This document provides an overview of the NLX motherboards for personal computers.
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Saturday, October 19, 2013 6:14 PM
The NLX Motherboard Form Factor
NLX is a low-profile form factor designed to replace the nonstandard LPX design used in previous low-profile systems. Introduced in November 1996 by Intel, NLX was a popular form factor in the late 1990s for Slimline corporate desktop systems from vendors such as Compaq, HP, and Toshiba. Since 2000, many Slimline systems have used variations on the FlexATX motherboard instead.
NLX is similar in initial appearance to LPX, but with numerous improvements designed to enable full integration of the latest technologies. NLX is basically an improved version of the proprietary LPX design, but, unlike LPX, NLX is fully standardized, which means you should be able to replace one NLX board with another from a different manufacturer—something that was not possible with LPX.
Such a design was a boon for the corporate market, where ease and swiftness of servicing is a major feature. As with most of the form factors, you can identify NLX via the unique input/output (I/O) shield or connector area at the back of the board (see Figure 4.9). You only need a quick look at the rear of any given system to determine which type of board is contained within. Figure 4.9 shows the unique stepped design of the NLX I/O connector area. This allows for a row of connectors all along the bottom and has room for double-stacked connectors on one side.
The main characteristic of an NLX system is that the motherboard plugs into the riser, unlike LPX where the riser plugs into the motherboard. Therefore, the motherboard can be removed from the system without disturbing the riser or any of the expansion cards plugged into it. In addition, the motherboard in a typical NLX system literally has no internal cables or connectors attached to it! All devices that normally plug into the motherboard—such as drive cables, the power supply, the front panel light, switch connectors, and so on—plug into the riser instead (see Figure 4.8). By using the riser card as a connector concentration point, you can remove the lid on an NLX system and literally slide the motherboard out the left side of the system without unplugging a single cable or connector on the inside. This allows for unbelievably quick motherboard changes; in fact, I have swapped motherboards in less than 30 seconds on NLX systems!
Figure 4.7 shows two typical examples of the connectors on the back of LPX boards. Note that not all LPX boards have the built-in audio, so those connectors might be missing. Other ports (such as universal serial bus, or USB) might be missing from what is shown in these diagrams, depending on exactly which options are included on a specific board; however, the general layout will be the same.
Although NLX is a standard form factor—just as the ATX family is—most NLX products were sold as part of complete systems aimed at the corporate market. Few aftermarket motherboards have been developed in this form factor. The microATX and FlexATX form factors have superseded NLX in the markets formerly dominated by LPX.
The connectors along the rear of the board would interfere with locating bus slots directly on the motherboard, which accounts for why riser cards are used for adding expansion boards.