The Fractal Design Node 304 obviously caters a very specific audience. The guys and gals that need something small and sexy for that functions as a simple net-top, HTPC or the coolest looking NAS/file server ever. Fact remains that if you can find a Mini ITX motherboard with a fast enough processor then really there's nothing holding you back to create a more powerful beast thanks to the fact you can insert a dual-slot graphics card even.
From the chassis point of few very little is wrong with the Node 304, as much of the Fractal Design PC cases, it is elegant, simple and definitely feature rich for a mid-tower chassis. You get a matte black designed chassis with features wise options to put in many HDDs and devices.
Most of you will be using a chassis like this to build a HTPC, and that always needs to be quiet. Well, the Node 304 is great in that aspect, simply but the fan controller at low RPM and the included three fans will remain silent yet do create enough airflow to cool down the gear. So for the audiophiles, you got nothing to worry. And hey, if you need a little more airflow just up that fan controller or notch. It is good to have that choice for what is such a small chassis.
The inside of the chassis does what it needs to do and that is to create an environment for components. Overall the compact chassis offers plenty of space for the motherboard, PSU and the shweeeet 6 HDDs. As stated in the article, you can even insert a dual-slot dedicated graphics card. There is a compromise to be made though, if you want to do that you need to remove one HDD bay. it will still leave you with two bays and thus four mounts for HDD/SSDs which obviously is plenty. There will be one problem though, the cables leading out of the power supply might hinder graphics card installation. We strongly recommend a fully modular power supply with a maximum length of 14/15cm to ensure that things will work out.
Cable management overall can get a little messy real fast due to the compact space though, but I guess that comes with the territory and considering the chassis is closed (no see through panels) it is as far as I am concerned just not an issue. Oh and please do bare in mind, there is no place for a 5.25" optical drive.
Personally I think the looks are just great, in fact it might be the best looking compact chassis design I have seen in a long time. The looks are just incredible green, it's a little black box with an all aluminum front. Taste obviously differs per person though, but the word I tend to use with Fractal Design PC cases seems to be 'subtle'. And yeah the word subtle certainly does apply here as well. No screaming logo's, LEDs and mismatched colors. It's all done just right, but again .. taste differs per person and thus makes this a subjective rating.
So if you are in the market for a very compact chassis to house your Mini ITX or DTX motherboard that has flexibility, features and great looks then yeah, the Fractal Design Node 304 should be very high on your shopping list. It is compact, looks great and would make for an excellent file-server thanks to the large amount of HDD space. Pop in a AMD APU based motherboard like we did and boom, you just created yourself a fine Home Theater PC. Add in something a little more spicy and you can even insert a graphics card. Graphics cards up to 310mm in length are supported when 2 HDD brackets are removed, but remember that graphics cards longer than 170 mm will conflict with PSUs longer than 160mm. So PSUs wise, less then 150mm length and modular are the keywords here.
Overall you are looking at a quality build, the Node 304 feels and really is sturdy, armed with USB 3.0, a fan controller and three silent fans it is one of the best compact chassis we have ever tested for this form factor. Definitely approved and recommended.
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