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Form Factors For The Desktop: From ATX To ITX

Compact All-Rounders: VIA's Eden Mini ITX Format Boards
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We should be clear about one thing: the ATX standard is too big. Although pizza-box-sized motherboards for professional and home use are unlikely to disappear altogether, it is interesting to note that more than half of all PCs sold today are based on MicroATX format boards. The main factor that is driving this development is an upward pressure on costs, which inevitably leads to a reduction in the size and weight of complete systems. You can simply get more mini towers than full towers in a twenty-foot container.

This diagram, which we found on the VIA website, clearly shows the size differences.

The Flex ATX standard holds out the prospect of systems that are even smaller than the Mini ATX. However, it is the Mini ITX standard as proposed and championed by VIA that promises to deliver the solution for the really small PC of tomorrow.

ATX Micro ATX Flex ATX Mini ITX
Width x depth, max. 305 x 244 mm 244 x 244 mm 229 x 191 mm 170 x 170 mm
Size relative to ATX 100% 80% 59% 39%

The Usual Problems: Too Hot, Too Loud, Too Inconvenient

Anyone who has assembled a computer system knows how frustrating it can be. You spend ages fitting a cable neatly inside the case only to discover that the plug won't fit. Then, you suddenly realize that you have made a mistake and have to backtrack by taking all your carefully assembled components out.

And even when everything is wired up, plugged in, slotted in and screwed down, you still can't take your eye off the ball. You have to make sure that the interior of your case is relatively tidy in order to ensure adequate ventilation - de rigueur for powerful computers running hot processors. Then, to combat the heat generated inside the case, we are obliged to install numerous fans (power supply, case, graphics card, CPU), which create a considerable racket that is surely not good for the nerves.

In order to put an end to this situation, we feel that two things are urgently required. Firstly, we must banish cable spaghetti forever by embracing the widespread adoption of Serial ATA (for CD/DVD drives too) and dispensing with the floppy disk drive. Then, we must find ways of cooling the system components, especially the CPU, without creating excessive noise. It is clear that generously dimensioned fans have to be employed, because small fans have to run at higher speeds, generating comparatively more motor whine and wind noise.

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