Fractal Design NODE 304 – Test and Review

So what is Fractal Design Node 304?

It’s one of the latest Fractal Design chassis first released this summer offering a compact dimensions and full modular design for full configurability. The case is meant to be used with small motherboards like mini ITX or DTX and big VGA cards.

The case arrived in a pretty simple carton box with very simple and stylish drawings and a lot of technical details on the back side of the box.

After I took a look on the features described on the box I was so excited about what to expect from this small “beast”. I was so eager to touch the case itself that I was planning to tear apart the carton box. But I restrained my feelings and took it out of the package very gently.

The case offers a pretty clean and stylish design. It’s made of parts made of SECC and painted in black, while the front panel is made of plastic and covered with aluminium sheet. Again painted in black.

Let’s not forget the mesh installed on the left and the right side of the main panel. I say main panel because the top, left and right panels are made as one part. Remember those cases with “turbo button” used about 20 years ago ? Yeah…. the panel closing the case is made just like this. But let’s not see this as an old technology. This case is a brand new model, using a classic feature.

I believe now is the time to tell that the small mesh part on the left side of the panel is actually the place where the hot air from the power supply is blown away from the case.

So to make this review properly I’ve decided to “destroy” Fractal Design NODE 304, ops I mean to disassemble every single part and while rebuilding it to describe every single feature used in the case.

After 10 minutes unscrewing and disassembling the case and 30 minutes of chasing a fallen screw, which by the way I couldn’t find, I’ve decided to start with the review.

So here is a look of the case with all parts removed and just a pure frame.

The case itself is made of a 1mm SECC material painted in black with a lot of holes for attaching the additional parts. Parts like fans, brackets, fan controller and so on. Before I continue I should say that there are at least 3 types of screws and if somebody ever decides to completely disassemble the case he should sort the screws or else it is a lot of wondering which one should go to which hole. I tell it from personal experience 🙂

And this is how the case looks from the back:

After all of the parts were removed they looked like that:

Unfortunately I forgot the manual, so I kindly request to be forgiven. Anyway all the parts used in this case are:

  1. 2 x 92mm Silent Series R2 hydraulic bearing fans working at 1300 revolutions per minute in black and white colour scheme
  2. 1 x 140mm Silent Series R2 hydraulic bearing fan working at 1000 revolutions per minute in black and white colour scheme
  3. 3 x white HDD holding brackets with rubber dumpers for reducing if there are vibrations from the hard drives
  4. Front dust filter for the 2 x 92mm fans
  5. Bottom dust filter for the PSU hole
  6. Side mesh bracket for the left panel
  7. Fan controller with some basic regulating features
  8. 10A power cable extender to make connection between the back panel and the installed power supply
  9. Power supply holding bracket
  10. A part to cover the case used as top/left/right pannel
  11. A tons of screws and zipties needed so the hardware can be installed
  12. Some PCI brackets, hdd holding frame and fixing plate

As I said from the beginning of this article I will remove all parts from the case and while adding them back I will describe every single feature.

So, let’s get started.

I will start with installing back the bracket used to hold the power supply and the power supply cable extender:

On the picture above, you can see the cable extender and the bracket holding the power supply. You will notice that the power supply should be installed on the front right side of the case with the cooling fan sucking cold air from outside of the case and blowing the hot air outside of the case through the mesh installed on the right panel. Now is the time to say that the PSU holding bracket is attached to the body of the case on front and on the bottom with 4 screws. It is really tight and secured.

Since the power supply will use cold air from outside, the guys from Fractal Desing predicted the need of dust filter to be attached on the hole.

Something that really made me smile. There is a clip to hold the 10A power supply cable extender. Not much but still it is cute and for sure effective. You know, details do matter.

I believe I am done with installing the parts related with the power supply. Now let’s continue with something more interesting, especially for me. Yes… that’s the cooling system.

Fractal Design offered 3 fans, a fan controller and a dust filter to handle cooling the parts installed inside the case. Will that be effective? Well, I don’t know and unfortunately I don’t have a proper motherboard to test it :(. So let’s install the parts back:

The 2 x 92mm fans are installed on the front SECC plate so half of the fan is inside the case and the other half is a bit in front. With this they made some more space for the hardware that will be inside. Each of the fans is installed via four metal screws to the front metal part. Apart from that the case can use even 80mm fans.

With the dust filter installed.

It’s a plastic part with a mesh and of course the Fractal Design logo. It is attached with clips.

Next part that to get back to its place was the 140mm fan. And this is how it looks.

The last part of the cooling system is the fan controller, which is actually a small pcb with 3 positions switch for regulating all of the 3 fans. The fan controller itself is powered directly from the power supply and the 3 fans are connected to it. Now is the time to say that the fans are build with long sleeved in black cables that can reach the fan controller without a problem.

Don’t you think these PCI slots are a bit annoying like this?

Yeah,  let’s install the parts to make them look better.

Here is something I really like, that is the white PCI brackets and the fixing plate. To be honest I really like the whole idea of entire in black case with just a few details in white. It really improves the overall appearance.

And the fixing plate in action:

Nice!

Maybe you saw this hole on the front panel on any of the pictures above so let’s describe its purpose. This is the cut inside the front metal plate from which all the cables leading from the motherboard to the external input/output connectors which are on the right side of the front panel:

The front panel is made of plastic with aluminium sheet on the front and of course everything is in black.

Installed:

And last but not least it is time to install the brackets holding the drives inside the case. According to the technical details and my observations this case can hold up to 6 x 3.5″ hard or 6 x 2.5″ solid state or hard drives. But when all of them are installed a long video card can’t be used. So if  somebody is planning to use this case as HTPC it is possible but with only 4 drives.  If it is used as NAS system it will be without a long video card. I should say really nice because this case can be used for many purposes only because of it’s modularity.

Before I install the HDD brackets I had to install the fixing frame back. It is held really tight by 4 screws and this is how it looks:

And this is how the brackets look inside the case. The drives will be in vertical position.

All of them back inside the case. I just realized there is the Fractal Design logo on each one of them.

The last thing to do was to install the part covering all of the hardware and that is the top/left/right metal plate.

On the left panel there is a cut in which a mesh should be installed working as a dust filter.

Voila! The case parts are all in place together again.

Before I finish with this article I really wanted to do some tests, unfortunately I don’t have a proper motherboard to install and do some temperature tests but I want to show you how parts should look when they are inside:

The motherboard:

Well this motherboards is probably older than me with integrated CPU and PATA connectors. I can’t even connect the other parts to it since they are much newer.

With SSD and HDD installed on the white brackets.

I want to point that the hard drivers are installed via long bolts and rubber vibrations dumpers for reducing the noise if there is any:

I hope there are still awake readers after that long and detailed article and I believe they will be interested in seeing my conclusions:

  1. Appearance: Fractal Design NODE 304 offers a very elegant and clean design which can fit very well near a big flat TV or as a small black box connected to a network as a NAS system. I want to say that the black matt and white colour scheme is very beautiful and stylish.
  2. Performance: Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the performance because of my lack of proper hardware but from what I saw we have 2 x 92mm fans installed on the front plate cooling all of the hard drives or a video card if there is one and providing fresh air to the rest of the parts inside, while the 140mm fan is blowing the hot, or better say warm air outside of the case. The other interesting feature is the power supply which is not interfering in any way with the inner airflow of the case. The power supply is working with cold air from outside of the case and blowing the warm air outside of the case. The added fan controller is a really nice and probably effective feature.
  3. Noise level: Fractal Design NODE 304 is using 2 x 92mm fans working at 1300 revolutions per minute and a 140mm fans working at 1000 revolutions per minute as standard fans. At these rotating speeds of all of the fans there shouldn’t be any noise at all. I couldn’t prove it but from my experience testing other fans, these should be quiet at 100%. If they are not, there is the fan controller to reduce the voltage and decrease the fans rotating speed manually.

For me the case is really nice and I can say the modularity is a real plus and this case is suitable to be used as HTPC system or a NAS system.

Before I give the reward I want to point out some points that can be improved:

  1. The covering pard used as a top/left/right panel was a bit hard for me to install. I’ve always hated these panels when they were used in the old computers, but after some attempts I got used to it and later there was no problem.
  2. The motherboard standoffs were a bit hard to screw without tools. And I guess not everybody has a full package of tools at home. So it will be nice to see a small tool that can be attached to a screwdriver just to fasten the standoffs.

I think Fractal Design NODE 304 deserves the following reward:

Official price (MSRP):

Fractal Design NODE 304 – 89.90 usd without VAT

Warranty – 24 months

I thank Fractal Design for the sample!

Dobrin Krastev is the owner, reviewer and newsman of www.DVTests.com with more than 15 years' experience in personal computers, server and storage systems, UPS, peripheral devices and software. Passionate about testing and reviewing, AMD overclocking using AM3 990FXA and AMD FM2 A85X test systems and building modding projects.
1 Comment
  1. Reply Stuen4y 12.11.2012 at 15:49

    Fractal design, keep up with the amazing cases you make. I am already a loyal customer and would love to buy your sleek and performance capable cases.

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