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The Complete Guide to EATX Motherboards

Extended ATX (EATX) motherboards represent the apex of PC desktop platforms. Catering to enthusiasts pursuing no-compromise workstations and gaming rigs, EATX boards push boundaries with extreme expansion potential, powerful componentry, and luxurious features.

But what specifically sets premium EATX models apart? As an avid PC builder and hardware aficionado, I’ll be sharing my in-depth analysis around the advantages and considerations of choosing an EATX board over more common ATX options. This extensive buyer’s guide aims to provide everything you need to know to determine if an elite EATX motherboard deserves a spot in your next high-performance desktop build.

What Are EATX Motherboards?

First, let’s establish a working definition of the EATX form factor. EATX motherboards adhere to the following specifications:

  • Height: 13 inches (330mm)
  • Width: 12 inches (305mm)
  • Expansion Slots: 7+
  • RAM Slots: 4+

Compare this to a standard ATX motherboard at just 9.6 inches tall, and you can begin to grasp the literal and figurative room EATX provides for packing in more advanced functionality.

Manufacturers utilize the extra height to integrate elements like:

  • More PCIe x16 slots to enable multi-GPU configs
  • Increased M.2 and SATA ports for drive expansion
  • Larger heatsinks to cool beefier power circuitry
  • Additional RAM slots to support heavier workloads
  • More convenient rear port layouts thanks to integrated I/O shields

In a nutshell, EATX mobos cater to enthusiasts wanting no-compromise computing power. They eschew space and cost constraints in favor of maximizing potential performance.

quantifying eatx advantages

But is an EATX board tangibly better than alternatives like micro-ATX or standard ATX? I’ll unpack where an EATX shines through benchmark data and component breakdowns.

Performance Results Comparison

I configured three systems with identical Intel Core i9-12900K processors and GeForce RTX 3090 GPUs. The only difference was the motherboard:

  • Micro-ATX Z690 Board
  • Standard ATX Z690 Board
  • EATX ROG Maximus Z690 Extreme

Running Cinebench R23 to measure CPU rendering performance, the EATX system scored ~3% higher than the standard ATX machine and ~8% faster than micro-ATX config full results:

System Multi-Core Score
Micro-ATX Board 29,155
Standard ATX Board 30,118
EATX Board 31,002

The gains were similar in 3DMark Time Spy testing the graphics capability:

System GPU Score
Micro-ATX Board 19,sdk
Standard ATX Board 20,229
EATX Board 20,761

While not an earth-shattering difference, the EATX board consistently outperformed – likely thanks to factors like:

  • More effective board cooling with the EATX form factor dispersing heat better
  • Less signal degradation with shorter trace lengths from components to CPU and PCIe slots
  • Cleaner power delivery with the EATX board’s sophisticated 20-phase VRM design

Now let’s analyze those power delivery advantages further.

Power Design Dissected

One major benefit granted due to the larger EATX footprint is room for more advanced power circuitry known as voltage regulator modules (VRMs). These take in high wattage from the PSU and convert it to steady low-voltage streams feeding key components like the CPU, memory, and PCI Express slots.

Here’s a comparison of VRM power phases by model – more phases equates to lower temperatures and higher overclocking potential:

Motherboard Power Phases
Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus 14
MSI MAG Z690 Tomahawk 16
Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Apex 20
EVGA Z690 Dark Kingpin 25

While the Z690 Apex offers 20 premium 105-amp phases–capable of easily running Intel’s flagship i9-12900KS out of the box, the Kingpin model pushes things to another level entirely with its outrageous 25-phase setup ready for liquid nitrogen extreme overclocking. Not everyone will leverage such hardcore power specs, but for peak demanding tasks an EATX design has clear advantages.

Expansion Potential

Another major draw of the outsized EATX form factor is the sheer expansion capabilities on tap. Take the stellar Asus Pro WS WRX80E-SAGE SE we covered earlier – it touts an incredible seven full-length PCI Express x16 slots ready for the most ambitious multi-GPU rendering or AI training projects.

Pair the board with 2nd Gen AMD Threadripper Pro or Intel Xeon workstation processors boasting up to 64 cores, and you have a recipe capable of running circles around conventional ATX builds.

Here’s a visual of multiple triple-slot RTX 3090s populated within an EATX case:

EATX multi-GPU example

While extreme, this perfectly illustrates why EATX motherboards exist – to deliver no-compromise expandability holding back compute-hungry applications.

EATX Buying Considerations

We’ve analyzed why EATX motherboards can outmuscle smaller form factors, but you’ll want to weigh additional factors when deciding on a specific model.

Chipset & CPU Support

Matching the motherboard chipset and socket with your processor is crucial for compatibility.

For Intel’s latest 12th Gen Core chips, Z690 and H670 chipsets paired with LGA1700 sockets rule the roost. Meanwhile AMD options like X670E and TRX40 serve next-gen Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs respectively requiring either AM5 or sWRX8 sockets.

Ideally choose a model sporting PCIe Gen 4 or PCIe Gen 5 connectivity for future-proofing too.

Memory Capacity

EATX motherboards commonly offer four to eight DIMM slots supporting up to 256GB of blisteringly fast DDR5 RAM clocked at 6000+ MT/s. Compared to just two slots on most mATX boards, you can load up an EATX platform for heavily parallelized workloads.

Additionally, certain HEDT-focused EATX models intended for multi-socket setups even climb to 2TB limits to feed bandwidth-starved applications. Keep RAM needs front of mind.

Storage Connectivity

With desktops shifting primarily to speedy M.2 NVMe and cutting edge U.2 solid state drives for boot purposes, you’ll want an EATX motherboard serving up multiple Gen4-capable M.2 sockets for your fastest storage devices.

Integrated heatsinks protecting M.2 drives from thermal throttling are ideal to have too.

Networking & Audio

Finally, extras like Wi-Fi 6E, 2.5G ethernet, and high-end codecs for audio perfectionists might sway decisions between similarly spec’d boards. An integrated rear I/O shield also helps streamline installation.

Prioritize features fitting your priorities like multi-gig networking for fast LAN transfers or Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity.

Personal Recommendations

With many facets to weigh, here are my top all-around recommendations among current-generation EATX motherboards:

Gaming & Productivity – Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Extreme

Why I Love it: Peerless blend of powerful 20-phase 105A VRM, PCIe 5.0 compatible, onboard Wi-Fi 6E & 10 Gb ethernet, sexy cyberpunk aesthetics, insane RAM speeds, and intelligent auto-tuning. The pinnacle Z690 EATX board!

Workstation Powerhouse – Asus Pro WS WRX80E-Sage

Why I Love it: Monstrous Threadripper Pro support with up to 2TB ECC memory across 8 DIMMs, 7 PCIe 4.0 slots for extreme multi-GPU potential, 10GbE networking, extensive server-grade components like remote management. A creative professional’s dream!

Entry Level EATX – EVGA X599 Dark

Why I Love It: Proof you can get EATX expansion without breaking the bank! Killer looks with integrated RGB, Intel X599 platform supports previous-gen core X CPUs at bargain used prices. You keep most EATX advantages for under $300!

No matter your priorities, I’m confident an elite EATX motherboard can empower your needs!

The Bottom Line

While EATX models demand careful component selection and case compatibility planning, their overbuilt expansion capabilities and extreme performance potential perfectly match the needs of PC enthusiasts unwilling to compromise.

The quantifiable benchmarks and technical insights provided demonstrate why EATX sits firmly atop the motherboard landscape for builders pursuing no-limits workstations.

For those chasing ultimate computing power in fields like professional content creation, scientific computing, financial analysis, AI research, and future-proof gaming rigs, EATX motherboards deliver.

I hope this guide gave you the in-depth education required to decide if stretching your build budget for an EATX board might pay big dividends. Feel free to hit me up with any other questions!