Fractal Design are one of the best chassis manufacturers in the world, having created a stunning range of products over the years, as well as branching out into the world of PSUs, CPU coolers and more. Today they look set to dominate the living room, with the release of their Node 202 mini-ITX chassis. What makes this one so special is that it is designed to house a high-end system, but maintains that slim form factor, allowing you to put it under your TV or on your desk with ease; perfect for a gaming system/steambox or a HTPC configuration.
“The Node 202 is the ultimate PC case for those looking for a beautifully designed, compact chassis that can house a capable gaming build. This small footprint is an intelligently built unit where extreme detail was placed into the design phase to get every line and spec in perfect harmony. With both horizontal and vertical orientation possibilities, the Node 202 can be placed anywhere in the house. The sleek design makes it very attractive next to the TV in the living room or on your desk in the office.”
With a small footprint and a volume of just 10.2 liters, it’s hard to belive that this chassis can house a pair of 2.5″ hard drives, motherboard, CPU cooler, PSU and more impressive of all, a pretty large graphics card.
- Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
- 2 – 2.5″ SSD unit positions
- 2 expansion slots
- 2 – 120mm optional fan positions in graphics card chamber
- CPU coolers up to 56 mm in height
- PSU compatibility: SFX PSUs up to 130mm long
- Graphics card compatibility: Maximum dimension of graphics card is 310x145x47mm (LxHxD)
- Can be placed both vertical and horizontal position
- 3 dust filters included (for CPU, GPU and PSU)
- Case volume: 10.2 litres
- Colors available: Black
- Case dimensions – Horizontal (WxHxD): 377 x 82 x 330 mm
- Case dimensions – Horizontal, with feet/protrusions/screws (WxHxD): 377 x 88 x 332 mm
- Case dimensions – Vertical, with feet/protrusions/screws (WxHxD): 125 x 385 x 332 mm
- Net weight: 3.5 kg
- Package dimensions (WxHxD): 145 x 463 x 388 mm
- Package weight: 5.2kg
To make the build even easier, the model we have today comes with that rather fantastic Integra SFX 450W 80 Plus Gold power supply pre-installed, meaning that you can get your system up and running a lot quicker, and that 450W delivery is going to be more than enough for even the most demanding CPU/GPU combinations.
“The Integra SFX 450W PSU that comes inclusive with the enclosure provides stable power to the most demanding systems. It comes with customized connectors and tailored cables perfectly fitted for use within the Node 202, contributing to hassle-free installation and cable management.”
- 80PLUS® Bronze certification
- 80mm, temperature controlled fan
- Maximum operating temperature at full load: 50°C (50°C @ 100%)
- Fully Intel Haswell C6/C7 compliant
- 3 years warranty
- Taiwanese capacitors
- OPP / OVP / UVP / SCP / OCP Protection
- Can be placed both vertical and horizontal position
- 100,000 hours life expectancy (MTBF)
- SFX 3.3 PSU specification compliance
- ErP 2013 compliant (<0.5W system power draw)
- Colors available: Black
- Unit measurements (WxHxD): 125 x 64 x 100 mm
- Net weight: 1.0 kg
So specs and things aside, let’s move on to the actual hardware. First up, we can see the packaging is fairly simple, with a big sticker on the front letting us know we’ve got the Integra SFX 450W included in the chassis, as well as a handy 3-year warranty.
Around the back, there is a fantastic technical breakdown of each component, showing you exactly which features you’re going to get from this build.
First things out of the box, a simple user guide, warranty booklet and general product information.
You’ll also find a nice little box of accessories.
This includes a bundle of cable ties, all the usual fitting screws, and some stick-on rubber feet.
One of the most important components is this adaptor for the PCI-E slot, allowing the GPU to lay parallel to the motherboard, allowing for a slimmer chassis design.
Finally, there’s a slot-in vertical mount, giving you another great way to display your system.
It’s very sturdy and comes with four rubber grip feet on the base to prevent it from sliding around.
Now onto the best part, the chassis its self! It’s certainly nice and slim, and should blend easily into your AV setup; if that’s where you wanted it at least. There’s a little bit of ventilation down the left side, giving some extra airflow to the graphic card area.
Down the right side, a lot more ventilation, giving air intake to the motherboard and PSU mounting area, with even more ventilation on the top for heat exhaust from any CPU cooler you’re using.
The finish is sublime, a mostly plastic exterior, but with a soft matte finish that gives it a premium look and feel.
Aside from the subtle Fractal Design logo, you’ll also find all the usual ports and controls down here. One little touch that I very much like is the black USB 3.0 ports, as they’re visually less distracting than the usual blue ones, and that can’t be understated for those wanting a clean-looking HTPC build.
Around the back, we’ve got the motherboard I/O cut out, two expansion slots, and the PSU pass through port.
The PSU actually mounts on the front right corner, but an internal cable means you only have to connect the PSU power at the back, where you can easily hide the cables out of sight.
On the base of the chassis, a lot more ventilation. There’s a small vent on the right, allowing airflow to the PSU, as well as a long vent on the left for the PSU air intake.
The top panel is easily removed by undoing the four screws on the base of the chassis.
On the interior, you’ll find a clip-on washable dust filter. Although it’s tricky to reach for a quick clean, it’s certainly a welcome addition to the chassis.
The interior is split into zones, with the far side taking up the GPU mounting area and the motherboard and PSU in the other.
It’s quite a compact design, so cable routing will be a little tricky, but there are numerous cable tie loops around all major areas, allowing you to keep things in order.
There’s a huge amount of space for the graphics card, with lots of ventilation and a dust filter to keep things clean.
In the GPU bay, you’ll find this little angular support, that can be moved to butt up against your GPU, helping prevent any droop.
Towards the front of the GPU area, there are the cables for the front I/O panel. Not sure why Fractal Design opted for a thick USB 3 cable, as they’re difficult to route and a flat one would have been much more practical.
There are two drive bays available in this removable bracket, which can house two 2.5″ drives; more than enough for a compact system such as this.
Just behind the drive bay, there is a large cut-out for cables, handy for getting the PSU cables to the GPU.
The Integra 450W is pre-installed here and comes with all the right connectors to populate the chassis.
You’ll find connectors for two SATA hard drives, a motherboard (2 x 4-pin), and a GPU (2 x 6+2-pin).
Installing our test hardware couldn’t have been easier, despite the compact workspace the 202 provides. The motherboard bay does require the use of a low profile cooler and while I have used a super low one, there’s really room for something a bit bigger should you need it.
Cable routing is a little tricky, but a few cable ties will help keep everything out of the way of fan blades and help improve the airflow overall.
As I predicted, that USB 3 cable is a pain, and has to be bent quite hard to stop it from sticking up and blocking the re-installation of the top panel. It’s workable, but flat cables would be golden here.
Tucked away in the drive bay, you can see our 2.5″ SSD.
The two-part riser card was easily installed too and simply connects to the motherboard and passes through to the GPU; it takes less than a minute to install this part.
Installing our Sapphire R9 270X Tri-X Toxic was a little tricky, as it really pushed the size limits of the chassis, but a little bit of wiggling and it eventually clicked into place.
There’s about 2mm of space spare at the back once it was screwed in, which is perfectly fine; if it fits, it fits! Given this is one of the bigger cards on the market, you shouldn’t have much trouble with the majority of high-end GPUs.
All panels back in place, and the 202 looks as sleek as it did when we took it out of the box. There’s good ventilation and dust filters where you need them and without a doubt, it’s going to look great on your desk, under your TV, or anywhere else you put it.
The optional stand couldn’t be easier to use. Simply slot the chassis into it and you’re good to go, perfect for mounting the system alongside your display.
The Fractal Design Node 202 Mini-ITX HTPC Case + Integra 450W SFX PSU combe is avialable from Overclockers UK for a very reasonable £119.99. You can also pick it up without the pre-installed PSU for £69.99, but in our opinion, you’re going to need and SFX PSU and this is a very good one for just £50. It retails on its own for around £60, so there is some saving there, but even a comparable SFX PSU from Silverstone would set you back closer to £90, showing just how affordable this unit can be.
The SFF market is booming recently, with many system builders looking to fit incredibly powerful systems into increasingly smaller chassis designs. While it can be a little wide and deep compared to say, an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, it’s just as easy to slot into your AV setup as any other set-top box style unit. Yet despite its low sitting design, the use of a graphics riser adaptor means that you don’t have to make a sacrifice on gaming performance, allowing you to fit virtually any of today’s high-end air-cooled graphics cards with relative ease.
SFX power supplies continue to get better and better, and with 450W @ 80 Plus Gold rating, the Integra M has got all the juice you’ll ever need. There’s not a CPU and GPU combo on the market that will max that out, even if you’re pushing some decent overclocks. This means you’re not going to be held back by power limitations, and you’ll be able to invest in good hardware to build a high-end gaming system if you wanted to.
For an HTPC, this case certainly has the right look, and little details like that clean front panel and the black coloured USB 3.0 ports really help complete the overall design, as does the option to mount it horizontally or vertically. Cable routing can be tricky on the interior, but far from impossible and once everything is installed, it’s unlikely you’ll be opening it up often to take a look and the placement of the air vents means you can’t really see inside from the front of the chassis either.
If I was to build a new HTPC style gaming system today, there’s no doubt about it, the Node 202 would be the first thing I go out and buy. It looks great, has all the features you’re likely to need and comes with a competitive price and a PSU combo deal that’s too hard to ignore.
- Great build quality
- Stylish matte finish exterior
- Black coloured USB 3 ports on front panel
- Pre-installed SFX PSU (optional)
- Support for a large graphics card
- Good airflow
- Dust filters
- Competitive price
- Thick USB 3 cable on interior can be troublesome to route
- Some of the dust filters can be hard to access to clean
- No optical bay, I don’t use one, but others may desire one for HTPC type builds
“The Fractal Design 202 is the perfect solution for a compact and stylish HTPC or gaming system. With great build quality, support for a high-end graphics card and more, it’s going to make a welcome addition to your AV or desktop setup.”
Thank you Fractal Design for providing us with this sample.