Fractal Design Node 804

Through a spot of good luck and maybe partially due to the keyboard I reviewed recently – I was chosen by Fractal Design to review the Node 804 Micro ATX case recently released by Fractal design.

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This was particulary exciting having gone through a number of MATX cases and never finding one I’ve liked enough to want to stick with – the best so far had been the Silverstone TJ-08, an odd upside down MATX case with a massive 180mm intake fan in the front.  This case fit most of my requirements but i knew water cooling was going to be a problem down the line – you simply can’t cool two Nvidia GTX 760’s and CPU adequately with a 180mm radiator (if you can even find one).  The case was also fairly noisy! having owned Fractal Design cases in the past – I knew the Fractal Design Node 804 would have to be much quieter.

To kick things off lets take a look at some of the features shall we!

Fractal Design has this to say about it’s new case:

Key FeaturesSpecifications
* Highly effective dual chamber case layout for best possible cooling.
* Minimalistic design with an elegant brushed aluminum front panel
* Unique hard drive mounting system, fitting up to 8 x 3.5″, 4 x 2.5” or up to 10 x 3.5”, 2 x 2.5″ drives HDD/SSD
* Three Fractal Design Silent Series R2 fans included with the case and space for an additional 7 fans.
* Excellent water cooling support with space for up to 4 radiators simultaneously.
* All intakes feature removable dust filters providing a dust-free interior.
* Featuring a window side panel to show off your set up in style.
* Additional space in the front to mount a slim slot-in ODD, optical bay drive, and 2 x 2.5″ drives.
* Fan controller included.
* Five expansion slots that allows for multiple GPU setups.
* Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
* 8 - 3.5″ HDD positions
* 2 - 2.5″ dedicated SSD unit positions
* 2 - Extra positions for either 3,5″ or 2,5″ drives
* 5 expansion slots
* 1 additional space in the front for Slot-In ODD
* 10 - Fan positions (3 x 120mm Silent Series R2 fans included)
* Filtered fan slots in front, top and bottom
* CPU coolers up to 160 mm in height
* PSU compatibility: ATX PSUs up to 260 mm deep
* Graphics card compatibility: Graphics cards up to 320mm in length. Graphics cards up to 290 mm in length may be installed if a fan is installed in the lower position in the front.
* Velcro strap for easy cable management
* Clear Window side panel included
* Colors available: Black
* Case dimensions (WxHxD): 344 x 307 x 389 mm
Net weight: 6 kg
Package dimensions (WxHxD): 370 x 468 x 412 mm
Package weight: 7.7kg

Now i have some personal comments to make on some of these features which I’ll address throughout my review – but i must say for a MATX case these are some impressive numbers and features.

Now lets get into the nitty gritty.

Outward Design:

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This case sure is attractive, typical of Fractal Designs Scandinavian design influence it’s understated, classy and free of typical ‘gamer’ design choices (except for maybe the window – which is subjective).  It has plenty of mesh however, it’s very fine which allows it to blend in with the matte black plastic and steel panels – but allows plenty of airflow.  As you can see the front is fairly plain – free of USB ports or ugly slot covers – something to keep in mind is that there are no 5.25 in slots on this case – however a laptop style CD drive can be fitted to the front panel.

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The entire top of the case is a mesh panel – there isn’t much to say here really.  It’s attractive and like the front understated and allows your fans/radiators to suck through plenty of air.  This panel is “filtered” however the filter is the fine mesh.  It has a pretty good mounting mechanism which works by sliding in place – similar to a normal side door on a case and works fairly well.  It’s made of a metal mesh and plastic.

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The sides of the case are pretty standard – on the left hand side of the case you have a great window allowing you to show off the guts of the case – I think it’s a great feature and enjoy a window myself.  The right hand panel is a complete solid sheet.  For some, this might be a shame as the right hand side will allow you to hold radiators, pumps, hard drives and radiators one might want to show off – however it’s also where the bulk of your cables are going to show and there are some cable management limitations I’ll get into later making it difficult to get it very neat.

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Here we have the slit in the front panel showing where you can fit a slim ODD drive.  I guess you could use the space for a 2.5in drive also.  You can also see here the USB ports, media ports and power button.

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Lets take a look at the back – those with experience with building PC’s should be able to gauge exactly how the internal layout of this case is going to look, others might be a little confused as it’s a little unconventional.  You won’t see anything but the bare necessities here – you won’t find any convenience lighting or a tool less GPU or PSU holders.

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Finally the base – mostly I’m just showing this to showcase the filters.  The base is able to hold a radiator or fans – but you won’t be able to fit these with a second GPU seated.  Both filters are removable and easily cleaned.

Internal Design:

The internals of this case while not unique – is a newer design trend that we are now seeing in the case market.  The first case I had noticed with this kind of layout would be the Corsair Air 540 (however it may not be the first).

The design allows some great options for fitting a lot of gear but not entirely without it’s drawbacks.  The biggest problem is that it’s a pretty big case – Fractal Design doesn’t hide it’s measurements but having seen it’s smaller buddy, the Node 304 this case is so much bigger.  Though MATX isn’t overly small – this is a big MATX case.

None the less the layout works well and the case is very easy to build in despite using an unconventional design – it’s actually pretty easy to build in and took little adjustment to work with.  To be honest coming from a Silverstone TJ-08 it wouldn’t take much for a case to feel easy to work with – but I assume if you’ve built in a standard ATX case before there isn’t much new here.

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The main chamber lends itself to beautiful builds relgating the PSU to the other side of the case is great as to be honest the PSU is generally pretty ugly and removing that eyesore and the bulk of the cables means you can really make something special.  I’m very happy with how my build turned out.

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The ‘hot’ side of the case can house 2 front 140mm fans, 2 top 140mm fans and a rear 120mm fan.  In my build I’m using 2 120mm fans in the front and a Corsair h80 on the 120mm fan slot.  It’s worth noting that there is a 3 speed fan controller switched from the back of the case – you can attach 3 fans.  It’s also worth noting that while Fractal Design includes 3 fans – they’re all pretty anemic though very quiet – you will probably need to add or replace these fans to get adequate thermal performance with high end gear – however with all the fan slots this case would have to be one of the coolest on the market if you decide to turn it into a wind turbine.  280mm radiators are supposed to fit in this case – but my 280mm rad would not fit unfortunately, it must be slightly longer than standard.  I’d be using 240mm rads myself as a 280 would be an extremely tight fit.

A small criticism with the main chamber is mostly of convenience.  A lot of cases now come with the motherboard risers reinstalled – this case does not.  Adding to that problem Fractal design doesn’t separate the screws in little baggies – they’re all just dumped in one and you need to sort them out from there.  So you then need to separate the risers, find the correct screws for the risers and then install them all – not a deal breaker but for a case of this price and quality it would make the build a little simpler.  Also nothing is tool less so you’ll need a screw driver to install everything.  For the most part this is a preference of mine, but those who swap hardware a lot will find it painful.

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The biggest problem is probably cable management – namely there is very little.  Fractal Design did add a few tie down points in perplexing places and they did add a strap to hold down the wire mess.  You know what would be super cool here though is something like the PSU cover built into the NZXT H440 just to keep things really neat.  Certainly more tie down points behind the mother tray at a minimum – currently there are none at all that I can see – Though I was able to make the cabling fairly neat as you can see.

I’d probably like to see the grommetted holes used on other Fractal Design cases to really separate the chambers – though I suspect that would make water cooling using both chambers more difficult.

Something that isn’t immediately apparent that is nice about the cube case is that you no longer have to jam the side panel on over the cables you’ve hid behind the mobo tray – you’ve got oodles of room and this feels like a bit of a luxury.  Unfortunately there isn’t really anywhere to tie the cabling to behind the motherboard tray.  To neaten up my build I mostly just zip tied the cabling to the other cabling to make a fairly ridged mass of cables – works more or less.

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Fractal design has also chosen to include a strap to hold down some of the cables which you can see here – it works but as mentioned earlier a small box to cover it would make more sense and perhaps even give you a nice place to mount your pump and other parts in a water cooling setup.

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On the right hand side of the case you’ll also find a 140mm fan point above the PSU and 2 140 fan points on the front and 2 on the roof.  Again you might have trouble fitting a 280mm rad here however.  Having said that if you don’t need the hard drive cage you can go bananas on super thick 240 radiators.  One thing Fractal Design hasn’t done is made it obvious how you would get the piping from the left section of the case to the right – so you’ll need to be creative.

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Probably the only other item of note is the actual hard drive cages.  I would have actually liked to see these disk cages with the same sliding trays as the other Fractal Design cases use just for ease of use.  In this setup to swap or add a disk the entire cage would need to be removed rather than a single tray.  The other issue i see here is that you need to keep the cables very close to the motherboard behind the cages as you wont be able to push them in far enough to screw them in.  I wasn’t able to screw in both which is why one is missing in the pics.

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The Rest:

There is just so much to write about this case and I’ve already covered a lot pretty extensively – however it still has a few more tricks up it’s sleeve worth mentioning.

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Firstly the front panel has a neat system to mount 2 SSD’s and a slim ODD drive (or you’d think another SSD/2.5in disk.  There is plenty of room to cable in here – though you’d likely need to run a second SATA power cable here as chaining them might be difficult.

The power buttons, USB and sound wiring also route through here however this isn’t really a great solution as it makes taking the front panel all the way off impossible without unplugging everything – you rarely need to but installing new fans is tedious with the front panel at cables length.  A better solution would be to build these ports into the chassis instead of onto a removable panel.

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Here’s a quick snap of the fan filters I’ve also mentioned.  These aren’t as fine as say a DEMCI filter but they’ll do the job – just remember to frequently clean them as fans will still suck dust through these.

Final Thoughts:

I’ll be honest – I was expecting to like this case.  I know Fractal Design and I know the kind of products they put out – they’re high quality, mid ranged on the price scale, always ‘sexy’ and generally pretty quiet.  I’m happy to say that on that front we don’t really have anything new here, it meets all of Fractal Design’s typical ideals which is awesome.

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I can’t pick any glaring fault that should stop you pulling the trigger – the bottom line is that if you’re after a case that’s a little different to the typical ATX form factor packed into one of the coolest MATX cases around this is it.

This case is aimed at the experienced builder and does away with a lot of the convenience features most of it’s competitors ship with these days.  Screws aren’t separated in bags, nothing is pre-installed (asides the fans) and nothing is tool less.  Honestly this isn’t a negative for me, but other people do seem to care.

Having said that, it is an Enthusiast case.  Fractal Design could have made the case much smaller without thinking too much – however you’d lose the superb water cooling support, oodles of room for high end hardware and the room to fit your hands in there to keep things tidy.  The case is pretty large for MATX and pretty expensive at about $170 AUD – you probably wouldn’t use it to build your mum a computer in.

Value wise – to be honest it’s probably a little expensive – you’ll get similar quality and features at lower price points but often less attractive formats.  You’ll have trouble finding even full size cases with the kind of water cooling support you can cram into this case too.

Do I recommend it? Definitely!  It’s a great even without utilizing the water cooling capacity and truly comes into it’s own once you have thrown some big GPU’s and a hardcore water cooling setup with up to 4  radiators.

 The Good:

  • Solid build quality – even the door panels are pretty thick and the case doesn’t flex when moving it around, much better than the Corsair or even Silverstone cases I’ve handled recently.
  • It looks awesome – it has a great understated presence on my desk – and does away with the gamer vibe common with a lot of enthusiast cases.
  • Awesome water cooling support!
  • Massive airflow

The Bad:

  • It’s pretty big – not a major flaw, but bigger than you might expect for MATX.
  • Front panel is very difficult to work with once it’s wired up – switches and ports should be mounted onto the chassis on a non removable panel.
  • Case is not tool less in any way.
  • Included screws are lumped into a single bag not separated by type.
  • Motherboard risers not pre-installed.
  • Not enough cable tie, tie down points.

Obligatory score:

9 out of 10 – Very minor changes would make this case virtually perfect, absolutely recommended.  One of, if not the best MATX case readily available on the market!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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