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What is Pico-ITX?

Robert Grimmick
Robert Grimmick

Pico-ITX is a size and shape specification for very small computer motherboards. Pico-ITX motherboards are about 3.9 inches by 2.8 inches (10 cm by 7.2 mm), making them many times smaller than the motherboards found in most desktop computers. They often are used in custom media center computers, car computers and small home servers.

The motherboard, also known as a mainboard, is the central circuit board in a personal computer. Personal computer (PC) motherboards come in standardized shapes and sizes, known as form factors. A form factor also specifies the location of screws to attach the motherboard to a case.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

The pico-ITX form factor is the smallest in a series of form factors developed by Very Innovative Architecture Technologies, a Taiwanese company that makes computer chips. The ITX family of form factors is made up of three standards: mini-ITX, nano-ITX and pico-ITX. Mini-ITX is the largest of these standards, and pico-ITX is the smallest.

This type of motherboard is tiny compared to almost all of its peers. The most common form factor for desktop computers, for example, is the Advanced Technology Extended (ATX) form factor. ATX motherboards are 12 inches by 9.6 inches (30.5 cm by 24.4 cm) and often are used in traditional tower-type PCs. A computer with a pico-ITX, though, can be small enough to hold in one’s hand.

Integrated components are used in pico-ITX motherboards. This means that the computer’s major parts, such as the processor, are built into the motherboard and cannot be removed or replaced. Other chips in these systems specialize in video playback, making them popular choices for small home theater PCs.

Pico-ITX systems often are sold as kits and built by hobbyists, but it is possible to buy a fully assembled computer based on this standard. These systems normally cost less than $500 US Dollars. They are available in a variety of cases, but they usually contain only a few parts other than the motherboard.

In 2008, an update to the pico-ITX standard known as pico-ITXe was released. This version provided for upgraded capabilities, such as more memory. Pico-ITXe preserves the same small footprint of the pico-ITX form factor.

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