BTX Motherboards Galore

You'll remember from our BTX article that there are three flavors of BTX: pico, micro and regular BTX. Most of the motherboards we saw were micro BTX, meaning they had four expansion slots and are about the size of a micro ATX motherboard.

Of course, Intel's micro BTX motherboard was present at the Intel showcase:


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The Intel board features the newly announced 915 chipset, and features two PCI Express slots and two 32-bit PCI slots. One of the more noticeable changes BTX offers is that the graphics card slot (PCI Express x16) is now the last slot (or the first depending on how you look at it) on the board, making cooling much easier and much less restrictive.

It may be difficult to see in this picture, but note that the four SATA ports are located directly behind the parallel port at the top of the picture. It's sort of ironic to put one of the latest interface standards directly behind one of the oldest and most cumbersome.

It was good to see boards from companies like Gigabyte present as well, after all what use is an industry standard if Intel is the only one to demonstrate it?


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Gigabyte's board is also a micro BTX, indicated by its four expansion slots. Gigabyte's slot layout is a bit different from Intel's, as are their SATA and BTX power connectors. Considering where the SATA cables will end up, Intel's orientation of the connectors may make more sense and require less twisting of the already fragile SATA connectors to install properly.

MSI's board was also a departure from Intel's design, and we believe it also violates the BTX spec (or at least one of its goals). Can you see the problem?

Look carefully at the expansion slots, the PCI Express x16 slot isn't the first slot on the board, there's an x1 slot that comes before it - defeating one of the cooling purposes of BTX. To MSI's credit, this is most likely a very early motherboard sample without much care or attention paid to such details, but this could also be one reason why more BTX motherboards haven't been shown off - a lack of spec compliance.

MSI's solution was 925X based, which is the first 925X based BTX motherboard that we've seen thus far.

Why everyone hates BTX BTX Motherboards from ASUS and MiTAC
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  • srg - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    Another thing, there are hardly any expansion slots compaired to ATX, I don't care about these tiny systems, I want expansion.
    srg
    Reply
  • Kai920 - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    #9,

    YES! Those new Shuttles have me droooling all over. I'm waiting for the new SN95 (AMD 939) in a G5 chassis... estimate waiting time would be another year from now before prices fall to my desired levels.
    Reply
  • tfranzese - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    #15, BTX has no relavence to going smaller and quieter. It's biggest benefit is cooling and even then you can reap much of the benefits by just having things rearranged in an ATX case as demonstrated by Lian-Li. Reply
  • Xentropy - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    Wow. I've never seen so much opposition to smaller, cooler cases. As a regular LAN gamer and overclocking enthusiest, both changes are quite welcome to me.

    I generally build a system every year, and generally buy a new case each time anyway. That said, I'm set to build out a system in a couple of months now, but it probably won't be BTX thanks to a dearth of availability. However, I'm hoping it catches on so my 2005 system can be smaller, lighter, quieter, and more overclockable.

    Other than having to buy a new case to enjoy these benefits (and even if there were a smaller ATX design, you'd STILL need to buy a case for it to be smaller...what are they going to do, sell you a shrink ray to make your existing case smaller?) I see no drawbacks to the new design. And no one's forcing anyone to buy anything; it's just the smart way to go for a NEW purchase--or will be when they're available. I'm sure ATX isn't going to vanish the moment BTX starts being mass-produced. You can even still find AT cases and power supplies pretty easily years after that standard became ancient.

    The arguments that this isn't "necessary" for an AMD system are silly. It isn't *necessary* for an Intel one, either; it's just better. And it would even be better for an AMD system. If you overclock, you'd get a few more speed steps or a lower Vcore; if not, you'd get a cooler case ambient temperature and longer theoretical system life.

    I'm sure the trace length issue will be solved; I only hope it won't involve AMD designing *another* spec (CTX?) and causing even more of a stir. In a perfect world, AMD and Intel would actually sit on a panel *together* to design this sort of thing (we have standards committees for everything else, why not motherboard and case layout?) and we'd get a design that was both friendly to on-die memory control *and* allowed for another few degrees cooler computing and a few pounds shaved off that hunk of metal I have to sling over my shoulder now and then. Alas, the world isn't perfect, so one of them has to step up and be the "bad guy" and try to improve technology. Of course, if AMD were doing it they wouldn't be bad at all; it would suddenly be the best thing since 64-bit. The "underdog" psychological phenomenon is an interesting one.
    Reply
  • tfranzese - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    Lian-Li has the best option IMO. An ATX case with zones much like the BTX and mac case layouts. Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    Just like the 9xx chipsets. No AGP? Only PCI-E? I was like thinking WTF. Many of us here have quite a lot money spent on our AGP cards, and many of these cards are 9700/9800/5900/X800s which is still very capable for the time being.

    Even if Intel needed to push PCI-E, at the very least give us a transitionary product so we can keep our AGP cards and upgrade to a PCI-E one some time later.

    But now Intel wants us abandon our ATX casings, motherboards, AGP video cards if we wanted a Intel-based CPU upgrade just for this silly BTX spec, which the advantages still remain unproven. Result? Almost everyone
    flock to A64s or AXPs. Bottom line? Less people buy Intel.
    Reply
  • epiv - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    Can Intel just improve the ATX standard or create a new standard competible with ATX? I beleive it is possible to design a new standard that have all the benefit of BTX and still competitlbe with ATX.
    Intel loves to ignore other people's investment. They have failed many time for this reason. For example, Rambus which is a lot more expensive than DDR because memory manufacturer cannot use exist equipement to produce and test Rambus memory. Also Itanium which cannot rum 32 bit program well which most company invest a lot money on.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    The ATX standard has been around since 1997 or so. Remember that with the AT standard there was no real i/o ports, and most of the stuff was in front of the pci/isa slots. And the power button was not full logic either. That right there was a nice improvement: Having computers with the ability to turn on and off without pushing buttons. Reply
  • shabby - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    4 of the mobo's pictures have the power connecter above the x16 slot.... whose idea was that?!? Reply
  • Zak - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    Two intake fans at the side next to PCI and AGP and one exhaust at the very top helps to relive the PCI/AGP/CPU heat buidup in an ATX case. Plus if there are two 8mm fans on the back, as in Chieftec cases, it helps. Sure it can get noisy if you pick lousy/cheap fans.

    Zak
    Reply

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