Fractal Design Node 804 Micro ATX Case Review
There was a time when compact mATX boards were a pale imitation of their larger counterparts however in recent times motherboard manufacturers have managed to build significantly more features and performance into their compact products. High spec mATX boards have in turn prompted manufacturers to create some impressive compact chassis to house them in and today we take a look at one of the latest, Fractal Design’s Node 804 which launches today. With space for multiple liquid cooling radiators, the largest of graphics cards and even extended length PSUs we will throw an overclocked (liquid cooled) i7 build complete with 295X2 and Corsairs AX1500i at the Node 804 to see if it can cope.
Packaging and Bundle
Fractal Design package their NODE 804 in a reasonably plain box which lists some key specs and shows an outline drawing of the case design. Inside the case is suspended in a set of polystyrene blocks and is wrapped in protective plastic to ensure it arrives with us in good condition.
Bundled with the Node 804 is a compact guide, some cable ties and all the various screws and items required to complete our build.
The Node 804
Fractal Design have gone with a very minimalistic design on the Node 804 and use black metal and plastic throughout. The front surface (brushed aluminium) has an air intake on the bottom quarter and sitting above that is the company logo and power LED. Moving up on to the top we have a mesh exhaust which, like the front intake, is dust filtered and then turning round to the right we find a slim line optical drive slot and our case connectors. The case connectors on the Node 804 are two USB 3.0 ports and 3.5mm audio connectors. Finally for those surfaces we have the power and reset buttons.
Turning the case round and looking at the back panel we find two exhaust locations, one 12cm and one 12/14cm. Bottom left is our PSU location and next to that, on the right side, are five PCIe slot covers in white. Our base features two dust filtered intakes and four rubber feet while the left side of the Node 804 has a large plastic window.
The back panel layout should have indicated that this case has a unique internal layout and it can be seen in detail above. Essentially the inside of the case is split into two chambers. On the left (windowed) side is our motherboard chamber which features two Silent Series R2 12cm fans, one at the front which is an intake and the other at the back for exhaust. Above the exhaust fan is a 3 input controller with SATA power which allows us to set the RPM to high, medium and low using a discrete switch on the back of the case. This chamber can support 160mm CPU coolers.
Turning the case round to the second chamber we continue to see the large cut outs which allow us to pass wiring/tubing between each area as well as the CPU backplate cut-out. Sitting at the back is our second Silent Series R2 12cm exhaust fan and hanging from the top of the case are two removable drive cages which hold four 3.5″ drives each.
Pulling the front of the case away from the main chassis reveals two further dust filters, our case wiring and a cage which can accept two 2.5″ drives. That is in addition to two further drive locations in the main chamber on the base which means we can have 12 storage drives in total.
Fractal offer a wide range of cooling options in addition to the three bundled silent series fans. We can for example have 10 fans running in the case at once with mounts on most sides or opt for radiators. There are mounts on the top surface for dual length radiators (one supporting 280, the other 240) or alternatively we can use 120/140 single length models. Then there is also space to fit a 240mm unit on the front panel of the main chamber.
For our build we decided to push the case a little, adding in the largest PSU/240mm assembly we could in addition to the 295X2 and its 120mm radiator. The cooler used is Antec’s Kuhler h2O 1250 which features oversized assembly and we wanted to see if it could be mounted in the 2nd chamber with the stock pipes passing through to the main chamber.
Corsairs new AX1500i fitted without issue although space at the modular outputs was a touch limited which made tidy wiring an issue. Our radiators did fit without problem though but having said that we chose to mount the Kuhler slightly differently to normal, using some of the drive bay screw holes to give us a touch extra reach on the pipes passing through to the main chamber (something which wouldn’t need done with custom watercooling units).
Our 295X2 radiator mounted in the main chamber with no problems at all and the Node 804 supports 320mm graphics cards with no fan in the bottom, front intake (the default config) and with a fan added there the space drops to 290mm. As mentioned earlier mATX boards are the order of the day and we easily fitted in our wireless-ac card along with a high end PCIe based SSD in the slots below the graphics card.
In summary, in our time testing the Node 804 we were able to install unlocked AMD and i7 mATX based systems along with 16GB of DDR3-2666, the fastest consumer PCIe SSD, dual band ac Wi-Fi, AMD’s 295X2 dual GPU card with its 12cm radiator, Antec’s 2x12cm Kulher 1250 and Corsairs extended length, 1500w rated, AX1500i.
The results below were taken on the i7-4770K and 295X2 config:
Starting with the build quality of the Node 804 we have a chassis which feels very sturdy. There were no issues with ill-fitting sections and the flashier items such as brushed aluminium front panel and plastic side window were defect free. Design wise there is a lot to like about the Node 804 and Fractal Design have created a case which is hugely flexible for its dimensions (344x307x389mm). For those who want a system with massive amounts of storage drives, no problem. Those who want to create a wind tunnel, plenty of fan locations available. Then we have enthusiast users who can take advantage of the Node 804’s ability to take 330mm graphics cards and up to 3 radiators (including a 280mm unit).
Would we change anything? A few things could have been accommodated such as space for 3.5″ drives behind the front panel, or the ability to mount an SSD or two on the back of the motherboard tray. Potentially Fractal Design could have also added a cover for the back end of our PSU giving a handy way to hide wiring as that is the only real location to bunch it up in a tidy way.
These really are minor issues though and us being really picky about a case which has masses of flexibility and low noise operation for its £79.99 RRP.
|Where to buy…|
|Scan.co.uk – £79.99|