Fractal Design Node 804 Micro-ATX Case
Fractal Design is a Swedish company that focuses on designing computer hardware that keeps with the Scandinavian minimalist viewpoint. Currently, there are four case lines that focus on different aspects of the minimalist view. The Node series, is focused on home entertainment, designing the cases to be small and to look great in any environment.
The most recent case is the Node 804, it accepts both Micro ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards, to keep it small though, Fractal Design has gone to a cube layout that separates the power supply and hard drives from the motherboard and GPU. As a cube case, it measures 344 x 307 x 389mm (WxHxD), with the case split almost in half for each of the two sections. Like most modern cases, the Node 804 supports SuperSpeed USB 3.0, up to 10 hard drives, enthusiast grade video cards and CPU coolers.
While the previous Node, the Node 304 was available in both black and white, the Node 804 is currently only available in black, and includes a side window to showcase the interior components. The latest to the Node line is just becoming available, while it can not be found online just yet, we have been told it has a MSRP of $109.99, and will ship with a one year warranty.
While the Node 804 is fairly small, that doesn't mean it lack cooling potential. With the separation of the various components, Fractal Design has made it so users can focus the cooling where they want it the most. The Node 804 can support up to twelve fans; four 120/140mm in the front, four 120/140mm at the top, two at the back of the case (one 120mm and one 120/140mm), and finally two 80mm at the bottom of the motherboard section. However, if liquid cooling is preferred that is also compatible with the Node 804; two slim 240mm radiators can be installed at the front or two 240mm radiators at the top, keeping in mind that each of these will have other restrictions, you could also swap the 120mm fan for a small 120mm radiator to cool the CPU.
Features and Specifications:
The dual chamber layout separates hot running components from the cooler ones and allows for unrestricted airflow over the motherboard, processor and graphics card.
- Highly effective dual chamber case layout for best possible cooling.
- Minimalistic design with an elegant brushed aluminum front panel
- Unique hard drive mounting system, fitting up to 8 x 3.5″, 4 x 2.5” or up to 10 x 3.5”, 2 x 2.5″ drives HDD/SSD
- Three Fractal Design Silent Series R2 fans included with the case and space for an additional 7 fans.
- Excellent water cooling support with space for up to 4 radiators simultaneously.
- All intakes feature removable dust filters providing a dust-free interior.
- Featuring a window side panel to show off your set up in style.
- Additional space in the front to mount a slim optical bay drive and 2 x 2.5″ drives.
- Fan controller included.
- Five expansion slots that allows for multiple GPU setups.
- Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
- 8 - 3.5″ HDD positions
- 2 - 2.5″ dedicated SSD unit positions
- 2 - Extra positions for either 3,5″ or 2,5″ drives
- 5 expansion slots
- 10 - Fan positions (3 x 120mm Silent Series R2 fans included)
- Filtered fan slots in front, top and bottom
- CPU coolers up to 160 mm in height
- PSU compatibility: ATX PSUs up to 260 mm deep
- Graphics card compatibility: Graphics cards up to 320mm in length. Graphics cards up to 290 mm in length may be installed if a fan is installed in the lower position in the front.
- Velcro strap for easy cable management
- Clear Window side panel included
- Colors available: Black
- Case dimensions (WxHxD): 344 x 307 x 389 mm
- Net weight: 6 kg
- Package dimensions (WxHxD): 370 x 468 x 412 mm
- Package weight: 7.7kg
- Front: 4 – 120mm fans
- (included is one hydraulic bearing 120mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
- Rear: 1 - 120/140mm fan
- (included is a hydraulic bearing 120mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
- Rear: 1 - 120mm fan slots
- (included is 1 hydraulic bearing 120mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
- Top: 4 - 120x140mm fans
- (not included)
- Fan controller: 1 - Integrated fan controller for up to 3 fans
Water cooling compatibility
- Front (right chamber)
- 240 mm radiator configurations up to 60 mm thick (with fans) and 278 mm tall are allowed.
- Front (left chamber)
- 240 mm radiator configurations up to 60 mm thick (with fans) and 278 mm tall are allowed. Using a radiator in this position prevents the use of a fan in the top position just next to it.
- Top (right chamber)
- 240/280 mm radiators up to 130mm thick (with fans) may be fitted if the HDD drive bays are taken out or placed elsewhere. No limitation to thickness.
- Top (left chamber)
- 240 mm radiator configurations up to 130 mm thick (with fans) will fit. Radiators in this position limits the height of memory modules to 48 mm tall.
Maximum radiator configuration: 1x240mm,1x280mm and 2x120mm radiators simultaneously.
Node 804 Packaging
Like other Fractal Design cases, the Node 804 comes in a plain cardboard box, nothing fancy here, it keeps with the Scandinavian minimalist style. The front simply shows a 3/4 view of the case along with the front I/O ports and the optical slot load bay.
The back of the box shows an exploded view of the Node 804, with numbers to identify the parts. The major parts have a detailed explanation of what it is.
Of the two sides, one is basic and provides an interior view of the case with the hard drive cages. The other side provides a detailed list of the specifications and the cooling options.
With pretty standard packaging material, the Node 804 shouldn't have any issues arriving at it's final destination. The foam blocks are a little soft, and should provide plenty of cushion if it is dropped or something falls on top of the box. The case itself, is placed inside a plastic bag to keep dust and moisture away from the case.
As with any case, a certain number of accessories need to be included, Fractal Design makes sure there are more than enough accessories to fully load the Node 804. Two books are included, the first is a promotional pamphlet, and a highly detailed user manual. The accessories to complete the installation include five cable ties, eight motherboard standoffs with a standoff install bit, eight rubber anti-vibration washers, four really small screws for an optical drive, thirty one SSD screws, two optical drive bracket screws, four power supply screws, an optical drive bracket and finally, forty 3.5" drive screws.
Overall, nothing too exciting about the packaging, it's pretty standard. It allows the Node 804 to arrive at it's destination without any issues and let's any perspective retail purchasers know exactly what the Node 804 is capable of.
Node 804 External Impressions
While previous Node cases have been offered in black and white, the Node 804 is only available in black. The exterior has a very simplistic design to it, there are no bright LEDs, or other design elements. Without them, the Node 804 can fit in virtually any environment.
The front of the Node is made out of plastic, with a metal mesh opening at the bottom portion of the panel. Otherwise, the only other item on the front is the Fractal Design logo and the power LED.
The front bezel pulls off the chassis with minimal force, pulling from the bottom was the easiest way to do it. With the front bezel removed, we see that Fractal Design has installed two large fan filters for the front intake fans. The front filters are removable, which we will see shortly.
Taking a quick look at the internal portion of the front bezel, it has several important features. First, there is a simple drive cage that will hold two 2.5" drives. To the right of the 2.5" drive cage is a slim-line slot load optical drive bay. This is a nice way to allow an optical drive on a small case. Finally, at the bottom of the panel (the top of the picture), there are some air vents for the front intake fans.
The left side panel, covers the majority of the side panel and will allow the viewing of the motherboard and video card. While the majority of the case is very basic, this window provides a view into the system components. Depending on the components selected, it can provide a little flash to an otherwise basic styled case.
The back panel is where we get the first glimpse of how the internal components are going to be layed out. On the left, there is a 120/140mm fan that is placed above the power supply. On the right section, we can see the micro-ATX board will be installed here. Pretty standard features are visible, the motherboard I/O port key slot, with a 120mm case fan, and five expansion slot covers that have been vented. Also, we can't forget the tiny little High/Medium/Low fan controller switch at the top.
In contrast to the left side panel, the right side panel does not have a window, this panel is pretty basic. It is held in place with two thumbscrews and then a pull on the back handle will pull it away from the case. On the edge of the front bezel, we do find the slot load optical drive, and the standard front I/O cluster.
Right below the slot load optical drive bay, is the front I/O cluster. Nothing unusual here, from the top, a microphone and headphone jack, power button, and finally two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports. It's great they are located here, however keep this in mind when choosing this case.
The majority of the top panel is a wire mesh, to provide additional airflow. Like the front bezel, it is removable. However, instead of pulling it straight up, it slides towards the back of the case slightly and then it can be removed.
With the top removed we can see the mount locations for the optional top exhaust fans or top liquid cooling radiators. You have the choice of four 120/140mm fans or liquid cooling 240mm radiators, one thing to keep in mind is that in some instances the liquid radiators will limit other features. On the motherboard side, a large radiator can have issues with memory heatsinks. With on the power supply side, the hard drive bays might pose a problem.
With the top bezel removed, we took a look at the under side. Here we find the entire area is covered in a louvered plastic, which holds a foam filter in place. This provides strength to the top panel while keeping the exterior view very simple looking.
The bottom view is fairly plain, however we do see two filters, the one at the bottom of the picture is for the motherboard side, if a couple of bottom mounted fans are installed. The top (smaller filter) is for the power supply. Next to the power supply filter is two velcro straps looped through the case. At the front of the case, there are two small pull tabs, these will remove the front intake filters for easy cleaning. I really like easy front filter cleaning since those seem to get the dirtiest, and while I understand this implementation, it does mean that to clean the filters, the case has to be lifted, which will limit the number of times they'll be cleaned. Maybe an option would be to have them removed from behind a hidden panel at the top or the side; yes, I realize I'm being a bit finicky.
Node 804 Internal Impressions
As the Node 804 is split into two distinct sections, we'll take a look at these sections individually.
The side panel is removed by two thumbscrews at the back and then a slight pull on the handle releases the panel. The interior of the Node 804 measures approximately 13 x 107.75 x 7 (L x H x D) inches. The first thing I noticed was the large hole in the motherboard tray to allow the installation of CPU coolers without having to remove the motherboard. This is a rather large hole and should support CPU locations on both AMD and Intel motherboards. At the front of the tray is another large hole for cable management. Finally at the bottom is a smaller hole that can also bee used for cable management.
The front of this section, Fractal Design has preinstalled a 120mm front intake fan, a second fan can be installed as well. This fan is one of Fractal Designs Silent Series R2 fans, with 11 blades, it has a rated normal speed of around 1200RPM, and a CFM of 40.6; being a "Silent Series" fan, it's noise level is 15dBA.
The bottom panel isn't exciting, however there are two locations for additional fans to be installed.
At the back we find the usual suspects, five expansion slots with vented covers held in place by thumbscrews, and additional air vents above the expansion slots. The fan in the back is another 120mm Silent Series R2 fan. Right next (or rather above) to the fan is the integrated three fan controller.
Power Supply and Drive Section
Switching to the power supply side, the first thing I noticed was the two large hard drive holders hanging from the top. As it is the backside of the motherboard tray, it looks exactly like the front side; large CPU cutout, and two cable management holes.
On this side of the case, Fractal Design did not install any front intake fans, however if desired two fans could be installed at the front, to blow air across the 3.5" hard drives; and to keep it clean, we have already seen the front intake fan filters.
On the bottom of this side, there are a couple of things to notice. Near the front of the case, there are two velcro ties built onto the case, this is a nice "value added" feature, it makes managing the power supply cables very simple. As for the power supply, there are four little rubber feet to rest the power supply on, which will help to reduce noise from the power supply.
On the power supply side, the back panel really doesn't have anything very exciting. The 120mm fan can be swapped for a 140mm or a water cooler could potentially be installed in it's place, but I fail to see why you'd want to do that. The power supply hole supports all standard ATX power supplies, and they get installed the same say as pretty much every other power supply.
We have seen this style of drive chassis before by Fractal Design, the Node 304 uses a similar design, this has been modified to allow for four 3.5" hard drives in each cage, providing a total of eight 3.5" hard drives.
Node 804 Hardware Installation
Let's take a look at the power supply and hard drive side before getting to the motherboard side. The power supply gets installed in the normal position; however it seems weird not to see the power supply label. It could have been installed the other way, however the fan would be bringing in air from inside the case and not outside, like it's installed. One thing to keep in mind, while the drive cables are not installed here, the drives will need to be removed to connect the power and data cable. Also, depending on the data cable selected it is a little tight quarters between the drive and power supply.
Nothing to installing the 3.5" drives into the cages, four screws, two on each side secure the drives to the cage. The rubber washers reduce the vibration from the drives spinning up, and should keep them from making noise. Four drives can be installed into each of the two drive cages, as these two drives are in a RAID configuration, they were installed together, while the single drives are kept separated in the other drive cage.
While Fractal Design has designed the Node 804 to their liking, they did provide a little flexibility to the user. By default the drives are designed to hang from the top, however if necessary, the drives can also stand vertically from the bottom. Remove the velcro cable straps and put screws through the bottom into the drive cage.
Behind the bezel is space for two hidden 2.5" drives, while it is generally intended for SSD's, I decided to install a 1TB Constellation drive. Installation was easy, the only little gotcha that might happen is one of the bezel supports is pretty close to the slot where I installed the drive. Not a big deal, simply slide the drive into the other part of the cage and slide it over. There is plenty of room to maneuver the drive inside the cage.
Installing the motherboard is easy, there are no hidden surprises, everything goes according to plan. Fractal Design has pre-installed one motherboard stand off, the others will need to be installed. On this side of the case, there are five cable management tie locations, three at the very bottom and two between the two cable management holes. As a Mini-ITX motherboard is installed, there is a large amount of unused space, granted installing a good video card is going to take up a good amount of the empty space.
A Zalman LQ310 was installed in the Node 804, while I would have liked to have it installed at the back of the case, the ends were a bit too large. Right next to the back exhaust fan, on one side is the fan controller and the other, there is a little space, but not enough before it runs into the expansion slots. So it needed to be installed at the top; no issues with this installation, the tubes were long enough and didn't have to be twisted to get it installed.
The Fractal Design Node 804 supports long video cards up to 320mm (12.6 inches) if a bottom front intake fan is not installed. The Gigabyte HD7870 was installed in the Node 804 without any issues, and a bottom intake fan could have been installed. Other options would be to install bottom intake fans to blow directly onto the video cards fans. Cable management is easy with the large hole between the two sections at the front and bottom. However, as a Micro-ITX board was installed, there was actually some additional space in the CPU cooler hole that many of the cables could be routed. The one area that some additional time should be spent is at the top around the fan controller connections, the cables are fairly short and could use some cleaning up.
The window on the Node 804 is flawless and is flush with the rest of the panel. What it shows through the window is the parts that enthusiasts want to show off, the motherboard, CPU cooler , RAM and video card.
Fractal Design Node 804 FInal Thoughts and Conclusions
When I first used the Node 304, I was impressed at what Fractal Design was able to provide in a small case, sure there are restrictions in a small enviroment, but that's to be expected. With the Node 804, they took the Node 304 and expanded it, providing a few additional options, along with support for a larger motherboard, which in turn made things easier to work with. The Node 804 measures 13.5 x 12.1 x 15.3 (W x H x D) inches which while wider than most cases, it allows it to be short. Some of the considerations when looking at the Node 804 could include cooling, however there is support for 12 fans (four front, four top, two in the back, and two at the bottom), or you can install liquid cooling for silent operation. While the Node 304 did not allow for an optical drive, the 804 allows the use of a slim slot load drive behind the front bezel.
Other can cooling support, Fractal Design also configured the Node 804 to support CPU coolers up to 6.3" in height, which would allow for very tall coolers like the Phanteks PH-TC12DX. In addition, long video cards up to 12.6 inches in length will fit without a front fan, otherwise an 11.4 inch video card will fit. That means that even the Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 could be installed, with a little over 1/2 inch still available.
While everything was easy to install, thanks to the large amount of space on the inside, there was one little annoyance. The power cable for the fan controller was a little short in my opinion. While it uses a SATA power connector it is hard to use a SATA cable with three connectors to connect two hard drives, and get the third connector to the other side for the fan controller. A couple of possible solutions to this, there is a little cable management hole at the top left of the motherboard side, make it a little larger for the fan controller SATA connector to fit through, make the cable a bit longer, not very long, just a few inches or finally include a SATA to Molex adapter; I'll end using a four pin molex to SATA adapter to solve the issue.
As the Node 804 is just being released it is unavailable at any retailer, Fractal Design has told us that the Node 804 will have a MSRP of $109.99 which makes it a very reasonably priced case. In addition, Fractal Design includes a 1 year warranty with their cases.
Legit Bottom Line: If you are looking to build a small cube system that can support a lot of drives, and long video cards, the Fractal Design Node 804 is just one option; and looks to be one of the better choices on the market. This is going to make a perfect mini NAS, small gaming or a LAN party machine.