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Micro ATX, why is it not used more often?

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  • Micro ATX, why is it not used more often?

    I did a search into Micro ATX on this forum. Originaly I was after building a reasonably future proof and upgradable system for my car for quite cheap, This ment a quite expensive Mini ITX Pentium M motherboard and 1.5ghz Celeron M processor with 1gb 533mhz ram and 250gb 3.5" ide hard disk in a reasonably small case to fit in the glove box with room to spare. This was setting me back roughly 450. I thought this would be a decent system to get my Satnav and Multimedia needs going. Then whilst browsing a components website recomended by a friend i found the Micro ATX form motherboard. I did a search in this website and found that if there is space it is a better board but not much more information then that. And even that just a brief sentence in a post. Now personaly this motherboard makes more sence to me becuase I can have a much more upgradable motherboard with 1gb 800mhz RAM, a fantastic onboard 7.1 sound card and multimedia graphics card on board which has got fantastic reviews, a 2 ghz amd x2 processor (dual core) with 500gb sata II hard disk in a case which can fit the glove box with relative ease an all this costing under 200. Now the question is if it is so much cheaper to have a much more powerful system, indeed some would argue too powerful, then why is it not used more by people building car computers as there is not that much difference in size. Is there something i have forgotten which makes the difference?

  • #2
    1) Powering a board like this with all of the add-ons is usually a problem
    2) Needing that much power isn't at all necessary in the car
    3) Heat generated is greater (generally)
    4) Size is usually a problem for most people. Mini-ITX boards are less than 7" square...micro atx boards are a full 2.6" larger on all sides. Finding somewhere to mount that is much more difficult than a mini-itx board. Yes, 2.6" can make all the difference in the world
    5) many of the mini-itx boards people are using are industrial boards, hardly any of the microATX boards are true industrial boards

    If you can fit it, can power it, can cool it, and are ok with knowing that the board isn't built to the same standards as some of the mini-itx boards that many people on here are using, go for it.
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!


    • #3
      Couple reasons:

      1) Space - not everyone has it, and with smaller cars becoming more popular, it gets rarer.

      2) Power - Most ITX board/chip combinations are targeted for low power needs and use a lot less than micro-atx ones. Less power also means less heat and cooling inside a car can be a pain.

      I myself am going uATX because I've found a good spot in my car for it. If it wasn't going to fit nicely, I would have went ITX.


      • #4
        Only benefit to a form factor is size.

        Some people dont know but the itx form factor supports everything from a via/P3 to Core 2 duo. Quad too I think from one of Red's recent posts.

        uATX actually supports via/P3 up to Duo/Quad. I have a Via board with a "C3 2000+" on a uATX formfactor. It runs cool, and is plenty fast for a print server and basic multimedia. It also cost me $35 I think new off of NewEgg.

        So the only thing that matters is size here. Power is negligable because the more expensive the more powerful.

        On the size thing as Red said, 2.6" can make a big difference. That is why mini-itx breaks down even farther to nano-itx, and then to pico-itx now! Amazing to me! A mini-itx fits perfectly behind a double din dash area. So you could put your entire PC behind the screen. Less wires to run, all in 1 unit. Was my plan originally, but I am not too good with fabricating!
        Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
        1.9in x 2.9in -- 47mm x 73mm
        30 Digital Outputs -- Directly drive a relay
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        Buy now in the Store


        • #5
          Thanks for the replies. I had a feeling it wouldn't be that easy otherwise everyone would be doing it. Power wise I am not too sure how all that works but I have been advised that 400w or so is enough to run the computer. This is not really a big deal I don't think if that 400w at 12v works in the same way as a car amplifier as currently the sound system in the car which is coming out draws alot more then that. I was thinking is there really a point of dual core processor and all that ram inside a car where it will just run music but it is mainly the cost side of things, I can have a computer that puts my home computer to shame for under 200 which is really a very good bargin when compared to some ready made home computers which are more expensive with less power. Luckily there is more then enough space for the bigger case, will need to think through cooling. Thank you for pointing out all of the potential problems that I may face. I did not realise the cooling issue. Probably saved me a good few problems further down the line.


          • #6
            I run a MicroATX board. The only problem I've ever had with it is that once crashed when I got rear ended. Other than that I've had no problems in 3 years.

            Cooling issues haven't been an issue either. Once it's started the processor fan does a fine job. Of course getting it started on a hot day can be a pain, but that's from sitting in a hot car. An ATX, ITX, or old school 8088 board are going to all rise to the same ambient temperature of the car.
            Here it is! My carputer install! 1997 BMW M3


            • #7
              The operating temperatures of some of the mini-ITX boards are a wider range than other standard desktop boards. Something to consider.
              Jan Bennett
              FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

              Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!


              • #8
                reasons for using a micro ATX
                1. you won't ever have to strip down software so you can run it
                2. you will be able to put all the nice PCI and USB you desire..
                3. you will be able to upgrade more.

                sure you will have to combine that with a DSATX or an opus 250, but if you have the is worth it.
                just my opinion


                • #9
                  uATX all the way.
                  Add to Norrmader commend.
                  Cost, cost, and cost. Much much cheaper. You get 2x performance at 1/2 cost.
                  cooling: no problem.
                  space: if you decide the case well, it will fit perfectly under the driver or passenger seat.
                  power: DSATX or Opus 150 or higher can do just fine.
                  2004 Matrix XR A7N8X-VM/400 AMD XP-M 2500+, DS-ATX
                  89 Supra Turbo P3 [email protected]/Abit BE6 II, Alpine M-BUS Car2PC.
                  Y2K Accord Dell GX150
                  RoadRunner is the best FE PERIOD
                  EmoRebellion is a SCAMMER


                  • #10
                    I am also running a MicroATX board, and I am so glad I didn't go the whole M1000 MiniITX route! I saved a lot of money, and my system is stable and fast, with the ability to upgrade. I am also using a 400W power inverter. I just flip the switch, then hit the "power on" button for the computer.

                    This is in my 1999 Toyota Tacoma, standard cab. I am kinda tall, so the seat is all the way back and everything still fits back there.

                    Oh yeah, I've been running this same computer for 2 years as a Windows MCE PC using a 230W Power Supply and it has always been enough, even with these specs:
                    ATI Radeon 9600 (AGP)
                    Athlon XP 2800+ (socket a)
                    Abit VA-20 MicroATX Motherboard
                    AverMedia HDTV Tuner
                    Huappauge PVR-250 TV Tuner
                    Soundblaster Audigy 2ZS Platinum Pro w/External I/O Controller
                    1GB DDR400
                    CPU Overclocked to 2.22GHz
                    400GB Seagate HDD
                    DVD/RW Drive
                    Microsoft Bluetooth Receiver
                    Snapstream Firefly Remote RF Receiver
                    12-in-1 Media Card Reader
                    Labtec WebCam
                    2005 Subaru STi


                    • #11
                      Quite a wealth of information right there, thank you all for posting. So generaly speaking they are quite a stable platform. My car does get quite hot in the sun being black and all but i think that should be fine with a slightly bigger fan. That said my room gets pretty hot as well and the computer has managed to work quite well. From what i remember during ICT classes the computer will just be slower but is there something more serious as a result?

                      It is highly upgradable, much more then i will ever need in the car. Hey its more upgradable then i would ever need at home but that is besides the point. While being upgradable it is also quite cheap which is a nice combo i feel.

                      Matrix thank you for the power information. Still confuses me quite alot but those two products should be a good place to start looking.

                      @Surfgurujeff, I noticed you are running two tv tuner cards, how come you are using two seperate tv tuner cars? just curiosity really. That i think is quite close to the setup that i am hoping to run myself. I am planning on the following specs:

                      Asrock Skt AM2 Micro ATX Motherboard.
                      AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 (2.2GHz) Processor.
                      Kingston 1GB DDR2 800MHz (2x512MB) RAM.
                      Maxtor 320GB 7200RPM SATAII Hard Disk Drive.
                      USB GPS Antenna.

                      Will be adding wlan, tv tuner and CF PCIs later with a nice 5.25" internal/external media card reader, USB bluetooth, fingerprint scanner, rear view camera, front bumper mounted camera, internal front facing camera and depending on the compatability and software avalability some form of OBD hardware. I think something in the order of 250-300W should be enough and the stock car charging system is enough for a good 800W rms. On top of which i will be adding a secondary battery for the sound system and upgrading the alternator system.


                      • #12
                        The temperature in your room and the temperature in a car are two entirely different beasts.

                        Inside my car can easily get to 160 in the summer in as little as 20 minutes.

                        If a computer gets too hot it will shut off, it won't just get slower. Running a higher powered processor in the car means more need for extreme cooling.

                        I'm running a core duo inside a case in the car and am running into all kinds of cooling problems. I'm removing the case as I type and am going back to my caseless past to help handle this problem.

                        Before you go and claim that 200-300 watts should be enough, you should check each rails power requirements and the power supply you plan on using...especially if you're going to be adding all of that.

                        There's really no need to get a new alternator for just an additional few hundred watts...that's very miniscule in the car world.
                        Jan Bennett
                        FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                        Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!


                        • #13
                          just throwin in another vote for the mATX form factor, im running an athlon x2 3800+ (windsor core so its only 65w ) on an ecs mobo running a gig of 800mhz ram, an 80gb 3.5" ide drive, a dvd drive, and all my usb stuff off of an opus 250 with no problems at all, cooling is handled by the stock AMD cpu fan with some arctic silver thermal paste, stays decently cool and best of all it has no problems running any skin/software combo ive thrown at it . i originally went with an itx board, but it was painfully slow even compared to my (then)aging desktop pc. So when i upgraded the desktop, i decided to do the car as well, and the only regret i have is that i ever wasted the time/money on the itx board.



                          • #14
                            The alternator and secondary battery is more for the sound system then for the comptuer. I am installed a 5000Wrms sound system in the car so it is more to cope with that then to run the car computer. I am really quite unsure as to how much power i will be needing i am just making a rough estimate based on the other systems that i have seen on the website and what kind of power they are running for the hardware that they have. There are not that many things on there that actualy need alot of power. No graphics cards, only 1 hard disk, a few usb devices but no really high power ones. Ofcourse there is pleanty of headroom in the electrical system to upgrade if need be to a higher output power supply. Cooling may be a concern as it does get quite hot in the car in summer time so perhaps may have to look into more fans and keeping the glovebox open whilst the comptuer is in use in the hotter months. Whilst not in use if the computer is not switched on then does it matter how hot it gets? well within reason ofcourse.


                            • #15
                              i think it's a good question.

                              I'm using a full sized ATX board without on board video and I was able to fit it in my truck. (granted i did have to raise my entire seat mounting up a few inches, but it wasn't too hard)

                              so why not use micro atx?

                              but, most micro atx are pentium 4's, and powering those mofo's is hard at best.