Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

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Lawrence Lee
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Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Lawrence Lee » Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:58 pm


Abula
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Abula » Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:28 pm

Thanks for the review lawrance.

Btw just wondering about the CPU coolers, you dont think twin towers like Silver Arrow, NH-D14, etc could be an a good option with only the central fan (dependant on having a central CPU socket like on Asus motherboards)?
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Enzo_FX » Tue Dec 10, 2013 11:33 pm

Since in ITX cases, every inch counts =P, it'd be great to get size comparisons to other popular ITX cases. It's just nice to have that visual when debating between comparable ones.

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Locklear » Wed Dec 11, 2013 1:23 am

This case is a little gem. Perfect for a little server to be stashed away.
I recently buildt one using just a single fan (Noctua NF-A15-PWM) at the back and a Noctua NH-U12P SE2 running passive, and the result is very good. It's tight, but in no way impossible to do a good clean build in this case with some proper component planning and a modular PSU. The space between the HSF and disk connectors is a bit to tight for comfort when working though. Glad my hands aren't that massive :p

There are only a couple of small things that I would like to se changed and improved on this case.
1: The disk cradles are locked to their default positions because the spacing on the thumbscrews is just a fraction of a mm off from being able to do a 2 cradle configuration with them centered more towards the middle. Adding 2 more screwholes to the frames and slightly adjusting the thumbscrew spacing would open up a lot of new possible cradle configurations.
2: Adding a silicone/rubber dampening material on top of the crossbars where the disk arrays are resting to further decouple the disks from the frame. This would probably require a mm or two in increased height.
3: Default options to change the mesh grids to something solid to prevent false air from entering the side venting holes. Especially the long GFX vent pulls a lot of false air with a single-fan configuration. I had to get creative with some transparent plastic, round velcro tabs and strips from some left over dampening mats to prevent this.
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by thierry. » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:57 am

Enzo_FX wrote:Since in ITX cases, every inch counts =P, it'd be great to get size comparisons to other popular ITX cases. It's just nice to have that visual when debating between comparable ones.
I'm not sure if these are very popular, but that's what I was recently considering for ITX board.
size comparison NODE 304 - TJ08-E - SG06 - PC-Q07.png
The Node 304 has a big footprint on the floor / table, but it's not high.
The SG06 from Silverstone is tiny, but it needs SFX PSU and there is no room for tower cooler. (or with picoPSU)
The Lian Li Q07 is almost like the Node, but vertical. Small footprint and tall. It fits ATX PSU, but needs a slim cooler.

I'm sure there some other good ITX cases, but at that time, I was only narrowing to these 3.
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Last edited by thierry. on Mon Dec 16, 2013 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by nizer » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:44 am

Hi SPCR,

great review of the Node 304, which I consider buying for my gaming build.

Hence I am a little disappointed that you did not test the case with a dedicated graphics card - I mean it is one of the very few mini ITX cases that can house a standard graphics card, ATX power supply and offer proper CPU/case cooling, and it is in direct competition with SG07/SG08, Cooler Master Elite 130 and others.

Please test it with dedicated graphics !

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by MikeC » Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:11 am

nizer wrote:Hi SPCR,

great review of the Node 304, which I consider buying for my gaming build.

Hence I am a little disappointed that you did not test the case with a dedicated graphics card - I mean it is one of the very few mini ITX cases that can house a standard graphics card, ATX power supply and offer proper CPU/case cooling, and it is in direct competition with SG07/SG08, Cooler Master Elite 130 and others.

Please test it with dedicated graphics !
Not likely to happen.

BUT I can tell you what really counts for case like this to stay quiet with a high power gaming rig is...
1. airflow to the VGA card -- mainly how open the left side is.
2. airflow through the rest, particularly for CPU cooling.

Generally, the biggest noise differences will be in the VGA cooler & the chosen GPU. Sure, there'll be differences in CPU cooling, but you have a huge range of choices for coolers there, so it's not difficult to maintain safe CPU temps with modest noise.
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by mkk » Wed Dec 11, 2013 12:53 pm

I'm glad to see your testing showed that the drive cages really are as good as my impression of them were.

I found that the front fans does not turn on with the built in controller set to its lowest, but that could both be good and bad depending on your needs. The 140mm exhaust is so effective on its own for an ITX sized build. Any non-gaming build could do just fine without the front fans connected.

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by nizer » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:58 am

MikeC wrote: BUT I can tell you what really counts for case like this to stay quiet with a high power gaming rig is...
1. airflow to the VGA card -- mainly how open the left side is.
2. airflow through the rest, particularly for CPU cooling.

Generally, the biggest noise differences will be in the VGA cooler & the chosen GPU. Sure, there'll be differences in CPU cooling, but you have a huge range of choices for coolers there, so it's not difficult to maintain safe CPU temps with modest noise.
I agree, the GPU cooling is the problem in SFF gaming systems. That is also why I consider buying a watercooled graphics card or cooling it myself with either the Nzxt Kragen G10 or better, the Arctic Accelero Hybrid. Both allow the GPU to be water cooled and the heat efficiently pushed out of the case.

At the moment the Cooler Master Elite 130 case is one of the best options when the case must be smaller than 23 cm on one side (hand baggage restrictions, I fly to LAN parties). If anyone is interested, I suggest taking a look at this build video with water cooling etc (though they are water cooling the CPU, not the GPU):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlW6hw0WUpw

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by nagi » Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:00 am

mkk wrote:I'm glad to see your testing showed that the drive cages really are as good as my impression of them were.

I found that the front fans does not turn on with the built in controller set to its lowest, but that could both be good and bad depending on your needs. The 140mm exhaust is so effective on its own for an ITX sized build. Any non-gaming build could do just fine without the front fans connected.
I just bought a white one, and yeah, I can attest the fan failure at Low setting. Very annoying.

But unfortunately that's not the only annoying part of the case:
(Compared to my trusty old Antec P180 and an assortment of cheaper cases. Yes, I'm aware that the P180 costs about three times as much, but it is a ATX case, and some of the things are really small quality control things.)

1. I had to use plyers to screw in the standoffs. The only other case I had to use them was maybe quarter the price of this.

2. Frankly, every last screw mount is bad in the case. I really can't remember if I ever had this much metal flake coming out of any other case just from getting the screws out. It is almost as if the paint job was botched and got into the screw holes, but since the flakes are metal, that's not the case.

3. Every screw that the case has is mroe than a bit too tight. Even the thumb screws.

4. The top screws holding the drive bays were already worn from the factory, so I'm sure they won't last more than a few shuffles.

5. Putting on the shell is a real bother. It's worse than trying to juggle both side panels onto a regular case at the same time.

6. It is also a shame that the 2.5" are not supported by rubber gromets, although I can see why: it is quite unusual to use a regular, spinning platter 2.5" in a desktop, even if some of them have much better acoustic properties than 3,5" ones.

7. Weirdly they used different thumbscrews for securing the case shell and securing the drive bays. I almost thought that I wore down them with just unscrewing them. (Well, it was night :D)

So qualit-wise, I found the Node 304 to be lacking unfortunately.
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by andymcca » Fri Dec 13, 2013 5:42 am

This case looks like a microwave with a minifridge door on the side. :)
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by mkk » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:33 am

nagi wrote:4. The top screws holding the drive bays were already worn from the factory, so I'm sure they won't last more than a few shuffles.
I had a bit of trouble there too, at least that they were overly tight from the factory. I removed those screws and threw them away, not being a necessity short of shipping. That was the only quality problem with my black though. It's too bad your white fared much worse. I'll still certainly get the white for another build, counting on it being a case of variance. I've seen plenty of white cases where some paint dust has leaked into screw holes, but as you got metal out of yours it should certainly be a matter of threading quality control. That's bad.

If you feel like it, fill in the contact form over at Fractal Design's website. They'll be glad to get any direct customer feedback. If the case has a serial number on a sticker, include that as well for them to track statistics for the batch.

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by nagi » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:06 pm

mkk wrote:
nagi wrote:4. The top screws holding the drive bays were already worn from the factory, so I'm sure they won't last more than a few shuffles.
I had a bit of trouble there too, at least that they were overly tight from the factory. I removed those screws and threw them away, not being a necessity short of shipping. That was the only quality problem with my black though. It's too bad your white fared much worse. I'll still certainly get the white for another build, counting on it being a case of variance. I've seen plenty of white cases where some paint dust has leaked into screw holes, but as you got metal out of yours it should certainly be a matter of threading quality control. That's bad.

If you feel like it, fill in the contact form over at Fractal Design's website. They'll be glad to get any direct customer feedback. If the case has a serial number on a sticker, include that as well for them to track statistics for the batch.
Thanks for the feedback. I usually don't complain to the manufacturers, (at elast not since I worked as a journalist, which made it so much easier) but this time, I think I will.
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by dxhelios » Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:50 am

Just bought it. My build is for NAS and video transcoding/streaming.
PSU: Seasonic SS(X in US)-520W FL2. fanless.
Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IMPACT VI.
CPU: i5-4570S. xxxxS CPUs stay relatively cool and provide enough features and performance
Heatsink: NH-U12S. slim version.
Memory: couple of corsair modules with heatspreaders.
Drives: SSD and 4 HDD - if future all SSDs

Problems/challenges:
Heatsink. So I saw the problem with heatsink placement and chose slim version. I tried my old backup PSU and it is so noisy inside the case. Maybe because of vents on the bottom and quality of case itself. So fanless Seasonic is excellent choice.

Cabling. The biggest problem for this case is cabling. I solved cabling for motherboard and CPU by tying cables to upper frame so cables do not stand in the way of airflow. However HDD cabling is yet to be solved. Now it is a mess. So that is what Fractal Design could improve. I even do not mind additional 1cm of higher case, but this needs to be solved.

Graphics card. This could be a problem. But you need to do your homework by selecting appropriate motherboard and graphics card. I do not use it by my design, though I could without cabling or placement issues.

Final design:
I assume that 2 fans would be enough to provide necessary cooling. 1st 12mm on a heatsink near HDD - almost in the middle of the case pushing air through heatsink toward exaust and one 14mm stock fan. 2 fan in the front of the case will be take out to allow better inflow. Also this may help solve HDD cabling issues as I would be able to mount HDDs cables facing toward front of the case.

Quality:
Some screws and holes are not very well aligned - HDDs. Very little insulation. Front panel connectors suck. This could be improved.

Overall: between excellent and good. (I own fractal design mini - this one is my reference). On the other hand it would be extremely hard to find 6 HDD ITX case.
Main: Fractal Design Core 500 | Seasonic X-520FL2 | Intel i7-6700T | ASUS Maximus IMPACT VIII | 16GB Corsair 3000 DDR4 | 240GB Hyper-X | Noctua heatsink | Stock case fan
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Abula » Sat Dec 14, 2013 5:54 am

dxhelios wrote:Just bought it. My build is for NAS and video transcoding/streaming.
PSU: Seasonic SS(X in US)-520W FL2. fanless.
Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IMPACT VI.
CPU: i5-4570S. xxxxS CPUs stay relatively cool and provide enough features and performance
Heatsink: NH-U12S. slim version.
Memory: couple of corsair modules with heatspreaders.
Drives: SSD and 4 HDD - if future all SSDs

Problems/challenges:
Heatsink. So I saw the problem with heatsink placement and chose slim version. I tried my old backup PSU and it is so noisy inside the case. Maybe because of vents on the bottom and quality of case itself. So fanless Seasonic is excellent choice.

Cabling. The biggest problem for this case is cabling. I solved cabling for motherboard and CPU by tying cables to upper frame so cables do not stand in the way of airflow. However HDD cabling is yet to be solved. Now it is a mess. So that is what Fractal Design could improve. I even do not mind additional 1cm of higher case, but this needs to be solved.

Graphics card. This could be a problem. But you need to do your homework by selecting appropriate motherboard and graphics card. I do not use it by my design, though I could without cabling or placement issues.

Final design:
I assume that 2 fans would be enough to provide necessary cooling. 1st 12mm on a heatsink near HDD - almost in the middle of the case pushing air through heatsink toward exaust and one 14mm stock fan. 2 fan in the front of the case will be take out to allow better inflow. Also this may help solve HDD cabling issues as I would be able to mount HDDs cables facing toward front of the case.

Quality:
Some screws and holes are not very well aligned - HDDs. Very little insulation. Front panel connectors suck. This could be improved.

Overall: between excellent and good. (I own fractal design mini - this one is my reference). On the other hand it would be extremely hard to find 6 HDD ITX case.
Are you running AI SUITE III / FanXpert2? just curious on the range of operation of the Fractal 92mm fans.
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by dxhelios » Sat Dec 14, 2013 6:02 am

Abula wrote:Are you running AI SUITE III / FanXpert2? just curious on the range of operation of the Fractal 92mm fans.
I have not connected them yet as idea is to take them out. I will connect them and will post the screenshot from FanXpert. This will happen till the end of next week for sure if you can wait.
Main: Fractal Design Core 500 | Seasonic X-520FL2 | Intel i7-6700T | ASUS Maximus IMPACT VIII | 16GB Corsair 3000 DDR4 | 240GB Hyper-X | Noctua heatsink | Stock case fan
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Abula » Sat Dec 14, 2013 8:58 am

dxhelios wrote:
Abula wrote:Are you running AI SUITE III / FanXpert2? just curious on the range of operation of the Fractal 92mm fans.
I have not connected them yet as idea is to take them out. I will connect them and will post the screenshot from FanXpert. This will happen till the end of next week for sure if you can wait.
Thanks, no rush, when ever you have time. Looking foward to your graph, thanks again. I did ran the Fractal 140 that came with my Define R4, but interested on the 92mm.

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by dxhelios » Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:28 am

Attached.
frontfan.JPG
You know these front fans are really silent.
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Main: Fractal Design Core 500 | Seasonic X-520FL2 | Intel i7-6700T | ASUS Maximus IMPACT VIII | 16GB Corsair 3000 DDR4 | 240GB Hyper-X | Noctua heatsink | Stock case fan
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by nagi » Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:51 am

Just an update: the folks at Fractal Design have already replied to my concerns. Well, it isn't that long, so I'll just post it here. :)
Hi,

Thank you for your feedback, we'll try to improve the threading/painting.

Regards,
Fractal Design
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Abula » Wed Dec 18, 2013 1:49 pm

Thank you dxhelios, appreciate the screenshot, look like 550rpm is where they will idle under fanXpert2.
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Cynical » Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:46 am

I built a light use system (web/email/office) in a Node 304. Used the on-board video with an i3 2120 (cooled with a simple Noctua L9i) on an ASUS motherboard. I removed the front fans, and set the back fan to run quietly from a motherboard header.

This machine works perfectly for what I wanted, and it's very quiet. It has limits (no optical drive, for example), but it's a decent case. However, the other mini-ITX I built was in a BitFenix Prodigy - if I were to do another, I'd probable go with the Prodigy again.

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by josephclemente » Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:57 pm

Nice review! I have five hard drives and one SSD in my Node 304. I really cleaned up my wiring by creating my own custom SATA power cable, eliminating excess cable length between each connector. I also went with SATA data cables as short as needed for each drive.

I noticed one error in the review - the hyperlink on the last page for "SilverStone Argon" links to the review for the Noctua NH-U14S.
SilverStone SG05, Antec Kuhler H2O 620, Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP-13 120MM, Seasonic X-460, ASRock Z77E-ITX, Intel Xeon E3-1230 V2, Samsung 30nm 1.35V 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM, PowerColor AX7750, Samsung Series 830 256GB SSD, Win 7 Ultimate x64
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by thierry. » Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:08 am

josephclemente wrote:I have five hard drives and one SSD in my Node 304. I really cleaned up my wiring by creating my own custom SATA power cable, eliminating excess cable length between each connector. I also went with SATA data cables as short as needed for each drive.
Hi Joseph,
Will you post a topic for your new build?
Your SG05 was really neat. I would love to see how you set up all these drives and custom cables. :idea:

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by josephclemente » Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:10 pm

I'll post my new builds hopefully soon!
SilverStone SG05, Antec Kuhler H2O 620, Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP-13 120MM, Seasonic X-460, ASRock Z77E-ITX, Intel Xeon E3-1230 V2, Samsung 30nm 1.35V 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM, PowerColor AX7750, Samsung Series 830 256GB SSD, Win 7 Ultimate x64
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by dxhelios » Sat Jan 18, 2014 2:35 am

Also for Mini-ITX cases I would definitely recommend NGFF aka M.2 SSDs (so far I have seen Crucial and Intel M.2 SSDs). This would free up one more SATA slot and there is no need for additional cables. Also there is more free space inside the case.
Main: Fractal Design Core 500 | Seasonic X-520FL2 | Intel i7-6700T | ASUS Maximus IMPACT VIII | 16GB Corsair 3000 DDR4 | 240GB Hyper-X | Noctua heatsink | Stock case fan
NAS: Fractal Design Node 304 | Seasonic X-520FL2 | Intel i5-4570S | ASUS Maximus Impact VI | DDR3 Corsair 8GB 1866MHz | Crucial SSD M.2 240GB | Intel Raid 0 on 2xSamsung 840 Evo 1TB | Noctua slim heatsink and fans.

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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by mkygod » Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:13 am

Would this case be good for building a NAS? It seems to hold a lot of 3.5 drives for its size (6).
Core i7 2600k Sandybridge @ 4.5ghz | Thermalright Ultima-90 heatsink | ASUS P8Z68V-Pro| 2 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance| XFX Radeon 5850 + Accelero S1 + VRM-4 + 120mm fan| 2x Raid-0 -Intel X-25M 80GB SSD hard drive | Antec P150 case | Seasonic X-750 750w PSU

Osamede
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by Osamede » Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:26 am

It is - and the cooling is good enough to handle the full six. That said, you just need to be aware when picking a motherboard, that some Mini-ITX ones have 4 SATA ports only:
http://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articl ... rence-473/

Also space is fairly tight in there once you have everything installed, so with six drive, you'll want fairly short cables on everything.

mkygod
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by mkygod » Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:26 am

Osamede wrote:It is - and the cooling is good enough to handle the full six. That said, you just need to be aware when picking a motherboard, that some Mini-ITX ones have 4 SATA ports only:
http://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articl ... rence-473/

Also space is fairly tight in there once you have everything installed, so with six drive, you'll want fairly short cables on everything.
Glad to hear. Are there any other alternative cases to consider that has the ability carry this many drives at a similar size?
Core i7 2600k Sandybridge @ 4.5ghz | Thermalright Ultima-90 heatsink | ASUS P8Z68V-Pro| 2 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance| XFX Radeon 5850 + Accelero S1 + VRM-4 + 120mm fan| 2x Raid-0 -Intel X-25M 80GB SSD hard drive | Antec P150 case | Seasonic X-750 750w PSU

dxhelios
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by dxhelios » Sat Nov 15, 2014 5:44 am

Are there any other alternative cases to consider that has the ability carry this many drives at a similar size
I doubt. One year has passed after assembling it for the first time. You know, this is probably the best custom build I've done in 20 years. I've build it for NAS.
I wrote about my config some time ago on this thread and now it is finished: 2 SSDx1TB. I plan to expand 4TB in the same manner next year. Thanks to Samsung 7 mm drives I can mount them on external side of the drive trays. This allows very convenient cabling without separately bought cables (if you put 2 drives inside drive tray then connectors will be bottoms up - not convenient for 4 drives, but completely ok for 6). 2 good fans (1 big stock and another on heatsink) will provide sufficient protection. Using M.2 SSD for OS.

Its main advantages are good stock fans and compact sizing - I meant that it's miniITX, but H/W/D.

Note:
- to afford 6 or more drives you need to install additional controller.
- it is not really good for some HDD drives because of vibration
- I would add a little more space to fit slim BD drive, though can be solved using USB.

If switching drives is not critical for you, if HDD drives is not a priority, if BD drive is not a must - it will be probably the best case.
Main: Fractal Design Core 500 | Seasonic X-520FL2 | Intel i7-6700T | ASUS Maximus IMPACT VIII | 16GB Corsair 3000 DDR4 | 240GB Hyper-X | Noctua heatsink | Stock case fan
NAS: Fractal Design Node 304 | Seasonic X-520FL2 | Intel i5-4570S | ASUS Maximus Impact VI | DDR3 Corsair 8GB 1866MHz | Crucial SSD M.2 240GB | Intel Raid 0 on 2xSamsung 840 Evo 1TB | Noctua slim heatsink and fans.

xouspring
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Re: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

Post by xouspring » Tue Nov 25, 2014 4:39 am

Hello there.

Thanks for the review.

Would anyone here be able to confirm that i can install a Scythe Kotetsu in this case?
Would be with a Z97 GA mobo, and a GTX970.

Thanks!

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