If you are looking for the best Micro ATX motherboard vs ATX motherboards, then look no further. I have set out to compare the performance of their latest boards from ASUS, EVGA, MSI, and ASRock. The reason why I looked at micro Atx motherboards is that Intel has released a new generation of processors that require only 115W to run in comparison to the older ones which require 135W.
Micro ATX vs ATX Motherboard
In case you didn’t know there are 2 main types of motherboards; Micro ATX (mATX) and ATX. These sizes vary in size and space availability allowing for different setups overall. For example, an mATX can hold half as many PCI devices as its larger counterpart, but it also takes up less space which is ideal for smaller cases.
The other major difference between ATX and mATX motherboards is the layout if there are any onboard components such as USB headers, audio ports, etc. All these factors make an impact when it comes to performance especially in gaming.
There’s also a third motherboard size called Mini ITX where integrated graphics prevail but this specific article will concentrate on only 2 types of motherboards; micro Atx vs Atx. The reason being that they are the most common sizes used by both gamers and PC enthusiasts alike. So without further due let us get into the main differences between ATX vs Micro ATX motherboards:
Layout and space available
As mentioned above layouts and space availability differ between ATX and mATX motherboards. The mATX has fewer ports such as USB or audio ports which is a downside when it comes to performance.
The layout of components:
Intel, AMD, and most other manufacturers have designed their boards to incorporate as many components on-board with the use of chipsets and slots for maximum compatibility even though this reduces overall performance due to board size constraints.
mATX is smaller compared to ATX motherboards; hence they are normally cheaper. This makes them ideal for budget builds where one wants an affordable rig without compromising much.
However, I personally prefer full-sized motherboards because they offer more space ultimately improving system stability and increase upgrade potential. It’s like having a lot more space to work with which is not the case with mATX boards.
Full-sized motherboards have the ability to overclock better in comparison to their smaller counterparts using aftermarket CPU coolers. This is because they offer a larger surface area for heat dissipation, also those that come with built-in fans such as Asrock Z97 Extreme 4 are able to perform even better because of active cooling.
An ATX board requires a considerable amount of power compared to its micro Atx counterpart; this proves detrimental when overclocking and leads towards instability issues during gaming sessions. Therefore it is logical and by simply looking at the numbers that a micro Atx motherboard is not made to overclock and will perform worse than its full-sized counterpart.
Few ATX motherboards are designed for integrated graphics only which means there are no ports available to connect onboard audio or video cards and processors. This can lead to limited performance because you cannot take advantage of your motherboard capabilities when upgrading.
The reason why mATX is so popular is due to maximizing compatibility with all components even if they exceed space availability as mentioned above such as high-end sound cards, video cards, USB, etc.
The second difference in ports availability between ATX vs Micro ATX boards is that most ATX boards have more USB ports available for connection of peripheral devices.
Another downside to mATX motherboards is that they normally come with integrated graphics only and lack different slots to connect PCI, PCIe video cards, and CPU in general. This can be a setback for those who want something long-term and prefer not to max out the budget when purchasing components.
The overall differences between ATX vs Micro ATX motherboards
Both these motherboard sizes offer excellent options although it depends on what your needs are as a gamer or PC enthusiast. For me personally, I will recommend a full-sized motherboard because they allow you to take advantage of all hardware instabilities without compromising much i.e size or space availability.
Many gamers seek stability more than anything when building their rig and like to avoid possible compatibility issues. The main reasons why I personally prefer ATX motherboards are:
Increased overclock capabilities due to larger CPU cooler surface area for heat dissipation. In comparison, small mATX motherboards with fans installed perform worse in this category.
Added Extra PCI slots
Most full-sized motherboards allow an extra PCI slot which is especially useful if you plan to upgrade your system sometime in the future by adding another graphics card or even a sound card, ultimately improving overall performance.
This will also help in terms of expansion because it leaves room for further upgrades such as add-on cards, memory, etc. However, if you prefer long term stable gaming system full-size motherboards are the way to go.
ATX vs Micro ATX: Next Generation?
As far as the next generation of motherboards is concerned I’m very impressed with mITX boards although they come at a premium because they provide an almost similar experience to “built” traditional desktop PCs i.e without the messier cables and space limitations when building your own PC. They allow for enhanced cooling, easier airflow, and even better stability due to the smaller PCB design vs the standard ATX motherboard’s larger form factors.
A few examples of excellent mITX boards include Gigabyte Z87N-WIFI which comes with WiFi support but lacks overclocking features in comparison to the Z87 version.
If you’re planning to make your own rig I highly recommend mITX motherboards. If you’re looking for a high-end gaming system though go full size or even better, a water-cooled ATX board. These have large CPU blocks and larger heatsinks which means they dissipate heat much better than smaller boards.
In conclusion, Micro ATX vs ATX motherboard performance is not the same as one might expect which is why it’s an advantage to see both options in action before finalizing on either choice especially if you are going for longer-term.