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BTX: a new motherboard form-factor (former Intel BigWater)

We continue to review the technologies for the first time announced at IDF Fall 2003. this time itís about the new motherboard form-factor — Balanced Technology Extended (BTX) Ė former Intel BigWater that is to replace the usual ATX.

I guess noone doubts about the need to move to the new form-factor. New buses and interfaces come, requirements change, existing noisy PC cases become outdated. Well, for the sake of justice, I must mention that BTX will be backward compatible with usual cases, but anyway the thing is that the new form-factor will allow to move to some more accurate forms in the future.

So, what should we get from BTX? This is what Intel states:

  • Low-profile hardware support for compact systems
  • Optimized motherboard circuitry with better thermal balance and airflow
  • Scalable motherboard sizes; ability to use miniature power supplies instead of usual ATX 12V
  • Optimized board mounts and higher mechanical features

Everyone knows the difference between ATX, microATX and FlexATX. E.g. microATX boards can be installed into both microATX, and ATX cases. The BTX will support a lot more sizes and cases. Currently there are several BTX modifications that differ by board width: standard BTX (325.12mm), microBTX (264.16mm) and even lower-profile picoBTX (203.20mm). And, of course, new buses and interfaces like PCI Express, Serial ATA, etc. were considered during BTX development.

Naturally, MicroATX reminds MicroBTX and ATX resembles BTX. However, the picoBTX is a total innovation designed for PCI Express and new ExpressCard slots. Below is what typical BTX systems will look like:

Boards will be mounted by SRM (Support and Retention Module) that will provide optimal cooling, especially for CPU. Besides, thereís another innovation Ė cooling systes are called Thermal Module in the BTX specs. They play the main role in heat rejection. In general, such a module will include a CPU cooling system and airflow "rails". Currently there are two module types are developed: full-size and low-profile.

This is what the todayís concept, Big Creek BTX platform, will look like:

Iíll only add that the BTX form-factor should become topical in mid-2004. The complete BTX specs are in this document — The Balanced Technology Extended (BTX) Motherboard Interface Specification Revision 1.0.

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