Computex 2004: BTX at the Show

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 6/2/2004 7:17 AM EST


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  • epiv - Friday, June 04, 2004 - link

    What is wrong with AnandTech? With all the new stuff at Computex. The first article has to be about a new standard that is not very exciting. I am not impressed with the BTX products offered right now. I am sure there are other more interesting products in Computex. Reply
  • justly - Friday, June 04, 2004 - link

    #23 – I did see that only micro and pico BTX boards where the only ones referenced in the article but unless Anand made a mistake in the article (very possible) it does state that “Chenbro had a full BTX tower on display”. If you look at that case guess what you find, only 4 slots, again this may be an error in the article but that is why I mentioned it. The thing is if micro BTX is about the same size as micro ATX adding more expansion slots to a micro BTX should result in the same size increase as adding more to Micro ATX. Simple logic dictates that if two micro size boards are “about the same size” and adding expansion slots increases both by the same amount then they will end up being about the same size, so it would appear the claim that they are smaller is not accurate.

    As for moving the CPU to the front, well all I can say is welcome back BAT with ATX features, anything more would end up in a rant about Intel.
  • Madcat - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    Now that I've had a chance to see a few examples of the BTX format, I like the idea of more outside airflow over the cpu, but I don't like the idea of buying a lot of other new parts.

    The way I see it is that there is a lot of flexibility in the ATX format but very limited in BTX as far as placement of motherboard components. I don't think the enthusiast motherboard makers will like that, but OEM type would.
    By looking at the designs I don't see why Intel wanted to develop a whole new format when they could have stuck with a ATX one. There are a lot of current solutions out there that bring in outside air directly to the cpu that would work just fine. I can imagine a few routing options that could be included with new cases to route fresh air from the front and still stay in an ATX format, without having to much of an impact on airflow.

    I also don't like the fact that the case would open on the opposite side. My main PC sits on my desk and I like that I can get to the side panel without having to pull the case completely out of the mini-cubbyhole in the shelf system that is part of my desk to turn it around. In order to make it easy to access it I'd have to buy a whole new left oriented facing shelf versus my right oriented one. No thanks to that extra cost.

    If they really felt that a change was needed they really should have gone with standards hashed out by industry leaders as a group instead of going it alone like they did with rambus.

    Personally I don't see the format sticking, since they are abondoning the P4 platform to go with the far better and cooler running pentium M core which they are developing for the desktop. I do see it as best for the OEM crowd. I do like the idea just not how it morphed into a completely different format.

    #13 - I agree. WTF was Intel thinking by not providing a transitory chipset? So my $450 9800XT is useless if I want the latest and greatest P4 tech? Ugh.... to no AGP slot on the 9xx chipset boards, that's apparently baloney. ECS is making a board that implements both AGP AND PCI-E. =) Not sure how they enabled it, but from what I've read it performs pretty well. I hope the other makers can do that as well.
  • bupkus - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    Since I'm a fan of AMD who's memory traces are at odds with BTX, I reject Intel's arrogant unilateral push. However, if I were ever to purchase Intel at a client's insistance, I would consider BTX. For my own use though I agree with #16 about Shuttle as now my best option for reduced size and gaming portability. Reply
  • mkruer - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    BTX is all based upon the assumption that the air in front of the pc is cooler then the back. I also like Lian-Li case idea. Move the PSU to the bottom, and move the motherboard to the top. I would say then next thing to do is to pull air directly in from the back, and exhaust out the top, so the air come right in then out for the CPU. As for the other peripheral, a nice slow rotating 120mm fan should be more then sufficient for the entire case. Reply
  • Xentropy - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    #21 - "Did you notice that BTX only has as many upgrade slots as micro ATX?"

    Actually that's because the only BTX boards produced/displayed so far are microBTX and picoBTX. There IS a "full-sized" BTX standard that will have the same number of slots as a full ATX motherboard. Anand's previous article on BTX (several months ago) mentioned the three sizes in the standard.

    The fact there aren't any full BTX boards is the main reason I won't be going BTX this go around. Hopefully some are available by next year. Mind that while a full BTX board is the same size as a full ATX board, the case around it can be made smaller due to a need for less fans and a lower ambient temperature. Think of a Lian-Li PC30 w/o the cooling issues. Small, light case but which can easily handle a full-sized motherboard.

    As for the turbulance issue, I see the biggest change in BTX as moving the CPU to the front of the case, not moving the ATA connections. PATA routing is important, but SATA connectors can be just about anywhere without issue, and BTX is a future standard which assumes SATA. If ATX motherboards start placing the CPU at the front center where a direct path of fresh outside air can flow over FIRST the CPU then the video card and then out the back, well, they'd basically have a BTX board there.
  • bhtooefr - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    "Although these aren't BTX based, Intel showed off some set top box form factor solutions running ultra low voltage P4s and i815E chipsets"

    WHAT? The i815E is for Socket 370 chips - the Mendocino, Coppermine, and Tualatin Celerons, the Pentium III, and the VIA C3.

    Also, if you look at the photo of the set top MSI box, it says ULV Celeron up to 700 or 750MHz (I couldn't tell).
  • justly - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    19, Did you notice that BTX only has as many upgrade slots as micro ATX, or this statement in the article "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". So as for it being smaller I would say that is only marginally true (and at the expense of expansion slots and drive bays).

    Also, most turbulence is going to be caused by to many (improperly placed) fans, not the difference between case designs. If anything BTX may reduce dead air zones, and even that is mostly due to one change in board design (moving the PATA connection to the top, behind the drive bays). Then again good routing of PATA ribbon cables or the use of round PATA or SATA cables pretty much take care of that problem.

    As far as I am concerned there isn’t enough of a (well actually any) benefit to BTX that warrants switching from ATX. On second thought there might be one good thing about BTX, case manufactures seem to have very little flexibility in their design so it might reduce the amount of poorly designed cases and just leave people with a poorly designed standard to go by :)
  • epiv - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    ATX only have been around for about 10 years. Reply
  • Xentropy - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link

    #16-"BTX has no relavence to going smaller and quieter..."

    What? Have you read anything about BTX besides the Inquirer's FUD?

    From this article:

    "Smaller form factors (although not as small as the ones championed by Shuttle), cooler internals and quieter overall systems are all benefits that cannot be ignored."

    By creating a more direct path for airflow, turbulence is lowered, resulting in lower noise. More efficient use of the air also allows for lower CFM fans, which of equal quality will mean lower noise as well.

    At any rate, I've been using Lian-Li cases for several years now, and they ARE in fact wonderful cases, but certain improvements would require some rearrangement of components on the motherboard to effect. Workarounds like air ducts can be installed in ATX cases to bring cool air directly to the CPU, for example, but that wouldn't be as efficient as just putting the CPU at the front of the case directly in front of the intake fans.

    So I guess I still don't understand. Why all the opposition? No one's being forced to buy BTX, and ATX will still be around for years to come, especially if AMD never makes the switch due to the memory trace issues. Since Intel and AMD systems obviously already require different motherboards, using different form factors as well wouldn't be much of an issue. I don't know a whole lot of people who'd take an AMD system out of a case and build an Intel system in the same one, or vice-versa. Generally they'd buy a new case for the new system so they can use or sell the old system as a complete package.

    Most of the outrage seems to be over the price of a new case, but I guess I don't agree with most people's assessment that BTX will suddenly 100% phase out ATX overnight and thus require everyone buy a new case the next time they build a system.
  • 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.
  • Kai920 - Thursday, June 03, 2004 - link


    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • CrystalBay - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    The shuttles' seem to be the most intrigueing of the bunch. Reply
  • jliechty - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    Anybody remember WTX? (*crickets chirping*) ... well, I don't suppose many would. Anyway, Intel was behind that also, and heck, some people even _liked_ it - and look where it is(n't) today. I'm not saying that's what will happen to BTX, but I'm certainly not going to be an early adopter here. Reply
  • Dasterdly - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    BTX is a small step considering how long we've been using ATX (20+ yrs!).
    There's no cooling at the bottom for the expansion cards and they are still mounted flat, trapping heat under them.
    Intel is still fiddling around with this seems like it's not happening.
    It's almost time for upgrading for me I dont want to wait another year for BTX and Im not buying another ATX based system.
  • Cygni - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    Ive hated BTX since day 1. Its just completly un-needed in my eyes, even for a prescott. I see no reason for BTX to even exist. Reply
  • ZobarStyl - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    The hate is simple...they want to change everything and the only semi-decent reason they have for it is improved cooling. The idea that all of our mobos and cases will be rendered obsolete by Intel for cooling reasons is frankly quite stupid; the only cases that have real trouble cooling are those lousy Dell/HP boxes that don't even have a single 80mm in them...changing the whole factor to facilitate even crappier designs by OEMs isn't exactly good news to me. Personally I think BTX would be good to implement only in SFF if indeed the cooling is beneficial...since pretty much every SFF case has a custom mobo it wouldn't affect the end user very much. However for those of us who love the ATX cases we plopped down so much money for, we'd like to keep putting new mobos in, thanks but no thanks Intel. Why not champion some effective standard of water cooling if you are worried so much about your flamethrowing Prescotts? Frankly I hope AMD and all the manufacturers completely ignore this and let it die rather than let Intel use its monopoly to push the industry into some silly, unfinished standard. Reply
  • tfranzese - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    I must agree. Aside from some vague explaining of the BTX delima which has yet to be finalized by Intel there was a lot of good pics in there and descriptions. Reply
  • mcveigh - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    great pics, clear explanations.....this is why I love Anandtech :) Reply
  • tfranzese - Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - link

    I wish you guys did more investigating. The Inquirer gives much more reason for the hate behind BTX.

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