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Fractal Design Node 804 Micro-ATX Chassis Review

Fractal Design Node 804 Micro-ATX Chassis Review

Fractal Design has a reputation for bringing quality products to the market. Does this still reign true with the Fractal Design Node 804 Micro-ATX chassis?

@chad_sebring
Published Mon, Jul 7 2014 5:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

Fractal Design Node 804 Micro-ATX Chassis Review 99 | TweakTown.com
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We should have been one of the ten or so places that got to review the Fractal Design Node 804 chassis for its launch day review, and we were on the path to making that happen, but we ran into an issue with our first sample that made us think we should make contact with Fractal Design first. In our sample, the only one in the first batch to have any reported issue, it seemed one of the rivets that held in part of the motherboard tray was drilled in the wrong location. While it wouldn't appear to be a big deal, the rivet that was shifted was pretty important, so much so that it moved the tray enough to make installing a motherboard very complicated. This also closed off the PSU area, causing us to force the PSU into place.

After a discussion with Fractal Design, we were asked to send the chassis back for examination; as soon as more of the cases were available, we received another sample to show. We would like to think that even if something similar was to happen in the retail market, that Fractal would be just as good about setting the issue as they were in this situation. After all, we can tell by all of the happy customers they have made over the years, that their support is one of the things that keeps them on top.

With the back story out of the way, and a new day upon us, we have received our second chassis for review. After a bit of initial inspection, we do in fact have a chassis that is presented in the exact manner in which it was designed and intended to be. To give you an idea of what we are dealing with as far as initial impressions go, Fractal Design is sort of giving the Air 540 a go with their own spin on the design. This is in no way a copy; in fact, the Air 540 is aggressive, bold in its styling, and rather large, and all three of those factors have been changed in this new chassis, delivering something more expected from the Fractal Design team. From what we have seen, and since we have now had two opportunities to build inside of this chassis, we feel we have a great handle on what it offers, and how it performs at this point, and we should not miss a beat when it comes to this Micro-ATX chassis.

Fractal Design has compacted this concept a bit to fit only Mini-ITX, ITX and Micro-ATX motherboards. Additionally, they deliver it in all black, it comes with a brushed texture on the front panel to dress it up with a bit of style, and even while taking dimensions away in the creation of this design, there was definitely cooling in mind when this was all assembled. Even with a smaller footprint, there is no reason this chassis should ever be starved of air flow, and it still has potential for some pretty serious water cooling gear as well. All of these things, and many more features can all be found in the Fractal Design Node 804, as the specifications we are about to cover plainly demonstrate.

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Fractal Design has put together one of the most informative and thorough lists for this Node 804 that I have seen for any other chassis to date. Under the specifications heading, we see motherboard compatibility, the eight 3.5" bays, a pair of dedicated 2.5" bays (along with two optional locations), five expansion slots, and ten fan locations. What is even better, is that the bottom of the chassis, the front of the chassis, as well as the top, are all filtered. Two fans are not filtered, but those are the exhaust fans. Then we see there is a 160mm CPU height maximum, a 260mm PSU maximum, and video cards up to 320mm can fit with a fan location change, otherwise the maximum length is set to 290mm. We then see additions, like the Velcro straps to maintain the wiring, and the clear side window. The rest of this section covers the black coloration, dimensions, and weight, both inside and outside of the packaging.

Going deeper into the ventilation of the Node 804, since it is one of the largest and most designed around feature in this chassis, we see Fractal has provided us with all the options. In the front you can house two 120mm fans on either side of this side-by-side chassis design, with only one location at the left having a fan installed from the factory. The rear of the chassis will house one fan on either half of the panel, and both locations are filled with the same Silent Series R2 120mm fans that are also in the front. The top of the chassis also allows for four 120mm fans, two on either side, but are all left empty from the factory. We also see that the Node 804 has a built-in, 3-fan, fan controller that is located at the back of the chassis, and at least allows easy control of the three provided chassis fans.

The last section we see addresses all of the possibilities for what size water cooling components can fit where, and what sort of limitations it may impose. We commend Fractal Design for providing this information without us having to read the manual to find out plans of grandeur may not work as initially intended. The front of the chassis can hold a 240mm at the front right, and it shows that 60mm is allowed for both the fans and the radiator thickness, and a height of 278mm is offered for the header of the radiator to have a bit of room. The same is said for the left side of the front, but in this location it is stated that another fan cannot be used next to it. The top allows for 240mm or 280mm radiators that can be 130mm thick with fans included, but to do this on the right half, you will lose the eight bays of 3.5" drive storage. The left half shows the same specifications, and we really love that Fractal Design took the time and even states that when using 130mm of space, memory is limited to 48mm in height to prevent issues with fit.

Looking around for this chassis now well after its release, we see many places currently holding stock of the Node 804. While availability is high, we do suggest you shop around to find the best deal. Many locations, once we included the shipping costs, and even most offering free shipping, have the pricing set very near $130. While that isn't too bad of a price point, we did find two places where the Node 804 can be had for $89.99; some $40 cheaper than everywhere else we looked. This is why we suggested that you look around, and get the best bang for your buck. At $130 dollars, we can still see the value in this design and what it has to offer its users, but if you can get it for $40 less, it is almost downright stealing the chassis.

PRICING: You can find the FRACTAL DESIGN NODE 804 MICRO-ATX CHASSIS for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The FRACTAL DESIGN NODE 804 MICRO-ATX CHASSIS retails for $100.00 at Amazon.

Canada: The FRACTAL DESIGN NODE 804 MICRO-ATX CHASSIS retails for CDN$171.22 at Amazon Canada.

Packaging

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As Fractal Design typically does, they ship the Node 804 in a plain brown box with black printing applied to help keep unneeded costs to a minimum. On the front, the product name takes over the top of the box, with an outline of the included chassis below that. The bottom offers the snowflake logo, along with their website address.

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We see here the product name is still at the top, but this time, in the rendering, they are highlighting the slide out trays for 3.5" drive storage that will house up to eight drives in the right side of the chassis.

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In case our explanation and the chart of specifications provided were not clear enough, under descriptions of key points, we find a fully exploded view of the Node 804 to show potential customers what all is included in this design without much hassle trying to figure it all out.

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The last panel offers us the specifications and cooling system charts that we had just covered on the last page. While not presented in exactly the same way, most of the same information is offered, including all limitations imposed by design or use.

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Inside of the box we find the Node 804 surrounded in a thin layer of plastic to protect the finishes and components from rubbing against the thick Styrofoam caps used to keep the chassis safe. Both the box and the inner packaging were free from damage, and in both instances, the Node 804 inside arrived without damages or defects caused by shipping.

Fractal Design Node 804 Chassis

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The front of the Node 804 is really slick. They use plastic for the frame of the bezel, as well as the top brushed section, to give it the appearance of brushed aluminium, without the cost. The lower section is the intake, and is covered in a fine mesh with tiny round holes in it. Just above, and far to the right, is the Fractal Design name, and the power LED is just to the right of that.

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The top of the chassis is rounded to match the curve of the front bezel, and there is just enough plastic framing around the huge mesh area in the middle to be structurally sound. Removing a pair of screws, and sliding this back an inch or so allows it to be completely removed from the chassis.

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The left side of the chassis is much like the top in the aspect of offering just enough steel in the side panel to allow for the largest clear window, yet it is still structurally sound. We can also see that the front curves to the sides, and fits tightly together, keeping the body lines evenly spaced.

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A look at the back gives the first hint to the dual sections of this design. On the left side we see a 120mm fan at the top, and under that fan is where the PSU is to be installed. The right section also offers a 120mm fan, but below that are five expansion slots, and some mesh to allow for a bit of passive air flow.

Fractal Design Node 804 Micro-ATX Chassis Review 11 | TweakTown.com

Just above the right side fan, and next to the rear I/O opening at the back of the case, is where Fractal Design has added the fan controller. Via this controller, three fans can be powered and switched from low, to medium, and then again to a high speed of 1000 RPM.

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The right side panel on this chassis is just an expanse of steel with the same textured black paint application we found on all the other steel components. At the front of the chassis, where the bezel wraps around to the side, we see the slot load optical drive slot, and the front I/O panel.

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This front I/O panel offers 3.5mm jacks to connect a microphone, and headphones just above the unmarked power button. Below, in the mesh section, there are also a pair of USB 3.0 ports.

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Under the chassis we find smaller, yet rubber padded feet far out into the corners for sturdy footing. On the left we find a removable dust filter covering optional fan locations. On the right we can see the Velcro straps near the front, and the smaller dust filter for the fan on the PSU.

Inside the Node 804

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Removing the bezel just takes a tug, and it will pop right off, but be careful because the wiring is attached. On the front of the Node 804 we see room for four 120mm fans, and the dual filters covering them. Inside of the bezel, you can attach a slot load optical with a bracket in the hardware, and there is also room for a pair of SSDs to mount on the raised plastic section to the far right.

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Our first glance in the left compartment of the Node 804 shows the real size of what we are dealing with. Things look a bit cramped when first looking at this, but once we start installing the gear, we find quite a bit of room is available in this design.

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Inside of the front we see the first of three 120mm fans supplied in this chassis. We can also see a hint of the hole for wire management of the front I/O, as well as having room to power SSDs, and an ODD. There is also plenty of room inside the bezel for hiding a bit of wiring as well.

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The motherboard tray has a very large cooler access hole, and all but one of the standoffs still needs to be installed, but the lower left one is permanent. While there are a few tie points around the tray, most of the wiring is intended to run in the large spaces to the right, and at the bottom.

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As we mentioned before, the floor on this side of the chassis can support two fans, but looking closer, we also see more key holes. These are used to allow this space to be used to install a pair of 3.5" hard drives, in case needs require the removal of the other eight bays; this way there is still an option to use them.

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The back shows the second 120mm fan included in the chassis, and we can see the PCB above it for the fan controller. This offers three 3-pin connections, and is powered via a SATA power connection. Below the fan we find five expansion slots that utilize thumbscrews to secure the ventilated covers for future video cards.

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The right compartment in this case offers room for fans up front, the pair of HDD racks at the top that use thumbscrews to secure them in place, and we see the third 120mm fan at the back. The hardware box is where most of the wiring will be, as the PSU sits to the right.

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On the floor we find those two Velcro straps to keep the wiring from the PSU low and tidy. Where the PSU sits, there are rubber pads to raise the PSU off the floor, and there is a large filtered area for any sized PSU to draw cool air though easily.

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Our last stop before we move on to the wiring is this look at the top of the chassis. With the mesh cover removed, we can now see that most of the top is cut away to allow for four fans, or a pair of radiators. We can also see that each side is slightly offset from the other.

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The wiring has enough length to easily reach across the motherboard if needed, and all of it is black, so it blends into the chassis. We are given connections for the HDD LED, power LED, power switch, HD Audio, and of course, the large native USB 3.0 connection.

Accessories and Documentation

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Inside of that little brown box found in the chassis, we get a huge amount of screws. The handful at the top left is to be used with 3.5" drive installation. To the right we see the socket and standoffs, as well as the two screws for the slot load ODD bracket. Then, at the bottom we have the PSU screws to the left, ODD mounting screws in the middle, and another handful of screws to mount the motherboard, and 2.5" storage drives.

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Here we have the slot load ODD bracket that holds the drive onto the front bezel of the chassis. Below that are a few wire ties, and in front of those are eight grommets to use if you plan to use 3.5" drives on the floor of the left section of the case.

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Under the layer of plastic the chassis shipped in, but outside of the case, we find the paperwork we see here. There is the larger user guide to take you through the installation and setup. Above that is a product catalog, which, with the use of a mobile application, will allow you to see those products in 3D as well.

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Of course, the manual is very thorough in all of its installation steps, and it offers a parts list to be sure you are ready to go, but Fractal Design also offers handy things like this. Here we have a full dimensional drawing of the layout of cooling options, which is located in the top of the chassis under the mesh cover.

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Fractal Design also provides the same thing for the front locations. These measurements give overall length, whole spacing, and everything one would need to go ahead and order custom water cooling components to fill these voids if that was the plan. You will be fully aware of what will fit.

Case Build and Finished Product

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Even with a 160mm limitation, we found plenty of room for an air cooler. We like that we are able to add in the HD7950 as well with no issue at all. Of course, for those wanting to water cool, card length may become an issue, but there are three other locations for radiators if you plan to use longer video cards.

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Looking at the rear end of the chassis, we find it filled out nicely. The PSU aligns without issue, and we had no issues snapping in the dust shield, or getting the card mounted.

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With our build we only needed one HDD, so we left out the left rack to show some of the space left for optional parts like pumps, or a reservoir. The Velcro may not work for every wiring run, but those that will run under it are tidy and held in place well; plus, it keeps them under the cutout so you won't see them from the window view.

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We chose this angle to minimize the reflection, but the point was to show the great view of the hardware inside that you are afforded in this chassis. Of course, there are the wire ends showing to the right, but once the right side panel is on, the view is of a clean and tidy build with the hardware in the forefront.

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As we step back, before we power up the Node 804, we really like that nothing has changed except for the view through the window. Even if you do plan for an ODD, being slot load only, you don't have to break up the sleek front with an obnoxious looking 5.25" bay cover, or drive.

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After turning on the Node 804, we had to look at the switch on the fan controller again to be sure we were set on the highest setting. Once we verified that, we were pleased to see this chassis only produced 33dB of noise in this setting. Medium fan speed takes it to almost inaudible levels, and in low we had to keep checking the fans to see if they were working, as they were impossible to hear from a foot away from the chassis.

Final Thoughts

Fractal Design is continuing on a tradition with the Node 804 that past customers, and even us as reviewers, have come to expect. For one, we like that they seem to always try to rid designs of their basic looking fronts. With the Node 804, not only do we have curves and a mix of plastic and steel mesh, but everything is made to look sleek and simple in any situation; even down to the brushed texture, the tiny name next to the LED, and the front I/O being around the side. Of course, this chassis is geared more for the gamers and enthusiasts that are planning to go all out with water cooling on a Micro-ATX, or Mini-ITX based system, but because of its more compact size and sleek aesthetics, there is no reason this couldn't find a home as an HTPC, or Media Storage box on the network. The Node 804 will look just as good in any environment you choose to use it in.

I know many of you out there are thinking this is essentially an Air 540 that has been made slightly more compact, and has lost ATX compatibility, and in many ways you are spot on. We knew when we initially saw that chassis that it wouldn't be long until others took a similar angle to make their mark. While Fractal is sort of on the same plane as that chassis, as we stated way in the beginning, being fractal Design, they have accomplished what they wanted while adding style and grace to the exterior, and doing things their own way on the interior. Fractal Design was also able to deliver a system with three fans run from one controller, and even when power is maximized, their sound level into the office was almost negligible. Even with just three of the ten possible fans installed, we found it was enough airflow to allow us better than average CPU temperatures. As for the GPU, well, due to the CPU cooler making us drop the card a slot on the board, it was now drawing air through the floor, and running cooler than in cases with more room under them. So, even with this trio of fans, and the passive air flow they draw, even our single HDD was kept chilly during testing.

All of this gloating about what the Node 804 can do, and we haven't even touched on the water cooling aspect of things yet either. Essentially, there are five, possibly six, locations for radiator placement potential, but not all at once. The roof of the chassis can house radiators on either side, and is plenty for a CPU and GPU in one loop. Depending on what is used, you may also want to look into radiators in the front of the chassis, where again, we can have one on either side. Then, if you look into single radiators, there are two fans in the back as well, and with the right gear, there is no reason why they couldn't go there too. As we said, with careful planning, and making sure you have all the right gear, the CPU and motherboard could be on one loop, and there is still room for more to cool an SLI or Crossfire setup too.

If you aren't that picky when shopping, you may find yourself paying the nearly $130 price tag it requires to own this chassis from about ninety-nine percent of the places we looked. At that price point, we still feel that the Node 804, and all it offers, is well worth this above average pricing. However, the savvy shopper will find that there is a much better deal to be had, and we might as well take any advantage we can get when buying a chassis. The savings that can be had if you buy this Node 804 right is the difference between a new pump, a thicker radiator, or the cost of four averagely priced fans to fill empty holes. Any way you look at it, cheaper is always better, and when it comes to the Node 804, you get your money's worth. For those who don't need ATX support, this chassis is one that can start life off simple, allowing you to graduate to bigger and better builds as your wallet limits and skill set increases, making that investment stretch further and further. As you can likely tell, even if the basic idea has already been seen, and there will be more to come for sure: We find that Fractal Design really did their homework, and offers some serious contention to the market with the Node 804.

PRICING: You can find the FRACTAL DESIGN NODE 804 MICRO-ATX CHASSIS for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The FRACTAL DESIGN NODE 804 MICRO-ATX CHASSIS retails for $100.00 at Amazon.

Canada: The FRACTAL DESIGN NODE 804 MICRO-ATX CHASSIS retails for CDN$171.22 at Amazon Canada.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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