Building in the Node 804
With the tour of the outside complete, we can really see what types of configurations are possible by building a system into the Node 804. The stock configuration seems like it would perform acceptably well for most configurations, but I’m going to see if I can fit a Radeon R9 290 graphics card as well as a Cooler Master Nepton 280L 280mm all-in-one liquid cooler in this Node to see how it handles some larger components.
First, the PSU. The entire “floor” of the right chamber is usable power supply space, so you shouldn’t run into any clearance problems with larger power supplies. The unit pictured is about 150mm (not including the modular connectors), so if you want to make use of the cable management straps in front of the PSU you probably wouldn’t want anything much larger (most of the typical models that would power a mATX system would do fine in the Node 804). Fractal Design is one of the few companies with a 140mm power supply that supplies more than 500W (the Integra R2 series has 500W, 650W and 750W models), so there are options out there if you want smaller but more powerful power supplies to save space in the Node 804.
The motherboard, CPU and RAM install without any problems and the tie-down points underneath are a very welcome sight. The audio and front panel header cables usually end up a bit of a mess, so the ability to tie those down out of the way is very appreciated. A cutout for the 8-pin CPU cable up top provides easy access for cables, but the cutout itself could stand to be a bit larger if only to accommodate multiple cables (I routed the fan controller cables through this hole as well).
The two 3.5″ drive cages accommodate four HDDs each. The drives end up hanging vertically, and there’s enough space between them to get a bit of airflow through them all to keep them cool. The smaller Node 304 managed to pack six drives in a very small enclosure – it looks like the Node 804 follows suit with eight drives (not to mention the other two mounting locations in the other chamber). Undoubtedly some will claim there would be a way to fit even more drives in the Node 804 for file server/NAS duty, but I think Fractal Design has targeted this chassis perfectly. You can fit more drives in this mATX Node than any other mATX enclosure (and many ATX cases, for that matter) anyway, and for dedicated mechanical storage you’d think some hot-swap bays and rack-mounted configurations would be a better fit. I think this is a great use of space, and you get to decide on your own if you want the space for storage or for more radiators/fans (I love chassis that don’t force a certain configuration; ones that allow me the option to build different systems in the same case).
Now’s the time to wire up the motherboard as things may get a little cramped with the Nepton 280L installed. I liked the split chamber design of the Corsair Carbide Air 540 as it made accessing everything a cinch; the Node 804 is no different. It’s nice not having to worry about laying that large 24-pin ATX cable flat against the motherboard tray – instead, you can just strap it down wherever. Or don’t even bother. If you aren’t installing a large amount of drives, the drive/PSU chamber won’t be affected by messy cables.
The Nepton 280L install was a bit interesting. With the two 120mm stock fans in the main chamber, a 280mm radiator would not clear the fans (the reservoirs on the end of the Nepton’s radiator were just large enough to get in the way – if you could manage to find a radiator that was exactly 280mm long including barbs, it may fit). Two 140mm fans would fit snugly up here, but the radiator was a no-go. 240mm radiators would be ideal if you needed it to fit in the main chamber. What’s the point of two separated chambers if you can’t isolate your CPU from the hot graphics cards anyway? If you follow the hoses from the Nepton 280L’s water block, they lead through the convenient opening up front and wrap around to the other side.
Here, the Nepton’s 280mm radiator and twin 140mm JetFlo fans fit perfectly – well, almost. The rear 140mm fan encroached on the stock 120mm rear exhaust fan. I could have simply used a 120mm fan on the radiator instead (the Nepton has mounting holes for 120mm fans as well), but I figured I’d use it to add a bit more airflow to the main chamber. A larger all-in-one cooler does fit and performs well in this chassis, but you’ll probably have more flexibility (and less frustration) with 120mm or 240mm radiators and fans. It goes without saying the drive cages will need to be removed to accommodate this type of configuration. Something that may be less obvious is the requirement of flush-head screws for attaching the radiator. Thankfully, the Nepton 280L comes with screws to mount the radiator directly to a case, but if you wanted to put the fans above the radiator instead of below the thumbscrew portion would stick up too far and prevent the top panel from sliding back into place. It would be nice to see a bit of extra room up here, and it might help improve airflow too with a little less restriction up top.
At this point there’s only one thing left: the graphics card. To test the limits of the Node 804 I figured a Radeon R9 290 (this one using XFX’s Double Dissipation cooler) would generate enough heat for some interesting results. At just under 300mm in length, the XFX R9 290 was only a few millimeters away from touching the newly relocated bottom 120mm fan – without the fan, there would be another 25-30mm of space for even larger cards (official specs say 320mm without the fan). For a micro-ATX enclosure, that’s impressive. I’m very glad to see five PCI slot covers, as that means (depending on your motherboard) Crossfire/SLI configurations are much more manageable. I’m not sure if I’ll have time to test it, but this is one of the few micro-ATX enclosures that I’d seriously consider installing two graphics cards.
With everything assembled and powered on, the 1000 RPM Silent Series R2 fans don’t make any more noise than the water pump or graphics card fans. The top baffles really do help direct most of the escaping sound towards the rear of the chassis, making the Node 804 quieter than I originally expected. I shouldn’t be surprised though, the Node 304 was a very efficient chassis as well.