Introducing the Fractal Design Node 304

We've said it before but it bears repeating: desktop systems are getting smaller. ATX is becoming less and less necessary, and mini-ITX-based machines more and more offer the same performance and features that their bigger brothers do. That's just the direction of the technology industry as a whole, cramming everything we need into a space half as large. What's specific to cases is their own evolution running parallel with the technology we're putting into them.

Fractal Design's Node 304 is in many ways a surprising jump forward in case design. We've seen SilverStone, BitFenix, Lian Li, and Cooler Master all try their hands at mITX cases with varying degrees of success, but there's just no set design language when you get down this small. The conventions we take for granted in ATX case design don't really apply here, but Fractal Design has tried for something fairly different with the Node 304, even by mITX standards.

You can immediately see from the photo that some things are missing. Fractal Design has ditched the optical drive bay entirely and saved a lot of space in the process. You may not have noticed that there's also no reset button; HDD activity and power are both handled by the same single blue front LED. Ventilation is pretty minimal, too. Fractal Design took their usual aesthetic and a lot of chutzpah and produced something remarkably unique.

Fractal Design Node 304 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX
Drive Bays External -
Internal 6x 2.5"/3.5" (removable in pairs)
Cooling Front 2x 92mm intake fan (compatible with 2x 80mm)
Rear 1x 140mm exhaust fan (compatible with 120mm)
Top -
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 2
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 165mm
PSU 160mm
GPU 12.2" / 310mm
Dimensions 9.8" x 8.3" x 14.8"
250mm x 210mm x 374mm
Weight 10.8 lbs / 4.9 kg
Special Features Removable fan filters
USB 3.0 via internal header (with integrated 2.0 header)
Three-speed, three-channel fan controller
Price  

Fractal Design is essentially targeting the Node 304 to be used as a quiet file server, but when I tested it, that wasn't really what I was thinking about. The fact is, for most users, what's really missing on the spec sheet? There's ample space for internal storage, and the things we'd put in external bays can be just as easily connected over USB 3.0. About the only thing that couldn't easily be added is a fan controller, but Fractal Design already included one.

In and Around the Fractal Design Node 304
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  • cyberguyz - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    ... is a SATA backplane and drive trays.

    To be a real NAS box, these are a must so you can hot-replace drives in a raid 5-6 array.

    If you don't have front-accessible drives for hot swap you need to power the system down, crack into it, swap drives (with a screwdriver, power up and rebuild the array. A real NAS can change a dead drive without even powering down, much less opening the chassis.

    Nice case for an HTPC, but for a NAS it is lacking. I'll keep looking.
    Reply
  • sna2 - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    NAS cases are everywhere .

    what are you looking for exactly?
    Reply
  • Randum - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    I just purchased a Fractal case this year and was pleasantly surprised by the build quality and options for additional cooling/etc. I will not hesitate to buy their brand again - nice to see this compact design! Reply
  • Mithan - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    This is exactly what I was looking for:

    Small mITX case that would fit a bunch of 3.5" hard drives that I could Raid5 as a home file server.

    Sold.
    Reply
  • batguiide - Sunday, December 09, 2012 - link

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    Reply
  • corax - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I purchased this case 5 months ago and I am still very happy with it.
    it runs cool and quiet even after i overclocked the cpu. i would recommend it to anyone looking for a dicrete powerhouse pc that can be hooked onto the tv or simply at your desk .

    I was able to fit in my choice of hardware without problems although assembling the pc was more of a challenge than my previous builds because of the used hardware and the limited space at hand.
    i have a scythe yasya cooling the cpu , this beast of a tower cooler is 160mm high and fits inside with just 5mm to spare., enabling the overclock potential of my ivy bridge i5.
    the motherboard is the asus p8z77-i deluxe. this board has the cpu socket placed more centered enabling a wide range of tower coolers and as a bonus my old cooler could be recycled, saving me some cash to double the ram to 16gb.
    a 160mm modular PSU from seasonic is powering the rig. no problems here and this psu does not hinder a full size gtx660.
    i used 2 of the 3 drive bay brackets to house an ssd and 2 3.5" hdd's. i left the middle one out for a better airflow and bent the bracket that would normally hinder the graphics card just a llitle bit outwards.(just a few mm so there is no tension on the gpu in the slot).
    the biggest challenge was fitting in the cables. a handfull of zipties do miracles and I was able to use the space around the psu and gpu to bundle the cables and prevent them from blocking the airflow.

    the result is a whisperquiet shoebox sized gaming rig without having to compromise on anything.
    the grate next to the gpu sucks in fresh air and my gpu never ever exceeds 60 degees celcius under load preventing the fans from producing a lot of noise
    Reply
  • Hrel - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    You should stop saying they should switch to an SFX power supply. Every SFX power supply I've seen comes with a bracket to adapt it to the ATX standard. It's always better to have choices, the way it is now I can choose between ATX and SFX PSU's. If they designed the case to only support SFX then I wouldn't be able to buy the case at all; since I don't want to use that type of PSU.

    If YOU want to use a SFX PSU you can in this case; you just chose not to despite your constant complaining about it.
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    Hi, I just got one of these; all the air intakes have filters, but they are not very accessible; the one on the front fans requires opening the case and then popping off the entire front panel.

    Otherwise, it seems pretty well made. I haven't put a computer in it yet though.
    Reply

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