When buying components for a new PC, people often wonder what the difference is between Micro ATX and ATX Form Factors.
This is usually because of the vast price difference between the two, and when you’re on a budget, buying a cheaper motherboard might mean you can get a slightly better graphics card or processor.
If you’re in this situation, or if you’re thinking about simply upgrading your motherboard, you absolutely need to know the differences between mATX and ATX ‘mobos’.
Micro ATX Vs. ATX Motherboards: The Key Differences
Micro ATX Motherboards are small, inexpensive and require smaller towers which can be economical for those who don’t have a lot of space or a huge budget.
You can get some great mATX motherboards, that support all the latest processor chipsets. They’ll support all but the most expensive graphics cards and have two RAM slots.
mATX motherboards are at the heart of most budget builds, as they require less power to run than their ATX counterparts.
Generally, these motherboards have nothing wrong with them other than the fact that they limit your overall ability to really customize and tweak your PC with the very best components.
The main downside to these motherboards in our opinion is that they don’t deal with heat as well, so unless you have some brilliant cooling systems in place (which is harder with mATX anyway) then they’re not going to last as long as an ATX motherboard.
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All too often as well, a motherboard that becomes faulty can often damage other components in the process. So it might be a good short term fix, but you shouldn’t expect a mATX build PC to last for more than 2 years.
ATX Motherboards or ‘Full ATX’ are larger and more expensive, requiring a large PC tower and usually a more powerful PSU (Power Supply Unit).
Aside from this some of the main differences for serious gamers are that there are more RAM slots, more PCI-E slots and so on.
These motherboards are what I’d consider must-haves for anyone who is planning to use SLI or Crossfire, for those who want to have the best wireless adapter or have a 4K display resolution.
Those, of course, are just a few examples of end-users who would be better off with a Full ATX Mobo.
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There are other important key differences as well though…
ATX Motherboards are superior to mATX ones for heat distribution as well, this is a key factor in the shelf life of your motherboard. A hotter motherboard will fail sooner, and in the long run you’ll probably end up spending more.
Which One’s For You?
Ultimately there’s not a huge difference between these two types of motherboards, you’ve just got to weigh up the pros and the cons of each.
Full ATX motherboards are undoubtedly superior for gaming, provided you have the space and the budget. While mATX mobos are brilliant for those who just need a temporary gaming setup while they’re saving for a newer, better build or for those who don’t have the space to accommodate a Full ATX tower.