Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Fractal Design Node 804 Review

In the last few years the demand for compact cases has increased, both micro and mini systems have seen their popularity grow exponentially. With both the quality and quantity of components available expanding, it is important to offer users a wide range of options when it comes to the enclosures for the aforementioned components, aka a nice computer case.
Fractal Design has in the past, with its Node series, presented a few interesting options for compact builds, namely the 304 and the 605. The product we will be reviewing today, the 804, also belongs to the Node family and visually looks somewhat similar to the 304, in terms of functionality though, it is a whole other beast, but more on that later.

The Node 804 comes in a standard cardboard box that while not colorful, does the job of protecting the case (hard styrofoam) and listing most of the main features present on the 804. The final layer of protection is a plastic bag that will prevent dust and other debris from reaching the case.
Inside the cardboard box, and bundled with the case, you will find a very detailed user manual with step-by-step instructions on how to assemble everything inside the 804. While this level of detail could be considered overkill on a standard case, in this context, and considering the uniqueness factor associated with the 804, it's just the right amount of information to allow you a quick and uneventful build.
Aside from the manual, you will also encounter all the screws and standoffs you could ever want, more importantly, inside the actual case you will find 3x120mm fans from Fractal's Silent Series. Taking into consideration the dual-chamber design of the 804, having only 1 or 2 fans pre-installed would not suffice, thankfully Fractal decided to include a third cooling unit that should help out quite a bit.
Finally, and much like the Core 2500 that we've reviewed previously (Link), the Node 804 also comes with a built-in fan controller that allows you to manually control the speed (high, medium or low) of 3 fans. While this is a great extra, a more accessible spot for the controller would've been nice to see.

The unique cube-like shape of the Node 804 will certainly appeal to a lot of users and enthusiastic builders out there. While it's an incredibly compact case, the way Fractal designed and structured its interior space allows for multiple configurations. Support for long power supplies, a colossal number of hard-drives(10-12 depending on your cable management abilities), multiple graphics cards (5 expansion slots), great flexibility in terms of cooling options, the 804 seems to have it all.
Going back to the aforementioned cooling options, there are a total of 10 slots where you can place your fans, all of the intake positions - namely the front, top and bottom - are filtered, preventing dust from accumulating inside your machine. On top of that, all the filters are very high-quality, particularly the one from the top of the case.
Regarding CPU coolers, you can fit one that goes up to 160mm in height, meaning that even a "beast" like the Noctua NH-D14 is an option here. Liquid cooling is also a very viable alternative, both the right and left chamber of the Node 804 support the installation of radiators.

Visually we've got to give credit to Fractal Design, the Node 804 looks amazing. While its shape is basically a cube, the sleek curvature on the front panel combined with its brushed aluminum texture, give it a unique and charming personality.
Much like every other case from Fractal, the 804 feels very minimalist in terms of visual design with only a small hint of a logo at the bottom right corner accompanied by a discreet power led.
On the left side of the case there's a generously sized side-window that reveals most of your internal components.
Moving to the right you will find the power button, 2 usb 3.0 ports, your microphone and headphone jacks and a slot for a slim ODD, unfortunately no reset button is present.
At the top, and like I previously mentioned, you will find quite a large and high quality mesh that should prevent dust from settling into case, while at the same time acting as a sort of noise-blocker.
Finally at the back, besides the slots for your exhaust fans and the fan controller, there's not much to see.

In regards to construction quality, the little cube holds up pretty well, showing no signs of flex or flimsiness. The side panels in particular are extremely solid, even the left one with the window feels strong and sturdy. With a price tag of $109 (give or take), the Node 804 is certainly an impressive little case.

Final Thoughts
Even considering the tough competitors that it will be up against, the Node 804 easily holds its ground by presenting itself as something completely different. While it's still a relatively tiny case, the ingenious dual chamber design grants users with a ton of space to keep the interior of their case all neat and tidy, improving air flow, adding expandability thanks to the many HDD and SDD slots available and even separating your cool components from the ones that produce the most heat.
At the end of the day, and taking everything into consideration, Fractal did a great job with the 804 and I would recommend it to everyone who is looking to build a more compact system.

The Good
+Great design
+Brushed aluminum at the front
+Multiple configurations
+Solid construction
+Detailed manual
+Dual chamber
+A ton of dust filters included

The Bad
-No reset button
-Filter at the top can be a pain to clean
-Fan controller could be located in a better position
-Tough competition (Air 540, SG13, Prodigy M, HAF XB, among others)

Thanks to Fractal Design for providing the review sample