In and Around the Fractal Design Node 304

Part of the joy of going through this section with mITX cases is that, frankly, there often just isn't a whole lot to them. The Fractal Design Node 304 is particularly simple in its design, on par with the SilverStone SG05. That's not to say there isn't room for improvement, but the fact that the directions for assembly are less than a paragraph long and are pretty complete should be telling.

It doesn't make sense for a case designed essentially to be a mini-server to be particularly expensive, so Fractal Design opts for a simple plastic fascia with a brushed pattern. The front is wonderfully clean and spare, with only a small Fractal Design logo and the single activity LED breaking it up. On the right side of the removable front panel is the I/O cluster and power button, and the top has a simple grate that surprisingly doesn't negatively affect cooling that much, as you'll see later.

Ventilation is also kept remarkably minimal; there's a small vent on the right side for the power supply to exhaust and a case-long vent on the left side for the video card. The GPU vent also has a removable filter, but as a whole these two vents don't break up the design much at all. Finally, on the bottom of the case is an opening for the power supply's intake fan. Note that the Node 304 does sit fairly low to the ground, though. I'm not sure how negatively this will affect the PSU's longevity, but it bears mentioning.

Getting into the 304 is as easy as removing four thumbscrews and taking off the shroud. I'm still not big on the single unified shroud; getting the SG05's shroud back on was the stuff of nightmares and I can tell you right now that the 304's fares little better. When you open the 304 up, though, assembly becomes very simple to grok.

The mITX tray is obvious, as is the power supply mounting. Storage mounting is handled by a series of three removable brackets. I admire the simplicity of the Node 304; what we're going to struggle with here is essentially just space to put the cables. The rear of the case has a small bracket used to cover the area above the expansion slot covers, and there's a switch just above them that handles the fan controller.

Any day where I have to consult the manual just to make sure the case really is that simple to put together is a good one; the only thing the manual honestly needs to tell you is what order to install components in. This isn't going to be a clean assembly, but that's a luxury you seldom enjoy when you deal with enclosures this small.

Introducing the Fractal Design Node 304 Assembling the Fractal Design Node 304
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  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    Personally, Id like to see something standard ATX width ( doubled ) and at around this height. Or maybe a little taller. Dedicate the second side to nothing but disk storage. Perhaps partitioned, and well ventilated.

    This would probably start to encroach on rackmount territory though. Without the rack.
    Reply
  • JekyllHyde5 - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    I read on the specifications of this PSU @Silverstone's website that the dimensions are "150 mm (W) x 86 mm (H) x 160 mm (D)". So the length is 160mm, and the F-D's specifications of the Node says it allows PSUs until 160mm. What the hell did I not get ? Why did Anantech had difficulties setting up the GTX 560Ti if the length was alright ? Reply
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    But in the text he specifically says it is 180mm. Weird. Reply
  • JohnMD1022 - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    First time I've seen it used in at least 30 years. Reply
  • Th3rdparty - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    I have been building a NAS media server over the last several months and this was the last purchase I needed to complete the build. So far it has been running 24/7 for the last 2 weeks without the slightest hiccup. My build consists of

    Node 304
    Jetway NF9E-Q77 (6 Sata, USB 3.0, dual Intel NIC, Sandy Bridge)
    Core i7 3770t (45w TDP)
    16GB Corsair Value Ram
    5 2TB Seagate 5900RPM HDD (Raid 5)
    90GB Corsair SSD (boot drive, VM and Cache for media before it lands on the raid
    Seasonic X460 Fanless PS (modular)
    Antec Kuhler 620 liquid cooler (replaced the 140mm exhaust fan w/ 120mm Noctua NF-P12)
    Ubuntu Server w/ XFCE (I'm still a linux noob and need a GUI every once in a while)

    The only thing I really wish I changed was put it the WD 3 TB Red NAS drives and the new Platinum version of the Seasonic PS but they were not available when I made those purchases

    I also have to run the fan controller on high because the Antec Kuhler doesn't seem to get enough voltage to run at low speeds. Even so it is not audible unless there is dead silence in the room

    I can tell you that this was the most fun build I have ever done. I haven't completely finished the software side yet (still need to setup SSH, VNC, Timemachine, and secure it better) but this thing is a beast and handles anything I throw at it media wise. If I ever get around to taking some temperature readings and total power draw I will update but my initial experience is that it is very efficient and doesn't run even slightly warm. The cabling was not to bad but there is definitely an art to putting this case together so you don't get spaghetti and it keeps the air moving.
    Reply
  • Calista - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    An SSD is more or less only being sold in 2.5" and smaller formats (forget about PCI-E for a moment), a 1 TB 2.5" HDD is roughly a hundred dollar. More and more (music, movies, games?) are migrating to the cloud. Maybe it's time to ditch the 3.5" format as well? Reply
  • Grok42 - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    Interesting thought. It would certainly make case design better given that it is apparently impossible for them to figure out a modular mounting system. The main drawback if doing this would be for those wanting bulk storage. It would take 3 drives, 3 cables, 3 SATA ports and 2x the money to replace a single 3tb drive. So it would take a LOT of drives to build some rigs. Maybe if they started building double height versions that were 2-3TB. I still like the idea of standardizing on the 2.5 size. Reply
  • Calista - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    Seriously? I can't find a single valid reason why the connectors should be located on the side as compared to the front. Besides aesthetics. The way my desk is arranged I wouldn't even be able to use the connectors on a case like this without moving it 5 inches from the wall. Giving me a wonderful kindergarten - for dust mites. Reply
  • sna2 - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    hi,

    Can you please test this guy with some max component?

    Z77 itx Mother board

    i7 3770k

    nvidia GTX 680

    and a fast SSD. and 16G Ram

    this case is designed for top end machine in a small case.

    seriously Anad , ...

    you are testing this case the wrong way it is NOT MEANT to be an HTPC

    this is a LAN PARTY GAMING BOX !
    Reply
  • sna2 - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    hey Anand , there is allways SFX powersupply over there with an Adapter .. so the standard PS2 power is FINE. they DONT NEED to Change into SFX. they HAVE SFX

    here is an 450 watt SFX with Adapter for PS2 from silver stine , and IT HAS SHORT CABLES and modular and GOLD as well

    this one

    http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=342&...

    please test this with MAX system

    i7 3770k , 680 nvidia GPU !!!
    Reply

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