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Fractal Design Node 605 HTPC Style Case

Fractal Design’s take on a desktop media PC case, the Node 605 is a sturdy, elegant chassis focused on limiting noise, vibration, and dust build-up. It offers ATX board compatibility in a surprisingly small footprint, but usability is far better with a mATX board.

March 7, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Fractal Design Node 605
microATX Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$150

Since bursting onto the scene three years ago, Fractal Design has primarily focused on improving the vertical tower style case design used by the majority of PC enthusiasts. The Core and Arc are fairly popular amongst noise conscious users but the Define series remains their most well-known, their bread and butter, having gone through several iterations over the years in the quest for perfection.

The Node line hopes to translate their previous success into smaller, more niche form factors. The Node 304 is a Shuttle-style mini-ITX breadbox while the Node 605 we’re looking at today is Fractal’s take on the classic desktop media center. It’s a case type that’s been around for a long time but every model we’ve encountered has been lacking in one way or another. It will be interesting to see what Swedish engineering can do for the genre.

Fractal Design Node 605: Product Details
(from the
product web page
)
Key Features
Solid aluminum front panel
Supports full ATX motherboards
Noise-dampening material
4 HDD/SSD slots
Integrated card reader
Two Silent Series R2 hydraulic bearing fans included
Supports graphic cards up to 280mm in length (180mm with all hard drives in place)
USB 3.0 and FireWire front connectors
Technical specifications
ATX, microATX, Mini ITX, DTX motherboard compatibility
7 expansion slots
4 – supports either 2.5″ or 3.5″ HDD / SSD
1 slim-line ODD (only supported with mATX or smaller motherboards)
PSU compatibility: 180 mm (including any modular connectors) with both hard drive cages mounted or 190 mm (excluding cables and any modular connectors) with one hard drive cage mounted
CPU cooler compatibility: Approx 125mm with side-mounted fans – For coolers with top-mounted fans, Fractal Design recommends that you add at least 30 mm clearance for decent airflow
Case dimensions (W x H x D): 445 x 164 x 349 mm (excluding front panel – 440 x 162 x 341 mm)
Net weight: 6,0 kg
Cooling / ventilation
ATX, microATX, Mini ITX, DTX motherboard compatibility
5 (3 – 120mm + 2 – 80mm)
2 – 120mm Silent Series R2 fans included
Removable air filters for side fans and PSU
Integrated three-channel fan controller
Graphics card compatibility
180 mm with both hard drive cages mounted
255 mm with one hard drive cage mounted
290 mm in the top two ATX expansion card slots with two hard drive cages mounted
280 mm in the top four ATX expansion card slots with one hard drive cage mounted, containing one 3.5″ HDD and one 2.5″ SSD
Front interface
2 – USB 3.0
1 – FireWire (IEEE 1394)
1 – 3.5mm audio in (microphone)
1 – 3.5mm audio out (headphone)
Power button with LED
HDD LED

The Node 605 weighs 6.0 kg or 13.2 lb and measures 44.5 x 16.4 x 34.9 cm or 17.5 x 6.5 x 13.7 inches (W x H x D). Its footprint wouldn’t be out of place in a typical home theater cabinet but it is rather tall, equivalent to 2 or 3 cable/satellite receivers or Blu-ray/DVD players stacked on top of one another. The 605 is an ATX case but with a total case volume of only 25.5 liters, it’s quite compact. It’s even a bit undersized compared to a typical microATX tower.


The Node 605.

The boxy shape and brush aluminum face is reminiscent of SilverStone’s Grandia series though the exterior has a more attractive design, taking minimalism to heart even further. A discrete flap at the bottom hides the front ports and optical drive bay; when closed, the only things visible on the bezel are the power button/LED and the pleasing Fractal branding underneath. 120 mm fan grills are found on either side, two on the right and one on the left, while the top of the enclosure is completely featureless. Usually some form of ventilation is found on the case ceiling with this type of chassis.


Accessories.

The accessory box contains the usual assortment of zip-ties, screws, and standoffs, as well as mounting brackets for the slim optical drive bay. The user manual is surprisingly brief, only listing all the contents and a diagram of how it all goes together with no extraneous descriptions or notes. It’s a far cry from the manual from the recently reviewed Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 which had full-sized color pictures and text espousing the benefit of each and every feature and design element.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Node 605 is a black steel enclosure with an aluminum front panel, measuring 44.5 x 16.4 x 34.9 cm or 17.5 x 6.5 x 13.7 inches (W x H x D) for a total volume of 25.5 liters, substantially less than most microATX towers.


The door at the bottom opens up to reveal a slim optical drive bay, headphone and mic jacks, FireWire and USB 3.0 ports, and a card reader with micro/standard SD and Compact Flash support.


A lip has been dug out on both sides to more conveniently access the door. On the right side there’s also a three speed switch for the fan controller which can be run at 5V, 7V, and 12V.


The case is equipped with three 120 mm fan mounts, two on the right side and one of the left, with one fan on each side provided gratis. Additional placements are available at the rear above the I/O panel but they are smaller (80 mm) and unfiltered.


The feet at the front of the case are broad while those at the back are stubby and arranged asymmetrically.


The top panel is affixed tightly, remvovable via two screws at the back. The interior is mostly featureless except for the hard drive trays which hang down, secured to the edge of the case on one side and to a support beam running along the center.


The cover is a solid 1.0 ~ 1.1 mm and lined with a 2 mm sheet of stiff, dimpled dampening material.

INTERIOR & ASSEMBLY

The interior of the Node 605 has a solidly constructed steel frame but is incredibly cramped for use with an ATX motherboard with almost no clearance above/below the edges of the board; in fact using an ATX board makes the slim optical drive bay unusuable. It’s really better suited as a microATX case.


The Node 605’s two included fans are mounted toward the front of the enclosure blowing toward one another and the hard drive mounting area. Positive air pressure setups are commonly used by SilverStone but avoided by most other manufacturers. The bundle of cables next to fan pictured above includes a 20-pin USB 3.0 connector with a 2.0 option if your motherboard lacks a USB 3.0 header.


The 120 mm fan mounts are filtered by what looks like two layers of very fine mesh. This combined with the lack of exhaust fans indicates that dust buildup was one of Fractal’s primary concerns.


The 80 mm placements near at the rear of the case have less restrictive honeycomb-style grills.


The slim optical drive bay is rendered unusable by an ATX motherboard as illustrated by the proximity to the bottom/right ATX standoff pictured above.


A pair of drive trays are provided with each supporting two 2.5/3.5 inch drives. Drives are bottom-mounted with rubber grommets to keep vibration in check.


The drive positioning can lead to possible interference issues. With our test system, the SATA connectors were very close to the graphics card. It also made accessing some of our motherboard’s SATA ports and front panel headers difficult.


Cabling can be an issue as there are only a couple of points on the case floor where wires can be tied down.


Most side-blowing tower CPU coolers are too tall for the Node 605, so we opted for the Noctua NH-C12P. It stands 11.4 cm tall and there was about 1.3 cm to spare above.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Stock Fan Noise

The Node 605 ships with a pair of 120 mm, 1200 RPM fans, similar to those found in the Define Mini, however we found that the 605’s fans generated a greater level of noise. The Mini has the advantage of being a tower case with a door blocking out some of the noise while the 605’s fans are directly exposed to the environment.

Baseline Noise Level
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
12V
30 dBA
9V
24~25 dBA
7V
19~20 dBA
5V
13~14 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/top
of case.

At full speed the stock fans emitted 30 dBA@1m, 3~4 dB higher than the Define Mini. Its range was fairly good, dropping down to close to inaudible levels at 5V, which is one of the available settings on the included fan controller. The controller is powered by a 4-pin molex connector and can switch between 5V, 7V, and 12V for up to three 3-pin fans.

While the overall noise level was fairly high for 1200 RPM models, we don’t have much to complain about with regards to sound quality. The fans’ acoustic profile was almost entirely broadband and neither our mic or our ears picked up any notable tones. They have a very smooth and innocuous sound.

TEST RESULTS:

System Measurements (ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
Fan Speeds
(CPU / System)
9V / 5V
12V / 7V
12V / 12V
GPU Fan
Speed
1660 RPM
4040 RPM*
3350 RPM*
CPU Temp
34°C
92°C
88°C
HD Temp
39°C
41°C
38°C
GPU Temp
44°C
91°C
90°C
GPU VRM Temp
50°C
99°C
96°C
SPL@1m
19~20 dBA
37 dBA
35 dBA
System Power
59W
285W
282W
*set as low as possible to maintain a GPU temperature of ~90°C on load.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Our test system, consisting of a Core i5-750 quad core CPU and a Radeon HD 6850 GPU, was sufficiently quiet in its idle state, measuring 19~20 dBA@1m with the CPU fan at 9V and case fans at 5V. There was also a distinct lack of hard drive related noise; the thick top cover fit very snugly on the chassis so it wasn’t prone to shaking and the hanging drive mounting system with grommets neutralized most of the side-to-side vibration. However, the CPU and GPU temperatures were more than 10°C higher than we’re used to seeing for this configuration in a typical microATX tower.

On full synthetic CPU + GPU load, the Node 605’s underwhelming thermal performance was further exposed. The GPU fan had to be set to above 4000 RPM in order to keep the GPU at ~90°C and the CPU was equally toasty. Pumping up the case fans at full speed helped alleviate the load on the GPU fan, allowing it to spin down by 700 RPM, but noise level was still an earsplitting 35 dBA@1m. The CPU heated up close to throttling temperature so its fan was also cranked up to 12V (we normally leave it at 9V).

It seems that the components simply produced more heat than could be expelled by the case’s cooling system. With the way the fans were arranged from the factory, both the CPU and GPU lacked direct airflow. In addition, our HD 6850, like many video cards on the market, uses a cooler that blows toward the PCB rather than an exhaust style, so much of the hot air built up above the GPU as the top of the enclosure doesn’t have any ventilation points. The positive pressure airflow produced by the stock fans simply wasn’t enough.

ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU Test System: Comparison (Load)
Case
SS Temjin TJ08-E
SS Precision PS07
Lian Li
PC-V354*
Fractal Node 605*
System Fans
low/10V
2 x 9V
3 x 9V (2 x exhausts)
2 x 12V
GPU Fan
2330 RPM
2300 RPM
1740 RPM
3350 RPM
CPU
59°C
71°C
60°C
88°C**
HD
25°C
30°C
26°C
38°C
GPU
89°C
90°C
89°C
90°C
GPU VRM
87°C
88°C
76°C
96°C
SPL@1m
24~25 dBA
25 dBA
26 dBA
35 dBA
*Tested with Noctua NH-C12P heatsink rather than the NH-U12P
(due to incompatibility).
**CPU fan set to 12V rather than 9V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

The Node 605’s temperatures and noise levels were significantly higher than previously tested microATX towers. From a thermal and acoustic perspective, it doesn’t even come close to remotely stacking up. Desktop style enclosures are inherently at a disadvantage due to CPU heatsink restrictions and fan positioning limitations and the restrictive nature of the Node 605’s design doesn’t do it any favors.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Fractal Design Node 605’s design places most of its focus on limiting dust and noise. The very fine mesh fan grills keeps larger particulate out of the case, as does the positive pressure airflow scheme. The stock fans have a nice sound and if they’re too loud can be dropped down to 7V or 5V via the included controller. The noise absorbent mat on the top panel helps with standing waves and weighs it down, providing additional stability. The dampened hard drive trays do a wonderful job eliminating drive vibration, though they make it difficult to access motherboard connectors.

What you won’t get out of the Node 605 is cooling proficiency. As a performance case with a high powered CPU and/or GPU, it’s completely out of its element. The enclosure is cramped given its total volume of just 25.5 L and without any ceiling vents, the stock fans have a heck of a time pushing out all that hot air. Our thermal/acoustic load results were abysmal compared to larger, tower style cases. Thankfully, the primary intended purpose of desktop style cases is for media center PCs which have less demanding requirements and workloads. The Node 605 is infinitely better suited for this application.

The Node 605 is retailing for around US$150, which is on the high side for this genre of case. Aside from the memory card reader and fan controller, it doesn’t offer any extra functionally over similar, lower cost cases, but it does deliver almost premium build quality. The chassis and panels are solidly constructed and of course nothing screams quality like a thick aluminum front bezel. You’d also be hard pressed to find a more attractive desktop chassis; the brush aluminum face, minimal adornment, and hidden ports combine to form a striking look that doesn’t scream for attention.

Our thanks to Fractal Design for the Node 605 case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
HDPLEX H5.TODD Fanless HTPC Case
Nanoxia Deep Silence 1
SilverStone Sugo SG09: SFF microATX Case
Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX Case
SilverStone Precision PS07: Budget MicroATX Tower
Fractal Design Define Mini MicroATX Tower

* * *

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