Micro ATX motherboards and a budget price generally go together. Whenever one aims to build a custom PC for oneself on a budget, micro ATX form factors generally come into mind.
One of the best aspects about micro ATX motherboards is that they not only have a budget price tag, but they also offer more than just the essential features and at the same time promote compactness and ease of build.
As such, the micro ATX motherboards are better suited for gamers on a budget as well as for essential home or office users.
In this article, we will review some of the best budget micro ATX motherboards you can buy in 2023.
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What is the Budget Micro ATX Motherboard Form Factor?
Micro ATX motherboards, aka mATX motherboards, have a dimension of 9.6 x 9.6 inches.
Essentially there are three common motherboard form factors:
- Mini ITX – 6.7″ x 6.7″
- Micro ATX – 9.6″ x 9.6″
- ATX – 12″ x 6.6″
There is also the E-ATX or Extended ATX motherboard form factor that is used for very expensive workstation builds. These have a form factor of 12″ x 13″.
Now while mATX motherboards are not the smallest motherboards, they certainly ARE the cheapest IF you take the same specs into consideration.
What is the Micro ATX Form Factor All About?
They Are The Cheapest of All the Form Factors
When it comes to providing value for budget users, micro ATX motherboards stand out the most.
They are cheaper than ATX motherboards due to their lower expansion capability in comparison and also far cheaper than Mini ITX motherboards.
Let’s take the Gigabyte Aorus motherboard series for instance featuring the mid-range AMD B550 chipset.
- Micro ATX – GIGABYTE B550M AORUS Elite – $139
- ATX – Gigabyte B550 AORUS Elite V2 – $169
- Mini ITX – GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX – $234
You can see the disparity in price. The Mini ITX motherboard is IN FACT, the most expensive in the lot despite being smaller and having far less expandability.
The Micro ATX motherboards are far cheaper.
While taking a single series for comparison is a very small sample indeed, you will find the same theme repeat over and over. Micro ATX motherboards are naturally the cheapest.
Expansion Capability is Moderate
A budget micro ATX motherboard generally has a single x16 PCIe slot which is good enough for most users who want to add a single graphics card. They also offer an average of 4 x SATA3 slots, one or two M.2 slots, and plenty of USB ports.
Some of the more expensive mATX motherboards may also offer 2 x PCIe x16 slots, particularly for users who want to have a dual graphics card setup.
Compared to ATX this is a lower number of expansion slots as ATX motherboard can easily feature 3 x PCIE X16 slots. However, the mATX motherboards are more expandable as compared to the Mini ITX motherboards.
Motherboards range in price drastically. They can range anywhere from $70 all the way to $300 and even more.
There are a few factors that contribute heavily to their overall budget.
Chipset is an Important Cost Factor
Chipsets play a very important role in determining the overall price of the motherboards.
A cheaper or older chipset offers fewer PCIe lanes, it belongs to an older PCIe generation, has fewer and older version USB ports, does not offer overclocking ability etc.
Budget Chipsets are usually found on motherboards with low-quality thermal components as well.
The following is a brief look at the popular consumer-grade AMD and Intel Chipsets
- A Series: Budget
- B Series : Mid Range
- X Series: High Performance
The most current series is the 600 series for AMD chipsets i.e X670. These were released with the AMD 7000 series CPUs with AM5 socket.
The 500 series chipset motherboards featuring the AM4 socket are equally as popular at the moment since they support the Ryzen 5000 or older processors.
- H*10 Series: Budget i.e H710
- B*60 Series: Mid Range i.e B760
- H*70 Series: Higher Mid Range i.e H770
- Z*90 Series: High Performance i.e Z790
The most current series is the 700 series of chipset with Intel Z790 being the most coveted. These were released with the 13th Gen Intel CPUs and support both the 12th and 13th gen CPUs due to their LGA1700 socket.
For Micro ATX motherboards at a budget, you are probably looking at AMD A or B series motherboards for AMD CPUs and Intel H and B Series motherboards for Intel based builds.
Expansion Capability Adds to the Cost
The higher the number of expansion slots both in the form of PCIE slots, M.2 and SATA slots, the more expensive a motherboard generally is.
A higher number of PCIE slots generally means that the motherboard features a premium chipset with a higher number of lanes.
The amount of RAM a motherboard can support also matters.
Other features like video output ports, USB ports, Thunderbolt ports etc all add to the overall cost of the motherboard.
In addition to that, motherboards with the newer generation of ports and slots such as PCIe 4.0 or 5.0 slots, Gen 4 or Gen 5 M.2 slots, USB 4.0 ports, etc tend to cost more.
Thermal Components and Phase Power Design
What separates an overclocking premium motherboard from a budget one? It is usually the type of thermal design it has.
This relates to a higher number of VRMs, better quality chokes and capacitors, and larger heat sinks.
Some premium motherboards have unique chips that contribute to better voltage control on the board, particularly for overclockers.
WiFi and Other Features
Built-in WiFi is another feature that has a direct relationship to the overall cost. When choosing a budget motherboard, try to look for one that does not offer a built-in WiFi.
The type and quality of WiFi also matter for the overall cost.
Other features such as gaming mode and controls and RGB lights also play a role in the overall price.
The best budget micro ATX motherboard for you depends upon a lot of factors as we discussed. Do you want an AMD or an Intel build, and what kind of features are you looking for?
The point to note here is that the term “budget” is relative. Micro ATX motherboards can range in price from $50 to about $300 easily.
If you are a home or an office user “budget” would mean going for the cheapest possible motherboard i.e under $100 range. If you are a gamer, “budget” would mean going for something that is under $200 range.
Hence, in this article, we highlighted a few motherboards that may appeal to either the budget home user or gamers.