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Should size be the new battleground in the motherboard market?

Posted on 8th Jun 2012 at 13:14 by Paul Goodhead with 67 comments

Paul Goodhead
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the motherboard market has been getting a little stale of late.

It’s a statement that’s likely to have the marketing managers from the big brands up in arms, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the thought had crossed their own minds more than once too.

I say this because we’re simply getting far less surprises when we review motherboards these days. Feature sets are becoming formulaic, with each manufacturer grabbing from the same bag of tried and tested nick-nacks. Some of these features are useful of course, but we’re not seeing the same kind of innovation as we used to. Naturally there are exceptions, but as an industry, pace seems to have slowed.

It’s not just features either, as motherboards are becoming more homogenous in terms of performance and layout too. A lot even look the same, red and black anybody? No, ok, blue and black it is instead then.

Should size be the new battleground in the motherboard market? *Is Size the New Battleground in the Motherboard Market?

I’d say that Intel needs to share some of the blame here, as it’s eroded one of the areas in which we saw differentiation in the past - overclockability. The fact that all overclocking is done on the CPU multiplier with LGA1155 processors means the motherboard is relatively uninvolved. This is great for consumers - overclocking has never been easier or more fruitful - but it’s a headache for manufacturers.

If you think this all seems petty so far, then just consider what’s left to a manufacturer which wants to differentiate itself in a homogeneous market. That’s right, price. Now, I’m sure a price war sounds good if you’re in the market for a new PC, but it’s hardly the sign of a healthy industry. Margins drop, units shipped becomes the only statistic that matters, and all but the largest producers fall by the way side.

So what’s an company to do then? Well, I’d like to suggest that they may want differentiate themselves by producing better small boards. In truth it’s not an original idea, Asus already makes the excellent m-ATX Gene boards for example, and it’s new P8Z77-I Deluxe looks to bring full 10 phase VRM design to the ITX form factor for the first time. What I’m saying however is that this type of product should be a focus for a manufacturer, rather than just a frivolous sideline.

Should size be the new battleground in the motherboard market? *Is Size the New Battleground in the Motherboard Market?

After all, there is little need for modern PCs to be as large as they are, especially as we see high end products, such as the Nvidia GTX 670 and Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, getting smaller and more power efficient.

Many modern full ATX boards even display patches of unused PCB, areas that simply aren’t necessary and are only there because of the size the board needs to be to sport a full seven expansion slots. I mean, who even uses their full seven expansion slots? Yes, I’m sure some do, but only a small minority - you can’t tell me most people wouldn’t get on just as well with four?

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the idea of smaller but still quick and feature rich motherboards appealing either. Our own Antony Leather has been documenting a mini-ITX build over the past few months, and the comments on our Z77 mini-ITX motherboard roundup were overwhelmingly positive too.

There seems to be rewards there for the manufacturer that really captures the smaller end of the market then, either through clever design or through new features. Unfortunately I'm just not sure that they're ready to give up their obsession with the ATX form factor quite yet.

67 Comments

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blinkieleblind 8th June 2012, 14:30 Quote
i drool over the prospect of building a monster micro-pc!!

couldn't agree more :D
GuilleAcoustic 8th June 2012, 15:02 Quote
I wish GPU could have a more "squared" shape to match mITX motherboard. Shorter but wider GPU board would allow a GTX680 to fit a case with a really small footprint. This is the actual GPU size that prevents case from being shorter.
Somer_Himpson 8th June 2012, 15:15 Quote
I love my mATX board, even housed in a big case...gives it room to breath!
GuilleAcoustic 8th June 2012, 15:18 Quote
bulldogjeff 8th June 2012, 15:24 Quote
What I'm finding is that hardware in general is so powerful these days that size is starting to prove irrelevant. My old i7 940 asus P6 combo was more than enough for my needs.

I've said it in the past but 80% of us one here could quite easily cope with an i5 750 and some thing like a GTX 460 for most of the time.
jrs77 8th June 2012, 15:26 Quote
Well, as someone who's buidling their own PCs for some 15+ years now I can positively say, that I've tried it all.

During the last two years I was all about mini ITX and it's quiet nice actually what you can do in that area. However cooling in such tight spaces is not as easily done and the level of noise increases the smaller your case gets.
Putting a mini ITX board into a µATX-case is counterproductive tho, as you'll get a better µATX-board for less money. So why would you want to buy mini ITX, when you still need a somewhat large case for effective cooling?
When you use a 200 Watt GPU in addition to a 95 Watt CPU your best option is still ATX or µATX, as you need the larger cases anyways to install enough cooling without being forced to have high RPM fans increasing noise significantly.

So no, size isn't really the new battleground in the motherboard-market when we're talking about workstation or gaming-rig performance. Trying to get the performance of an ATX or µATX-board on a smaller formfactor is wasted efforts imho aslong as the CPU and GPU don't get smaller (i.e. produce way less heat) without loosing performance.

Size might be a battleground for HTPC and office-PCs, that don't draw more then 100-200 Watts in total. My Atom/ION-systems for example draw only 30 Watts from the wallplug, and they're still capable of running office and multimedia-tasks without problems.
If you use the integrated graphics of the new intel or AMD-CPUs then you'll be fine aswell for office and multimedia and have the benefit of a little more power on the CPU-side.

I'd like to see more all-in-one motherboards, like we've seen from Zotac and ASUS, where the PSU was integrated aswell.
Give me a mini ITX board with LGA1155 socket, integrated 90W PSU and onboard WiFi, where I can install an upcoming i5-3470T (35W TDP) onto in addition to a PCIe x1 DVB-S card.

For workstations and gaming-rigs I'm only interested in reasonably priced ATX or µATX-boards with the standard-set of features. My next setup will be a LGA1155 µATX again, as my LianLi Q08-setup is too noisy due to it's cooling-restrictions, allthough I allready use a Corsair H60 for the CPU. An aftermarket-cooler like the Prolimatech MK13 for the GPU won't fit, so the GPU is too loud. It was even worse, when I had the hardware installed into a SUGO SG05.
Tattysnuc 8th June 2012, 15:36 Quote
How about ONLY making mini-ITX boards, and then having the bits bolt on and be sold as extras.

ie

Z77 Pico ITX board, with a slots for
1. memory modules - 1, 2, or 4
2. additional PCI-e lanes
3. VRM's
4. Storage/SATA/Raid etc
5. Thunderbolt, USB
6. Bios/motherboard control
7. Power Supply (so that it could be integrated with the mobo for truly tiny builds)

Think of the cost model, and where they could make savings. 1 board per socket model, then a set of peripherals according to match, instead of 1 board per socket per marketing price point.

I see this as being a great way that manufacturers can drive/add value to the market. Upgrades would no longer involve full refreshes. The second hand market would not cannibalise the retail market so much, and manufacturing lines could be MUCH simplified, as would the test and QA process.

Returns would only need to focus on the broken bits, and that would be a specific item

It's a great idea, and I'm certain it would work. After all, I came up with it :)
SchizoFrog 8th June 2012, 16:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuilleAcoustic
I wish GPU could have a more "squared" shape to match mITX motherboard. Shorter but wider GPU board would allow a GTX680 to fit a case with a really small footprint. This is the actual GPU size that prevents case from being shorter.

You also have to take in to account cooling of such a hot product. Many mITX cases only have a single air intake or maybe 2 smaller fan holes. But the idea is tempting.
GuilleAcoustic 8th June 2012, 16:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SchizoFrog
You also have to take in to account cooling of such a hot product. Many mITX cases only have a single air intake or maybe 2 smaller fan holes. But the idea is tempting.

Yup, but unfortunatly it's unlikely to happen ... unless they revise the whole ATX norm :(.

My dream would be to have 2 processor sockets on a single motherboard : one for the CPU and one for the GPU, with the memory shared between them. When you look at the GTX670, the power circuitry is compact. A power circuitry like on the Asus deluxe could be used to produce such a board.
Hopelessness 8th June 2012, 16:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tattysnuc
How about ONLY making mini-ITX boards, and then having the bits bolt on and be sold as extras.

ie

Z77 Pico ITX board, with a slots for
1. memory modules - 1, 2, or 4
2. additional PCI-e lanes
3. VRM's
4. Storage/SATA/Raid etc
5. Thunderbolt, USB
6. Bios/motherboard control
7. Power Supply (so that it could be integrated with the mobo for truly tiny builds)

Think of the cost model, and where they could make savings. 1 board per socket model, then a set of peripherals according to match, instead of 1 board per socket per marketing price point.

I see this as being a great way that manufacturers can drive/add value to the market. Upgrades would no longer involve full refreshes. The second hand market would not cannibalise the retail market so much, and manufacturing lines could be MUCH simplified, as would the test and QA process.

Returns would only need to focus on the broken bits, and that would be a specific item

It's a great idea, and I'm certain it would work. After all, I came up with it :)

This sounds like DLC for motherboards :(

I had an Asus M2N32Sli-Deluxe a few years ago, that had WiFi onboard, and 2 Gigabit ethernets. What has happened to features like that on motherboards!?
javaman 8th June 2012, 16:18 Quote
You have a point. Intel has broight thunderbolt tho it has limited appeal to most outside of a laptop atm. Does AMD still make their own chipsets? Its another area they could push sales in terms of features but what do you add? New ports take time to adopt and develop, PCI lanes arnt saturated, do we need more memory bandwidth? Only thing I can think of is adding a GPU back into the board for hybrid crossfire with their APU's or integrate a low powered arm cpu for basic tasks. Who knows, I'm not paid to think.
themassau 8th June 2012, 17:51 Quote
maybe on-board flash memory. the flash would store your ram data when you go in hibernate lets say the size of 16GB or 32 GB for so you OS can also be on it. it would be like a buffer.

multi-socket motherboards for enthusiast.
maybe new orientation of the socket for better cooling etc like the BTX standaard but keep de holes at the same space so you can still put in ATX standaard cases.

12v only mobo's would make the market better. whit an batery on it that would be just large enough to get the ram copied to the integrated flash i told of.
schmidtbag 8th June 2012, 18:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuilleAcoustic
Quote:
Originally Posted by SchizoFrog
You also have to take in to account cooling of such a hot product. Many mITX cases only have a single air intake or maybe 2 smaller fan holes. But the idea is tempting.

Yup, but unfortunatly it's unlikely to happen ... unless they revise the whole ATX norm :(.

My dream would be to have 2 processor sockets on a single motherboard : one for the CPU and one for the GPU, with the memory shared between them. When you look at the GTX670, the power circuitry is compact. A power circuitry like on the Asus deluxe could be used to produce such a board.

I thought the exact same thing, minus the shared memory. I think the GPU should have its own separate memory source, but still one that is manually defined.

I feel that all boards should start out as Mini-ITX, but have a new form of expansion. The board would come with everything you need to get a functional system - maybe 2 RAM slots, 4 SATA ports, a couple USB headers, 1 PCI-e 16x slot, audio headers, and any other essentials for the typical system. At the right side and bottom of the board would be a couple gigantic slots where you can attach daughter boards.

The right-side slot would expand the board to be the width of standard ATX boards. Daughter boards that go here can have varying lengths, being as long as the mini-ITX board itself to as long as a standard ATX board. These daughter boards would contain additional RAM slots, additional pin headers (so if there are 2 USB ports not in use, they could be put here), and features that take advantage of unused south bridge resources.

As for the slot at the bottom of the motherboard, users can buy daughter boards containing 3 expansion ports (expanding the motherboard to become micro ATX). These daughter boards can also be expanded upon each other, so you can form full ATX as well. These boards can have any variety of slots, whether that be all PCI, PCI-e slots designed specifically for SLi or Crossfire, or even mini-PCIe slots.


Products like this would put back originality and customization in home-made PCs, and if designed properly, allows anybody to make a computer of any price point.
AmEv 8th June 2012, 18:36 Quote
I've seen non-Dell motherboards that are uATX, with little cards that convert it into ATX.
TheDarkSide 8th June 2012, 18:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hopelessness


This sounds like DLC for motherboards :(

I had an Asus M2N32Sli-Deluxe a few years ago, that had WiFi onboard, and 2 Gigabit ethernets. What has happened to features like that on motherboards!?

they still exist! Asus z77 deluxe :)
but you pay a hefty premium for them.
l3v1ck 8th June 2012, 20:28 Quote
I'd like to see one x16 PCIe slot for a single graphics card, then several open ended x4 slots. Ditch the x1 slots. A x1 card will still fit in a x4 slot.
My old Asus board had that so you could fit larger cards if you wanted, but they'd just get 4 channels.
There's every chance SSD's will soon need PCIe as even SATA III will be a bottleneck soon.
fata1_666 8th June 2012, 20:37 Quote
Ive always had micro -ATX instead of full size atx boards like you say its just no needed and even now im looking at the mini -itx options purely for some space in the case and the fact it has all the features i need. the mini-itx has come along way and should soon be seen as the base for any new build then expand to bigger size if an add on card is required.
Tyr 9th June 2012, 00:18 Quote
Smaller can be better. My all time favourite build was my wife's ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe build. I had to add a lot of fins to the MOSFETs and the VRegs as I put in a 125W processor into eh little 95W board. Then Stuck a really big 12cm cooler/fan (almost as big as thr 14x14cm board!) blowing down to keep it all cool. Add in a top end GPU and it is a nice compact quiet gaming rig.

I just wish ITX boards and cases has a 16x PCI-E and a 1xPCI-E.
Picarro 9th June 2012, 00:31 Quote
Give me a mini ITX board with good onboard sound! (Yes, F off Realtek). Then I can just add a short but powerful GPU like the 670 and be done with it.
CrapBag 9th June 2012, 00:44 Quote
I still have one of these boards, it's my back up board in case any of my kids gear goes down the pan.

My kids both have AM3 boards though (GD70 and C45) which are both great boards so it would be a step down if they had to use it.

Size isn't evrything though, personally I prefer a full size board and roomy case.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hopelessness
This sounds like DLC for motherboards :(

I had an Asus M2N32Sli-Deluxe a few years ago, that had WiFi onboard, and 2 Gigabit ethernets. What has happened to features like that on motherboards!?
mi1ez 9th June 2012, 01:38 Quote
I'm looking at M-ITX for my next build with a custom case so it can be as small as possible as I may be moving to Australia in the next year. Much easier to ship!
I'm also looking at making a much cooler custom case for the same machine, but that's another story...
shuffle 9th June 2012, 01:51 Quote
Bit Tech, this article is worrying. Do you really worry that a PC case is too big? Or shall we have it pocket size, like a smart phone? C'mon.
dunx 9th June 2012, 01:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hopelessness
This sounds like DLC for motherboards :(

I had an Asus M2N32Sli-Deluxe a few years ago, that had WiFi onboard, and 2 Gigabit ethernets. What has happened to features like that on motherboards!?

See the Asus mITX board in the article... all we need is for the TDP to decrease another "tock" and we are close. Add some serious on-board GPU hardware and leave the slot for RAID or audio use ?

Given that most cases are way larger, I'd prefer mITX to expand to allow for some added features...
my Fractal Array case could hold a three slot GPU if the PSU was swapped for a 450W SFF unit.

dunx

P.S. I'm one "gen" behind - Zotac H55N-wifi + i7 870 + 8 Gb DDR3 + Intel X-25 SSD + 1Tb HDD
faxiij 9th June 2012, 02:01 Quote
your picture example proves my case/concern: not only itx, but also the m-atx formfactor rarely exceed 1 expansion slot.

it is a problem i often observe with MANY regular mainboards - they might have 7 slots, but often you can only use half or less then half of those due to the configuration.

the best example is just considering a dual-gpu (as in real sli, two physical cards or more), which very often renders you unable to use 2 expansion cards like audio, tv oder network, sometimes even just one.

sure you can use these flexslot-thingies that extend slots via cable (extenders i think theyre called), but that is just too much trouble for the task if you ask me.

i embrace progression towards more compact technology, however i would much rather see innovation in new layouts that allow more efficient use of slots. hell, if you ask me i would welcome a new formfactor. for example high and narrow boards. just align cpu, memslots, expansion slots etc. in one row.

sure this is problematic because it would require a whole industry to adapt which is costly, but it would allow for more differentation, customisation, better cooling solutions and more volume-efficient desktop systems (imagine, the "slim" office pc systems become the new desktop-systems, just not as fat..)

well, i can hope. and i will pray. remains to be seen if thats worth anythign though
stoff3r 10th June 2012, 00:36 Quote
This comes from an pro-atx gamer:

How would one cope with not having pci-slots?
Lets say i Opt for a Asus Gene mATX, would an geforce gtx 580 fit on it?
What downsides are there to not having 10-phase VRM for a gamer?
How would one connect everything neatly if, even on an atx board in a midi-tower like carbide 400r, is allready maxed out regarding space and slots for everything....

Sorry for all the dumb questions, but i can't imagine how anyone could do with less space, building must be hell?
Elton 10th June 2012, 02:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by stoff3r
This comes from an pro-atx gamer:

How would one cope with not having pci-slots?
Lets say i Opt for a Asus Gene mATX, would an geforce gtx 580 fit on it?
What downsides are there to not having 10-phase VRM for a gamer?
How would one connect everything neatly if, even on an atx board in a midi-tower like carbide 400r, is allready maxed out regarding space and slots for everything....

Sorry for all the dumb questions, but i can't imagine how anyone could do with less space, building must be hell?

Truth be told, less is more. I have a sound card and a GPU. That's it. Most of the VRMs are either not used or extraneous. I honestly don't think we need more than 4 slot (well unless you have a folding farm, but that's why the Asus WS series exists. :D )boards. In fact a GTX 580 would fit perfectly in a mATX board and in some cases as well.

That aside, I don't think size should matter but what features are given. For example, vdroop and voltage regulation still has a ways to go as even on some expensive boards, there's some significant amount of vdroop. That should be eliminated as much as possible. Feature wise, I think it's time to be able to grab some add on sound cards...sure someone can figure out a way for a dedicated sound card slot? Because that realtek stuff just isn't up to scratch. (Neither is Creative's X-Fi).

At any rate, while it is awesome to have so much power in a small form factor, sometimes cooling constraints hinder this progress.. Which brings me to this: why can't desktop users buy laptop chips?
B3CK 10th June 2012, 06:37 Quote
Personally, I have seen hp shipping these small mobos inside of med size desktop cases as of late. I work at a pc repair shop, that sees everything from custom water cooled setups to all-in-ones, to server racks.
All this discussion got me to day dreaming, small mobos, with optical linked component add-in ports. Forget pci-e slots, ram slots, or large on board connectors. Just a simple mobo with CPU and X optical ports that can handle the bandwidth of ram, gpu, hd, etcetera. Sold by how many optical ports are mounted, chipset, and bus speed. Optical port can be measured by how many multi-plex channels and daisy chains they provide. Psu should be separate, as a workstation will not need to change drastically, but a gaming, power user would change/upgrade frequently; as well as the second most failure proned part. (statistically from our records the hd is number 1. Using hd diagnostic utilities via mfg of hd, and multimeter testing of Psu.)
Let add-on parts get mounted to case via rail or sled system, and power and data cable attached, done.
Just day dreaming here, and only spent a couple minutes thinking, but I do love the idea of a modular setup that isn't as restrictive of current mobo scheme of today.
ChromeX 10th June 2012, 12:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tattysnuc
How about ONLY making mini-ITX boards, and then having the bits bolt on and be sold as extras.

ie

Z77 Pico ITX board, with a slots for
1. memory modules - 1, 2, or 4
2. additional PCI-e lanes
3. VRM's
4. Storage/SATA/Raid etc
5. Thunderbolt, USB
6. Bios/motherboard control
7. Power Supply (so that it could be integrated with the mobo for truly tiny builds)

Think of the cost model, and where they could make savings. 1 board per socket model, then a set of peripherals according to match, instead of 1 board per socket per marketing price point.

I see this as being a great way that manufacturers can drive/add value to the market. Upgrades would no longer involve full refreshes. The second hand market would not cannibalise the retail market so much, and manufacturing lines could be MUCH simplified, as would the test and QA process.

Returns would only need to focus on the broken bits, and that would be a specific item

It's a great idea, and I'm certain it would work. After all, I came up with it :)

That's an awful idea. As Hopelessness stated it would be DLC for motherboards. But more than that, from an engineering perspective the complexity of making a multi-layered pcb motherboard, would make it an impossible task. Even if it were possible to add bolt-ons in the way you describe, the performance would be so bad no one would want to buy it. Things like pci-e lanes and data buses for memory have to be built in from the start, that's just the way it is i'm afraid.
jon 10th June 2012, 15:18 Quote
Why not exchange pci lanes (not all of them mind you) with thunderbolt and manage extensions that way?
Cei 10th June 2012, 15:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by stoff3r
This comes from an pro-atx gamer:

How would one cope with not having pci-slots?
Lets say i Opt for a Asus Gene mATX, would an geforce gtx 580 fit on it?
What downsides are there to not having 10-phase VRM for a gamer?
How would one connect everything neatly if, even on an atx board in a midi-tower like carbide 400r, is allready maxed out regarding space and slots for everything....

Sorry for all the dumb questions, but i can't imagine how anyone could do with less space, building must be hell?

A GTX 580 fits fine on a Gene board, after all it's designed to the PCIe specifications. The only thing to pay attention to is the case, and whether long cards will fit.

My current set up has the Maximus V, a 580 in the first x16 slot, Xonar DX in the second x16 slot and the bottom x4 reserved for the upcoming Thunderbolt EX expansion card. I don't need anything else in terms of PCIe cards, as I have no intention of running SLI, and this all means I can have a much smaller case.

Working on the system can be tricky at times, due to cramped space, but on the whole everything works out fine.
ArthurB 10th June 2012, 16:19 Quote
How come Mini-DTX motherboards didn't get a mention? They would be a perfect size for a lot of people, since you would get a board not that much bigger than mini-ITX, but still have two PCIe slots (assuming Thunderbolt was included as standard on the rear I/O panel). It's a shame Intel do not make any. :-(

Speaking of which when is the size of the rear I/O panel going to get reduced? Most ports would fit in half the space e.g.

4 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
2 x Mini-DisplayPort
1 x Thunderbolt
1 x RJ45
1 x SPDIF / TOSLink
dunx 10th June 2012, 17:13 Quote
Add wi-fi HDMI and your sorted !

dunx
r3loaded 10th June 2012, 18:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Picarro
Give me a mini ITX board with good onboard sound! (Yes, F off Realtek).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elton
Because that realtek stuff just isn't up to scratch. (Neither is Creative's X-Fi).

What exactly is wrong with Realtek audio chips? They work fine for me with no issues...
Star*Dagger 10th June 2012, 21:01 Quote
Maybe the Picos would work fine with the anemic PSUs you guys started recommending again ;)
mi1ez 11th June 2012, 01:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by r3loaded
What exactly is wrong with Realtek audio chips? They work fine for me with no issues...

What's wrong with them you stated in your own post. They "work fine". Many people are after a sound stage that sounds better than fine, and Realtek's solution just doesn't cut it.
jrs77 11th June 2012, 03:14 Quote
My onboard-audio (aswell Realtek) does a good job for voicecomms, or watching things on youtube etc, but for listening to lossless audio it's not really that great. There's allways some white noise.
This might be a problem of either the soundchip itself or a problem with the connections on the I/O, but it's noticable. Especially when you plug in a good pair of open AKG or Sennheiser headphones.
Bindibadgi 11th June 2012, 03:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hopelessness
This sounds like DLC for motherboards :(

I had an Asus M2N32Sli-Deluxe a few years ago, that had WiFi onboard, and 2 Gigabit ethernets. What has happened to features like that on motherboards!?

We still do them! And they are still called Deluxe and Premium! ;)

jrs77 - Sound chip quality is down to a dozen different issues:

Low cost, high compatibility sound chip with a max SNR of about 110dB

Then throw in:
Crosstalk between analogue and digital areas
Shared power and grounding
EMI from other components

All this gives you a real SNR of sub-100, sometimes sub 90. There simply isn't the PCB space to do proper sound card level quality so you can forget about it on mini-ITX! If they develop a daughterboard like DFI's old ~2003-2005 Karajan audio (http://www.legitreviews.com/images/reviews/266/Karajan_Audio_rear.jpg) it could work a little better, but it still needs EMI shielding and a dedicated, clean power source. But in limited space the ROI is very low to go to the extra effort, unless it's very highly demanded by users and media.

ArthurB - DTX was an open standard proposed by AMD in 2007, so Intel will never use it. Plus, like BTX, it never really caught on. The ATX market is so ingrained.

Another answer to the question: Why all the same colour?
Because people demand it. Black Black Black Black Black Black Black Black Black aaaaand something complementary - usually red or blue is masculine enough. You can't do white or silver because the PCB gets dirty on the production line and the camera can't see where to put the surface mount ICs as there's not enough contrast. Green is still the best colour for it, which is why all server and industrial boards are still green.

Obsession with ATX? Or a sales driven factor?
We launched the Maximus V GENE first this time. ROG has never put a mATX board out before ATX before. Reception has been very good (thanks for the award :D), yet we get a LOT of people demanding the Formula or ATX versions. It's a psychological perception that smaller = inferior, to many people still. Plus ROGers almost always do multi-GPU. Even if your most recent buyers guide you had comments about 'why do you always suggest mATX?'.

Price war?
I disagree with you Paul that price is the only way to differentiate. Quality and brand (whatever you prefer) still go some way to swaying people's perceptions. A board has to last 2-3 years flawlessly - even longer if you bought X58 - so why not think about what is going to last? If we have enough power from a K series CPU now (or last year!), surely buying a better board with more features to last the longer gap to your next upgrade is worth it? Otherwise you end up having to buy a new CPU because of a likely socket change half way down the road, which costs more.

In the short term if companies compete on price, how do they reduce the cost? They leave out components or they use crapper ones. Is that 40/50/60 quid board worth it? You may have paid the same price 3/4/5 years ago but if materials cost has also gone up 40% (you've seen news reports about increased copper and PCB prices) you get less board for your money now (that's also ignoring inflation).

In the long term price competitiveness is great for the consumer - at least we don't suffer a monopoly market!, but as soon as you start overly focusing on price in a market where a few manuf. are already struggling you end up REDUCING competition quicker, which is worse for the consumer in the long run. In the graphics market price competition between 2-3 large players in a big enough market is good, but GPU makers are different because they design the inherent technologies. Motherboard makers just apply a platform created by someone else. Plus, there are still 6/7 significant producers in the motherboard markets (more in China, less in Europe). You cannot invest in innovation AND cut the price of your products. It's mutually exclusive and an unfortunately truth.

You say the P8Z77-I Deluxe looks great - huge thanks! - but how many people are willing to buy it here? I see a lot of H61s get thrown about in the build guides for example (not a complaint, just an observation). People often see mini-ITX and think 'small=costs less'. Because minaturization (increasing PCB layers from 4 to 6 or 8 adds a big chunk of change) and custom design (working around EMI, assuring stability) actually always costs more.

Overall I will express that everything is driven by sales, regardless of company. Forum posts and media perk interest, but don't necessarily convert to sales. However, if medium-to-premium mini-ITX does sell NOW, you will absolutely see manufacturers cater to it more positively in the next generation.
jrs77 11th June 2012, 03:37 Quote
Yeah, that's for sure not an easy task to solve the onboard-audio with all the quirks there Bindi and the reason for me not to use my PC as audio-device, when I just want to listen to music.
Still, it has to be possible to make it better then what we've got currently
Bindibadgi 11th June 2012, 04:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
Yeah, that's for sure not an easy task to solve the onboard-audio with all the quirks there Bindi and the reason for me not to use my PC as audio-device, when I just want to listen to music.
Still, it has to be possible to make it better then what we've got currently

Sorry for the advert, but this is what they do on GENE/Formula ROG boards:

http://rog.asus.com/91382012/labels/rog-exclusive/what-is-supremefx-iii/

If someone wants to test it you should get close to 110dB SNR. The ROG guys claim the white paper for the codec is about 110-111. Beyond this you need to get a pro-audio card or external device and output via S/PDIF or LPCM. Unfortunately you'll never get 2.5" connectors on a motherboard, 3.5mm is never considered pro audio and afaik S/PDIF's maximum is ~AC3 level.
mclean007 11th June 2012, 08:56 Quote
@Bindi - "we"? Are you now an Asus employee? Forgive me if this is something I've missed.
Elton 11th June 2012, 09:27 Quote
Yeah Bindi's an asus employeee.
Bindibadgi 11th June 2012, 11:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
@Bindi - "we"? Are you now an Asus employee? Forgive me if this is something I've missed.

Look at the locale, and signature :P

I work for ROG dept, but I'm trying to explain what I can from this side of the fence to give everyone a broader understanding of can-do's and cannot-do's.
Anfield 11th June 2012, 11:36 Quote
@Bindi, multi gpu as a reason why some people still want atx? Two geforce 690 on a maximus v gene is perfectly possible, so its not really a reason to buy anything bigger than matx, I'd say its more the psychological bit you've mentioned.
Personally I'm happy with my gene v, even if i have to settle for something less than 2 690s lol (only got a 570), but anyway, that little board does everything it needs to and oc's like mad, so i don't think I'll ever buy a atx board again.
l3v1ck 11th June 2012, 12:57 Quote
I can see mATX becoming the standard over ATX soon. Back in the day, my first PC had a separate graphics card, sound card, network card, tv card etc. Since then sound and networking has moved onto the motherboard. Of course then along came a wifi card and a USB port card, but now they're on motherboards too.
Only the graphics card has remained a constant as a separate card in my PC's over the years.
mATX will suit most people, though many will still get a full sized ATX case for cooling reasons.
Asouter 11th June 2012, 13:21 Quote
[QUOTE=Bindibadgi
You say the P8Z77-I Deluxe looks great - huge thanks! - but how many people are willing to buy it here? [/QUOTE]

I'm itching to get my hands on this board, but it's not easy to get hold of. I think that there is definitely huge interest in m iTX, judging by the big response to this article
[USRF]Obiwan 11th June 2012, 14:33 Quote
They should make itX linkable so you can place four boards in a grid to make a 4x4 core machine.
jrs77 11th June 2012, 14:49 Quote
After thinking about it for a day or two I think there's actually a simple reason for why mini ITX isn't more widespread: laptops/notebooks.

People interested in more powerful rigs usually go with ATX or µATX due to the better cooling and upgradeability. Mini ITX is awesome for HTPCs or low-power office-PCs, but these are usually second or third rigs in addition to the workstation on/under your desk.

I'm going back to µATX myself aswell, as building a mini ITX-system allways requires "special" solutions (smaller PSUs with less and shorter cables, smaller coolers or watercoolers, etc.)
Bindibadgi 11th June 2012, 16:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asouter
I'm itching to get my hands on this board, but it's not easy to get hold of. I think that there is definitely huge interest in m iTX, judging by the big response to this article

I'll check this tomorrow whether it's a production thing or because retailers aren't picking it up.
mars-bar-man 11th June 2012, 16:54 Quote
If ASUS ever make a RoG ITX board you can be sure as hell I'll be revisiting that form factor and seeing if I can get another small and powerful PC!

Dear Bindi,

MAKE AN ITX RoG BOARD!! I want to spend more money :P

Mars :D
Bindibadgi 11th June 2012, 17:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mars-bar-man
If ASUS ever make a RoG ITX board you can be sure as hell I'll be revisiting that form factor and seeing if I can get another small and powerful PC!

Dear Bindi,

MAKE AN ITX RoG BOARD!! I want to spend more money :P

Mars :D

What do you want on it that's not on the P8Z77-I?
mars-bar-man 11th June 2012, 18:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
What do you want on it that's not on the P8Z77-I?

RED!

I haven't looked too much into it thought tbh. But I'd like to keep the red and black colour scheme of my PC if I were to move to m-ITX. That's a pretty worthless reason for an RoG board though.

I'm sure there's a few tricks up your sleeves at ASUS that you could pop on to one of the boards.
Teelzebub 11th June 2012, 18:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
What do you want on it that's not on the P8Z77-I?

Nvidia onboard graphic's, TBH anything else is pretty cr*p for a HTPC
Asouter 11th June 2012, 19:00 Quote
Cheers Bindi,
Here's where i've been looking as DABS are selling it at a competitive price.

http://www.dabs.com/products/asus-p8z77-i-deluxe-s1155-intel-z77-ddr3-mitx-81X3.html?refs=52240000&src=3
Bindibadgi 12th June 2012, 02:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teelzebub
Nvidia onboard graphic's, TBH anything else is pretty cr*p for a HTPC

Onboard mini-ITX? LOL GL with that :p ;) PCIe card these days if you want NV.

Asouter - http://www.google.co.uk/products/catalog?hl=en&q=p8z77-i+deluxe&cid=7806734557499102817&os=sellers - yea Dabs look like the cheapest. You can try getting other companies to price match maybe??
jrs77 12th June 2012, 03:27 Quote
There's a Z68 mini ITX board available with onboard nVidia GFX actually. And it even comes with a PCIe x4 slot for a sound or TV/SAT card.

ZOTAC Z68-ITX WiFi Supreme

It's the only manufacturer so far that seems to have somewhat specialized in mini ITX.
Tyinsar 12th June 2012, 04:51 Quote
A quick search of "form factor" here on b-t yields some interesting results. My favourite is: Intel will drop ATX next year

Anyway, I think the only company that has a decent SFF form factor has been Shuttle. Basically a longer (but not wider) mini-DTX. Two slots, room for some decently powerful GPUs and still fairly small. The extra length allows for more hardware on the motherboard (4+ RAM slots, extra power phases, ...) and it comes closer to matching GPU length (a full size GPU looks silly on an micro-ITX board). I just think it's a shame that Shuttle hasn't done anything with AMD's A-series chips.

Personally I'd like to see a "back of the monitor" standard. It would use the longer Shuttle type motherboard but move the GPU to a slot on the other side (like BTX) and rotate the connector 90 degrees. this would allow a slimmer pizza box shaped system with all the air intakes on one side. It might even be possible to run another 90 degree PCI-e slot on the other side for a TV tuner or better sound or ...
Bindibadgi 12th June 2012, 05:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
There's a Z68 mini ITX board available with onboard nVidia GFX actually. And it even comes with a PCIe x4 slot for a sound or TV/SAT card.

ZOTAC Z68-ITX WiFi Supreme

It's the only manufacturer so far that seems to have somewhat specialized in mini ITX.

Ohh haven't seen that. Ballsy, but I wonder how many layers that PCB has and at how much does the Supreme cost? Is it not easier to buy a low profile GT 430 and stuff it in the PCIe 16x slot?

Given cost:performance - is it really worth it to have Nvidia video playback versus Intel or AMD??

Tyinsar - Back of the monitor standard is called whitebook AIO.
jrs77 12th June 2012, 13:04 Quote
The Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi Supreme is available for some €220.

Sure it's expensive, but if you're aiming for the smallest system possible, where you've got a more beefy GPU then the intel HD + the option for a sound/TV-card that's your only choice I guess.
Bindibadgi 12th June 2012, 14:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
The Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi Supreme is available for some €220.

Sure it's expensive, but if you're aiming for the smallest system possible, where you've got a more beefy GPU then the intel HD + the option for a sound/TV-card that's your only choice I guess.

And how big is that market realistically? A handful people? MOST people will choose an FM1 board in that situation, or they'll opt to go a little bigger and use the PCIe slot. The ROI just isn't realistically there imo.
Spotswood 13th June 2012, 16:01 Quote
The huge ugly 4 pin Molex connector needs to D.I.E.!!
Tyinsar 14th June 2012, 21:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
...
Tyinsar - Back of the monitor standard is called whitebook AIO.
Thanks Bindi - though it's not quite what I was looking for (and I can see several reasons why such a thing will probably never be big even though I like the idea).

What I'd prefer is a slightly more open standard but where the case could act as a stand for the screen (giving you a lot more flexibility in both the case design and options and in the selection of monitor.) Both the monitor and the motherboard would be replaceable.The case could be about the thickness of an dual slot video card.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spotswood
The huge ugly 4 pin Molex connector needs to D.I.E.!!
agreed
Elton 14th June 2012, 22:16 Quote
I think better 4/8-pin Motherboard connector placement has to be made. That corner is very annoying. Although it's understandable given that power traces have to be nearby.
dark4181 18th June 2012, 03:53 Quote
I just have this:

d-TBx
Bindibadgi 18th June 2012, 12:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyinsar
What I'd prefer is a slightly more open standard but where the case could act as a stand for the screen (giving you a lot more flexibility in both the case design and options and in the selection of monitor.) Both the monitor and the motherboard would be replaceable.The case could be about the thickness of an dual slot video card.

You can buy this from In-Win iirc. It sits under the monitor arm which has a VESA mount. It's a commercial product though.
kyluxury 20th June 2012, 11:00 Quote
I love my mATX board, even housed in a big case...gives it room to breath!
Tyinsar 20th June 2012, 17:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
You can buy this from In-Win iirc. It sits under the monitor arm which has a VESA mount. It's a commercial product though.
The K1? Interesting but that's below the monitor and lacks much of what I was looking for. Cross that with the AIO systems, give me a choice of standardized motherboards, think Intel's slim ITX crossed with Shuttle's SFF boards with a splash of BTX, and then you'd be getting closer. Perhaps I'll have to build my own some day.
siliconfanatic 20th September 2012, 02:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuilleAcoustic
Quote:
Originally Posted by SchizoFrog
You also have to take in to account cooling of such a hot product. Many mITX cases only have a single air intake or maybe 2 smaller fan holes. But the idea is tempting.

Yup, but unfortunatly it's unlikely to happen ... unless they revise the whole ATX norm :(.

My dream would be to have 2 processor sockets on a single motherboard : one for the CPU and one for the GPU, with the memory shared between them. When you look at the GTX670, the power circuitry is compact. A power circuitry like on the Asus deluxe could be used to produce such a board.

I thought the exact same thing, minus the shared memory. I think the GPU should have its own separate memory source, but still one that is manually defined.

I feel that all boards should start out as Mini-ITX, but have a new form of expansion. The board would come with everything you need to get a functional system - maybe 2 RAM slots, 4 SATA ports, a couple USB headers, 1 PCI-e 16x slot, audio headers, and any other essentials for the typical system. At the right side and bottom of the board would be a couple gigantic slots where you can attach daughter boards.

The right-side slot would expand the board to be the width of standard ATX boards. Daughter boards that go here can have varying lengths, being as long as the mini-ITX board itself to as long as a standard ATX board. These daughter boards would contain additional RAM slots, additional pin headers (so if there are 2 USB ports not in use, they could be put here), and features that take advantage of unused south bridge resources.

As for the slot at the bottom of the motherboard, users can buy daughter boards containing 3 expansion ports (expanding the motherboard to become micro ATX). These daughter boards can also be expanded upon each other, so you can form full ATX as well. These boards can have any variety of slots, whether that be all PCI, PCI-e slots designed specifically for SLi or Crossfire, or even mini-PCIe slots.


Products like this would put back originality and customization in home-made PCs, and if designed properly, allows anybody to make a computer of any price point.

love this idea. maybe make the expansion slots the same, and have add on cpu socket boards? i was thinking about modular chipsets, but that would come with each board so... nulled. then have slim ram boards, so that each processor board could have a (to a point) selectable # of ram slots... i also would very much like to see selectable mem for vidcards... maybe extra gpu cards to put on them?
so that you can have 1, or 2 gpus for the card... maaaaaaaybe selectable(again, to a point, ie restricted to one arch) gpu so you can selct num of cores... so that would require interchangeable chipsets to handle cards... and have it able to switch btween gaming and workstation(tesla) cards depending on application...
and also have a puny integrated gpu in the base board, have you choose what connectors to integrate to base unit, and when you arent on resource hungry apps(3d programs, games) have it switch to that, deactivate some ram, extra boards to save power while you are just watchin netflix or browsing or posting... then have it deactivate some fans entirely to save more power... this would require a fan controller to be communicating with motherboard about current needed resources, and if that low resource requirment stays low for long enough(so that your 690's, for instance, dont switch off in a dialogue and crash your game... ) turn off cooling accs, slow down pump or other vital cooling units... thats all i got for now...
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