Introducing the Fractal Design Node 605

Media center enclosures can be a very tricky business. 25 years ago, horizontally-oriented cases were the norm, but the ATX standard complicates things. We're also dealing with hotter components now than we were then. To top everything off, having a PC in your living room introduces even more new wrinkles: it shouldn't look out of sorts next to other home entertainment electronics, and it can't be loud or intrusive in any way. Producing a good HTPC case is a surprisingly tall order, and it's one that Fractal Design has elected to take a crack at with the larger of their new Node cases.

While the smaller Node 304 lacks any optical drive bay of any kind and is geared for home server work, the Node 605 is designed to be a media center first and foremost. Hiding behind the drop-down door on the front are a slim-line optical drive bay, a card reader, and assorted connectivity. And like the Node 304, Fractal Design built the Node 605 to be flexible, able to support up to four storage drives and a full ATX motherboard. So is this case ready for a spot in your entertainment center, or did Fractal Design produce a rare misfire?

When I opened the Node 605 I had a brief pang of regret. Recently I built a pair of media centers for my living room and my bedroom in the SilverStone FT03 and FT03 Mini, and the Node 605, at least outwardly, looks like an almost perfect enclosure. This looked like the refinement I had been asking for since I built my first major media center in the SilverStone GD04. Fractal Design built a case that supports a lot of different types of components, but not necessarily all simultaneously, and they built something that's fairly simple to get started with.

Fractal Design Node 605 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX
Drive Bays External 1x Slimline Optical
Internal 4x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front -
Rear 2x 80mm fan mount
Top -
Side 1x 120mm intake fan on each side; 1x 120mm fan mount on right side
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 7
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic, 6-pin FireWire, Card Reader
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 125mm
PSU 180mm (190mm with one drive cage removed)
GPU 180mm, up to 290mm
Dimensions 17.5" x 6.5" x 13.7"
445mm x 164mm x 349mm
Weight 13.23 lbs / 6kg
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header (includes built-in 2.0 adapter)
CF/SD/MMC card reader
Three-speed fan controller
Acoustic padding in top panel
Price $159

The Node 605 features an integrated card reader that hides behind a flip-down door on the front of the case, and I cannot stress enough how much I like seeing vendors include card readers. A card reader is included almost as a matter of principle on notebooks, yet continue to be rarefied in desktop cases. Also appreciated is the three-speed, three-channel fan controller.

What isn't appreciated is the frankly outlandish price tag. I can tell you right off the bat that this isn't a cheaply made case, enjoying sturdy aluminum in the fascia and thick steel in the sides and body, but Fractal Design is competing with established designs from SilverStone. SilverStone's Grandia enclosures fill much the same niche the Node 605 does, and the GD04 even does so at ~$50 less.

In and Around the Fractal Design Node 605
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  • Aikouka - Tuesday, January 01, 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? Reply
  • ypsylon - Tuesday, January 01, 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.

    :runningaroundincircleslaughinglikemad:

    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.
    Reply
  • alwayssts - Tuesday, January 01, 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?
    Reply
  • Interitus - Tuesday, January 01, 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.
    Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, January 01, 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?
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Wednesday, January 02, 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.
    Reply
  • jabber - Thursday, January 03, 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.
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    Bigger fans are quieter than smaller ones. Reply
  • thereddog - Tuesday, January 01, 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.
    Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Tuesday, January 01, 2013 - link

    > 1x 120mm intake fan on each side

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

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