A motherboard is an extremely integral part of your PC without which it won’t be functional. The primary job of the motherboard is to hold the microprocessor chip of your computer, and thus, connect it to all the other components of your system. Remember that each and every single feature of a PC that is responsible for enhancing the performance of the system is either a part of the motherboard or is someway plugged into it via a port or a slot. Now, this shape and layout of the motherboard are known as the ‘form factor.’ Most PCs come with different motherboards and form factors so as to fit themselves into the PC cases.
History of Motherboard Form Factors
The Motherboard Form Factor depicts the size and shape specs of a motherboard. The Form Factor determines the additional parameters of your system as well, including that of the power supply, casing, mounting holes and the physical layout of your whole build.
Tracing back to the history of the first Form Factor which was innovated back in 1983, IBM had first built the PC XT, and then, the manufacturers used it as a de-facto standard. With the constant evolution in the industry, the original motherboard XT came up with 40 various form factors. Today, there are so many other competitors as well in the market, including ASUS, VIA, ABIT, Intel and many others.
Motherboard Form Factors
To determine the kind of motherboard that the Central Processing Unit or CPU will use, you ought to check the microprocessor.
The chipset is the logic system of the motherboard and comprises of two critical parts – the northbridge and the southbridge. Further, these two bridges are responsible for connecting the CPU to the other components of the PC.
The Basic Input / Output System or BIOS chip is responsible for controlling the primary functions of the system. Every time, you put the PC on, it performs a self-test. Also, a few systems feature dual BIOS which would do a backup in case any file fails to upload, or if there is an error while updating.
There is a real-time clock chip – a battery-operated chip that would maintain the basic settings, time and the date of the system.
Types of Motherboard Form Factors:
Form Factor ATX (Advanced Technology Extended)
ATX marks an evolution in the entire architecture of the motherboard and its components including that of the cabinet and the power supply. Also, there had been a lot of changes implemented within the scope of the motherboard such as the location of the CPU socket being placed close to the power supply thereby allowing the airflow to pass through without any intervention occurring due to any element therein. Besides, there had been a change in the connection between the source of the feed which is now having a single connector instead of the AT that earlier had two connectors. The major benefits include:
A better airflow
Expansion slots are available without an interruption
Start control by the software
Integrated input and output ports
Greater access to the driveways
ATX motherboard dimensions are usually 12 × 13 in. A reduced size version of ATX, called the Mini ATX however, measures 11.2 x 8.2 inches.
Form Micro ATX
It generally measures 9.6 × 9.6 inches. The Micro-ATX supports a maximum of 4 expansion slots. It may combine freely with ISA, PCI, PCI / ISA shared, and AGP. The mounting holes typically changed from the standard ATX with different measurements, but all were made specifically compatible with most of the ATX cabinets. Such kinds of motherboard form factors are meant to assess both the AMD and the Intel processors.
Form Micro Mini-ITX
Mini ITX is primarily a low-power consumption motherboard format of 6.7 × 6.7 inches. Its dimensions are the most characteristic factor of this type of form factor. Initially, this kind of motherboard was introduced to empower teams of low consumption but over time, there have been several modifications to the same that it is presently having no limitations. Be its industrial applications, IoT or vehicle embedded computers, Mini ITX is a standard format that is used in all of them.
Form Micro Nano-ITX
The Nano-ITX is a type of motherboard form factor, which measures 4.7 × 4.7 in. They are basically fully integrated boards that are designed for low power consumption. Although these kinds of motherboards are used in various applications, they are mostly designed for smart entertainment such as media centres, PVRs, smart TVs, etc.
Form Micro Pico
This is even 75% smaller in size than the Micro ITX and was introduced by the VIA for small IoT devices. It measures 3.9 × 2.8 in and comes with an x86-based-platform alongside a low power consumption board which is amazing to function with various embedded applications, in-vehicle computers, embedded systems applications, digital signage and more.
Slots and Ports of the Motherboard
Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI)- connections for network cards, video, sound and video capture cards
Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) – dedicated port specifically meant for video cards
Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) – a hard drive interface
Universal Serial Bus or FireWire – external peripherals
New technological advances – Motherboard specs
Redundant Array of Independent Discs (RAID) controllers – responsible for allowing the PC to identify multiple drives as just a single drive.
PCI Express – a protocol that acts more like a network than that of a bus. It is capable of pushing out the requirements for other ports alongside that of the AGP port.
Apart from the plug-in cards, some motherboards even come with onboard sound, video, and networking along with several other peripheral support.
With the growing advances in the field of technology, you will be able to see that motherboard layouts are changing immensely. Not just that they are coming up with new sizes and shapes, but also, there is a great evolution in the system functionality and adaptability so as to access their usage with different kinds of applications and embedded power systems. Remember that an industrial IoT device will require a completely different form factor than that of a smartwatch. As a result, the form factor will become an extremely crucial characteristic while building the device.