For anyone building a new high-performance gaming PC or workstation, choosing the right motherboard is one of the most important decisions. Two of the most popular options are the ATX and EATX form factors. In this in-depth guide, I‘ll compare EATX vs. ATX motherboards to help you decide the best choice for your next build.
A Brief History of ATX and EATX
First, let‘s look back at the origins of these two standards. The ATX form factor was introduced by Intel in 1995 to replace earlier formats like AT and Baby AT. The goal was to standardize motherboard production with a common layout that improved accessibility, configuration, and upgrades.
After several revisions over the years, ATX became the standard for most consumer PC motherboards by the late 90s. Even today, it still dominates the DIY market with a over 90% share according to sales data.
The EATX (Extended ATX) form factor emerged in the early 2000s as an enhanced version of ATX. It was designed to offer more expansion capability for high-end systems. While ATX measures 12" x 9.6", EATX increased the width to 12" x 13" for added ports and slots.
However, due to much higher costs, EATX never reached mass market appeal. It represents less than 5% of current retail motherboard sales. But for hardcore gamers and workstation builders, EATX remains a top choice for no-compromise systems.
The most noticeable difference between ATX and EATX motherboards is sheer physical size. Standard ATX boards adhere to a 12" x 9.6" footprint. Meanwhile, EATX boards stretch that width out to 13 inches.
While 1 inch may not seem like much, it has implications for spacing components out across the PCB. Many premium EATX models actually push beyond 13 inches to up to 13.5" or even 14" for maximum surface area. No matter what, you‘ll need a chassis specifically designed for EATX support.
More Expansion Potential
The EATX form factor really shines when it comes to expansion capabilities. The extra inch of width and overall larger PCB allows packing in a wider array of ports and connectivity.
For memory, high-end EATX boards often support up to 8 DIMM slots, while ATX tops out at 4 slots in most cases. That allows accommodating up to 128GB of RAM for tasks like video editing, 3D rendering, and software development.
You also get more lanes for PCI Express devices like graphics cards and NVMe SSDs. EATX motherboards can have as many as 7 PCIe x16 slots for running multiple GPUs in SLI or Crossfire. Benchmark tests demonstrate that a 3-way SLI rig can achieve over 100 FPS boosts in demanding games compared to a single video card.
Beefed Up Storage and Cooling
EATX motherboards typically offer vastly increased storage options through both SATA and M.2 ports. While ATX boards usually max out with 6-8 SATA ports, high-end EATX models can pack 10, 12, or even 16 ports.
This enables connecting a huge array of HDDs and SSDs. For the ultimate in speed, EATX boards often have 3-4 M.2 sockets that support blazing fast NVMe drives. This combination means you can build a gaming or creative workstation with both immense capacity and lightning quick access times.
To support power-hungry multi-GPU, multi-drive setups, EATX motherboards separate components further apart for better cooling. The extra width allows larger heat sinks on the voltage regulation modules and chipset. There‘s also more headers to power multiple case fans and liquid cooling radiators.
Pushing the Limits with Overclocking
For driving benchmarks and handling extreme overclocking, EATX motherboards excel thanks to beefed up power circuitry. The best models feature thick 8-10 power phase designs with top-notch components like tantalum capacitors and massive heatsinks.
Some elite boards even offer features like dual 8-pin EPS12V connectors and PCIe slot reinforcement for breaking overclocking world records. With liquid nitrogen cooling, EATX platforms have achieved CPU speeds over 8GHz and memory clocks beyond 5GHz.
The Downside of Higher Costs
Of course, all this impressive overclocking support, added expansion, and premium components come at a price – literally! EATX motherboards cost significantly more than ATX alternatives.
While decent ATX boards can be found starting around $100, basic EATX models still run over $200. High-end enthusiast-grade EATX boards with all the bells and whistles often ring up over $500. In fact, it‘s not uncommon to see flagship EATX models priced at $600 and even up to $1000!
So while the performance potential is massive, you have to be prepared to pay a premium if going with an EATX build. For many gamers, sticking with a mainstream ~$150 ATX board makes more sense to stay within budget.
EATX vs. ATX Motherboards: A Side-by-Side Comparison
Here‘s a helpful specs table to compare EATX and ATX motherboards side-by-side:
|Size||12" x 13"||12" x 9.6"|
|RAM slots||Up to 8||2-4|
|PCIe x16 slots||Up to 7||1-3|
|M.2 sockets||Up to 4||1-2|
When Does it Make Sense to Choose EATX?
Based on the pros, cons, and trade-offs we‘ve covered, here are three instances where springing for an EATX motherboard could be worth it:
Building a High-End Multi-GPU Gaming Rig: More PCIe lanes allow running 3+ graphics cards for performance that can‘t be matched with ATX.
Creating an Extreme Workstation PC: Maxing out storage, memory, and PCIe expansion is easier and more stable on EATX for professional creative tasks.
Pushing Benchmark Records: For competitive overclockers, EATX power delivery and cooling provides the best chance of hitting new high scores.
For general gaming PCs and basic office builds, ATX motherboards offer enough performance and connectivity at a far more affordable cost. But when aiming for the absolute cutting edge, EATX can‘t be beat.
The Bottom Line
Deciding between EATX vs. ATX ultimately comes down to your PC build goals and budget. If you‘re looking to maximize expansion potential for storage, multiple GPUs, and other add-in cards, EATX is a top choice. Just be prepared to pay a significant premium over equivalent ATX models.
For more mainstream system builds, ATX motherboards offer a sweet spot of affordability, size, and capability. While you lose some leading-edge performance versus EATX, ATX gets the job done for the majority of users with a sensible balance of price and features.
Hopefully this detailed EATX vs. ATX comparison has provided all the details you need to pick the best motherboard form factor for your next PC project!