Poll: Your next desktop motherboard form factor

When I first started building PCs, the only motherboards worth considering were ATX models. Back then, you had to go full-size to get a reasonable array of integrated peripherals and BIOS-level tweaking and overclocking options. These days, however, enthusiast-worthy mobos are available in a range of form factors, including ATX, microATX, and even Mini-ITX. Smaller systems certainly have their appeal, and they’re becoming increasingly easy to build as the number of hard drives and expansion cards needed in typical desktops dwindles.

If I was building a new rig today, I’d probably use a microATX motherboard. But what about you? What motherboard form factor will anchor your next desktop? You can cast your vote over on the right column on the front page or after clicking on the comment link below.

Our last poll asked whether readers are running home-theater PCs. 40% have a dedicated PC set up in their living rooms, and another 12% are set on getting one in the next year. Only 26% of respondents have no plans for a home-theater PC. The rest may lack a living room to host such a system, since the remaining 23% use their desktop or laptop as an HTPC.

Comments closed
    • kizzmequik_74
    • 9 years ago

    Strictly speaking, I could go with either an ATX or microATX board, since I don’t really run too many add-in cards: a decent discrete GPU is a must and a sound card is optional. A TV tuner, WLAN or hardware RAID isn’t really on the radar at all.

    That said, I voted ATX. I’d much rather have the comfort of having extra expansion slots that I probably won’t use, ever.

    • burntham77
    • 9 years ago

    I am assuming ATX, however, I would be open to a smaller board because I tend to only run one video card and a soundcard (I can use the PCI TV Tuner in my HTPC for video capturing if I ever need that). Most smaller boards have the room for those, and there are some nice looking SFF cases out there. Frankly I am getting tired of huge cases and I’d like to try something smaller and lighter next time around.

    • Jambe
    • 9 years ago

    I go with mATX or ATX depending on what’s the cheapest & most trustworthy for the money (sometimes it’s the smaller one, sometimes not). I wish there were more nice mATX cases, though.

    I voted mATX.

    • PeterD
    • 9 years ago

    Recently I had four computers connected to one screen.
    Four.
    That’s why I’m looking for smaller.
    But I’m also looking for more reliability, which means RAID 5, which means “big cases”.
    Sigh…

    • HisDivineShadow
    • 9 years ago

    I intend to build a smaller computer than ever before. Once, not so long ago, I wanted to build with a bigger case, but now I want to make the computer small enough to be discreet. Micro-ATX is sufficient for that. The motherboards also offer a lot of options that the next level down takes away (or makes more expensive).

    It doesn’t hurt that games are stagnating because of how old the consoles are currently (so they are not pushing features) and that I don’t care for dealing with SLI/Crossfire-based headaches after years of prior experience. Except for nVidia’s HIGH end, the industry focusing on power and heat reduction features is also very helpful toward this.

    I guess I just don’t have the zeal for large, loud, bright and obvious computers that I once did. Zee ghads, I’ve become slightly older with slightly older thoughts. How did this happen?

    • pedro
    • 9 years ago

    I really /[

    • dinker
    • 9 years ago

    I`m getting really bored waiting for Maxwell Render to finish, gonna build me a dual XEON which means Extended ATX.

    • Ashbringer
    • 9 years ago

    If you’re going to use a real computer then ATX is the best way. The only reason to get a smaller motherboard is either for building a HTPC, or putting a computer into a Sega CD like this guy did.

    ยง[<http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1509151<]ยง BTW, there needs to be more computers in old game consoles.

    • HiggsBoson
    • 9 years ago

    I went with ATX, but truth be told it’s like a 51/49 thing.

    • Krogoth
    • 9 years ago

    Hey, what happened to BTX and cheese options?

    • Chrispy_
    • 9 years ago

    Motherboards now including network (both wired and wireless), audio and e-SATA ports means that there is very little I can think of using the PCI slots for.

    One graphics card.
    One TV Tuner (maybe)

    There is also much better choice in the micro-ATX enclosure market now.

    • trackerben
    • 9 years ago

    My favorite Baby AT was a desktop with a metal cover hinged to flip up like the hood of a car. Gave me mechano vibes everytime I opened it. It had a 386 masked by Intel but licensed and “revved” up by AMD, that and being the first cpu to be marketed as a “Turbo” engine added to the sort-of-garage experience.

    The last ATX I built for personal gaming use was seven years ago, the current one is mATX and the next one will remain so if possible.

    For business, every client system that I’ve specced since 2000 has been mATX. The last few would have been all ITXs if not for the lack of decent boards until recently (DC Atom? Dual yechhh!).

    • jackbomb
    • 9 years ago

    Baby AT, of course! I love ’em mechanical power switches and speedy K6-2s.

    Seriously, I think mATX will be my next format.
    I won’t be building another system for a while. My 4-yr-old 3.2GHz Opteron 185 on 939 just refuses to underperform.

    • neon
    • 9 years ago

    I am outraged that there is no DTX option in the poll! This just demonstrates the rabid anti-DTX bias at Tech-Report, and I refuse to build another system until this situation is remedied.

      • jackbomb
      • 9 years ago

      Really? Or is my sarcasm detector broken again?

        • neon
        • 9 years ago

        Forgot the ๐Ÿ˜‰ – sorry

        My next build (next month, hopefully) will be ATX. I am not opposed to building uATX, and think this will become more popular.

        The first computer I purchased was baby AT. The mobo died a few years ago. I saved the case, but it doesn’t fit my uATX mobo.

        DTX was announced with great fanfare a few years ago, and my guess is the team got laid off. The official DTX website dtxpc.org seems to be gone. Not sure if any products were ever released with the form factor; it seems none were available at retail.

    • End User
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve gone with Antec P182/193 cases for my server/workstation/gaming rigs so I will to sticking with ATX for the foreseeable future. The Mac mini is my choice for HTPC duties.

    • albundy
    • 9 years ago

    doesn’t size always matter? the bigger the better. a full tower with a full featured atx board that is left in a nice and cool basement running two cables, one via hdmi and the other a ethernet line to a powered usb hub is all i needs.

    • Ryhadar
    • 9 years ago

    My next PC will almost certainly be mATX. I really only need room for a graphics card, and a sound card. I’m going to try and use Lan Gear’s Da Box as an enclosure, assuming they’re still selling them by the time I’m ready to build again.

    Hopefully, there will be many more single-slot graphic cards when I’m ready to build then there are now.

    • continuum
    • 9 years ago

    ATX. Need at least two PCI-e x16 slots, one for video and one for the RAID card (ok the RAID card is technically x8).

    Also since I find myself sucking down all the memory I can get, and the cheapest way to 50% more memory than the 8GB I have now is going triple-channel via X58 and Core i7… again that means I need ATX to get 6 DIMM sockets.

    • Machupo
    • 9 years ago

    Just finished building the mini-ITX HTPC (i3-530, 4gb, 2x2TB, hauppage 2250) and building a mini-ITX gaming system now (i7-875k, lanparty, 8gb, 5970, 160gb ssd). I’m tired of gigantic boxes around the house.

      • hapyman
      • 9 years ago

      Sounds interesting. What case are you going with?

        • Machupo
        • 9 years ago

        the HTPC is in a Sugo-06… great for the living room and absolutely silent.

        the gaming system is getting crammed into the Lan-Gear prototype mini-ITX box as we speak. Just waiting on a couple more watercooling parts ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Sunburn74
    • 9 years ago

    Guy who has no need to share his box with anyone, knows a thing or two about PCs, and hates noise with a passion? ATX with a mid/full tower all the way.

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    My next build will be an AM3-based ATX desktop. Currently using a LGA775 ATX board, and before that, a LGA775 microATX machine.

    The uATX was great for my needs (limited living space at the time), but I had two problems with it: sound isolation and hard disk space. I had 5 3.5″ hard disks stuffed into a Silverstone TJ08, and the PC had to sit on the desk because there was no place to route cables over and under a built-in tabletop. Even with extensive soundproofing – quiet components, quiet fans on rubber mounts, hard disks on grommet screws, foam insulation glued to side panel, there was still too much noise for my comfort due to close proximity. Although one thing I’ll have to say about the case, it had great cooling and airflow for a uATX system – I was able to cool a 4850 passively with an Accelero S2, and it was big enough to fit a Thermalright Ultima 90 with a 120mm fan.

    I’m going the monster route next time, and I’ll probably get a Siverstone FT02 case ^_^.

    • homerdog
    • 9 years ago

    I guess it will depend on whether or not I can fit a high end GPU into a mATX case. If so, mATX it is.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 9 years ago

    I don’t know. I built my computer (regular ATX) last year, so it should be several more years before I have to think about replacing it.

    I’ll almost certainly go mATX if I build any friend/family PCs or a HTPC in the meantime, though. Size, and re-use of old cases, is a consideration there. Those kinds of machines would all have integrated graphics anyhow.

    • Synchromesh
    • 9 years ago

    Chances are it’s going to be a gaming system again so most likely it will be a full ATX board.

      • rhema83
      • 9 years ago

      Don’t rule out uATX so soon. You can find some gems there, like I did when I was building an i5 gaming system earlier this year. Ended up with a H55 uATX board that had everything I needed, inside an ATX mini-tower.

    • thermistor
    • 9 years ago

    Just checked my 5 home boxes, 1 ATX, 4 mATX, all in ATX cases, except the HTPC which is in a cute little number mATX case.

    All of the mATX boxes are either have 0 or 1 slots available due to wlan, TV cards, 2-slot gfx (ancient 2600XT’s with mongo Glaciator coolers that were practically at giveaway prices a couple years ago, but perfect for older games that the kids can play with me), and sound cards.

    mATX is too much of a trade-off and I could not do what I do on any mATX board in the house.

    • Deanjo
    • 9 years ago

    For my main system it still remains that it has to be ATX (or extended depending on the reason why it is). The shear number of hardrives in my main system dictate a big case and a mother board with big time connectivity. 2 optical drives, 8 internal harddrives, 3 video cards for GPU computing, discrete audio card and secondary NIC are all must have features for me. Adding in another controller card for more storage capacity internally would be a bonus as well. Sure you could go external for drives but the less desk clutter the better (not to mention not needing 5 power bars just for drive wall warts).

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 9 years ago

    My last desktop/tower was a custom build from November 2006 which I still own and I sometimes do a bit of retro gaming on it. Chances are that I will never build another tower again since I no longer buy PC games and am doing fine going the laptop route. My current laptop has a GeForce 8200M and I’m doing perfectly well with it. Funny since the tower I mentioned has a 9600GT in it.

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    gaming heat is a big issue for so I may never be able to use a mini/micro case

    • SkyWarrior
    • 9 years ago

    Micro ATX is the way to go. Many other hardware components are no longer needed to be installed. TV tuners turned to USB style and discrete soundcards are almost obsolete (thanks to windows audio system). Why not having a smaller mobo in a large case with more space and less clutter. Less energy of course.

      • Anubhav
      • 9 years ago

      Exactly.

      If I were to build another PC for myself right now it would defintely be microATX.

      No need for a second graphic card, or other peripherals that can now work through USB connections.

      And I do love the smaller sleek cases like the Antec mini P180!

    • Dirge
    • 9 years ago

    Don’t forget no official Extended ATX standard exists… so make sure the board fits in your chassis before purchasing. Basically it is an oversized ATX board.

    My choice is for a Micro-ATX board, as they have pretty much everything I need now components are so highly integrated. I just have to be sure there are enough PCI express slots to meet my needs.

    • [SDG]Mantis
    • 9 years ago

    I currently have a 3-year-old mATX system that I’ve used for gaming. I am going with a small ATX case (Lian Li A05…figure it can’t be any hotter than my current system) for my next build (already have it)…mATX air flow was not too great for a gaming system and the system does run rather hot.

    Of course, before I pull the trigger on the right set of components for the case, I might always build a mITX for a living room PC. But the house isn’t that big that I really can’t just walk up to my main system. Still, some of the recent deals for mITX have been pretty interesting.

    • no51
    • 9 years ago

    ATX with *[<7<]* expansion slots. I have 6 right now and they're all filled. I wouldn't mind eATX either; I sort of want to go dual socket, but haven't really found enough of a reason to justify the high price of entry.

    • not@home
    • 9 years ago

    I voted ATX because I would not mind a Micro-ATX, but it would be pointless. The only cases I have found that I like are all ATX. There is no point in buying a Micro-ATX mobo and dealing with the compact footprint (read cramped) of a Micro-ATX mobo while I have the room for a full ATX mobo in the case. My next upgrade is certainly going to include a case. The case I have now is from 2001. It is a typical beige box from that time period. It has insufficient airflow (unless I leave the side off) and is a dust magnet. I would really like front panel audio and usb3, air filters, huge quiet fans with out lights and speed controls, and an easy to access hd bay.

    • mako
    • 9 years ago

    I currently have an ITX motherboard and a really small HTPC case. Unfortunately I like having 3.5″ drives so I’ve been running this thing with hard drives sitting outside the case. Still debating whether to get a larger ITX case or an mATX case.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    Small cases run hotter… I could get a smaller board but since I need a big case anyways for good cooling I will just get whatever is cheapest.

    • eitje
    • 9 years ago

    every computer I own which is not a battery-powered system is a mini-ITX motherboard.

    • glynor
    • 9 years ago

    If you didn’t say “desktop” in the poll question, I might have voted for something else. My next /[

    • paulWTAMU
    • 9 years ago

    Where’s the “depends on the features they have” option?
    I like smaller cases and mobos, but not if I have to sacrifice features for it.

    • VILLAIN_xx
    • 9 years ago

    Not many ATX have integrated video (last time i built mine). The integrated is useful as I usually sell off or give away mobo’s easier if the person doesn’t have to buy a separate video source. Also, the integrated video have been surprisingly decent since AMD’s HD 3200 was introduced (if you go with an AMD build, not sure what Intel has done to compete).

    Im losing interest in overclocking features that some ATX might have over micro as well. Id rather have “normal” ram, a normal micro-atx, no special heatsink for $50+, or super expensive PSU just to stress the system for an extra 1ghz boost. I just save that money and invest in a slightly better processor .

    Meh, my two cents. Basic everything for me as it’s obsolete the moment you build it.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Entroper
    • 9 years ago

    My current desktop is micro-ATX, and I expect future builds will fit into the same form factor. There’s hardly any need for more these days, since I don’t mess with Crossfire/SLI. What am I going to do with 5 or 6 PCI Express slots?

    • crose
    • 9 years ago

    – Father, I have a confession… It has been two years since I’ve built a new desktop from the ground up and I’m not sure I will ever do it again. With time life has new priorities..

    – It’s OK son, say three “the hell with Mary”.

    • boing
    • 9 years ago

    I’d love a small Mini-ITX or Micro-ATX case, but it won’t fit all my harddrives. ๐Ÿ™

    • dragmor
    • 9 years ago

    I’m waiting for a reason to upgrade from my 5+ year old Shuttle. But I will probably go for another shuttle.

      • Krogoth
      • 9 years ago

      Since you are into silence and low-power crowd.

      I think a Clarkedale + SFF will fit your needs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • heinsj24
    • 9 years ago

    I voted MicroATX, but I haven’t seen many attractive/distinctive cases for them in a while. If I ever see a desktop-style case I like, I will certainly move to the platform.

    Antec has Skeleton cases for ATX and ITX, but not MicroATX, why?

    • bthylafh
    • 9 years ago

    MicroATX, probably. I just don’t have any use for the extra slots, but want more versatility than Mini-ITX can offer.

    • hubick
    • 9 years ago

    I’m using microATX already, but waiting to upgrade until someone finally releases a quality Intel microATX board with USB 3.0 and 6 Gbps SATA onboard.

    • clone
    • 9 years ago

    if I was to build another system today it’d be Micro ATX fully integrated with some overclockability….. the budget would likely be sub $90.00…. probably with a low end quad just because they are that cheap and likely AMD because of the superior integrated graphics.

    it’s funny I used to pooh pooh on integrated just 5 years ago but ever since ATI updated to the HD setup their is just enough GPU to do what I want….. have gotten a project car and it’s costing me a mint.

    • Buzz78
    • 9 years ago

    Why doesn’t anyone make micro ATX AMD boards without integrated graphics? I’d love to see a compact and economical mATX board using the AMD 870 chipset.

      • anotherengineer
      • 9 years ago

      Hmmm ya most of them have integrated graphics. I don’t see that being a problem though, get an 880G and just disable the on-board graphics in the bios.

      I did that for my uATX 785G I used for the htpc since I used a 4670 in it. (i had to make sure it had enough jam to run CSS ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      But it would be interesting though, didn’t MSI or Asrock or someone make a uATX with an FX chipset once?????

    • avisgoth
    • 9 years ago

    “When I first started building PCs, the only motherboards worth considering were ATX models.”

    I now feel so very old.

      • bthylafh
      • 9 years ago

      I know, right? My first build, I actually had a choice between AT and ATX, and considered doing the former.

      That was before I knew the difference between working on the two – $DEITY, working inside AT is a mess, with all those cables going from the motherboard to the serial and parallel ports.

        • continuum
        • 9 years ago

        Damned youngin’s… ATX hadn’t even been a gleam in anyone’s eye yet when I started building computers.

        Crap, I’m old.

          • insulin_junkie72
          • 9 years ago

          Yeah, I remember when ATX finally did come around, the fact you didn’t have to flip the power switch to turn off the computer seemed kind of cool.

          No more “It is now safe to turn off your computer” messages? It’ll turn off by itself?

            • Chrispy_
            • 9 years ago

            You and your windows 95…
            Real men turned off in DOS ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Baby-AT

            • hapyman
            • 9 years ago

            I used DOS quite a bit but Windows 3.1 (3.11) popped up shortly after I started messing around the inside of a computer.

            Remember booting off of a floppy disk and then switching disks to load up games?

            • dmjifn
            • 9 years ago

            Yeah, and thinking how much cooler our new PC was because it had TWO 5.25″ drives, so I didn’t have to switch so much!

      • tay
      • 9 years ago

      Blah ATX? My first 3 builds were AT systems…..

    • edh
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve already got near workstation-class Q9650/p45 and i960/x58 ATX machines, My next computer is going to be seriously minimalist — probably Core i5 with integrated graphics (I’m not a gamer).

    • ModernPrimitive
    • 9 years ago

    If I were to build a new box it would depend on features – quality – price between an ATX and mATX. I see no point in going smaller since a high end graphics card requires a healthy case and I like good cooling.

    I’ve always been intrigued by SFF systems but always feel short of actually building one for one reason or the other. The Shuttle route was shot down by spotty quality as Decelerate already mentioned.

    • Skrying
    • 9 years ago

    Sticking to mini-ITX. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this form factor. It’s been awesome for me as I’ve been taking my gaming PC lots of places lately.

    • jdaven
    • 9 years ago

    ATX @ 50%

    This is why many PC DIY nerds don’t care for niche products like all-in-ones, Mac Minis, Zino HD’s, etc. We just take a box big enough to fit a huge variety of components rather than selectively building our machines for a certain form factor.

    At least that is the case for our primary computer. The reason, we like GAMES!!!

      • khands
      • 9 years ago

      Yeah, basically it’s ATX or Micro-ATX depending on how I’m trying to fit my budget (and what I need expansion cards for) for my main machine, but everything else (HTPC, etc.) I usually end up with Mini-ITX just because smaller is generally better when functional system power isn’t as much of a concern.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      If desktop video cards weren’t so freakin huge, there really wouldn’t be much reason for the big box.

      Micro ATX boards are small enough to fit into VESA mountable cases, and are perfectly capable of even multi-card setups. You don’t even need mini-ITX or to sacrifice any functionality, whatsoever.

      Laptops have long managed to fit video cards just one step down from the desktop high end into a tiny space. Those could surely be made into half-size cards for desktops.

        • NeelyCam
        • 9 years ago

        Your violent anti-Intel bias has made it difficult for me to see this, but you tend to have good points.

        For me the biggest turn-off for laptops is the fan noise. Solve that, and I’ll switch.

          • A_Pickle
          • 9 years ago

          Hey man, Intel makes good processors… but that doesn’t make them a good company. Anti-competitive acts, such as arbitrarily denying other companies from being able to make chipsets for their CPU’s with integrated memory controllers is pretty friggin’ stupid. I’ll buy AMD any day if it means I’m investing a little more towards consumer freedom.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago

    For me it’ll be the case. Right now I’m using an Antec Sonata III, and knowing that it could fit everything reasonable, went shopping for the motherboard that offered the features I wanted at the price I wanted.

    I imagine my next computer will be the same. I’ll find the case I want then find the motherboard to fit that.

    • Goty
    • 9 years ago

    Probably ATX since my HTPC is beefy enough to last for a very long time, but when I upgrade that I’ll be looking to move to a smaller form factor.

    • LawrenceofArabia
    • 9 years ago

    Planning a mATX build with one of these: ยง[<http://www.lan-gear.com/microATX.php<]ยง

    • maxxcool
    • 9 years ago

    buying a micro-atx asrock ucc board right now to build a 99% silent system…. uses: portable lan game box, box to sit behind the tv, guest use box so chillen’s don’t mess up my main rig…

    • porov
    • 9 years ago

    What is the point of having a pc in abox? Integrate it into the monitor when it gets small enough.

      • TheEmrys
      • 9 years ago

      Oh, I don’t know… maybe an upgrade some time? I certainly don’t want a return to iMacs.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      Well, you can swap stuff out that way, and lots of them mount to the back of a monitor, which is the same difference to me.

      The problem I have with DIY small desktops vs. all-in-ones/nettops is that they’re still made with desktop parts and they’re just as noisy/hot/wasteful of electricity.

      • A_Pickle
      • 9 years ago

      Well… how about a server for personal information that *[

      • Saribro
      • 9 years ago

      What if you don’t need a monitor?

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    Not really sure. mATX is plenty, but I have room for a regular ATX board in my Sonata Proto. Doesn’t really matter, honestly, i doesn’t really add much weight to the system, and I’m not going to buy a new mATX case any time soon, let alone a Shuttle box.

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    For now, ATX is the best choice for me…

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 9 years ago

    Laptop form factor. I give desktops a year before new parts are completely pointless for anything but those insane multi-monitor setups.

    My next “desktop” will undoubtedly be a perfectly capable laptop that I just plug into a TV/monitor when I’m at home. Laptop screens will probably still blow, but at least they’re good on the battery and I can use whatever I want when it’s plugged in.

      • wira020
      • 9 years ago

      I also have been thinking about the same idea… once laptop cpu/gpu are good enouogh for my usage, i’d definitely ditch the big desktop pc… it’s very hard to make it quiet too… just 1 thing concerns me, laptop should be harder to upgrade…

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 9 years ago

        They’re *this* close as it is.

        The new AMD quad-core laptops idle at about 12w, plenty viable for running off the battery, and are already down to $600. It hardly costs much more for the ones with switchable Radeon 5650s.

        Even the Core i7 laptops, which require a discrete card and inherently cost more, have been going on sale for $800 since they first came out, and they’ve been regularly selling for $850-900 as of late.

        Every laptop will soon have integrated graphics in the CPU, so it can’t be left off of the motherboard anymore and screw it over with a discrete card that never shuts off. 4GB of RAM is already normal. Hard drives keep getting bigger. “Turbo” modes allow even low power multi-core CPUs to run at high clock speeds.

        Likely all you’d ever have reason to upgrade without replacing the entire computer would be the graphics card for use with an external monitor, as the laptop’s screen is going to be stuck at the same lower resolution. Fortunately, there are those external PCIe thingers for that.

        The only drawback left is the damn screens, but you’re only stuck with that on the go.

    • Decelerate
    • 9 years ago

    So damn tired about big boxes.

    Would be all over Shuttle if they were more reliable and less expensive, but the alternative right now is an antec mini P180, and if I want an X58 chipset, the mobo + PSU costs will add up to about the same price as a Shuttle J3

      • jpostel
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve got a couple Shuttle AMD systems and they are running with no problems. I even stopped putting DVD drives in them shortly after I stopped using floppies. I realized that all I needed was an external USB DVD drive for OS install since all the newer mobos recognize them just fine. Everything else is installed across the network.

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