Motherboard is often referred to as the backbone of a PC and any other electronic device such as a game console or cell phone. Every component of the PC is directly or indirectly connected to the motherboard. It doesn’t have actual processing power of its own, and relies on other components such as (CPU) and Graphic Processing Unit (GPU). Motherboard is the largest Printed Central Processing Unit Board Circuit (PCB) inside the system unit and contains numerous chips, electric conductors, slots, connectors, and other electronic components. It ensures that every signal is sent where it is needed, interpreted correctly, and then passed on to where it needs to go.
The form factor is just one of the many standards that apply to motherboards. Some of the other standards include:
- The socket for the microprocessor determines what kind of Central Processing Unit (CPU) the motherboard uses.
- The chipset is part of the motherboard’s logic system and is usually made of two parts — the northbridge and the southbridge. These two “bridges” connect the CPU to other parts of the computer.
- The Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) chip controls the most basic functions of the computer and performs a self-test every time you turn it on. Some systems feature dual BIOS, which provides a backup in case one fails or in case of error during updating.
- The real time clock chip is a battery-operated chip that maintains basic settings and the system time.
The slots and ports found on a motherboard include:
- Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI)- connections for video, sound and video capture cards, as well as network cards
- Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) – dedicated port for video cards.
- Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) – interfaces for the hard drives
- Universal Serial Bus or FireWire – external peripherals
- Memory slots
Some motherboards also incorporate newer technological advances:
- Redundant Array of Independent Discs (RAID) controllers allow the computer to recognize multiple drives as one drive.
- PCI Express is a newer protocol that acts more like a network than a bus. It can eliminate the need for other ports, including the AGP port.
- Rather than relying on plug-in cards, some motherboards have on-board sound, networking, video or other peripheral support.
Types of Motherboard Form Factors
Form Factor ATX (Advanced Technology Extended)
Designed as an evolution of the Baby AT form factor, ATX marks a profound change in the architecture of the motherboard and other components such as the cabinet and the power supply.
Within the motherboard there are significant changes such as the location of the CPU socket, which is now placed near the power supply, thus allowing the flow of air caused by the fan of the source and not to be interfered with by any element as it happened with the technology Baby AT.
Another change was the connection between the sources of the feed. Which is now a single connector, unlike the AT which were two. Some of the most important improvements for ATX and benefits are:
- Integrated input and output ports
- Slots of expansion without interference
- Start Control by software
- 3 Vol. from the source (reduces hardware cost, energy consumption, and heat)
- A better airflow
- Less interference in access to drive bays.
The ATX motherboard dimensions are 12 × 13 in. A variation of the ATX is the Mini ATX, which is essentially a reduced-size version of ATX but more reduced in terms of its shape, its measurements are 11.2 × 8.2 inches.
It is an evolution of ATX. Its measures are 9.6 × 9.6 inches. The Micro-ATX supports up to four expansion slots that can combine freely with ISA, PCI, PCI / ISA shared, and AGP. Mounting holes changed from the Standard ATX, since the measurements are different, but they are also compatible with most ATX cabinets.
This type of motherboard form factor supports both Intel and AMD processors. It is commonly used on Small Form Factor Desktop Computers.
Mini ITX is 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. Although this type of motherboard was designed with the aim of empowering teams of low consumption, at present there are no limits and they have grown by giant steps in terms of benefits.
Since the Mini-ITX was introduced they have expanded in all kinds of applications, thanks to their open standard factor. Mini ITX is a standard format for all types of equipment, such as vehicle embedded computers, industrial applications, and IoT. The Mini-ITX is the first standard system of reduced format that is popularized, reaching all types of projects and any equipment where it may be necessary.
The Nano-ITX is another type of motherboard form factor that measures 4.7 × 4.7 in. Nano-ITX are fully integrated boards designed to consume very low power. This type of motherboard can be used in many applications, but it was specially designed for smart entertainment, like PVRs, media centers, smart TVs, in-vehicle devices, and more.
The Pico-ITX is the smallest type of motherboard form factor in this list. Its measurements are 3.9 × 2.8 in and it is 75% smaller than the Mini-ITX. This motherboard was designed and developed by VIA, to open up innovation for smaller and smarter IoT devices.
The Pico-ITX with an x86-based-platform and low-power consumption board is a great choice for embedded systems applications, such as industrial automation, in-vehicle computers, digital signage, and more.