Testing Methodology

For testing Mini-ITX cases, we use the following standardized testbed in stock and overclocked configurations to get a feel for how well the case handles heat and noise. Again, note that while the Fractal Design Node 605 can technically fit a full-size ATX motherboard, it's not tall enough to allow for our testbed's tower cooler. Because of the discrepancies that would make for in testing, plus the fact that media center cases are often mini-ITX designs, we have chosen to use our mini-ITX testbed rather than going with a specialized (e.g. not something you can compare directly to our other cases) ATX build.

Mini-ITX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i3-2120
(65W TDP)
Motherboard Zotac Z68ITX-A-E
Graphics Card Intel HD 2000 IGP

Zotac GeForce GTS 450 Eco (dedicated)

Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
CPU Cooler SilverStone NT07-1156 with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 750W 80 Plus Silver

Each case is tested with just the Core i3's integrated graphics as well as with a discrete graphics card. The system is powered on and left idle for fifteen minutes, the thermal and acoustic results recorded, and then stressed by running four threads in Prime95 (in-place large FFTs) on the CPU, and OC Scanner (maximum load) is run when the dedicated GPU is installed. At the end of fiteen minutes, thermal and acoustic results are recorded. If the enclosure has a fan controller, these tests are repeated for each setting. Ambient temperature is also measured after the fifteen idle minutes but before the stress test and used to calculate the final reported results.

We try to maintain an ambient testing temperature of between 22C and 24C. Non-thermal test results aren't going to be directly comparable to the finest decimal point, but should be roughly comparable and give a broader idea of how the enclosure performs.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our testbed.

Assembling the Fractal Design Node 605 Noise and Thermal Testing, IGP
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  • Aikouka - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    It makes you wonder if they were trying to compete with Lian-Li as if I remember correctly, $150 is pretty much Lian-Li's price point for their tall HTPC case offerings. Although, aren't Lian-Li's cases typically ALL aluminum, which usually lets people justify a higher price tag?
  • ypsylon - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    Compared to Lian-Li this thing is a joke. Build quality cannot be compared to LL. Steel HTPC/Desktop case which cost 160$$$?! Somebody hold me before I explode with laughter.


    It has pretty much only one Pro: it can hold full ATX board which many of HTPC cases can't. Still LL or Silverstone have cases which can do same thing with far superior quality and features.
  • alwayssts - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    When I bought a LL PC-C50b I probably would've considered this if it were available and cheaper. This is seemingly aimed squarely at that model. I have no idea if it has been successful or not, but it was essentially the only case that would do what a lot of enthusiasts probably want or will want as these setups gain even more traction:

    1. 120mm mounts on the sides because 80mm fans make no sense for this large of a case or it's likely environment. There are so very, very few that are not either much larger or a cube. Which doesn't make sense because you need the height for...
    2. Space for an ~225w full-height graphics card (ie anything not x900/x80 length because it would likely get too hot in these cases) pc-c50 says 250mm which is exactly the spec of my 7870. There's slightly more room, but I would doubt 290mm. They probably figured space for the peg connectors, which of course are now usually on the side of cards (top when installed).
    3. Clearance for a nice top-down cooler with appropriate venting (apparently only LL understands this). I'm sure I'm not the only htpc'er out there with a noctua c14 or similar that needs to pull air from somewhere.
    4. Space for a regular (likely modular) power supply.

    Here we are a year or so later and something is finally available that is similar, but it's still not cheaper, and with the proliferation of mobo headers and pwm fans, the fan controller is hardly a value-add IMHO. The only plus I see are dust filters (that granted I had to do myself...and wasn't fun). Neither have IR, which is also kind of a bummer but obviously remedied easily-enough if you want it.

    I wish there were more cases like this. It's about as no-compromise as you're going to get while still fitting on an AV shelf and fitting in with components like an AVR/DVR etc, and really...who needs more than that with the current state of hardware and TVs?
  • Interitus - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    First I'm going to say +1 to the comment about AT not at least attempting to swap fan positions and add more, then reporting back with different results. Honestly, you're not doing either the product or your review any justice by skipping what anyone reading this site would undoubtedly do if they received one of these cases for free ... tinker with it. Any enthusiast likely has fans lying around, and I'm sure you guys do too. I don't even remember the last time I bought a case and just left it the way it came out of the box.

    As far as Fractal goes, there's a few major fails here. How much effort would it have taken to make the bar mounting holes elongated ovals (and on the white drive mounts too) so that they're adjustable to some extent? There's gobs of room in there, especially with an mITX board. And those huge front panel cables... at least raise the MB tray so you can run wires under it or something.

    Overall I think it deserves a good scolding for that terrible bar placement, but it's hard to knock its other supposed downfalls when there's no effort or creativity put into solving them. Sure you could argue that the customer shouldn't have to, but are we assuming the customer is going to use a GTX560Ti? It's pretty much a given these days that the manufacturers include the bare minimum to keep costs down. In a bare minimum config, the case doesn't perform terribly. Throw some 80mm exhausts in there and it's a different story I'm guessing.
  • jabber - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    I mean really, after all these years most cases still look like drek. I'm talking from a visual stand-point. I'm not that anal about heat and airflow, I'm happy to compromise if it doesn't look like a turd on my desk or under it.

    This one doesn't look great. Just a hulking lump of black with ports etc. that look like a cut out after-thought behind a flap. Too many just seem to lose the design greatness when it comes to the functional bits. Cant the bit behind the flap or door look great too?

    After 20+ years of PC use I still haven't seen a case I have truly thought.."that looks really fantastic!"

    Surely it can't be that hard?
  • ggathagan - Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - link

    What kind of stylistic touches would you find attractive?
    Once a decision is made to design a case to fit in with the standard home audio component look, you're somewhat limited in what can be done from a style perspective.
  • jabber - Thursday, January 3, 2013 - link

    I'll know it when I see it.

    I just know that case (and others like it) is not what I want sitting in my living room.

    Its a monstrosity.

    For a start if its only doing home theatre work why the hell does it need all those 120mm fans? Why ATX?

    A case designed by committee if ever there was one.
  • bobbozzo - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    Bigger fans are quieter than smaller ones.
  • thereddog - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    Nice review, thanks.

    Personally, I chose the Silverstone GD06 when I built my HTPC 18 months ago. Everything performed well, but it's not that quiet nor cool (AMD 955BE + 5750).

    I think that ATX is overkill and that Silverstone designs that are ITX and mATX only are superior designs. I would also love to see a slightly taller HTPC with room below the motherboard for cable management. I also agree on adding/replacing fans in the review to show what the case is really capable of.
  • Olaf van der Spek - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    > 1x 120mm intake fan on each side

    Really? Wouldn't bottom (PSU) to top airflow work better?

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