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Desktop BTX Form-Factor

Intel Corp. first presented its Balanced Technology eXtended (BTX) form-factor for mainboards and PC cases in September, 2003, at Intel Developer Forum Fall 2003. The world’s largest chipmaker presented the form-factor as the future of personal computers and noted that it would solve many problems of Intel’s own processors back then, e.g., necessity to cool-down very hot Pentium 4 microprocessors. However, BTX has failed to become popular due to dozens of reasons.

Some believed that BTX would solve the issues with cooling of power hungry central processing units (CPUs) and graphics cards since a special fan located right beside CPU would suck in cool air from the outside and blow it onto the microprocessor and in the direction of the graphics card. While the efficiency of such approach is indisputable, the disadvantages of the BTX lead to its very slow start and eventual fading into oblivion.

A demonstration of BTX case by Intel

The first problems emerged right after the formal roll-out. It appeared that the form-factor was incompatible with AMD Athlon 64 processors due to integrated memory controller. In order to equalize the length of DRAM signal traces, processors (or memory controller hubs) have to be centered in front of them. In case of BTX it was nearly impossible to install memory modules right in front or behind the processor. Obviously, even if Intel would had managed to transform BTX into default form-factor for Intel platforms, it would have to get rid of it after introduction of its own Core i7 microprocessors with integrated memory controllers.

The second and the main problem of BTX was the huge popularity of ATX. All mainboards, PC cases, power supply units, graphics cards, CPU coolers and other components were designed for ATX form-factor. While this might not be a problem for large PC makers, smaller computer manufacturers and end-users could not transit to a new PC form-factor overnight. Considering that BTX components were not compatible with ATX components it was impossible to re-use older parts on newer systems and… end-users as well as smaller PC manufacturers just kept using ATX.

All of a sudden, Intel itself releases Core 2-series microprocessors with thermal design power of just 65W for dual-core versions back in 2006 making exotic cooling solutions unnecessary. Considering that there was no longer need to cool-down mainstream processors with 103W TDP, Intel itself canned further development of its own BTX motherboards. Traditional mainboard vendors, who have never demonstrated huge interest towards the form-factor, followed. That was the end.

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