additional fans, liquid cooling radiators, and airflow optimization. Efficient cooling helps maintain lower temperatures for components, resulting in improved performance, stability, and longevity.
- ATX cases generally offer more room for cable management compared to smaller form factors. They often come with features like routing holes, grommets, and tie-down points, making it easier to route and manage cables neatly. Proper cable management improves airflow, reduces clutter, and facilitates easier maintenance and component upgrades.
- The larger physical dimensions of ATX motherboards and cases may require more space for installation. This can be a limitation in compact or small form factor setups where space is a constraint. ATX builds may not be suitable for those who prioritize portability or have limited desk or storage space.
- Compared to smaller form factors, ATX motherboards and cases tend to be more expensive due to their larger size and additional features. If you don’t require the extra expansion slots and space provided by ATX, opting for a smaller form factor may help save on costs.
- ATX motherboards typically require higher power supplies due to their larger size and potential for more components. This can result in higher power consumption compared to smaller form factors, which may be a consideration for energy-conscious users.
- While ATX cases offer a wide variety of options, certain niche builds or specialized requirements may have fewer case choices available. For specific needs such as extreme compactness or unique form factors, alternative form factors like mini-ITX or micro-ATX may offer more specialized case options.
What Does ATX Mean in Terms of PSU?
In terms of a power supply unit (PSU), ATX (Advanced Technology eXtended) is used to refer to power supplies that comply with the ATX form factor specification developed by Intel for computer power supplies.
ATX power supplies are designed to provide electrical power to the various components of a computer system, including the motherboard, CPU, storage drives, graphics cards, and other peripherals. They follow the ATX standard to ensure compatibility with ATX motherboards and computer cases.
Here are some key features of ATX power supplies.
- Form Factor: ATX power supplies conform to the physical dimensions and connector placements specified by the ATX form factor. This ensures that they can fit into ATX-compatible computer cases and connect to ATX motherboards.
- Power Connectors: ATX power supplies feature standardized power connectors for delivering power to the motherboard and other components. The primary connector used is the 20-pin or 24-pin main power connector that plugs into the motherboard. Additional power connectors, such as 4-pin or 8-pin CPU power connectors, are also included to provide power to the processor.
- Power Ratings: ATX power supplies come in various wattage ratings to accommodate different power requirements of computer systems. The wattage rating indicates the maximum power output that the PSU can provide to the components.
- Efficiency and Safety: ATX power supplies often adhere to efficiency standards such as 80 Plus certification, which signifies the PSU’s energy efficiency. Additionally, they incorporate safety features like overvoltage protection, undervoltage protection, short circuit protection, and other safeguards to protect the components and the power supply itself.
ATX power supplies play a crucial role in delivering stable and reliable power to a computer system, ensuring proper functioning and protection against electrical issues. They are a fundamental component of modern desktop computer setups.
What Does ATX Mean in Terms of PC Cases?
ATX PC cases are designed to accommodate ATX motherboards and provide sufficient space and mounting points for the components within the case. They follow the ATX standard to ensure compatibility and facilitate proper installation and arrangement of the components.
Here are some key features of ATX PC cases.
- Form Factor: ATX PC cases conform to the physical dimensions and layout specified by the ATX form factor. This means they have the appropriate mounting holes and standoff placements to accommodate ATX motherboards.
- Internal Layout: ATX PC cases are designed to provide ample space and organization options for the components. This includes drive bays for storage devices, expansion slots for add-on cards, and proper placement of cooling fans or liquid cooling radiators. The internal layout of ATX cases is optimized to facilitate efficient airflow and component installation.
- I/O Panel: ATX PC cases typically feature an I/O (Input/Output) panel on the front or top of the case. This panel provides convenient access to USB ports, audio jacks, and other connectors for connecting peripherals and devices.
- Expansion Slots: ATX PC cases have a sufficient number of expansion slots on the rear side. These slots align with the expansion slots on the ATX motherboard, allowing for the installation of graphics cards, sound cards, and other add-on cards.
- Compatibility: ATX PC cases are designed to be compatible not only with ATX motherboards but also with other form factors, such as micro-ATX and mini-ITX, depending on the case’s specifications. This flexibility allows users to choose different motherboard sizes while still using an ATX case.
ATX PC cases provide a standardized and widely adopted form factor for building desktop computers. They offer compatibility with a range of components and ease of installation, making them suitable for a variety of computer builds and configurations.
Different Types of Cases for ATX Motherboards
There are several types of cases available for ATX motherboards, each offering different features, sizes, and designs to cater to various preferences and needs. Here are some common types of cases for ATX motherboards.
Some of the most popular and versatile cases for ATX motherboards are Mid-tower cases. They strike a balance between size and expandability, providing ample space for components while still maintaining a manageable form factor.
Mid-tower cases usually have multiple drive bays, expansion slots, and sufficient cooling options. They are suitable for a wide range of PC builds, including gaming, workstation, and general-purpose systems.
Full-tower cases are larger and offer even more space and expandability compared to mid-tower cases. They can accommodate multiple graphics cards, numerous storage drives, and extensive cooling setups, including larger radiators.
These cases are ideal for high-end gaming rigs, content creation workstations, or systems with a need for extensive customization and future upgrades.
Compact cases are designed for those who prioritize space-saving and portability without compromising on ATX motherboard support. These cases typically have a smaller form factor while still accommodating ATX motherboards.
They are suitable for users with limited desk space, LAN party enthusiasts, or those who prefer a more minimalist and sleek setup.
Home Theater PC (HTPC) Case
HTPC cases are designed specifically for media center or home theater PC setups. These cases are typically smaller and designed to blend in with audiovisual equipment in the living room.
Some HTPC cases can accommodate ATX motherboards while offering features like front-panel HDMI ports and space for optical drives.
Open-Air Bench Case
Open-air bench cases are unconventional cases that leave the components exposed for easy access and maximum airflow. These cases typically consist of a frame or platform on which the motherboard, graphics card, and other components are mounted. Open-air cases are popular among enthusiasts and overclockers who prioritize cooling and quick component changes.
Modular cases offer a high degree of customization and flexibility. They allow users to reconfigure the internal layout, adjust the placement of drive bays and expansion slots, and sometimes even change the external appearance.
These cases often provide removable panels or trays for easy component installation and cable management.
These are just a few examples of the types of cases available for ATX motherboards.
Popular ATX Motherboards
While the popularity of specific ATX motherboards can vary over time, here are a few examples of popular ATX motherboards that have received positive reviews and gained a reputation among PC builders
ASUS ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming
This ATX motherboard from ASUS is designed for gaming enthusiasts and features support for Intel’s latest processors. It offers robust power delivery, extensive connectivity options, and features like PCIe 4.0 support and advanced cooling solutions.
MSI MPG X570 GAMING PRO CARBON WIFI
The MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon WIFI is an ATX motherboard that supports AMD Ryzen processors and features PCIe 4.0 support. It offers a sleek design, high-quality components, and features like Wi-Fi connectivity, multiple M.2 slots, and RGB lighting customization.
Gigabyte Z590 AORUS MASTER
Gigabyte’s Z590 AORUS MASTER is an ATX motherboard built for high-performance systems. It supports Intel’s latest processors, offers advanced power delivery, a robust VRM design, multiple M.2 slots, Thunderbolt 4 support, and a range of connectivity options.
ASRock B550 Taichi
The ASRock B550 Taichi is an ATX motherboard that supports AMD Ryzen processors and features PCIe 4.0 support. It offers a solid feature set, excellent power delivery, multiple M.2 slots, extensive connectivity options, and a stylish design.
MSI MAG B550 TOMAHAWK
The MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk is an ATX motherboard that supports AMD Ryzen processors and features PCIe 4.0 support. It offers a balanced feature set, solid power delivery, reinforced PCIe slots, multiple M.2 slots, and a clean design.
Popular ATX Cases
There are numerous popular ATX cases available in the market, and preferences can vary based on factors such as design, features, cooling capabilities, and price. Here are a few examples of well-regarded ATX cases that have gained popularity among PC builders.
The NZXT H510 is a sleek and minimalist ATX mid-tower case that offers a clean aesthetic and excellent cable management. It features a tempered glass side panel, multiple fan mounting points, and options for radiator placement. The H510 also includes a front-panel USB Type-C port for modern connectivity.
Fractal Design Meshify C
The Fractal Design Meshify C is a compact ATX case that prioritizes airflow and cooling performance. It features a mesh front panel for optimal airflow, a tempered glass side panel, and a versatile interior with ample space for storage drives and cable management.
Cooler Master MasterCase H500
The Cooler Master MasterCase H500 is an ATX mid-tower case known for its excellent airflow and cooling capabilities. It comes with two 200mm RGB fans at the front and a mesh front panel design to maximize airflow. The H500 also offers ample space for radiators, storage drives, and cable management.
Phanteks Eclipse P400A
The Phanteks Eclipse P400A is an ATX mid-tower case that combines style and performance. It features a mesh front panel for improved airflow, a tempered glass side panel, and customizable RGB lighting. The P400A also includes built-in fan controllers and supports water cooling options.
Corsair Carbide Series Air 540
The Corsair Carbide Series Air 540 is a unique ATX cube case with a dual-chamber design. It offers excellent airflow, spacious interiors, and support for multiple graphics cards. The Air 540 also features a clean and professional aesthetic, with options for custom water cooling setups.
ATX (Advanced Technology eXtended) has established itself as a widely adopted standard in the world of PC building. Whether it’s the motherboard, power supply, or case, the ATX form factor plays a crucial role in ensuring compatibility, expandability, and overall system performance.
The popularity of ATX is driven by its extensive support from manufacturers, offering a wide range of components and options to suit diverse needs. The importance of ATX in PC building cannot be overstated. Its compatibility ensures that you have a vast selection of motherboards, cases, and power supplies to choose from, making it easier to find the right components for your build.
The expandability of ATX motherboards provides the freedom to add additional components and peripherals, allowing for future upgrades and customization. Furthermore, the larger size of ATX cases facilitates better cooling and airflow management, leading to improved performance and system stability.
ATX form factor has revolutionized PC building by providing a standardized platform that offers compatibility, expandability, and efficient cooling solutions. It has become the go-to choice for many builders, offering a wide array of options and possibilities. By understanding the importance of ATX, you can make informed decisions when selecting components and create a custom PC build that meets your unique needs, whether it be for gaming, content creation, or professional work.