Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX – what’s the verdict?

Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX – what’s the verdict?

Picking the motherboard is the first step towards building your own PC. Both Micro ATX and Mini ITX are incredible choices for a brand-new motherboard.

However, they vary in size and performance. In fact, Micro ATX has twice the expansion slots and overclocking capacity. Does that make mATX better than Mini ITX?

There’s no straight answer to this question. It depends on your preference and use.  We’ll talk about the technical specs and caveats of each motherboard form factor in today’s Micro ATX vs Mini ITX comparison guide.

So, yes. It’s going to be a long read. But at the end of this article, you’ll be leaving with a clear idea of which motherboard is the best for you and why!

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Micro ATX Motherboards: Technical Specifications  

If an ATX motherboard seems a bit over the top, Micro ATX is worth considering. This form factor is getting increasingly popular for building a gaming PC on a budget.

So, before you spend all your cash on a Micro ATX build, have a look at its most important specs below!

 

RAM Slots 

We’re starting off with the one feature that matters the most. The motherboard you choose will ultimately determine the maximum speed of the RAM.

If you’re considering an mATX motherboard for your PC build, we have both good news and bad news.

The good news is- the Micro ATX form factor has a higher RAM capacity compared to Mini ITX boards. Depending on how much RAM you need, you can get up to four RAM slots on Micro ATX models.

Three PCIe slots suffice for most gamers unless you’re into CPU-heavy games. So, your gaming experience with 4 RAM modules and 4 PCIe slots should be smooth sailing!

 

Expansion Slots 

Micro ATX form factors may come with two, three, or four PCI slots. To really understand what difference the number of expansion slots can make, you need to know what PCI slots do.

They connect important components (Graphics card, SSD, etc.) to the motherboard- much like the SATA drives.

PCI Express slots are the latest in line, ensuring broader bandwidth and faster processing times.

The more PCIe slots you have, the faster your PC can run. For example, mATX motherboards can support a dual GPU configuration.

The latest form factors have multi GPU compatibility. But you can get a full-fledged ATX motherboard at that price.

 

Overclocking Capacity 

Micro ATX motherboards are great for overclocking a gaming PC.  Couple that with a 4+2 power phase, and you’ll see those GPU-intensive video games in a new light.

When you overclock the GPU, games start to run more smoothly. It’s a safe way for the ATX motherboard to push the envelope without upgrading the build altogether.

One thing you should keep in mind is that overclocking puts stress on the GPU, which in turn increases the temperature.

Therefore, ATX motherboards tend to run hot. You can easily troubleshoot the problem with a VRM from ASUS, Gigabyte, or MSI.

  

What We Think About Micro ATX 

Micro ATX motherboards are similar to the more expensive ATX motherboards. They have the correct number of RAM modules, PCIe slots, and a decent overclocking capacity.

You can complete your gaming PC build with mATX anytime. Other GPU-intensive applications should run smoothly as well!

 

Pros 

  • Up to 4 RAM slots
  • Multiple PCIe slots and M.2 slots
  • Decent overclocking performance
  • Suitable for high-end gaming
  • Now available in smaller form factors
  • Supports GPU-intensive applications

Cons 

  • Users might face heating issues
  • A limited number of expansion slots

 

Our pick’s for micro ATX motherboards:

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

ASUS TUF Gaming B550M-PLUS (WiFi 6) AMD AM4 (3rd Gen Ryzen microATX...

Last update was on: September 19, 2021 4:48 am
$159.00 $169.99
  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

ASUS Prime Z590M-PLUS LGA 1200(Intel11th/10th Gen) microATX Motherboard (PCIe 4.0, 10 Power...

& Free shipping
Last update was on: September 19, 2021 4:48 am

 

Mini ITX Motherboards: Technical Specifications 

This form factor is pretty popular for its small size, so much that people tend to forget what a powerful motherboard Mini ITX is.

We’ll briefly talk about the basic specs of a Mini ITX motherboard. If you know them already, you can scroll down to our Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX discussion.

 

RAM Slots 

A Mini ITX motherboard packs only two RAM slots in its sleek case. In addition to a standard chipset, the motherboard also offers a single PCIe slot.

Yes, it’s probably a let-down for heavy gamers and 4K video editors. There’s nothing we can do about it. You may be able to upgrade your Mini ITX build. However, don’t expect a gaming PC to run on this particular form factor.

Then why are Mini ITX motherboards so expensive? It’s a question we always get asked. And rightfully so.

If Mini ITX form factors have fewer PCIe slots and less RAM, why do motherboard manufacturers charge that much for them? The answer is in the next section!

 

Portability  

Small form factor cases are worth it when you’re always on the move. You can just pack them up and leave. So, if you hated the tower PC case for Micro ATX motherboards, you’ll love the Mini ITX size for sure.

To pack an advanced technology in a compact size, manufacturers have to use beefier VRMs. And this is why Mini ITX motherboards are expensive.

We personally prefer a small form factor PC ourselves. It makes your gaming nook or home office look more sophisticated.

To spice things up a bit, you can use a single-slot graphics card with a liquid cooling solution. Even after using up all the PCIe slots and SATA ports, Mini ITX cases are still more lightweight than Micro ATX.  

 

Power Consumption 

Compared to standard ATX motherboards, Mini ITX burns less power to run. It’s also less likely to get heated from overclocking. Make sure that your desktop computer is getting a clean power supply, and this motherboard will handle the rest.

Mini ITX motherboards support a wide range of display ports. This feature comes in handy when you hook up the PC to your home theater setup.

Additionally, Mini ITX motherboards with a USB 3.0 port are compatible with external storage devices such as hard drives, solid-state drives, and USB flash drives.

 

What We Think About Mini ITX 

As reliable as Mini ITX motherboards are, they have a limited scope for upgrades. Standard Mini ITX motherboards are not the best for gaming. You have to look at extremely high-end configurations for gaming rigs, which is financially a hassle.

 

Pros 

  • A compact motherboard for basic use
  • Less power consumption
  • Mini ITX cases are lightweight
  • Advanced technology with decent RAM capacity
  • Compatible with newer generations of processors

Cons 

  • Only one PCIe slot is available
  • Weak overclocking capacity for gamers

 

Our pick’s for mini ITX motherboards:

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

ASUS ROG Strix B550-I Gaming AMD AM4 (3rd Gen Ryzen Mini-ITX SFF...

& Free shipping
Last update was on: September 19, 2021 4:48 am
  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

ASUS ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming Z490 (WiFi 6) LGA 1200 (Intel 10th...

& Free shipping
Last update was on: September 19, 2021 4:48 am
$229.99 $259.99

 

Comparing Micro ATX and Mini ITX Motherboards 

We’re glad that you’re considering both Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboards for your PC build. However, you can take only one of them home. So, which motherboard form factor is it going to be?

To help you with the whole Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX situation, we’re comparing both motherboards against their main specs. Want to build the ultimate desktop PC in your budget?  Keep reading. Number 4 will shock you!

 

Form Factor 

Micro ATX cases are smaller than the traditional ATX case. We personally like sleek computers, so we weren’t big on the ATX form factor from the start.

For what it’s worth, small form factor cases will save you some space—half the space, to be specific. Mini ITX cases are more compact than Micro ATX cases.

Plus, you don’t have to get a supersized tower PC case and spoil your gaming room aesthetics.

As far as portability is concerned, a mid-tower case is where we draw the line. You can have different opinions. But if we were to build a compact PC entirely on our size preferences, Mini ITX cases would be the winner.

 

Memory 

If you’re only considering these two form factors, a Micro ATX motherboard will give you more PCIe slots and RAM.

Okay, but which motherboard is better for a multi GPU setup?

Mini ITX motherboards, with their two RAM slots, won’t get you far in terms of memory and speed. Although, the difference is negligible for the average gamer.

So, the bottom line is- if you want the option to expand your PC’s memory at some point, MatX motherboards are the way to go!

 

Multi GPU Compatibility 

Want higher frame rates in your new PC? Then it would be best if you considered multi GPU setups.

They allow an incredible graphics performance and give a new definition to video games. So, while a single GPU is economical for most users, gamers usually prefer a multi GPU configuration.

That brings us to the question- “Can I run dual GPU on a Mini ITX motherboard?” You sure can.

But unless it has an advanced chipset and memory backup, we don’t see how it works. First, you get less than three PCIe slots on Mini ITX boards. Pair it up with only two RAM slots, and you have an average build for video editors at best.

As you can see, Micro ATX easily wins this round in Mini ITX vs. Micro ATX comparison. Let’s see where they stand on expansion slots!

 

Room for Expansion 

With four expansion slots, Micro ATX is our number one choice for CPU-heavy gaming rigs.

Standard Mini ITX motherboards came with a single slot, but these days you get up to two expansion slots. Look at the ASUS ROG Strix B550-I AMD AM4 Mini ITX motherboard, for example.

Its B550 chipset allows you to expand the RAM up to 64 Gigabytes and then run it on 5100 MHz max speed like a Micro ATX motherboard.

So, the real range of expansion also depends on the chipset and the socket.

The best thing about Micro ATX boards is that they have multiple PCIe lanes. You need at least one PCIe slot to run a graphics card.

So, if you have another PCIe slot on standby, you can get an Nvidia SLI to complement an AMD CrossFireX and vice versa.

The result is getting pretty apparent in this Mini ITX vs. Micro ATX challenge. On the one hand, we have the powerful overclocking feature of mATX.

And on the other, we have Mini ITX’s compact, power-saving technology. Spoiler alert- Mini ITX will pull ahead very soon! Just keep reading!

 

Overall Configuration  

We’re impressed with the Mini ITX motherboard, except for its limited number of RAM modules. Then again, not all motherboards can be punched into a 6.7” ×6.7” size.

High-end ATX motherboards are often past the 10” ×10” ceiling, which makes them chunkier and, not to mention, noisier. Mini ITX motherboards have corrected the heating issues we faced with mATX circuit boards.

So, we’re sticking with Mini ITX for the average man. It calls for a better-looking case that you can fit anywhere. And the 64 GB memory lets you enjoy the occasional RAM-hungry games.

We can’t promise you the best overclocking experience, especially with Mini ITX motherboards.

If that’s something you see yourself doing, Micro ATX is the better option. It’s got four PCIe slots, four RAM modules, and supports multi GPU setups for the most graphically demanding PC games.

 

Connectivity Ports 

Putting aside the size, performance, and portability bits, we still have a lot to look at the connectivity ports in our Mini ITX vs. Micro ATX review. Let’s start with SATA ports, shall we? These are basically the numbers of hard drives and optical drives supported by the motherboard.

Our ideal mATX motherboard looks like one with an HDD, a Blu Ray Drive, and a solid-state drive. So, you need three of these connectors to build a budget-friendly gaming PC.

You’re probably wondering why we didn’t use the word “best.” The best Micro ATX motherboard should have four SATA connectors so you can install a second internal hard drive later on.

Micro ATX boards have four SATA connectors at the least. Not to mention, we have seen Mini ITX motherboards with twice as many SATA connectors.

So, it’s a tie in Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX for now. Hopefully, the price-performance ratio will help you choose better motherboard form factors.

 

Price/Performance Ratio 

In our experience, the mATX motherboard packed more punch. Mini ITX motherboards are the best for home theaters, and regular PC builds.

Their basic features include a single PCIe slot and two RAM modules, which cover most requirements of the average user.

Does that mean you can’t build a high-end gaming PC with an mATX motherboard? Of course, you can. Get a motherboard that pushes overclocking to the extreme. It’s a smart way to get the powerful specs of an ATX motherboard at half the price.

To make the most out of your new motherboard, buy one with a 4+2 phase. Motherboards with more power phases overclock the CPU better.

If you have the option, pick one from 6+2 ATX models. A Micro ATX motherboard is comparatively better for a high-end gaming PC.

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

 

  1. Are Micro ATX motherboards good for gaming?

Micro ATX boards are good for gaming because their advanced technology can support two graphics cards (for example RTX 3080)

They’re also able to overclock the GPU for a longer timer. Plus, you have 4 RAM modules at your disposal. So, you can easily upgrade your PC without storage issues.

 

  1. Are Mini ITX motherboards worth it? 

Micro ATX features might seem more powerful in comparison to Mini ITX. But, a Mini ITX motherboard is definitely worth it when you want a smaller setup with fewer heating issues.

 

  1. What are the main differences between a Mini ITX and a Micro ATX motherboard? 

A Micro ATX motherboard has 4 RAM modules and 2 PCI Express slots. On the other hand, a Mini ITX motherboard has two RAM slots. So, it’s not compatible with multi GPU setups in general. Mini ITX motherboards struggle to overclock the GPU, so they can’t dramatically improve the speed.

 

Conclusion 

There’s no “One size fits all” when it comes to building a PC. So, a motherboard that is more than enough for regular use may not be the best choice for gaming.

We like to play video games every once in a while to blow off some steam. And a Micro ATX motherboard is fully equipped to handle that level of overclocking. We hope you liked our Micro ATX vs. Mini ITX comparison guide. Thanks for reading!

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