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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  • 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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