Motherboard Power Connectors are Finally Getting an Upgrade

When Intel developed the ATX12VO power standard, it was the first power supply innovation since the mid-1990s. For decades, the standard has been clunky 24-pin power connectors, and although the transition will be slow, we’re headed toward a more efficient future technology.


What is the ATX12VO standard?


Intel’s ATX12VO standard is a 12-volt 10-pin power connector that replaces 24-pin connectors. This new standard increases power efficiency by eliminating the 3.3V and 5V rails and enables the motherboard to create those voltages.


Computer makers have been using a single rail design to reduce the power used when idling, but there was no industry standard to support those efforts. ATX12VO creates that industry standard. The new design cuts idle power consumption by 27%.


Intel officially announced this new connector on April 30, 2020, and was supported only by a small number of motherboard and power supply manufacturers. However, some computer manufacturers have already adopted the standard. For instance, Asus created a special version of its Prime Z490-S equipped with an ATX12VO connector, and the company is creating a compatible motherboard.


Other companies already designing compatible components are ASRock, Seasonic, and Corsair. These components should be available by 2022.


What the critics say


As with every new technology that forces other components to change, critics of the new ATX12VO standard aren’t happy. With the new standard comes the need to use an entirely different motherboard. This is making consumers and motherboard makers unhappy.


Motherboard manufacturers and power supply makers don’t want to be required to redesign all of their products. The changes will make motherboards more complex and more expensive. This resistance makes sense. However, the demand for this new standard will soon force manufacturers to create entry-level motherboards at least for pre-built systems to meet the demand.


As for consumers, this shift might be a great opportunity for someone facing the decision to repair a broken motherboard, which can be expensive. However, replacing a motherboard just to increase power efficiency doesn’t seem like a worthwhile effort. Those who benefit from this new tech will be people buying new computers.


Heavy criticism and pushback are normal for new technology. Oddly, there were people who resisted the move to USB-C. Some people just don’t like change. Although the change to Intel’s new standard is a dramatic change, it will be beneficial when it finally becomes the international standard.


Reducing energy consumption by computers is a big deal


Many people don’t realize that there are energy regulations applicable to computers. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set Energy Star regulations for computers. Other energy standards have been set by the California Energy Commission (Title 20, Tier 2) and the Top Runner program from Japan, set to launch in 2022.


Intel’s 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs will drive ATX12VO adoption


Intel’s new Alder Lake processors are expected to be available in 2022. This will catalyze the start of worldwide ATX12VO adoption by manufacturers. However, it’s unlikely to gain traction in the DIY world. Eliminating the 3.3V and 5V rails will prove challenging since they’re used by other components, including controllers, SATA storage, graphics cards, audio cards, Thunderbolt adapters, and RAID controllers.


The new standard does seem promising if it can be adopted on a wide scale. However, it’s possible that it might flop like the DTX motherboards. The switch will require motherboard manufacturers to build a more complex design with additional PCB layers, which will increase the cost of production.


On the flip side, the cost of PSUs might decrease. However, it may not be enough to offset the increased cost of producing ATX12VO-compatible motherboards.


The old standard isn’t being retired – yet


Although ATX12VO is destined to become a worldwide standard, Intel won’t be abandoning the multi-rail spec. In order to preserve compatibility with existing components, Intel will be maintaining this spec since OEMs want options. That will likely never change – at least not for a long while.


Time will bring the ATX12VO standard to the world


It’s only a matter of time before Intel’s ATX12VO standard becomes an international standard. Technological advances that render previous tech obsolete will always be met with criticism and resistance at first. It’s expensive and time-consuming to have to change a bunch of components to work with new technology. However, that’s how all new technology becomes integrated into society. It starts out as an innovation, then it disrupts the industry, and when manufacturers see the advantage, it becomes the new standard.