Computer motherboards come in all sorts of formats today, depending on the dimension and purpose of the computer system.
The most frequently used motherboard formats are the ATX, micro-ATX (mATX) and mini-ITX. Despite the obvious difference in size, their basic structure doesn’t differ so much as one would think. They all use basically the same chipsets and sockets for the processor and memory modules. The big difference is in the number of expansion slots.
ATX motherboards usually have up to 7 expansion slots. The type of the slots depends on the chipset, some have 7 PCI-Express 16X slots, while others just one and offer more backwards compatibility for PCI. ATX motherboards are based on expansion cards, so very few have on-board graphics (as part of the chipset). The chipset consists of the two larger chips on the motherboard, covered with relatively large heat sinks. These create the interface between all components installed in slots and sockets on the motherboard. The industry is slowly moving towards integrating everything into the processor, Intel successfully included the memory controller and graphics processor on the processor while AMD integrated just the memory controller into the CPU.
That’s how connections are made within the computer system, but external input/output devices are connected through the rear I/O panel. Here are ports like LAN, COM, LPT, audio, USB, Firewire, PS2 and sometimes VGA/DVI/HDMI out (if there’s an on-board graphics card or one integrated in the CPU). The rest of the motherboard‘s components don’t require any explanations, what I would like to mention however is that the computer industry is about to abandon the IDE and FDD controller. The PCI slot may have a few years left, but there already are some motherboards that have only PCI-Express 1-16X ports.
The mATX motherboard form factor has basically the same parts as the ATX, but with fewer expansion slots, only 4 to be more exact.
Some manufacturers don’t see it as a bad thing, they managed to implement two PCI-Express 16X slots for gaming computer systems. Two such slots are enough for most gamers, because the most extra horsepower you get with the second graphics card, while the third and fourth offer far less advantages. This specific board doesn’t have IDE nor FDD controllers, just SATA. As you can see all parts of this motherboard are much closer to each other, but that’s not a bad thing as long as proper cooling is insured. When we look at benchmarks, mATX boards are just as fast as their ATX cousins, that have the same chipset of course. Please note that some chipsets are made exclusively for mATX or just for ATX motherboards.
While this specific motherboard has almost all the features of a complete computer system, it lacks the PCI-Express 16x slot for a gaming graphics card. There are a few models out there that have exactly on PCI-Express 16x slot, but the big majority has only a PCI or PCI-Express 1X-4X (or none at all). These very small motherboards also have fewer memory slots, usually two, but there are some models with only one memory slot.
In conclusion the size of the motherboard directly influences speed and maximum memory capacity, but not the other features. Even with no expansion slots at all, most type of components (TV-Tuner, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module, additional network card, sound card …etc) can be connected through USB ports.11
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