Gaming consoles may not be as versatile as PCs, but one of their greatest advantages is their size and design. PCs on the other hand may be versatile and powerful multimedia and gaming machines, yet their insertion into elegant living rooms can be problematic. Large systems and tower cases are a major visual dissonance in a living room, whereas consoles were designed with that specific purpose in mind.

Motherboard manufacturers have been trying to combat this issue by creating highly advanced and fully featured Mini ITX motherboards specifically designed to be the heart of powerful gaming systems. Recent energy efficient CPUs also reduced their cooling requirements, allowing the use of smaller and quieter coolers. Still, most of the ITX cases that became available were not nearly as small as a console, as manufacturers had to compensate for the width of expansion cards and the size of optical drives. However with their newest Mini-ITX design, the Node 202, Fractal Design is looking to change this, producing a bare-minimum sized case specifically designed for building a gaming PC.

Introduction

Fractal Design is a well-known Swedish designer of PC cases. Most of their ITX designs are not an exception to the aforementioned rule, sacrificing volume for component compatibility and performance. However the company wanted us to take a look at their smallest ITX case, the Node 202. It is a slim case that physically resembles many other designs that were created for HTPC use, but, despite its very narrow chassis, the Node 202 can hold a full size video card, allowing the creation of very small but powerful gaming systems.

Fractal Design Node 202
Motherboard Size Mini ITX
Drive Bays External -
Internal 2 × 2.5"
Cooling Front -
Rear -
Top -
HDD -
Bottom 2 × 120 mm (optional)
Radiator Support Front -
Rear -
Top -
Side -
Bottom -
I/O Port 2× USB 3.0, 0× USB 2.0, 1× Headphone, 1× Mic
Power Supply Size SFX
Clearances HSF 56 mm
PSU 130 mm
GPU 310 mm
Dimensions 82 mm × 377 mm × 330 mm
3.23 in × 14.84 in × 12.99 in
Prominent Features · Featuring a sleek and elegant design that will fit in any space or room
· Extremely small footprint with a volume of only 10.2 liters
· A highly versatile case that can be set up both vertically and horizontally
· Supports Mini-ITX motherboards, SFX power supplies and graphics cards up to 310mm in length
· Provides a smart thermal interior design highlighting separate motherboard and graphics card chambers
· Strategically placed air filters for a dust free interior
Price $86

Packaging & Bundle

Fractal Design supplies the Node 202 into a simple, sturdy cardboard box. The monochromic artwork is based on schematics of the case itself, with some details on its features and specifications printed on the sides of the box. Inside the box, the case is well protected between two thick Styrofoam pieces and wrapped inside a nylon bag.

Black mounting hardware and a few cable ties are the core of every case’s bundle nowadays. Fractal design also supplies four rubber feet for the case and a PCI Express riser card. The manual is very detailed and well written. 

The Exterior of the Fractal Design Node 202
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  • JoeyJoJo123 - Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - link

    Hi ameanie,

    Given your use case of:
    Small as possible
    High End Gaming
    Video/Image Editing
    Video Streaming

    I believe you've chosen 6700k + GTX 1080 well, and they're solid choices for your use-cases. Understandably, now you're having troubles considering how to enclose these two parts, and you want as small of an enclosure possible while still maintaining the performance you need.

    1) Given that you want to do image editing, heavy Photoshop transformations benefit a lot from more RAM. Video editing benefits a lot from RAM, too. This reasonably justifies 16GB of RAM.

    2) Given that you want to do video editing, particularly since uncompressed 1080p video has a high bitrate, this reasonably justifies having a large "scratch drive" SSD, as the high sequential and random read speeds allows you to seek through video and preview it much faster than you could on a normal drive. Also, given that you want to do video editing, you'll also want a fairly large 3.5" HDD to store video files.

    3) Gaming is justification enough to get an unlocked SKU and Z170 series motherboard for overclocking. Overclocking isn't too big of a necessity if you were just going to image/video editing and streaming, though.

    From all this, I gather you'd need something bigger than what the Node 202 can offer. I made the following PC Part Picker list for you to review:
    pcpartpicker(dot)com/list/8w8RsJ

    It's pricey, but keep in mind that you make at least three sacrifices with small form factor builds.
    1) Internal space. (But you get more external space outside of the case, around your desk, and such.)
    2) Cost. (SFF parts cost more than regular sized desktop components.)
    3) Decreased Noise/Thermal performance. (To get adequate thermal performance, you need faster fans; faster fans lead to higher noise; higher noise in a small case with no sound dampening makes for a tiny and relatively noisy PC.)

    Also, keep in mind that
    1) Parametric filters update to the cheapest price to get an item that fits that filter in the list.
    2) It's particularly pricey since many of the components aren't really at good prices at the moment.
    3) Kaby Lake can launch before you save up enough to get your PC parts; Don't commit to buying processor and motherboard until it's the last parts you need, as these may be superceded by a new, better version. The same thing goes for the GTX 1080, in terms of a potential GTX 1080 Ti launch.
    Reply
  • dartico - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    What do you think about an i76700K (no OC) and a reference 1070 or RX480 into this case? I'm planning my next build with those components. Reply
  • bill.rookard - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    I would say that if they wanted to, Fractal Design could easily fit (design) a 2 x 3.5" drive cage or 4 x 2.5" cage as an adapter if the end user forgoes a video card - thus this could easily become a small file server / NAS / HTPC.

    I'm rather surprised that they didn't think that through. It would be trivial to add a few rubberized mounts and a single stamped piece of steel.
    Reply
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - link

    Yeah, this isn't the Node 202's strong point for two reasons.

    1) It wasn't designed that way. And even if they did what you said, then it'd still be worse than getting a 2U server case with hotswap drive bays, and hotswap drive bays are a big convenience when having some kind of fileserver.

    2) They have a PC case that suits that use-case better: Node 304. And the 304 fits 6 drives, if you're not using a graphics card.

    Still, having that option would be NICE, but I'm just saying they probably dismissed it as that wasn't the target audience that this PC case is intended for, thinking that audience would get a different case they offer instead, like the 304.
    Reply
  • romrunning - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    I wish all case makers would just make their filters all externally accessible. When you have to open a case (multiple panels, in some cases) just to clean the filter(s), then you greatly decrease the likelihood of the user actually doing that.

    Just imagine if your HVAC unit at home required you or the service tech to take off a ton of panels just to replace the air filter. This is exactly why HVAC systems have been designed for easy access to the filter; most just slide one out & slide the other one in. While computers may not require the filters like a HVAC system does, they could at least learn from the simplicity of the HVAC filter replacement process.

    My Phanteks Enthoo Pro has 3 filters - one internal mesh screen, one magnetically-attached outside filter, and one slide-out filter on the PSU. Three different styles - why they all can't be mag-attached outside filters, I'll never know.
    Reply
  • flashbacck - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    Silverstone ftz01 or rvz01 are also worth looking at. they are very very similar but do support a 3.5 drive and slot load disc drive. Reply
  • TheGovernator - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    OMG love the GTX 295! Case looks great, but that GPU tho...

    Jokes aside this looks like a great case. Wonder how it would stack up against Silverstone's offerings, and that new case on kickstarter that Lian Li was going to manufacture, ncase m1 or something like that. I recall that case being around 12 liters, but this is all off the top of my head, so could be wrong.
    Reply
  • pencea - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    All these reviews and articles and yet still no reviews for the GTX 1080 which has been out for nearly two weeks already, while other major sites have already posted their reviews on both the 1070 and 1080. Reply
  • Cygni - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    Really like this case and wish more companies would invest in ITX gaming. It's odd still seeing so much focus on ATX motherboards and cases in 2016 when next to no one is actually using any add in cards in the first place, and multi-GPU gaming has been hovering in the single digit usage rate for years. Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    I wish they'd design some compact mITX/mATX towers.. 17cm wide, 35cm deep, no 5.25" bays, regular ATX PSU support..
    2x 120mm or 2x 140mm fan support in front.
    It'd avoid compromises those ultra-compact mITX systems have to make.
    Reply

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