ATX Without The Waste
With support for full-sized components and up to four expansion cards, the Micro-ATX format has always been more than adequate for the majority of high-end builds. Yet while enthusiasts have typically cited inadequate quality or design as the primary reason for not considering this option, manufacturers have cited lack of demand as a reason for not putting their best efforts into a board this small. A few attempts by manufacturers to win loyalty among space-conscious enthusiasts have mostly been rejected by a market that maintained its traditional view of the former problems.
The popularity of Micro-ATX portable gaming enclosures is finally starting to break the cycle of negative assumptions as customers are forced to make a decision about what hardware to put inside. Current top products are undoubtedly as feature-laden as many of their full-sized counterparts, incorporating high-end devices and support for even the largest dual-slot graphics cards in CrossFire and SLI. Always a target of upper-range Micro-ATX motherboard sales, professional media and home theater enthusiasts may instead choose to load up to three media-centric devices in addition to a single-slot graphics card. With this much flexibility, confessing that they don’t actually need more expansion room could be the hardest problem for many builders.
Yet few of us will even consider smaller devices until we can see that they function as well in every respect as the larger parts they replace, so today we’ll compare these against the fastest of our full-ATX samples. Before we go into the details of that test, let’s take a closer look at the features we so eagerly endorsed.
|Micro-ATX Core i7 Motherboard Features|
|Asus Rampage II Gene||DFI LANParty Jr X58-T3H6|
|Northbridge||Intel X58 Express||Intel X58 Express|
|Southbridge||Intel ICH10R||Intel ICH10R|
|Voltage Regulator||Eight Phases||Six Phases|
|BIOS||0705 (04-09-2009)||217 (02-17-2009)|
|133.3 MHz Bclk||133.6 MHz (+0.20%)||133.0 (-0.25%)|
|Clock Generator||ICS 9LPRS918JKLF||ICS 9LPRS918JKLF|
|PCIe 2.0 x16||2 (x16/x16)||2 (x16/x16)|
|USB 2.0||4 (8-ports)||3 (6-ports)|
|Ultra ATA-133||1 (2-drives)||1 (2-drives)|
|SATA 3 Gb/s||7||6|
|S/PDIF I/O||Output Only||None|
|CLR_CMOS Button||Jumper Only||Yes (by PWR+RST)|
|Diagnostics Panel||External Device Header||2-Character|
|I/O Panel Connectors|
|CLR_CMOS Button||Yes||By Jumper|
|Digital Audio Out||1||2|
|Digital Audio In||0||0|
|Mass Storage Controllers|
|Chipset SATA||6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s||6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s|
|Chipset RAID Modes||0, 1, 5, 10||0, 1, 5, 10|
|Add-In SATA||JMB363 PCIe, 1x SATA 3.0 Gb/s, 1x eSATA 3.0 Gb/s||None|
|Add-In Ultra ATA||JMB363 PCIe||JMB368 PCIe|
|IEEE 1394||VT6315N PCIe, 2 x 400 Mb/s||None|
|Primary LAN||RTL8111C PCIe||88E8053 PCIe|
|HD Audio Codec||AD2000B||ALC889|
Although this review let me have a little more respect for the board I'm still asus and gigabyte all the way.
Good point, and I agree, that the hardest thing for the market is for those who have idealisms that the atx board with the most slots are best, have to admit that this not the case, that they don’t need and wont likely use them. It’s about time technology moved on and we start shrinking the components. We've come a long way from house sized computers but seems to have got stuck with fridge-sized atx, time to change that and join the 21st century!
Really, the reason the Rampage II Gene wasn't considered for the $2500 PC is that it didn't show up under a Newegg category search (LGA-1366, Micro ATX) and Newegg didn't fix that until this week. It's a good board, and if you need a weird cooler style, supports the more popular LGA-775 coolers.
but im missing the MSI X58M (160€ best prive vs 198€ asus and 190 dfi) here, theres a great review at anandtech. the board really rocks and has only a few weak points (fan control and s3 wake up problem if overclocked). i think ppl would be glad if the msi could be added to this comparison.
P eople go for a full atx build simply because they can (:P), and because larger cases offer better cooling especially for SLI and CF, it's much easier to build and, other than portability, there is no real advantage of a micro-atx build, even the price difference is not worth it in my opinion. But the article does a good job of showing that u-atx boards can be excellent performers.
Personally, I'd probably give up a tiny bit of performance for the more noteworthy reduction in power used by DFI; I like the cooler flexibility of the Asus though. It would be a tough call.