Fractal Design Node 304 Case Review
By Gabriel Torres on November 19, 2012
Small form factor (SFF) computers usually require SFX12V or external power supplies. One of the highlights of the new Fractal Design Node 304 case is the support of regular ATX power supplies. Let’s see other features that this little case offers.
The reviewed case is available in only one color: black.
The Fractal Design Node 304 is very distinctive-looking, thanks to its aluminum front panel. Because of the support for regular-sized power supplies and the presence of two fans on the front panel, the reviewed case doesn’t have external 5.25” bays, so you can’t install internal optical drives on this case.
Each side panel has a mesh. The mesh on the left panel has an air filter, but the mesh on the right panel, which is an air intake for the power supply, doesn’t. However, we understand that an air filter on this particular mesh would block air flow for the power supply, an effect that is obviously not desirable. The holes of this mesh are small enough to partially work as an air filter.
On the lower right corner of the front panel there are two USB 3.0 ports, the traditional audio jacks, and the standby (a.k.a. on/off) switch. Curiously, this case doesn’t have a reset switch. The USB 3.0 ports use an internal connector, and they come with an adapter for you to use them as USB 2.0 ports in case your motherboard doesn’t have a USB 3.0 header.
The Node 304 comes with two Silent Series R2 92 mm fans on the front panel (1,300 rpm/24.6 cfm/12.5 dBA). As you can see in Figures 1 and 2, the air intake for these fans is located at the top of front panel. These fans have an air filter, as you can see in Figure 4. The case comes with a three-speed fan controller, which you can use to control the speed of these fans.
The bottom panel of the Fractal Design Node 304 has an air filter for the power supply fan. The rear panel and the interior of the reviewed case are painted in black.
The case has two expansion slots, with white vented covers.
The rear panel comes with a 140 mm Silent Series R2 fan (1,000 rpm/66 cfm/18.5 dBA), which can also be connected to the three-speed fan controller.
On the Fractal Design Node 304, the power supply is installed sideways, at the front portion of the case. Because of that, the case has an AC receptacle on its rear panel, which is internally connected to the power supply’s own AC receptacle.
As mentioned before, this case comes with a three-speed fan controller. This device is located at the upper right side of the rear panel, and can control the three fans that come with the case.
Let’s now take a look inside the Fractal Design Node 304.
To open the Node 304, you must remove its top cover, which is attached to the chassis using four black thumbscrews. This case only supports Mini-ITX and Mini-DTX motherboards. There are several clips for fastening cables with cable ties on the bottom panel. The case comes with three hard drive “hangers” (the white parts in Figure 8). Expansion cards are fastened using regular screws.
On its default configuration, the Fractal Design Node 304 supports video cards up to 6.3” (160 mm) long. For installing longer video cards, you need to remove the hard drive “hanger” that is in front of the expansion slots. If you install a power supply that is deeper than 6.3” (160 mm), you can only fit video cards up to 6.7” (170 mm) long. (You have to take into consideration the length of the power supply’s modular cabling system, if available.) With a power supply that is up to 6.3” (160 mm) deep, you can fit video cards up to 12.2” (310 mm) long.
The Fractal Design Node 304 supports CPU coolers up to 6.5” (165 mm) tall.
As explained before, one of the highlights of this case is the support for regular ATX power supplies. The power supply is installed sideways, at the front part of the case, with either its bottom fan facing inside the case or facing outside the case, so you can decide if you want the fan of your power supply pulling air from inside the case or from outside of it. As already shown, there is an air filter for the power supply fan.
If you don’t have a video card, you can install a power supply that is up to 7.1” (180 mm) deep. With a video card, you must follow the guidelines already explained above. Keep in mind that the 6.3” (160 mm) limit is for the total depth of the power supply, including its modular cabling system. Therefore, you can install a power supply without a modular cabling system up to 6.3” (160 mm) deep, but for power supplies with a modular cabling system, you should pick a unit with a nominal depth of 5.5” (140 mm).
The Node 304 comes with three hard drive “hangers,” each one supporting two 3.5” or two 2.5” storage devices. There are rubber rings for reducing the noise and vibration of 3.5” hard drives.
The main specifications for the Fractal Design Node 304 include:
The Fractal Design Node 304 is an excellent choice for the user who is building a small form factor (SFF) computer and wants a product with a stylish design, support for regular-sized power supplies, and great features.