What is NLX (New Low Profile Extended)? (Explained)

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What is NLX (New Low Profile Extended)?

New Low Profile Extended, or NLX for short, refers to a smaller motherboard form factor. It is an improved version of the earlier LPX form factor. Developed and finalized originally by Intel in March 1997, it is designed as an alternative to the nonstandard LPX form factor.

From a design perspective, this low profile form factor is not like the regular boards used for tower cases and desktop computers. The expansion cards here are not placed perpendicular to the board but are plugged into the riser card and are parallel.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • This low profile application is more compact in design and can be easily differentiated from others by the riser card that connects the expansion cards.
  • This form factor allows plugging in 2 to 4 expansion cards in the riser card which are located on the same line as the main board.
  • The NLX form factor offers huge space savings and increased safety of equipment with a more precise arrangement.
  • This Intel design, introduced in 1997, is an upgrade of the earlier LPX design that allows using them in low profile desktop computers with ease of maintenance.

Understanding (NLX) New Low Profile Extended (Form Factor)

What is NLX

The NLX, or New Low Profile Extended, form factor was released in 1997 and has undergone several revisions since then.

In fact, version 1.2 of it was released in March 1997, and version 1.8 was released in April 1999.

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This form factor was proposed and finalized by Intel and developed in collaboration with DEC, IBM, and other vendors.

It is specifically designed for use in low cost, low profile, and mass marketed retail personal computers.

Though the overall design of this new form factor is much similar to the earlier LPX design with a slim build and a riser card, it was updated and modernized even further to allow supporting the more modern technologies.

At the same time, the intention of the designers was to remove the major issues with LPX and keep the cost down.

Some of the distinguishing features of this format include its support for:

Apart from allowing better access to the different components of the motherboard, it also allows better cable management with less clutter.

This is mainly due to their shorter length and attachment to the riser card rather than the motherboard itself.

It is also easily identifiable by its gold backplane connection. This is typically found on the left side of the board.

It characteristically uses a riser card or backplane to plug the motherboard into it rather than being on the board.

This allows easy removal of the board without using any tools or needing to remove all the expansion cards.

Typically, this form factor uses ATX power supplies, and its design features similar soft power functions.

However, there are a few cases that use a smaller form factor for size reduction or a proprietary form factor with the same 20-pin connector.

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The placement of the power cables, expansion slots, and secondary connectors on the riser card at the edge, mounting the main board on the chassis rails for easy removal, and its use of a full-width I/O shield for varied combinations of rear-panel I/O are some other notable features of this new form factor.

The good thing about this particular form factor is that it is fully standardized. This means that you can replace it with a board from another manufacturer, which is not possible with the LPX.

Also, you can even use longer I/O cards in it. It will not get in the way of the other components of the system, as it would in the Baby AT form factor.

In short, this form factor is probably the best choice for you if you are looking for one or all of the following:

  • More expandability
  • Easier upgradeability
  • Lower cost and
  • Ease of service and maintenance.

However, NLX was not widely accepted in spite of its beneficial features, and major computer manufacturers stayed away from it and produced their own proprietary motherboards to use in the slim systems.

Eventually, NLX was replaced by the Micro ATX, Mini ITX, and FlexATX form factors.

NLX Motherboard Size

Typically, the size of the NLX motherboard is 8.8 inches in width and 13 inches in length.

According to Intel Specifications, this form factor is 9 inches or 229 mm wide and 13.6 inches or 345 mm deep at its maximum, and 8 inches or 203 mm wide and 10 inches or 254 mm deep at its minimum.

Are There Expansion Slots in NLX?

Yes, there are variable numbers of expansion slots present in the NLX format, despite its being smaller in size.

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Typically, all of the expansion slots, along with the other peripheral connectors and power cables, are placed on an edge mounted riser card.

This makes maintenance and removing the motherboard mounted on the rails of the chassis much easier.

NLX Vs ATX

  • NLX is the newer form factor of motherboards, while ATX belongs to the earlier generation
  • The small size of the NLX format allows using it in smaller desktop computers and mini towers, but in comparison, ATX can be used in larger desktop computers and towers
  • NLX typically comes with a varied number of expansion slots in them, but in comparison, the ATX form factor can support up to seven slots maximum and
  • The processor is placed in the lower left side in NLX, but in ATX the processor is located in the upper middle region.

Conclusion

The New Low Profile Extended form factor is a smaller version of the LPX design that allowed easier interchangeability of components making it a true and favored format for the slim-line systems.

There are a varied number of expansion slots available on this form of motherboard, making it more usable.

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