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Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases
Written by Tom Jaskulka   
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case
Closer Look: Node 304
Node 304 Detailed Features - GPUs
Node 304 Detailed Features: CPU Coolers
Testing and Results
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Testing & Results

Testing Methodology

Most of my testing was for clearances and the types of components you could fit in a chassis this size. I hope some of these pictures were helpful, and would welcome any comments for additional items or concentrations the readers of Benchmark Reviews would like to see. I hesitate to run any sound or temperature comparisons, as it would only apply to the exact system I have settled on building into this enclosure - I can compare subjectively to the other ITX enclosures I have experience with however, mainly the Silverstone FT03 Mini, as the two are roughly the same in volume. Take a look at a quick size comparison:

Node304_FT03MiniFront.JPG
Although it is much easier to see when they're oriented the same way.
Node304_FT03MiniDown.JPG

Test System

  • Motherboard: Asus M4A88T-I Deluxe
  • System Memory: 4GB DDR3 1333 MHz SODIMM
  • Processor: AMD Phenom II X2 555 3.2GHz
  • Audio: Onboard
  • Video: Radeon 7770 1GB / 7850 1GB / 7970 3GB
  • Disk Drive 1: Samsung 840 250GB SSD
  • Disk Drive 2: Western Digital Black 500GB
  • Optical Drive: None
  • Enclosure: Fractal Design Node 304
  • PSU: Corsair CX430 V2
  • Monitor: 27" 1920x1200 LCD
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit

Results

It was fascinating for me to see the different approaches each manufacturer took to design their respective ITX enclosures. While somewhat similar in build quality and volume, they couldn't be more different in layout and features. One features a stack effect cooling method, using a singular fan - the other, multiple vents, intakes, and three fans paired with a fan controller. One accomodates an ATX PSU, the other a SFF PSU. While one could place a Radeon 7850 into the FT03 Mini, that enclosure struggled a bit supplying cool air to the graphics card - although Silverstone does mention it recommends blower-type cards instead of the cooler commonly seen on the 7850.

Running the 7770 in both enclosures at full power consumption (while mining bitcoin), the Node 304 managed to keep an overclocked 7770 almost 10C cooler than the FT03 Mini in the same room. I could substantially decrease the temperature of the video card by popping off the front panel of the FT03, where the temperatures would again be comparable between the two cases. This leads me to believe that GPU intake vent on the Node 304 is a welcome addition to anyone that wants to place a powerful GPU into a small case. It was my experience that it didn't appreciably increase noise either, as the fans on the graphics card did not need to spin as fast to keep the GPU cool.

While this isn't a case comparison article, sometimes the best way to illustrate features is to compare with the other products in the market. Again, keep in mind the temperatures I experienced might vary from others - using a different PSU and CPU cooler (the FT03 doesn't have space for anything other than low-profile, stock, or liquid AIO coolers) between two different enclosures might have been enough to skew the results. I would have to create a standardized test system to more effectively draw any conclusions, but subjectively the Node 304 provides a cool running environment for whatever components you should choose. It is quiet as well - the loudest component in the final build pictured on the next page was the SpinQ CPU cooler. With a PWM fan attached to a 120mm CPU cooler, and the chassis fans on low the Node 304 is one of the quieter enclosures as well - no small feat considering how many heat generating components you can fit inside.



 

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