May 24 2019

Mini-ITX vs. MicroATX vs. ATX

After months of delaying (and possibly saving up cash), you finally decide to try and build your gaming rig. AMD CPUs are better suited for work purposes, so you plan to get an awesome Intel processor. Seems simple enough.

Next step? Easy. Get the best graphics card for gaming, couple it with 16 GB of RAM, and you’re good to go. You’ll figure out the rest of it along the way. Right?

Well, no.

You would already know that, had you read our guide on how to build a gaming PC. So, assuming you haven’t, I’ll be more than happy to save you from the sadness that can overcome prospective gamers when they try to stick their brand new GPU into an incompatible motherboard — breaking it along the way. I’m nice like that.

Mini ITX vs. Micro ATX vs. ATX – I’m about to help you find your ideal motherboard type. Let’s do it.

MicroATX vs. ATX vs. Mini ITX: What’s the Difference?

ATX, microATX, and Mini-ITX are the three most common types of motherboards, differentiated by their size, layout, and architecture.

Motherboard Size Chart

As you can see in the picture below, an ATX motherboard is 12″ Ă— 9.6″, making it the largest of the three; next up is microATX, measuring 9.6″ Ă— 9.6″. Finally, Mini-ITX boards are the smallest at just 6.7″ Ă— 6.7.”

Motherboards ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX

If you’ve already bought one of the best gaming PC cases, don’t worry about your motherboard not fitting in there. All modern PC chassis are built in a way that allows them to accommodate these three motherboard types. If you’re not sure which size case is best for you, check out this PC case size comparison using 3D models.

PCIe Slots

If you’ve done any research on motherboards or GPUs, you’ve most likely heard about these bad boys. So, what is PCIe? In layman’s terms, you use these slots as apertures for your graphics cards, sound cards, modems, etc.

ATX motherboards have 7 PCIe slots. MicroATX motherboards are the “middle child” because they contain 4 PCI Express slots. Mini-ITX motherboards only have a single PCIe slot.

motherboard pcie slot

A microATX board is often just right for gaming, while an ATX motherboard will likely leave you with a few extra PCIe slots. Of course, if you want to build the best gaming PC possible, you should probably go for ATX as you can make use of them.

That leaves us with Mini-ITX cases. You have to use the single PCIe slot for your graphics card, so a sound card is out of the question. Does that mean you won’t be able to hear anything while gaming? Luckily, it doesn’t—all motherboards have onboard sound cards. An external sound card would take some workload off your CPU, but it isn’t essential for enabling sound. Get the best gaming headset available, and you’ll do fine.

RAM Slots

Here’s one of the main differences between ATX and ITX motherboards. Both microATX and ATX models can support up to four sticks of RAM, meaning 128 GB if you get the 32 GB sticks. However, Mini-ITX motherboards only have two RAM slots, and each can only accommodate sticks up to 16 GB.

best ram for gaming 2 ram cards laying on each other with white background

Therefore, RAM isn’t a dealbreaker; you can easily get 2×16 GB sticks of the best gaming RAM for a Mini-ITX motherboard. This should be enough for gaming through the next decade. Surprised? Yeah, 32 GB is how much RAM you need for gaming if you don’t plan on upgrading for ten years. Otherwise, 16 GB is enough.

Mini-ITX vs. ATX vs. MicroATX: Which to Choose?

If you plan on taking your desktop over to your friend’s house, you probably need a smaller PC build. Therefore, let’s take a look at what the best gaming motherboard types are for different situations.

Best Motherboard Type for Work

For editing models, video manipulation, and graphic design work, you’ll need a powerful PC. A Mini-ITX motherboard isn’t the best choice for those applications.

However, ATX and microATX motherboards are both excellent options. MicroATX models are a bit cheaper, so they are our preferred choice. If you’re doing seriously high-performance tasks, feel free to go with ATX for the extra PCIe slots.

Best Motherboard Type for Gaming

Again, both microATX and ATX motherboards are good. However, for building extremely powerful PCs, you’d be better off using an ATX case because of the extra PCI Express slots. You can assemble a potent gaming rig using a microATX case as well, and you won’t feel a difference (at least not in the near future).

Best Motherboard for Portability

You guessed it, it’s Mini-ITX. If you want to build a tiny PC that works similarly to an awesome gaming laptop, starting with a small motherboard is a great idea.

Final Words: Mini-ITX vs. ATX vs. MicroATX

Now you know that there isn’t much difference between microATX and ATX motherboards, congratulations. It’s always good to remember that Mini-ITX models lag in terms of versatility and overall capacity. Here’s the motherboard size chart detailing all of the information you need:

Motherboard TypeMotherboard SizePCI Express SlotsMaximum RAM
ATX12 Ă— 9.6 in7128 GB
Micro-ATX9.6 Ă— 9.6 in4128 GB
Micro-ITX6.7 Ă— 6.7 in132 GB

Above all, for larger gaming or work setups, ATX is better only if you really need the extra computing power and plenty of room for cooling.

The Mini-ITX vs. microATX vs. ATX battle seems to have a clear winner. In conclusion, pairing one of the best microATX gaming cases with a high-quality microATX motherboard is the best option for building a gaming rig, regardless of your budget.


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Alex Popovic