Fractal Design Node 202 Review

February 11, 2016 // 4:09 p.m.

Tags: #best-htpc-case #best-mini-itx-case #fractal-design #fractal-design-node-202-review #htpc #mini-itx

Fractal Design Node 202 Review

Manufacturer: Fractal Design
UK price (as reviewed):
£69.98 (inc VAT) (no PSU); £119.04 (inc VAT) (w/ Integra SFX 450W PSU)
US price (as reviewed): $79.99 (ex Tax) (no PSU); $139.99 (ex Tax) (w/ Integra SFX 450W PSU)

The dinky dimensions associated with the mini-ITX form factor has led to cases built for it coming in many different shapes and sizes. Among these is the slimline HTPC style, whereby cases take the form of something living room friendly so that they may sit discretely and unnoticed either next to or underneath a television. Fractal Design is not usually a company associated with such designs, though it has previously produced the Node 605. However, that was an ATX chassis, while the newest entry into the Node family, the 202, caters solely to mini-ITX users and is much smaller as a result with a volume of just over 10 litres.

Fractal Design Node 202 Review Fractal Design Node 202 Review
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While the small size and association with home theatre PCs may conjure up images of relatively low-end hardware, this is an image companies like Fractal want to challenge. To be clear, a case like this will put limitations on the hardware you can use at pretty much every turn, but with a bit of forethought, it's still possible to build a real beast of a machine – one that would make mincemeat of any console you care to name. Meanwhile, as companies like Valve continue their march towards your living room screens, the demand for self-built Steam Machines is likely to increase further.

The Node 202 can be purchased on its own for £70 or with the Integra SFX 450W PSU, which is 80 Plus Bronze rated, for £120. This PSU isn't currently available separately but £50 is approximately the price you'd pay for a power supply of similar ilk so Fractal is really only providing convenience here rather than looking to rip you off. Equally, you're not really making a saving, but the PSU does come pre-installed and fitted with short cables that will make your life much easier when building.

Fractal Design Node 202 Review Fractal Design Node 202 Review
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Impressions from the outside are positive as here the case feels nice and sturdy. The top cover is formed mainly of plastic inside but has an external steel plate on the roof, while the curved side sections are all plastic with a matt finish. The exception is the slightly indented glossy black plastic trim in which the I/O ports sit just next to the large power button. Included here is the usual pair of USB 3 ports and audio jacks. There's no reset button or HDD LED – the absence of the latter makes sense as it could easily becoming annoying flashing away in the corner of your eye if you were watching a film, for example. The USB 3 ports have also been blacked out to further unify the sleek looks – the I/O panel, Fractal logo and the ventilation areas are the only things that interrupt the smooth panels.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Like many cases in this shape, the Node 202 can be stood both horizontally and vertically. For the former, a quartet of rubberised feet are supplied for you to stick on, while for the latter the case is placed in a plastic stand.

The Node 202 ships without any fans so will be relying on component fans and its own ventilation, though you can mount a pair of 120mm underneath where the graphics card sits. There are three main ventilation points – referring to the case placed horizontally, there is one on the top for the CPU cooler's intake fan and two on the bottom (one for the GPU and one for the PSU). All three of these are protected by internal, removable dust filters. There is also a fairly large vent on the right side and a smaller one on the left. This larger one will become the top of the chassis when it's stood vertically but it has no dust filter. This won't be a major issue with the system on as this area will be where the PSU and CPU exhaust air, thus keeping dust out. However, when the fans aren't spinning dust will be able to fall quite easily inside.

Specifications

  • Horizontal Dimensions (mm) 377 x 332 x 88 (W x D x H)
  • Vertical Dimensions (mm) 125 x 332 x 385 (W x D x H)
  • Material Steel, plastic
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 3.5kg
  • Front panel Power, 2 x USB 3, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 2 x 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Mini-ITX
  • Cooling 2 x 120mm bottom fan mounts (fans not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 56mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 310mm
  • Extras Removable dust filters, optional PSU (Integra SFX 450W, 80 Plus Bronze, 1 x 20+4-pin ATX, 1 x 4+4-pin ATX, 2 x 6+2-pin PCI-E, 2 x SATA)

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