|Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by Tom Jaskulka|
|Wednesday, 26 December 2012|
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Node 304 Detailed Features - GPUs
Fractal Design recommends PSUs no longer than 160mm. This presents a unique tradeoff, as a case this small begs for a modular power supply to avoid having to find a place to stash those excess cables. However, most 160mm modular power supplies are going to start to encroach on the graphics card slot, so a 140mm modular PSU might be the best option. It seems that makes a high-output AND short PSU much more difficult to find - not impossible, it just means you have to do a little more research. Really, what this means is you are forced to make a choice - high output or modular connectors? If you want both, you'll be spending some money. Keep in mind that space "behind" the PSU is about the only place to stash extra cables, and depending on the video card, you won't be left with much. Add those 6 HDDs, along with a big graphics card, and you will probably be frustrated. Doable, manageable, but frustrating nonetheless. To be fair, if you want to "have it all," you probably aren't looking at ITX enclosures. What I'm trying to say here is you'll probably just have to choose if you want a high-powered gaming rig or a file server - which shouldn't be a hard choice.
Now for the fun part - let's take a look and see what we can cram in this ITX machine:
First up - a Radeon 7770. The numbers are somewhat hard to read on that ruler, but this card extends about 17 cm into the case. The picture below depicts the tie down points and the small space between the motherboard and PSU pretty well.
While a 7770 or similar card is a great match for most ITX enclosures and builds, to truly build a gaming rig you'll want something a little more powerful. That brings us to a Radeon 7850, a "sweet-spot" card that will generate great performance for the power and heat it produces. The Node 304 has no problem fitting a card in this category as well, and it extends approximately 21cm into the chassis. Notice there is still quite a bit of room for leftover cables from the PSU with a card this size, although now you'll have to give up one of the hard drive hangers - reducing your capacity to four hard drives.
Here's where Fractal Design really surprised me with their Node 304 - it fits a Radeon 7970! At almost 30cm in length for this particular iteration of the high-end AMD GPU, you shouldn't experience any problems physically fitting a high-end card in this enclosure. A reference GTX 680 is ~27 cm, while a GTX 690 is closer to 29 cm. As you can see, there's still some room for length, so unless you get a card with a triple-wide slot, it'll probably fit just fine in the Node 304.
Powering and cooling the card you choose is a slightly different matter - while the intake on the side does a remarkable job of keeping cards cool, most power supplies that can accomodate the current draw for an overclocked Radeon 7970 don't fit into the 140mm short PSU category. Take a look at the final picture on this page - the gap between the 140mm Corsair CX430 and the Radeon 7970 doesn't leave you a lot of room to stash cables. It can be done, but plan your components carefully...
Here again you see the space for cables is limited. Read the specifications, there are some good tips there for choosing power supplies! Once again, you'll need to remove a HDD hanger as one side would descend directly into the middle of the GPU. Below you can see what it looks like with two hangers installed - there's still a pretty clear path for that 92mm fan to provide some cool air to the rest of the installed components without any hard drives in the way.
The side vent for the GPU will provide most of the cool air to the graphics card, but the front-to-back airflow does a great job of speeding the exit of the warmer air generated by a larger graphics card.