Fractal Design has been making a splash in the market with computer cases lately, and with their new HTPC the Node 605, they look to continue to make waves. As Fractal Design puts it themselves, “The Node 605 highlights a minimalistic, sleek Scandinavian appeal which is designed to integrate into your home theatre equipment.” While it is easy to see from the looks they have hit that mark, as it looks like a receiver/amplifier, let’s see how working inside the unit to get it up and running works out!
Packaging & Specifications
Here is our first look at the packaging this case comes in. As you can see it gives the model number of Node 605 and shows the basic outline of the case on the front. Spinning it around to the rear it highlights a few features such as the sound dampening material used on the top, the fan locations, and the 8 mm aluminum front panel among other things. Opening up the box you can see very typical case packaging with Styrofoam surrounds protecting the precious hardware inside. The sides go over other features at a high level also (see thumbnails).
Overall this retail protects its contents just fine and should easily make it to your home without any damage from shipping.
And some others of the side if you like to see what is on there.
Listed below are the technical specifications from the Fractal Design website.
- Solid aluminum front panel
- Supports full ATX motherboards
- Noise-dampening material
- 4 HDD/SSD slots
- Integrated card reader
- Two Silent Series R2 hydraulic bearing fans included
- Supports graphic cards up to 280 mm in length (180 mm with all hard drives in place)
- USB 3.0 and FireWire front connectors
- ATX, microATX, Mini ITX, DTX motherboard compatibility
- 7 expansion slots
- 4 – supports either 2.5″ or 3.5″ HDD / SSD
- 1 slim-line ODD (only supported with mATX or smaller motherboards)
- PSU compatibility: 180 mm (including any modular connectors) with both hard drive cages mounted or 190 mm (excluding cables and any modular connectors) with one hard drive cage mounted
- CPU cooler compatibility: Approx 125mm with side-mounted fans – For coolers with top-mounted fans, Fractal Design recommends that you add at least 30 mm clearance for decent airflow
- Case dimensions (W x H x D): 445 x 164 x 349 mm (excluding front panel – 440 x 162 x 341 mm)
- Net weight: 6.0 kg
If you notice the specifications, you will have a lot of options on hardware while building in this case. Supporting up to a 290 mm or around 11.4 inch video card, full ATX/mATX and ITX motherboard form factors, a PSU totaling (includes modular connections 180 mm or a hair over seven inches, and CPU coolers up to 125 mm or a bit under five inches. With that you can see it can fit some decent sized coolers for quiet operation, larger video cards if you want that horsepower, and several ATX sized power supplies.
Here we get to see this nice case for the first time. When I first picked it up, I was quite surprised by the heft of the chassis empty. It felt solid all around, even the flip down door face didn’t feel flimsy and had a nice actuation to it when opening or closing it.
The front face is made of out brushed aluminum and is very understated… I like that in an HTPC case especially. The only thing you can see on the front is the power button, which glows blue when turned on, along with the Fractal Design moniker and case name. This particular case as you can surely tell, is shaped like a Home Theater A/V receiver and is around the same dimensions so one shouldn’t have any trouble with this integrating aesthetically with your existing A/V setup. The remainder of the frame is made out of steel.
Moving around to the back side of the case, you will see two locations for 80 mm fans (not included) right above where the motherboard will rest. As noted above in the specifications, this case can hold up to an ATX sized motherboard so you don’t have to lose PCIe ports among other things. With that support there are a total of seven expansion slots available for any PCIe/PCI peripherals such as video cards, or perhaps a Revodrive or sound card. The PSU sits on its side on the right side and can fit up to a 190 mm length PSU in this case (including cables).
Swinging around to the sides, on each side you see a total of four ventilation slots which support 120 mm fans, but one of those is for the PSU intake. The Node 605 comes with two fans which, by default, are both in an intake configuration. These ventilation slots also come with removable dust filters and vibration dampening material in an effort to keep the case clean and quiet. The top panel has around an 1/8″ thick padding on it that helps keep the sound levels down. I’m not sure what that material is made out of, but it sure does make that panel heavy!
Moving on to the front of the Node 605 and flipping open the front panel reveals your Optical Disk Drive (ODD moving forward) location on the left, a FireWire port, front panel audio in a 1/8″ headphone jack and microphone jack, two USB3 ports, a HDD LED light (red), and my favorite thing here, the integrated card reader. I think this is a great addition to an HTPC case as one can take their cards from their camera or phone and plug it right in to the HTPC to show family and friends. I am left scratching my head on the FireWire port though I have to admit. But that may be personal preference as I have never owned a device that used that connectivity, yet well aware there are many on the market. I’m sure many others do though, but figured an eSATA port may be have a better choice. Still, you have what you need hiding under the panel.
The accessory pack comes with a user manual as well as everything you need to get things mounted securely inside the case. This includes the motherboard standoffs, screws for the motherboard and hard drives, brackets for a slim ODD, and a couple of zip ties to make wire management a bit easier.
Cracking open the case reveals a pretty large and clean area to work inside. What immediately struck me is the unique hard drive mounting system (in white). With these you can use 3.5″ or 2.5″ drives, two for each cage. This case allows you to mount four total drives when using both mounting devices.
As mentioned earlier the case comes with two 120 mm fans, specifically Fractal Design’s own Silent Series R2. This fan is rated to move up to 40 CFM of air while being whisper quiet at 15 db. I don’t have a SPL meter outside of one that is horrifically inaccurate on my smartphone, but I can tell you even when switching the fans on high using the integrated fan controller on the side, they are barely audible. The stock Intel heatsink fan drowns them out. Other items pictured in the second photo are the front panel connectors such as the power switch, HDD LED, USB3/2, and front panel audio. I do wish that the three empty fan slots (1x 120mm and 2x 80 mm) )would come populated though. As it stands, it comes with two positioned at the front as intakes giving you positive ‘pressure’ but not great airFLOW. I believe installing the fan above the motherboard in an exhaust position would help create better flow through the case. The other thing about the airflow, since there is no area for wire management, I naturally shoved them all between the cages and the fan which will limit things a bit. That said, it kept the i3 3225 nice and cool with the stock cooler used at stock speeds so I don’t think there is a worry there. Then again this was not run with a monster video card so things may certainly change as your setup and heat dissipating needs increase.
The area where the motherboard sets can handle up to an ATX sized board. However with most ATX sized boards you will not be able to use an optical drive as it covers the bottom left corner of the board. You will see later that I easily managed to get both an ATX sized board in along with the Optical drive…and got lucky in that with the specific board I used (Gigabyte Z77X UD5H), there wasn’t anything relevant covered up such as USB headers or more importantly the front panel headers. It’s safe to say that you should stick with mATX or an ITX sized board if you plan on using an Optical drive. Don’t take a chance.
Working with the Node 605
So getting down to the installation, its not much different than a normal case really. The one thing I noticed is that you do not have a cutout on the bottom of the case to make heatsink installation with a back plate possible with the board installed in the case. No big deal really, just do it before you install the motherboard. One thing to note however is the limited room behind the motherboard to the bottom of the case, you only have the height of the risers the board sits on (of which you must install yourself), so be aware. Outside of that, put the standoffs in, I/O plate, motherboard, and tighten it down!
Installing the hard drives was pretty easy on these cages. Just a couple of screws and the drives are installed. They are not tool-less however, you will require a Phillips head. If you do not need to use both them and would like more room behind the power supply, they are quite easily removed with two screws. Even though I chose not to use/did not need to use both, I still installed it as they served as a great way to hide some of the extra wires from my PSU. The size of video card you can fit in the case also depends on how many of these cages you have installed. You do not see a discrete GPU setup in this PC, but there is plenty of room to put one in (see specifications). The only area where things may get tight are with GPU’s that have top mounted power leads and that cross member can get in the way. I would suggest when installing a GPU that you remove the HDD cages and cross member to get it in there as you can find yourself playing Tetris to get a large card in its slot. Listed below are the size GPU’s you can use in this case:
Graphics card compatibility
- 180 mm with both hard drive cages mounted
- 255 mm with one hard drive cage mounted
- 290 mm in the top two ATX expansion card slots with two hard drive cages mounted
- 280 mm in the top four ATX expansion card slots with one hard drive cage mounted, containing one 3.5″ HDD and one 2.5″ SSD
When installing a slim ODD, the optical drive brackets are straightforward. Screw the brackets on the drive and install it in the case. The trick here is that you mount the brackets to the bottom of the case so you need to flip its side to do so. The model I chose fits nice with the spot without a large gap surrounding it. With it being mounted with four screws is incredibly secure. The last thing I would like to mention is that the slim ODD I used and perhaps others, use a slim SATA/Power connector. So be prepared to purchase one if your ODD did not come with a converter.
Outside of that, everything else is quite typical, front panel headers go to the board, fans to hook up to the integrated fan controller, PSU to parts and cross your fingers no DOA hardware!
I chose to install a full ATX sized board as the specifications said it would fit it. Well, of course it does, but just know that you will likely not be able to use an ODD with an ATX board (even though I could with this specific board). A better choice for this system if you require an ODD is a mATX or ITX sized board. If not using an optical drive, feel free to use an ATX board though.
Installed & Ready for Showtime
So here is how she looks with all the goodies* installed. You can see here that while there is not much room at all for wire management, the HDD cages really came in handy to hide a lot of the non-modular mess I have going on. The full size ATX board fits as expected, though the ODD covers the bottom corner. With this specific board it didn’t make much of a difference, but most boards have the front panel stuff or needed headers in this area. Again, if you want to ensure compatibility, use a mATX or ITX with an ODD.
After I powered on the unit my main concern was the noise coming from the cooling setup. I can again say without a doubt that with the two case fans on low, the stock Intel heatsink fan was the loudest thing in the case when it ramped up. At idle, I couldn’t hear a thing sitting on my couch and using the unit while watching a movie, even in the silent parts. Increasing the fan speed to high did increase noise out of the unit, but even in a quiet passage of the movie, I could barely hear them.
As an FYI and referencing the last picture, both the MSI GTX680 Lightning and the HIS 7970 X Turbo fit (this one was CLOSE!) inside physically, but due to the crossmember that holds the hard drive cages, you are really not able to use the 7970 as it gets in the way of the power leads on the card. If you remove one of the hard drive cages, the 680 works, but the 7970 X doesn’t still. Please note the 7970 is a whopping 311 mm in length, and 150 mm tall, well over 10 mm bigger than they recommend as far as length goes. Again the only issue here is with the power connectivity. If the power was on the end, or further up towards the I/O area, fitment wouldn’t be a problem. Any card smaller than this monster should have a good chance of fitting, especially if you remove one of the hard drive cages, so you can have a monster card in here with little issue for the most part.
- Gigabyte Z77X UD5H
- i3 3225
- Kingston Hyper X Predator 2×4 GB DDR3 2666 MHz
- Seasonic G Series 360 W
- Corsair Force 64 GB SSD
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
This case review is going to be pretty easy to wrap up in a nice little bow. My experience with this case and installing components were very easy. All you need to do is remove the top panel, remove the cross-member and hard drive cages, and get to work. This is one of the first builds I have done that didn’t leave my hands scratched up so the fit and finish is solid as well. There is a lot of flexibility in the Node 605 HTPC case from large GPU’s, to ATX spec’d PSU’s, and finally full ATX boards will allow one to throw one heck of a HTPC in this box. Size DOES matter, at least with giving you a lot more options on the hardware you can install…even if you cant use all the options at the same time (ODD and ATX motherboard).
Even though there is a lot of space to work inside of it, there are literally no provisions for for cable management outside of the included zipties. If you are not using the other drive cages, you can still shoehorn some of the cables out of site there, but then you limit the intake airflow a bit. Its a good thing this isn’t a windowed case in that respect.
That said, one of the goals of Fractal Designs was to, ‘…integrate into your home theater equipment’ and they have accomplished that with gusto to me. This unit will fit nice next to my Sony AV Receiver and is a perfect compliment aesthetically to my setup and others with black equipment. Its feature list, integrated card reader, integrated fan controller, sound dampening materials, USB3 adapters, and the ability to hold large video cards, all scream flexibility inside the case. The unit feels sturdy, well built, and looks great on top of it all.
So where does this thing land as far as price goes? Newegg.com has the Fractal Design Node 605 for $159.99 + SH. Its tough to compare other cases to it since I haven’t had my hands on them, but for the features you get, the build quality of the case, and the overall good looks, I believe that price is a bit on the high side. If you are looking for an HTPC/Media Center case, there is no doubt you should check this one out before making a decision, but there are better priced units available with similar features.
~ Joe Shields (Earthdog)