Part 2a: Form Factors - Building Your Own Gaming Computer!

Read our last blog post but have no idea how to prepare?

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail - this blog post will hopefully remedy some of the anxiety and nervousness that come about when the phrase 'Build your own computer' is brought up with a lot of knowledge that has been as best translated as possible to what the 'Average Joe' can read and understand.

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As with building anything there are aspects that will require you to think about how you go about it; how much time you have to build? What happens when the unexpected happens? What do you want out of it?

For the purposes of this I will be assuming that want to build the ATX Form Factor gaming computer. But...

What is a Form Factor?

Form Factors

'Form Factors' are usually talked about in relation to motherboards. It sets standards with what dimensions, specifications, and functionality a piece of electronic can be made by a manufacturer. With the Form Factor the chaos of not knowing if compatibility with other computer parts such as the computer case, power supply, the type of CPU cooling you choose, and graphic cards is almost completely dismissed. 

Form Factors

There are three main types of Form Factors: ITX, ATX, and EATX with variations between each one. In the name of all Form Factors the 'TX' stands for 'Technology EXtended' while the first letter of each Form Factor means something different. While each one has its positives and negatives the main feature (besides the one described above) is that it also allows consumers to be able to quickly tell if, say, their computer case would be able to handle an all-in-one CPU cooler - if they both describe in their specifications that they are 'ATX' size and/or compatible then chances are that they will play nice with one another. This case applies to most other computer components as well.

Mini-ITX Form Factor

Asus ROG Strix B250I gaming S1151 mITX MB 2xDDR4 1xPCIe 2XM.2, 4xSATA3 4XUSB3.1 Gen1, 1xDP, 1xHDMI

Asus ROG Strix B250I gaming S1151 mITX Motherboard

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Mini-ITX computers and parts are the smallest with low power consumption and innovative heat dissipation the biggest selling point. The ITX motherboard dimension usually are 17cm x 17cm (6.7in x 6.7in). The 'I' in ITX stands for 'Information' making the whole name 'Information Technology EXtended'. Ever seen a digital kiosk? Used an Internet Cafe? Or even a giant digital wall display at your shopping mall? It was probably powered from an ITX computer!

It's variations include the Nano-ITX, Pico-ITX, and Mobile ITX.

MSI Z370I GAMING PRO CARBON AC mini-ITX Motherboard - S1151 8Gen 2xDDR4 PCI-E M.2 TypeC DP/HDMI

MSI Z370I GAMING PRO CARBON AC mini-ITX Motherboard

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While low power bills and a quiet tiny computer that can fit onto the back of your display monitor sounds nice - why doesn't everyone buy one? Price would have to be the biggest contention as the squashing and compressing of technology into a workable small form factor means that it takes more to figure out how to, for example, put great gaming graphics components into something that may resemble a big chunky USB Storage Stick. 

ATX Form Factor

Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E GAMING S1151 ATX Motherboard M.2

Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E GAMING S1151 ATX Motherboard M.2

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The ATX Form Factor is the most widespread and popular as it allows for a balance between cooling and performance. With this balance is the surety that most components are ATX compatible; which also lends itself as the starter point for any beginner computer builder. Its measurements are on usually 30.5cm x 24.4cm (12.in x 9.6in). The 'A' stands for 'Advanced' resulting in 'Advanced Technology EXtended'.

A bit of history: when IBM released computers in 1985 they had a few form factors - one of them being the 'Baby AT' form factor which superseded the 'AT' form factor. ATX came onto the scene in 1995 and took over with its 90 degrees rotated CPU Socket and memory allowing full length expansion card to be put into a motherboard. It was also the first time that I/O (Input/ Output) connectors such as Mouse, Serial and Parallel were directly on the motherboard whereas before only the keyboard could be connected.

Gigabyte GA-AX370-GAMING-K7 AMD Ryzen AM4 ATX MB 4xDDR4 5xPCIe 2xSLI 2xCF M.2 U.2 HDMI RAID Killer NIC Intel GbE LAN 4xUSB3.1 ~GA-AX370-GAMING K5

Gigabyte GA-AX370-GAMING-K7 AMD Ryzen AM4 ATX Motherboard

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With their being positives there are also negatives - if you want a small or larger computer then you'll have to look elsewhere and the massive range of components available can make it daunting for some to find specifically what will suit their needs.

EATX Form Factor

Asus Crosshair VI Extreme AM4 ATX MB 4xDDR4 6xPCe 2xM.2, 8xSATA 7xUSB3.1 1xUSB Type-C

Asus Crosshair VI Extreme AM4 ATX MB 4xDDR4 6xPCe 2xM.2, 8xSATA 7xUSB3.1 1xUSB Type-C

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So maybe you've tried an ITX and/or ATX computer build and you want to go bigger - where do you go? EATX is the answer! With its larger dimensions at 30.5cm x 33cm (12in x 13in) you've got a lot of space to play with regarding the sizes of components. While you may have an EATX case there's no reason why you cant put in ATX, ITX, and other form factor variant parts into it, if that's what you wanted to do!

Asus ROG ZENITH EXTREME X399 TR4 EATX MB 4xDDR4 6xPCe 2xM.2 RAID 6xSATA 9xUSB3.1 1xUSB3.1 Type-C

Asus ROG ZENITH EXTREME X399 TR4 EATX MB 4xDDR4 6xPCe 2xM.2 RAID 6xSATA 9xUSB3.1 1xUSB3.1 Type-C

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The negatives to an EATX computer is that price will be higher as EATX parts and computers are bigger so the price will be as well.

Due to how much subjects are packed into preparing to build a gaming computer (not even building the system) Part 2 of this blog series is going to split into a lot of sub blog posts like this one!