Motherboards just keep on getting more components. You can now fit several terabytes of storage on a single 3.5in hard drive, and the need for an optical drive keeps shrinking. Despite these developments over the past few years, the typical desktop chassis still tends to be a large tower with tons of internal space. If you do want to go smaller, what are the best options out there? Hardware.Info tested 12 micro-ATX chassis to find out.
The size of modern desktops is primarily determined by the motherboard. The ATX form factor is about 30 x 25cm. These large motherboards are starting to look like something from a bygone era. Even Hardware.Info readers don't tend to have more than two graphics cards and perhaps one more expansion card, so at least two of the traditional seven expansion slots are often left to gather dust in most desktop PCs.
When you remove those, the result is the micro-ATX form factor, measuring 248 x 248mm. It's as wide as ATX, just not as long. You could even go a step smaller, to the 17 x 17cm mini-ITX size, but this form factor costs more than micro-ATX. It's expensive to fit all of the circuitry onto such a small surface area, and requires dedicated production facilities.
Micro-ATX boards are cheaper in comparison. They used to be seen as budget alternatives, but more and more motherboard manufacturers are starting to realise that there is a market for fully-featured, high-end yet compact motherboards. ASUS is ahead of the curve with its Gene series, but brands such as Gigabyte and MSI are starting to produce more boards with high-end chipsets and high-quality components. You can read the rest of 12 micro-ATX round-up: compact chassis on Hardware.info.