In the Lab: Gordon Mah Ung Wants to Kill ATX


In the Lab: Gordon Mah Ung Wants to Kill ATX

Would you use a ball mouse? A VL-Bus graphics card? A Socket 7 board? Then why the hell are enthusiasts still embracing the 13-year-old ATX formfactor? It’s time we started thinking about moving beyond ATX.

Today, we’re running quad-core boxes with two or more GPUs in a formfactor created when people used serial and parallel ports and the Pentium was the hot chip in town. In the near future, USB 3 will appear on motherboards in the south-bridge chips. To route the ports, motherboard vendors must run traces all the way from the south bridge to the rear I/O shield. You might be able to do this with USB 3 data rates on a four-layer board, but can it be done with USB 5? If it requires more layers, it’ll add to the cost of the board.

The failed BTX formfactor included many forward-thinking features.


Of course, Intel tried to fix these problems with its BTX formfactor, which cratered because of resistance from case-makers, a new emphasis on cooler CPUs, and complete resistance from AMD. But if I were hardware dictator for a day, I’d propose a new formfactor called GTX (Gordon TX) that mandates:

  • A minimum motherboard stand-off height, so wires can be routed safely and easily under the motherboard
  • RAM and expansion slots that are parallel to air flow in the case
  • A larger board area and I/O section to accommodate the dizzy- ing array of connectors a modern power user needs
  • Standardized front-panel connectors for reset, power, and LEDs
  • Two more expansion slots. The seven in ATX aren't enough with the multi-GPU machines we’re building
  • Less distance between the south-bridge and north-bridge chips
  • A CPU cooling scheme that accounts for liquid cooling or vent­ing from an area other than the front of the machine. While we’re at it, let’s build in more cooling for the GPU.

This probably sounds crazy because the push is for smaller, rather than larger, PCs, but I say it’s time. Average people are moving toward smaller machines or notebook PCs. Full-tower ATX boxes are increasingly focused on the workstation market; we really shouldn’t be handcuffed by formfactors designed to appeal to the masses.



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I whole-heartedly second that opinion. I've been reading your magazine for several years now, but have yet to build my first rig, due to the fact that I was unsure whether mobo makers would embrace BTX or some other form-factor. Needless to say, I recently got interested in finally building my PC this year, and to my surprise, they're still using ATX! I couldn't believe I've wasted 2 or 3 years waiting around for a more future-proof design. Maybe we should start an online petition as gamers and power-users that want mobo makers to start a new form-factor! I, for one, would be the first in line for GTX! ;)

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