In and Around the Fractal Design Node 304

Part of the joy of going through this section with mITX cases is that, frankly, there often just isn't a whole lot to them. The Fractal Design Node 304 is particularly simple in its design, on par with the SilverStone SG05. That's not to say there isn't room for improvement, but the fact that the directions for assembly are less than a paragraph long and are pretty complete should be telling.

It doesn't make sense for a case designed essentially to be a mini-server to be particularly expensive, so Fractal Design opts for a simple plastic fascia with a brushed pattern. The front is wonderfully clean and spare, with only a small Fractal Design logo and the single activity LED breaking it up. On the right side of the removable front panel is the I/O cluster and power button, and the top has a simple grate that surprisingly doesn't negatively affect cooling that much, as you'll see later.

Ventilation is also kept remarkably minimal; there's a small vent on the right side for the power supply to exhaust and a case-long vent on the left side for the video card. The GPU vent also has a removable filter, but as a whole these two vents don't break up the design much at all. Finally, on the bottom of the case is an opening for the power supply's intake fan. Note that the Node 304 does sit fairly low to the ground, though. I'm not sure how negatively this will affect the PSU's longevity, but it bears mentioning.

Getting into the 304 is as easy as removing four thumbscrews and taking off the shroud. I'm still not big on the single unified shroud; getting the SG05's shroud back on was the stuff of nightmares and I can tell you right now that the 304's fares little better. When you open the 304 up, though, assembly becomes very simple to grok.

The mITX tray is obvious, as is the power supply mounting. Storage mounting is handled by a series of three removable brackets. I admire the simplicity of the Node 304; what we're going to struggle with here is essentially just space to put the cables. The rear of the case has a small bracket used to cover the area above the expansion slot covers, and there's a switch just above them that handles the fan controller.

Any day where I have to consult the manual just to make sure the case really is that simple to put together is a good one; the only thing the manual honestly needs to tell you is what order to install components in. This isn't going to be a clean assembly, but that's a luxury you seldom enjoy when you deal with enclosures this small.

Introducing the Fractal Design Node 304 Assembling the Fractal Design Node 304
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  • Grok42 - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I had the same thought about wishing the cable was shorter when looking at the main power connector all looped up in the screen shot. (I know you tried to make it clean Dustin!) I think you are on to something this wouldn't be a problem if they would standardize the modular connectors. Given that only a few manufactures sell different lengths it seems like something that everyone could agree on. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    Or, you could learn to solder, cut wires to proper length, and disassemble / reassemble the connector ends yourself. This requires a bit of experience but is not very hard. You could possibly even profit from it by following through with your own aftermarket idea personally. However, I would not count on becoming rich as the enthusiast computer market really is not that large. Reply
  • Dandyman - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    Found this rig on some Finish online store:

    http://www.verkkokauppa.com/fi/product/15996/dhqxv...

    Proof of concept :-)
    Reply
  • martyrant - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I admit I wasn't paying attention to the size of the PSU he was using...lol, and yeah, even with a 670 or a 7950 a lower watt 500 psu would be fine for a build this size. So I guess I'll retract my complaint about the PSU... ;)

    Still glad to see that pesky 5.25" drive gone tho!
    Reply
  • Grok42 - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I was paying attention but given how everything is orientated with the PSU positioned a bit toward the middle of the case to allow for the power lead to run to the back, I worry that even with the 4" PSU I plan on using instead of the 7" one reviewed, it will still be a very tight fit. It all depends on how the modular connectors protrude from the back of the PSU and what they hit.

    May the 5.25" bays never return!
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    The absence of a 5.25" bay is kind of a critical flaw... If they had a slot for a slim drive that might be excusable, but as it stands the system has no way to play bluray films, or install software from CD/DVD.

    You can get away without an optical drive on a notebook, but not a desktop.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    external . . .. Reply
  • krumme - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    Okey, so what 7950 card and ps do i use when using the usual intel plus sing ssd stuff? Reply
  • Koppit - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I have one of these cases as my HTPC. Just wantetd to say I used a Corsair CX600W
    and with the help of some cableties I got room for my Sapphire 5870 vapor-x. So there is room for larger cards. I really like this case and would not have any problems recommending it, if you just get a small PSU with few cables.
    Reply
  • just4U - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    A way around the cable problems (imo) is use modular powers supplies that employ the ribboned cables. Their relatively easy to work with and tuck away. Reply

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