I will stressing the CPU and GPU (or rather APU) using OCCT and FurMark while monitoring the temperature using AIDA64. We did have some trouble with the ASRock FM2A85X ITX automatic fan controller though. However, once disabled the CPU fan would run at 100% all the time instead of reverting to the AMD Cool & Quiet. As such I tested the system by setting the idle speed to 10% and thermal target temperature to 45°C manually using a stock AMD cooler. Here are our results.
The Node 304 has little trouble keeping the CPU temperature under control at low, medium, or high. High setting on the built-in fan controller did bring the idle temp down 1°C and the low allowed the CPU to get over the 45°C target. I will work on finding a way to fully disable the ASRock fan control in the BIOS and will revisit this later in a follow up post. The full load figures are as accurate as I want but should give you a general idea. On the up side, the idle performance of the Node 304 is very good compared to previously reviewed cases. Some of which are much larger.
Now we will see now well the Node 304 handles noise the task of noise reduction. This test is especially important as it also directly correlates to the thermal performance. Since my test system was doing its best to maintain that 45°C temperature target, the CPU cooler fan needed to pushed much higher than in previous tests. Lets see how that affects the Node 304 here.
We find it surprising the Node 304 is the quietest case tested so far. I attribute this to the three Silence Series R2 fans with their extremely low mechanical noise. The only noise generated by the case is airflow, leaving the CPU cooler as the primary source of noise during full load tests. Even at over 4000 RPM the CPU cooler is muffled thanks to minimal intake and exhaust vents on the Node 304.
The acoustics of this case at high speed is noticeable, but very mellow thanks to the lack of high-pitched mechanical whines. You still need to switch it back to low to watch a movie, but I doubt you would notice the case acoustics otherwise.
The Fractal Design Node 304 delivers everything promised on its feature list for the most part. But we don’t like to be limited by the selection of hardware. As PC enthusiasts, we often reuse or re-purpose components when building the kinds of specialized builds the Fractal Node 304 is design for, whether it be an HTPC or file server. While this could be a hindrance at times, the Node 304 is as flexible as it can be given its size restraints.
The Node 304 forces you to put the build into perspective while giving you extra room to work as needed. This means it is great for an HTPC, LAN Party gaming system, or home network server but not all at once. If you need a full-sized graphics card, space for 5 or 6 hard drives, or a low noise system then you need not look any further. But again, not at the same time.
The nice thing about the DIY PC market is that there are different choices to select from in the Small Form Factor case market. Though some are either too expensive or much bulkier. At the price point set at less than $99 US, the only chassis I can consider a direct competitor is the BitFenix Prodigy at $79.99 US and that chassis brings with it some of its own pros/cons.
In the end, the Fractal Design Node 304 brings innovation and great design ideas, at an affordable price, to a market space that desperately needs more great options.
- Sleek and stylish design
- filters on all intakes
- support for a full-sized graphics card
- support for ATX power supplies
- support for tower CPU coolers
- Various systems interfere with each other
- Cleaning filters requires opening case
- No external ODD slot
- Power plug can be difficult to connect
- Only 3 zip ties in the bag!
Overall Score: 8.5 / 10.0
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