Fractal Design Node 304 Review

👤by David Mitchelson Comments 📅31-01-13

With very few manufacturers catering for Mini-ITX it’s good to see another brand taking on this form factor. Is Fractal Design’s first attempt a good one?

Removing Node 304 out of its packaging it’s immediately apparent which brand this case belongs to. Fractal Design is stamped all over this case with its sleek, minimalist styling and non-descript characteristics. These attributes make it a good choice for the living room, beside the TV and as part of a home entertainment system.

Node 304 is quite a compact chassis yet it can still house up to six HDDs for storage and tall CPU cooler heatsinks which is deemed a bonus when dealing with such a form factor as Mini-ITX. Fractal Design have also managed to include three cooling fans inside Node 304 which are a significant benefit to thermal performance, these fans can have their speed managed thanks to the handy fan controller located at the back of the case. As we discovered, even having the cooling fans set to “high” mode results in low-noise output, which is once again a key advantage to HTPC builders.

There are however a few niggles that are worth mentioning. If you do opt to install a standard sized ATX PSU (160mm) then be warned; you will have difficulty housing a graphics card longer than 6.5” in length. The card will interfere with the modular panel on the PSU and as we demonstrated – clearance is an issue. This clearance problem only occurs if you have a 160mm PSU and a graphics card, but since the inclusion of a discreet graphics card would typically result in needing an adequate source of power from a larger unit this is something of a design conundrum. A smaller sized PSU will struggle to power a larger (more demanding) graphics card.

At £70 / $89, compared to rivals the Node 304 comes at quite a cost. Aluminium alternatives are priced in a similar region which poses quite a threat. It’s important to consider what Node 304 includes a fan controller and three cooling fans which do sweeten the deal.

With favourable characteristics that will look great next to any home entertainment system, Node 304 is a valiant effort for Fractal Design’s first Mini-ITX chassis. It delivers on quality, size and cooling.

+ Great build quality
+ Compact
+ Good, quiet cooling
+ Fan controller
+ Good clearance for CPU coolers

- 160mm PSUs obstruct graphics cards
- Cost

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