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What are the differences between ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX Motherboards? How to know which one is right for you?

We'll tell the differences between the three mainstream form factors of industrial motherboards, including ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX, and elaborate more about I/O modules of IPC in this article.

Many people see the word "Industrial PC" and think it refers to computers only used in factories. However, IPC has a broader range of applications than just the factory. In addition to production line equipment, there are other applications, such as ATMs of financial institutions, point-of-sale (POS) systems at convenience stores, and access gates in metros and subways, all of which have IPCs inside. So, it is not an exaggeration to say, "IPC can be found everywhere in your life. " However, since there is such a wide range of applications, IPC functions and specifications require low-volume, high-mix production due to the many different use scenarios. For example, as mentioned above, ATMs and POS need quite different functionalities. Therefore, IPC manufacturers must adapt to local conditions and provide various sizes and specifications of motherboards.


Developing motherboards from scratch takes a long time. The IPC Industry summarized market demand into the most significant standard features and planned three sizes of motherboards to account for product launch schedules. System manufacturers and end-user enterprises in various fields can choose the specifications best suited to their needs to create their custom systems. We will introduce three mainstream IPC motherboards in the following article, including ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX, classified according to different form factors of motherboards.


The form factor of the ATX motherboard is 305mm x 244mm, an extremely versatile size that is also, the most common specification in the consumer market. Its large size can accommodate most I/O modules and other functional components. Therefore, if the field space is excellent and standard products can meet the requirements, ATX will be a viable choice. In addition to the ATX, the E-ATX is also a large-sized motherboard, measuring 330mm x 305mm. It is also the largest industrial-grade motherboard and has the highest processing performance and transmission speed. It is primarily used in server systems that require big-data computing and is somewhat rare in the IPC motherboard market.


The size of the Micro-ATX is 244mm x 244mm; its width is the same as that of the ATX, but it is only 80% as long. It is suitable for systems requiring scalability without overly large equipment. Examples include roadside traffic signal control equipment and mobile medical carts in hospitals. The smallest industrial-grade motherboard is the Mini-ITX, coming in at a size of only 170mm x 170mm. Primarily, this motherboard is used in systems with relatively simple functions in a minimal space, such as equipment at the edge of the Internet of Things responsible for capturing and compiling data. The Mini-ITX can be embedded in small-sized equipment to complete tasks in IoT.


In addition to the motherboards mentioned above, IPCs also use single-board computers (SBC). Sizes of SBC include 4'', 3.5'', 2.5'', and 1.8''. Most of these embedded motherboards are used for automatic control, and the number of IO slots can be expanded according to different demands.


The above standards regulate different sizes of motherboards. In addition to different dimensions, what must also be considered to build a suitable IPC is the processor and I/O modules. Since the aspects involved in the processor are relatively complex, we will explain them further in another article. We will elaborate more about I/O modules in this article as below.


I/O modules represent the most significant differences between IPCs and consumer computers. Most I/O in consumer computers require high transmission efficiency and implement quickly changing standards. On the other hand, industrial computers focus on stability and thus require several communication ports specially designed for the industrial control field, such as RS-232 and RS-485. Other I/O standards, such as GPIO, USB, HDMI, and PCIe, are used for pairing with different components or peripheral devices and are also common choices for IPCs. Therefore, operators must first clarify the functional requirements of their systems. They may also consult the DFI team for their opinion to help build the optimal platform.


DFI has launched several representative products of the mainstream standard industrial-grade motherboards, including PR810-C622 (E-ATX), CMS631-Q470E/H420E (ATX), CMS330-Q470E/H420E (Micro-ATX), CMS101/CMS103 (Mini-ITX). If you are interested in learning more about our products, please visit the official DFI website or contact our sales representatives directly.