There are two major players when it comes to choosing the right compact motherboard for your computer: the Micro ATX and the Mini ITX. Depending on your needs, the choice between the two can make a major impact on the speed, performance, and versatility of your computing.
The Short Answer
The short answer is - if you are looking for a device that will carry more RAM capacity, PCIe slots and multiple expansion cards, then the Micro ATX will be the best option. Conversely, if you are looking to build a smaller and more condensed computer, that requires a smaller motherboard and less inputs, then the Mini ITX would the best option for you.
What's Smaller - Micro ATX or Mini ITX?
When looking at the sizes of the ATX and ITX, the Micro ATX is slightly larger than the Mini ITX with dimensions of 244x244 mm compared with 170x170 mm respectively. Mini ITX motherboards are the smallest high-end motherboards currently available on the market. The only time you should be worried about the sizes of these pieces is if you are working with a smaller computer case that will only fit one of the motherboard dimensions described above. However, you do not normally need to concern yourself with this because the Micro ATX and Mini ITX will fit inside of most standard computer layouts.
When it comes to feeding the mother board’s power supply, it is also important to consider which one will be able to better fit inside of your computer. There are some occasions where the Mini ITX can be powered by a standard power supply, but in most cases, it must be powered using a smaller supply without any modular cables. The Micro ATX will be able to use standard powering, however it will also take up more space because of this and make it more difficult to handle.
ATX vs ITX: Performance
The Micro ATX is best when it comes to performance. With the capability of fitting up to four PCIe slots, the Micro ATX allows for many more ports than the Mini ITX which only has one. The PCIe slots on these motherboards can be used for sound cards, graphics cards and internal modems. So if these are additions that you would like to make with your computer, that is a reason why the Micro ATX would be more suited for you.
The Micro ATX also outperforms the Mini ITX when it comes to available RAM. The Micro ATX can hold up to four RAM modules at once, whereas the Mini ITX can only hold two. This means that the Micro ATX is potentially capable of holding 64 GB of RAM compared to the Mini ITX at 32 GB. This would be most important to you only when using programs that require high levels of RAM capacity. That being said, standard video games require little more than 16 GB on average, so the Mini ITX would suffice the minimum RAM quantity for that purpose.
Micro ATX vs Mini ITX Price
The ATX has been around for longer so there is a larger diversification of shopping options. Because of this, it is generally easier to find a Micro ATX for a cheaper cost between the two. Most Micro ATX’s are going to cost you anywhere between $50-$100, depending on the level of quality you are looking for.
Of course, if you really want to get the highest end motherboard out there in this class it can cost you upwards of $200. On the other hand, the Mini ITX is much newer and because of this maintains a little higher pricing power. Most Mini ITX’s are going to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-$300 dollars, so when it comes to costs it clearly depends on the budget you are working with.
As discussed above, the Mini ITX only has two RAM slots and one PCIe slot, as compared to the Micro ATX which has four PCIe slots and four RAM slots. This obviously has a large impact on the future customizability of your computer. If you want to use the Micro ATX, then maxing out the RAM slots will prove a less expensive task, as you can purchase multiple 4 GB sticks, as compared to spending higher amounts 16 GB sticks for the Mini ITX.
Even though the Mini ITX only has one PCIe slot, it still cannot fit all sizes of graphics cards due to size restrictions, so this would limit your final choice on which cards you would like to have in your mother board in the future. Since the Micro ATX gives you more options for PCIe additions, you would be able to add more USB ports, adapters, sound and graphics cards, and SATA extensions. So if you want to have a computer with dual-graphics and quad-channel memory configurations, then the Micro ATX would be the correct choice.
Is the Micro ATX Better than the Mini ITX?
To reiterate, its not a matter of which motherboard is objectively better, its a matter of which motherboard is best for you. If you are someone looking for many upgrades, high RAM capacity without size limitations, then the Micro ATX is better for you. If you are looking for a compact computer that can be taken on the go with minimal bulk, or you are only looking for enough RAM for gaming or less demanding programs, then the Mini ITX is the best motherboard for you.