Last month saw the review of the Define R4, a big ATX tower that could easily double up as a small server case, with a lot of bells and whistles. This month we’re looking at the Node 304, also from Fractal Design, a small, Mini ITX case with a very minimal aesthetic. Don’t let appearances deceive you though, the Node can do a lot more than you’d think at a cursory glance.
The assembled case is very simple. The front is plain, satin black with the Fractal Design logo and a thin slit for the power light connected to a power button on the side of the front panel. Flanking this button are two USB 3.0 ports, along with headphone and mic ports. The sides of the case both have vents, the bigger one with a dust guard, allowing you to peak inside if you’re up close enough to the box. The rear obviously has a bit more going on, with the rear case fan above a horizontal I/O gap, and next to two PCI slots and a fan speed switch.
Opening up the case, you understand how the box is supposed to be used. The front is is comprised of the hard drive bays, three sections that can take two drives each, and a space for the PSU, which can be ATX sized. The three hard drive bays can be removed and rearranged, which can be handy if you’re only using one or two drives and want to maximise the airflow through the front of the case. The rear of the case will house the motherboard, and its deep enough to allow for bulky CPU heatsinks. The feature list claims to be able to full sized graphics cards, however you’d need to really wrangle your PSU cables and to remove a hard drive bay to accomplish this.
Thanks to the included fans, the box keeps very cool while being quiet. As a home server, it’s a great size with space to keep it fairly powerful depending on your needs. As a media centre, it may be a little bulky, although again it has a lot of storage potential for large libraries, and is quiet. For Desktop use, it’s great for everything but gaming, and saves a lot of space. However, there is no optical drive if that’s a problem for you.
It has many uses, and while it may not be best in class for all of them, the Node has definite advantages as a home server, HTPC, and desktop PC thanks to some smart layout decisions and a cool and quiet ventilation system. It also looks great just about anywhere.
Dimensions: 250 x 210 x 374 mm
Weight: 4.9 KG
Hard Drive Slots: Six across three bays
Ventilation: Two front mounted 92 mm fans, One 140 mm fan on rear
Expansion slot: Two PCI
Form factor: Mini ITX, DTX
Ports: Two USB 3.0, one headphone, one mic