Whatever happened to BTX? | Posted by jonchappell on Aug 17th 05 03:15 PM
BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) was touted as the way forward for PC cases and motherboard form factors, designed specifically for optimal cooling potential and with a low profile to benefit SFF (Small Form Factor) PCs. The technology was going to replace ATX in late 2004 / early 2005. It's now August 2005 so where is it?
The main problems with the ATX design stem from the fact that it is 10 years old and was designed at a time when CPU components were not as hot or power-hungry as they are now. The BTX design moves components around on the motherboard for greater cooling efficiency. For example, the CPU is moved to the front of the case so as to be nearer to the intake fan which would remove excess heat as quickly as possible. This may have meant that some components would not need fans at all, except in the fastest of PCs.
By putting the "core" components near the front of the case, the size of the board can be easily changed by simply removing the number of PCI slots, leaving all other components untouched. This, naturally, helps lower production costs. There are three main board sizes: standard BTX, micro BTX and pico BTX. pico BTX is designed for Small Form Factor (SFF) machines such as Shuttle
Significantly, BTX would also remove older parallel and PS/2 ports, replacing them with extra USB ports. This is what Apple has done.
But why has BTX not proven popular amongst consumers? It was due to a lack of advertising by Intel, the creators of the new design, combined with scepticism by manufacturers and consumers.
AMD has stated that it has no plans to embrace BTX unless prompted to by consumer demand. A similar occurrence happened with ATX (also invented by Intel), with Intel adopting the newer standard and AMD sticking with the old one. Significantly though, AMD has gained a massive amount of market share with the release of the Athlon and Athlon 64 series of CPUs which means that it is harder for Intel to "force" its new proposed standard onto consumers.
Many consumers do not know that it even exists, whilst others do not want to buy a new case and motherboard when they've just bought ATX ones. BTX was designed at a time when water cooling was not as popular as it is now and CPUs were less heat efficient, so more efficient cooling is not in such high demand now. This will most likely have had an impact on sales.
If Intel want to make BTX successful, they should market it for the business and "casual" home user market (SFF PCs specifically) as this is where BTX's strengths lie. It has the advantages of a smaller board size, fewer fans and the eradication of legacy ports (i.e. PS/2), making the PC easier to set up.