A lot of people get hung up on what form factor they should pick when choosing a motherboard, the cheaper & smaller mATX, or the slightly more expensive & larger ATX? There are other options to choose from but these 2 are the most commonly used, so let’s take a look at which is going to give you a better bang for your buck when building a gaming PC.
One of the first differences that anyone will notice between an mATX and an ATX motherboard is the size. Most micro-ATX motherboards will have less available ports than an ATX board, a good example would be how many available slots for RAM there are – most mATX will usually have 2, ATX will almost always have 4. That said, there are exceptions in both and you can find either with various amounts of ports.
So, if you’re planning to build something more basic and upgrade it as you go, an ATX motherboard might be better for you. But, if you’re building a budget gaming PC that you’re just going to use until you need to build a new one, then an mATX board might help save you a few $ in the short-term.
Space is something else to consider, and if you’re worried about saving as much of it as possible, an mATX motherboard might open the door for other space-saving options that we’ll go over further into the post.
Loaded or Basic?
We also want to consider what kind of features we will need. Some people might want a motherboard that makes overclocking super easy to do, some people might want something with a more traditional BIOS, and some people just want something that’ll work and never need to be touched again.
Depending on what kind of person you are, there is definitely a motherboard that’ll be perfect for your own personalized needs. With this in mind, ATX motherboards will generally be more feature-rich, and mATX boards are usually more basic & budget oriented.
Not all mATX motherboards are for the budget-minded builder, though, and some come with the similar high-end features that you would get out of ATX boards. Take the $200 ASUS ROG Maximus VIII as an example of a fully-loaded mATX mobo.
Because mATX and ATX motherboards are sized differently, it would be a fair to assume that there’s going to be different cases for either – and there are. If you’re concerned with saving as much space as you can, then an mATX motherboard inside of an mATX case would do that for you, and some cases will even accomodate long GPUs and thick CPU coolers. Cooler Master’s mATX N200 case would be a prime example of something that allows you to save space and dollars.
You don’t necessarily have to use an mATX case if you’re going to use an mATX motherboard, though, and most ATX cases will have mounts for the smaller sized mobo. Personally, I think this setup can look kind of silly, so I’ll never build like this. If you want to slap an mATX mobo into an ATX case, feel free to do so!
Your budget is something that should be considered when picking out your motherboard, because like I’ve already mentioned, you can get mATX motherboards for considerably cheaper than ATX boards. These budget-level mATX boards (usually under $80) aren’t going to be anything fancy, and they’ll likely give you less ports than you’d like, but it’ll also save you around $20, or so.
In my opinion, that $20 is well spent on an ATX motherboard if you’re not concerned about saving space, but that’s just because I see the benefit in having a large upgrade path in a budget build. I generally think that it’s better to have room to grow, as opposed to capping yourself out right away.
Although there are a few other form-factors aside from mATX and ATX, these are the 2 most popular sizes of motherboards that are used in custom builds. Which form-factor you decide to go with is entirely up to you and what you need. Do you just need a cheap & small gaming PC that saves space and money? Or do you want a PC with some room to grow?
At the end of the day, both ATX and mATX form-factors serve their purposes, but they’re catering to different people.
If you have any questions, comments, or anything else, feel free to leave them below!