Types of Motherboard: All That You Need to Know

typesofmotherboardA motherboard is the heart of a computer. It is the main printed circuit board present in the computers which holds the main electronic components of the system like the central processing unit and memory and also provides the connectors for other important peripherals. A motherboard is a large system in itself which contains a number of subsystems like the processor and other components. The basic function for which a motherboard is used in a computer is that it holds the important electronic components of the system including the memory and central processing unit and helps in establishing some sort of bridged connection between other internal components of the system. This well written article about the parts and functions of a motherboard will give you more information about all the important parts of a motherboard and the functions performed by these parts in proper detail.

The understanding of the components and functions of a motherboard is also important if you want to be able to design your own computer. As the motherboard is the most important part of a computer system, understanding its components and working properly is very important to be able to design and build your own computer. This course about how to build a computer will help you in understanding the importance of a motherboard in a computer system and will provide you with all the information about building your very own computer system.

Here we are going to study about the different types of motherboard which are available. We will discuss each of these types in detail and will see how all these are different from each other. Let us now start our discussion about the different types of motherboard.

AT Motherboard

An AT motherboard is a motherboard which has dimensions of the order of some hundred millimeters, big enough to be unable to fit in mini desktops. The dimensions of this motherboard make it difficult for the new drives to get installed. The concept of six pin plugs and sockets is used so as to work as the power connectors for this type of motherboards.

The hard to distinguish power connector sockets make it difficult for many users to easily make the proper connections and thus leading to the damage of the device.

Produced in the mid 80’s, this motherboard lasted a good span from the Pentium p5 to the times when Pentium 2 had been started to be used.

ATX Motherboard

Advanced technology extended, or popularly known as the ATX, are the motherboards which were produced by the Intel in mid 90’s as an improvement from the previously working motherboards such as AT.

This type of motherboards differ from their AT counterparts in the way that these motherboards allow the interchangeability of the connected parts. Moreover the dimensions of this motherboard are smaller than the AT motherboards and thus proper place for the drive bays is also allowed.

Some good changes were also made to the connector system of the board. The AT motherboards had a keyboard connector and on the back plates extra slots were provided for various add-ons.

LPX Motherboard

The low profile extension motherboards, better known as LPX motherboards, were created after the AT boards in the 90’s.

The major difference between these and previous boards is that the input and output ports in these boards are present at the back of the system. This concept proved to be beneficial and was also adopted by the AT boards in their newer versions. The use of a riser card was also made for the placement of some more slots. But these riser cards also posed a problem that the air flow was not  proper.

Also, some low quality LPX boards didn’t even have real AGP slot and simply connected to the PCI bus. All these unfavored aspects led to the extinction of this motherboard system and was succeeded by the NLX.

BTX Motherboard

BTX stands for Balanced Technology extended.

BTX was developed to reduce or avoid some of the issues that came up while using latest technologies. Newer technologies often demand more power and they also release more heat when implemented on motherboards in accordance with the circa-1996 ATX specification. The ATX standard and the BTX standard, both were proposed by Intel. The further development of BTX retail products was canceled in September 2006 by Intel after the acceptance of Intel’s decision to focus again on low-power CPUs after suffering issues such as scaling and thermal with the Pentium 4.

The first company to use, or to be precise, implement BTX was Gateway Inc, followed by Dell and MPC. Apple’s MacPro uses only some of the elements of the BTX design system but it is not BTX compliant. This type of motherboard has some improvements over previous technologies:

  • Low-profile – With the larger demand for ever-smaller systems, a redesigned backplane that shaves inches off the height requirements is a benefit to system integrators and enterprises which use rack mounts or blade servers.
  • Thermal design – The BTX design provides a straighter path of airflow with lesser difficulties, which results in better overall cooling capabilities. Instead of a dedicated cooling fan, a large 12 cm case-fan is mounted, that draws its air directly from outside the computer and then cools the CPU through an air duct. Another feature of BTX is the vertical mounting of the motherboard on the left-hand side. This kind of feature results in the graphics card heat sink or fan facing upwards, rather than in the direction of the adjacent expansion card.
  • Structural design – The BTX standard specifies distinct locations for hardware mounting points and hence reduces latency between key components. It also reduces the physical strain imposed on the motherboard by heat sinks, capacitors and other components which are dealing with electrical and thermal regulation.

Pico BTX Motherboard

Pico BTX is a motherboard form factor that is meant to manufacture even smaller size BTX standard. This is smaller than many current “micro” sized motherboards, hence the name “Pico” has been used. These motherboards share a common top half with the other sizes in the BTX line, but they support only one or two expansion slots, designed for half-height or riser-card applications.

In the initial stages of usage, the ATX and BTX motherboards were so analogous that moving a BTX motherboard to an ATX case was possible and vice-versa. At later stages, the BTX form factor had a large modification which was done by turning it into a mirror image of the ATX standard. Technically speaking, BTX motherboards are ‘left side-right’ when compared to ATX and not upside-down as before. This means they are mounted on the opposite side of the case. Various computer cases for instance, the Cooler Master Series (Stackers) were released to support a wide range of motherboard standards such as ATX, BTX, Mini-ATX and so on, in order to simplify motherboard development without buying a new case; however, all connector and slot standards are identical, including PCI(e) cards, processors, RAM, hard drives, etc.

BTX power supply units can be exchanged with latest ATX12V units, but not with older ATX power supplies that don’t have the extra 4-pin 12V connector.

Mini ITX Motherboard

Mini-ITX is a 17 × 17 cm (6.7 × 6.7 in) low-power motherboard form factor. It was designed by VIA Technologies in year 2001. These are largely used in small form factor (SFF) computer systems. Mini-ITX boards can also be cooled easily because of their low power consumption architecture. Such an architecture makes them widely useful for home theater PC systems or systems where fan noise can diminish the quality or worth of cinema experience. The four mounting holes in a Mini-ITX board line up with the four holes in ATX specification motherboards, and the locations of the back plate and expansion slot are the same. Although, one of the holes used was optional in earlier versions of the ATX. Hence, Mini-ITX boards can be used in places which are designed for ATX, micro-ATX and other ATX variants if required.

The Mini-ITX form factor has location for one expansion slot, pertaining to a standard 33 MHz 5V 32-bit PCI slot. However, often case designs use riser cards and some even have two-slot riser cards, even when the two-slot riser cards are not usable with all the boards. A few boards based around non-x86 processors have a 3.3V PCI slot, and the Mini-ITX 2.0 (2008) boards have a PCI-express ×16 slot. Such boards are not used with the standard PCI riser cards supplied with cases.

Now that you know how to choose your motherboard you can also build your dream PC using it. Every PC requires an operating system and you can check out this interesting blog post on choosing the right operating system for your PC. This article provides a detailed outline of two of the most popular operating systems, Linux and Windows, allowing you to determine which will suite your needs better. However, if you want to learn more about these operating systems before making a choice, check out this online course for an in-depth introduction to Linux or this online course if you want to master Windows 8.

Another important aspect about using the proper motherboard for your computer is that it affects the speed of the computer system. A good motherboard, which will be properly compatible with the components of a computer system, will enhance the speed of the computer, while a motherboard which is not compatible with the components of a computer system will negatively affect the speed of the system. This course about how to speed up your computer will give you a better understanding about the role a motherboard plays in the efficient and high speed working of a computer system and will give you important information about the ways to improve the speed of your computer.