Here's The Spec:
Motherboard Form Factor
Max CPU Cooler height
Max GPU Length
250(W) x 210(H) x 374(L) mm
Aluminium front, steel body, plastic
Black or White
Mini- DTX, Mini-ITX
6(using the 3.5" bays)
2x USB 3.0, Audio jacks, Power & Reset buttons
Standard ATX(up to 160mm in length)
2x 92mm Intake fans, 1x 140mm Exhaust (All included)
310mm(with 1 of 3 HDD cages removed)
What Comes In The Box:
First off we obviously have the Fractal Design Node 304 case itself. The Node has quite a lot of stuff already inbuilt into the case so they don't really need to give you many accessories. You are provided with an instruction manual and in the main bag; 3 screws for the power supply, 4 for the motherboard, risers for those motherboard screws, a tool to mount the risers and finally
Fractal design have made it incredibly easy to sort through your other screws by separating them into two little bags, one for 3.5" hard drives to mount in the cages and one for I believe to be 2.5" hard drives screws as they have different mounting set-ups for each size.
The Node 304 changes what would be a very box-shaped case into a more curved style that seems to accentuate the fact it is a metal fronted case rather than plastic. You can tell very quickly on curved cases whether they are plastic or not and here it clearly isn't.
On the front of the case we don't find anything really, just Fractal's logo in the bottom right corner next to your activity LED. The clever thing about the activity LED? Well it shows you where the power button is if you can't see around the side of the case. Definitely a nice touch but I'm not a huge fan of having a nice sleek empty case front and then this light LED down in the bottom corner. I probably wouldn't connect the light if I used this day to day.
Discussing the front panel brings up the question; how do they connect an aluminium panel to the main chassis and still have it easy to disconnect quickly for an efficient building experience? The front aluminium panel is connected to a plastic backing with easy to release clips that are common among cases.
The final thing to discuss on the front panel is the I/O, which although it is located on the side of the case, is still in a convenient location on the front panel itself which means no hassle when you are building or changing things in your system. The smooth transition of the curved front to the side of the panel helps hide the I/O which I do like as compared to the size of these case, connections can look quite bulky and obtrusive if on the front of the case. The blue of the USB 3.0 ports has a nice contrast to the white version too.
The main things I notice here are subtle, but really express the quality of the material, manufacturing and design that has gone into this case. For example one of these is the expansion slot blanking plates; they are different, set apart in design from the rest of the case and they are in contrast too to it in colour too. Not just that but they have the same quality paint job and fit so flush with the case it would almost be sad to replace them with an actual expansion card. Next up is the power supply connection. It too is so flush with the chassis it almost looks part of it. Coupled with the slight cut out of the side panel to allow the connector, makes it seem normal and ordinary when it's not really that common even today. These factors are something the normal user may not notice and I wouldn't blame them, they only see or feel the case as a whole
The one thing I'm not too impressed with at all in fact, is the fan controller. Yes it has a fan controller and that is a massive bonus but I would have thought a cheap plastic switch would be a little below the quality standard the rest of the case has. I would much prefer a metal dial type of fan controller or even some form of metal front to the switch as the bare plastic feels very very cheap.
On the bottom they have added a plastic trim around the outside with 4 rubber feet stuck onto it. The curved trim somewhat softens the edges and aesthetic from a side view but only from certain angles and can be removed via screws if wanted when modding. We also get a nice big intake and dust filter for the power supply which we have space for and is hidden thanks to the plastic trim with space still left for airflow into the case.
At the bottom there is a small loop to hold the power supply extension down but this may also be useful for some smaller cables too. The power supply case is also removeable via four more screws on the case, two on the bottom and two on the front. Pretty much all of the case can be taken apart with screws and the only riveted parts is the main skeleton which really isn't that much at all, see photo.
At the back we find a 140mm fan included. This can be replaced with a 120mm fan should you so wish AND it can fit AIO 120mm water cooling kits making the Node 304 water cooling friendly. For a case this size you aren't going to get much better support than this, although it is pretty minimalist. For maximum cooling just opt for a product with a thicker radiator.
Next to the fan we find the back end of the fan controller which provides all three case fans with power through a single molex and also allows you to run then at low, medium and high which are presumably 5V, 7V and 12V. I'm not sure what the idea was behind putting the fan controller here because it's neither easily accessible on the outside or in a good location for cable management inside.
Leaving on a positive note, they've made the cable management a little bit easier thanks to cable tie loops on both top bars of the chassis and also along the entire left hand side, even under where a graphics card may go. Totalling a whopping 10 cable tie loops this is more than a lot of mid-tower cases offer! Cable management should be a pretty simple ordeal if you have gone modular on the PSU.
The somewhat intuitive and main feature of the case is the hard drive cages which allow for clear access to your drives should you need to remove or replace them at any point, but to say that this Node 304 is a good option for anything more than a small file server for a single household would be pushing it a little far. Lack of hot-swap, tool less drive cages or external access make me want to look elsewhere if I needed a long-term professional storage solution. For storage needs, the BitFenix Prodigy, the Node 304's biggest price to price ITX competitor has a much easier tool less hard drive cage to set up and use, though in a larger solution (and with only 5 bays). I am also extremely let down by the thumb screw features used on the case. It's no so much the screws themselves but rather the threading on the case itself, it makes it absolutely impossible to unscrew them by hand. This coupled with the motherboard riser adaptor not fitting left me very puzzled for a long time sitting with an unusable case. When I buy a case I want it to work straight out of the box.
However, if you remove a single hard drive cage it would provide most people with enough storage and would mean you can then put a powerful graphics card in it and really have the freedom to built a decent system, especially thanks to it's ability to put standard ATX form factor power supplies in. In other words, what I'm really saying is the Node 304 is not really capable of anything specialised, if you have a very specific demand it may not meet it, even if the spec sheet says so but otherwise It's an absolutely lovely case to use (when you finally can), feel and look at. Support for water cooling, having all the case fans included and dust filters are all other features that also show how well rounded the case is as a whole.
Unfortunately we have to discuss pricing. The Node 304 is on the top end of the ITX case market in regards to pricing and this makes it almost twice the price as some other ITX cases we have reviewed that may meet all your demands already. What are you really paying for with this case then that makes it more expensive? For the most part I would say pure craftsmanship. Making sure every single angle, edge, screw hole, filter and fan is so perfectly aligned costs and then you have the pure quality materials on top of that. You will be hard pressed to find a better built, feature rich, solid case that comes with all your case fans included for a cheaper price, but that doesn't automatically make it viable. Overall despite its little slip ups, this is a very impressive case but the price will leave a lot of people wondering whether or not they can really fit it into their budget.