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What is Mini ITX Motherboard?
Mini-ITX refers to a form factor of a motherboard that is more compact, small in size, and low-cost. These motherboards measure just 170 mm × 170 mm but are powerful with full-feature abilities.
- The Mini ITX motherboards are designed to build smaller computing devices and for using in discrete spaces and for fan-less cooling.
- The unique feature of these boards is that it is backward compatible and these are pretty much the same as the micro ATX and flex ATX boards.
- These boards are good to use for basic and less-intense computing tasks and they save huge amounts of power while operating silently.
- The lifespan of these boards are usually short and they also come with a few architectural limitations and lower expansion options.
Understanding Mini ITX Motherboard
The Mini-ITX is called so because of its small size which is 17 × 17 cm or 6.7 × 6.7 inches.
These small form factor motherboards are typically used to build small computer systems.
The smaller configurations of these motherboards help it to be used in smaller and discrete spaces.
Originally, these smaller motherboards were used extensively for fan-less cooling.
These were considered to be niche products then because of several reasons such as:
- It consumed much less power and
- Due to its architecture, it could operate silently.
Therefore, when these were used in building the home theater PCs later on, there was no noise or over consumption of power that would detract a viewer from a higher and better cinematic experience.
The precision designing of the mini ITX motherboards typically resembles that of the ATX specification boards and includes:
- Four mounting holes that are lined up with four holes in the ATX-specification boards and
- An expansion slot and backplate that are in the same locations of the said board.
It is this resemblance in the architectural features that makes the mini ITX boards very appropriate and usable in cases that are specially intended for using ATX, micro-ATX or any other variants of ATX motherboards.
However, it has provision for only two RAM modules. This means that you can upgrade the memory up to 32 GB by using two separate 16 GB memory kits.
The board also comes with an expansion slot. The specification of this slot has however changed over time.
There were also some other types of boards that came with a non-x86 processor and had a 3.3-volt PCI slot.
Also, there were several older case designs that used a riser card, and some even had two slots for riser cards.
On the other hand, the mini-ITX 2.0 boards, released in 2008, came with a PCI Express ×16 slot.
These boards cannot however support standard PCI riser cards that are provided with the traditional ITX cases.
Mini-ITX or mITX motherboards were introduced by VIA technologies as a humble beginning in November 2001.
However, it was suitable for industrial use because it came with embedded circuit boards.
Then, with the rise in demand for Home Theater Personal Computers or HTPCs as well as the popularity of Small Form Factor or SFF computers in recent years, this small form factor motherboards came into the limelight.
This became the most effective, prevalent and common motherboard that is used extensively to build pint-sized computers.
However, there are also several other features that sets the mini ITX motherboards apart from the others, besides the small size of it. These features include:
- It needs much less power supply, often less than 100 watts
- It uses x86 processor that needs less power to perform at high levels and
- The processor is soldered to the board and cooled by only a heatsink instead of a combination of a fan and a heatsink.
Apart from the structural difference, there is also a significant difference of the different components used in making this unique motherboard. It includes:
- A built-in audio, video, and Local Area Network or LAN connection
- Two USB or Universal Serial Bus ports
- An audio input and output slot
- A serial and parallel port and
- A Peripheral Component Interconnect or PCI slot that supports two devices with one riser card.
A mini ITX motherboard has enough power to support a computer to perform everyday tasks as well. These tasks include:
- Word processing
- Web browsing
- E-mailing and
- Listening to music.
Uses of Mini ITX Motherboard
A mini ITX motherboard is suitable for use in computers that are not intended to be compact and used as a portable device for high-end gaming and complex computing tasks. It is all due to the size of the graphics card.
A mini ITX can be ideally and successfully used for:
- Browsing the Internet
- Less intense multimedia jobs and
- Occasional office work.
The typical configuration of a mini ITX motherboard makes it the best board to use for low-cost computers that are needed to be used in small as well as inconspicuous spaces. For all other jobs you will need a macro motherboard.
You will find a mini ITX motherboard used in different devices such as:
- Set-top boxes
- Automobile dashboards
- Other network devices and
- Thinner computers.
These motherboards support applications and tasks like playing music in malls and supermarkets, driving content on several digital display screens, and for powering those self-service kiosks in a departmental store.
Most of the users possess this opinion that a mini PC, or the ones that come with a mini ITX motherboard to be precise, usually lasts for only about 2/3 years. However, this is somewhat true and mostly wrong. This is due to several reasons as follows.
- First of all, there is no such thing called the ‘life of a motherboard.’ If you use it sensibly and do the things the way you should be doing, then your system can last much more than that.
- Secondly, after 2/3 years you can upgrade the parts simply, bit by bit. This means that you will not have to buy a new PC entirely, saving a lot of money in the process.
A mini ITX motherboard does not mean that it will die faster. It is just the fact that these smaller motherboards can perform less functions and comes with fewer added craps.
It is the components installed on it that can actually fail, depending on the usage and how you handle them, and affect the life of the motherboards negatively.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the mini ITX motherboard will function within its limits and if you are worried about its life, rest assured that it will be the same as any other type of motherboards.
The only difference in this form factor and others will be in the memory slots and PCI Express.
However, there is a bit of your luck factor in it. Just like all electronic devices and spare parts, a mini ITX motherboard may die after just one year or continue to function efficiently, as it should, for ten years at a stretch!
The good thing is that most of the mini ITX motherboards come with a three-year warranty, depending on the manufacturer.
Therefore, barring power surges and bad caps or any out-of-the-box defects, the mini ITX motherboards will not die anytime soon.
1. Popular for HTPCs
If you want to have a computer for your home theater, then the mini ITX motherboard is the one you should go for. This is the most common form factor for home theater PCs because, in general, these computers have a very low performance requirement.
The systems can run efficiently with a low power CPU and graphics card of a mini ITX motherboard.
2. Silent operation
The mini ITX motherboard is not only small in size that can fit inside the cabinet easily but will also operate silently.
This is a huge benefit for those users who need a basic computer that does not come with a magnificent full tower system with four graphics cards to watch a few videos or surf the internet.
3. Huge power saving
If you want a small computer that will not use much power to operate, then, one that comes with a mini ITX motherboard is the best option to choose.
This will allow you to do all basic computing tasks and save energy at the same time, keeping your utility bills much lower as compared to other high-end computers.
4. Save a lot of space
If you have space limitations in your home and saving it is an important factor for you, then this is the specific motherboard form factor you should choose.
In most of the cases the mini ITX cases are not bigger than a large shoe box. Therefore, you can use it anywhere and, at the same time, you will be able to make a lot of leg room and place your desktop according to your convenience.
5. Suitable for small offices
Not only in small homes, a mini ITX computer is also very beneficial for use in offices where space is a luxury and comes at a premium and people work in small, compact cubicles. Well, everything, however, depends on the placement of the computer.
6. Portability factor
If you want a semi-portable computer, then the mini ITX form factor is ideal for you.
However, this does not mean that you will be able to slip it inside your backpack but the compact form of the computer and the average weight of 8.8 to 15.4 pounds will be very helpful for you when you want to transport the system.
This will not be an ordeal for those gamers as well while they attend LAN parties or to those people who have to relocate themselves often, such as foreign workers and hotel students.
7. Overclocking or high performance
One specific situation when you should surely avoid using a mini ITX motherboard is when you want high performance or overclocking of the CPU. This is one of the most significant drawbacks of this form factor.
Though the modern versions of mini ITX motherboards can handle mainstream gaming, however, they are not good for high clock speeds and do not have that raw processing power.
8. CPU support
The mini ITX boards will not be able to provide adequate support to those high-performing CPUs like Intel Extreme processors and others.
These processors, in general, use a lot of power to operate and this mini ITX motherboard is simply not the one to handle such high requirements of power with its VRM or Voltage Regulator Module. This does not have enough room for a four channel RAM either.
9. Architectural limitations
There are also a few limitations in the design and structure of the mini ITX motherboards that does not allow high processing and overclocking.
These limitations seriously affect the performance of the CPU, graphics card and RAM, when pushed.
This is due to the low phase power, less space available for a tower heat sink fan, and no room for ensuring a proper air flow within, which severely impairs the functionality of these components.
10. Expansion options
You will have very limited upgrade or expansion options in your computer when you use a mini ITX motherboard. This is because this form factor of the motherboard comes with one single expansion slot only.
This means that it will not support using multiple graphics cards such as AMD CrossFire X and NVIDIA SLI. It also means that you will not be able to have two distinct cards, one dedicated for the sound and the other only for graphics.
Questions & Answers:
What does mini ITX stand for?
ITX is the short form of Information Technology Extended or eXtended, as it is spelt in computer terminology.
Mini ITX is the small form factor of a motherboard. It was built by VIA Technologies and was first introduced in November 2001.
What is the size of a mini ITX motherboard?
A mini ITX motherboard is 17 × 17 cm or 6.7 × 6.7 inches in size. This is much smaller as compared to other form factors such as 24.4 x 24.4 cm of micro ATX and 30.5 x 24.4 cm of a standard ATX motherboard.
How much power does a mini ITX motherboard use?
Since this is smaller in size, the power consumption of this form of motherboard is also low, which is at 120 watts, maximum.
However, several other tests revealed that a mini ITX motherboard draws a maximum of 112 watts of power from a wall socket and a minimum of 100 watts.
Wrapping It up
In conclusion it can be said that a mini ITX motherboard will serve your computing purpose and enable performing different tasks successfully, provided all other conditions are favorable and the tasks are not demanding or software intense.
Therefore, you are required to make sure that you do not want more than what it can offer and know the strengths and weaknesses of this form factor of motherboard before you finally make your decision.