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2006 – The year of BTX?

This is good, as a single fan equals low noise. But what about cooling performance? Well, that’s were the 900 grams comes in, as Intel designed a very large heatsink with a special air duct that links it to the front mounted fan. This way the air flow can be directed in a much more efficient method than in an ATX system and cool the large copper heatsink quicker. The air is then routed out into the case and this air is used to cool the chipset heatsink as well, before it exits the case at the rear.

This all sounds very good in theory, but due to the extremely heavy heatsink, a bottom plate - called SRM (Support and Retention Module), had to be designed to prevent the heatsink from breaking the motherboard. So rather than attaching the heatsink to a retention mechanism as with current designs, a BTX cooler is mounted through the motherboard.

All these extra parts add to the cost of a system. On top of this is the not inconsiderable cost of re-tooling the case and motherboard for BTX compatible parts.

However, this is always the case when there is a new platform and I doubt this is one of the main reasons behind the slow uptake of BTX.

I also doubt that it’s because it’s an Intel only specification. MSI even showed off a BTX board based on the nForce 4 chipset for Socket-939 at CeBIT 2005.

BTX motherboards are designed to be available in four different sizes, BTX – similar to a full size ATX – microBTX – think microATX – and finally nanoBTX and picoBTX – for Small Form Factor computers. The difference between the last two is that nanoBTX offer two expansion card slots versus one for picoBTX.

So far I have only seen designs based on micro and nanoBTX, which again goes to show that the uptake has been very slow. However, as a small form factor platform BTX is actually looking increasingly interesting. Considering that the biggest problem in a SFF system is heat dissipation, hopefully BTX will allow for overall improved system designs. Shuttle was the first company to bring such a product to market with the SB86i but it wasn’t a huge hit.

We got our first hand close up look at BTX with two products. A Gigabyte GA-8I945GMBX motherboard, and a Thermaltake Tuba case to put it in.

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