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2006 – The year of BTX?

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Is 2006 going to be the year of BTX (Balanced Technology Extended)? So far there has been a lot of talk, but very few actual BTX form factor systems. Although Dell, HP/Compaq, Gateway and others have been shipping BTX systems for over a year, the BTX standard has yet to hit the consumer market.

Let’s take a step back and have a look at what BTX is first and examine its purported benefits to give you an idea of why this new form factor was developed. The initial idea behind the BTX form factor was that ATX was getting to old to support the thermal dissipation needed for future CPUs from Intel, which were getting larger and producing increasing amounts of heat. However, thanks to Intel’s change of direction away from its clock speed obsessed Netburst architecture, BTX is not as crucial as it might have been.

This does not spell the end of BTX however, as Intel is still set on this as the standard for the future. There are several reasons behind this apart from the improved thermal design. These include better cable routing and lower noise levels. However, for one reason or another BTX must be the slowest form factor to make it to the retail channel in the history of computers, despite all of its apparent advantages.
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You might wonder why this is the case and having seen products from pretty much every motherboard manufacturer at CeBIT last year, I was expected a bigger uptake of BTX.

Perhaps one of the reasons that system integrators weren’t so keen was the fact that the new heatsink on average weighs around 900 grams. This means increased shipping charges to manufacturers of coolers, barebone and full systems.
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The design is something that Intel has spent a lot of time on and if you head over to www.formfactor.org you can read a 286 page PDF about it all, but I’ll try to summaries the important parts here. As I mentioned, acoustics and cooling are two of the main problems in an ATX system and this has been vastly improved upon. All BTX systems have either an 80 or a 92mm front mounted fan that cools most of the system.

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