Introducing the Fractal Design Node 605

Media center enclosures can be a very tricky business. 25 years ago, horizontally-oriented cases were the norm, but the ATX standard complicates things. We're also dealing with hotter components now than we were then. To top everything off, having a PC in your living room introduces even more new wrinkles: it shouldn't look out of sorts next to other home entertainment electronics, and it can't be loud or intrusive in any way. Producing a good HTPC case is a surprisingly tall order, and it's one that Fractal Design has elected to take a crack at with the larger of their new Node cases.

While the smaller Node 304 lacks any optical drive bay of any kind and is geared for home server work, the Node 605 is designed to be a media center first and foremost. Hiding behind the drop-down door on the front are a slim-line optical drive bay, a card reader, and assorted connectivity. And like the Node 304, Fractal Design built the Node 605 to be flexible, able to support up to four storage drives and a full ATX motherboard. So is this case ready for a spot in your entertainment center, or did Fractal Design produce a rare misfire?

When I opened the Node 605 I had a brief pang of regret. Recently I built a pair of media centers for my living room and my bedroom in the SilverStone FT03 and FT03 Mini, and the Node 605, at least outwardly, looks like an almost perfect enclosure. This looked like the refinement I had been asking for since I built my first major media center in the SilverStone GD04. Fractal Design built a case that supports a lot of different types of components, but not necessarily all simultaneously, and they built something that's fairly simple to get started with.

Fractal Design Node 605 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX
Drive Bays External 1x Slimline Optical
Internal 4x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front -
Rear 2x 80mm fan mount
Top -
Side 1x 120mm intake fan on each side; 1x 120mm fan mount on right side
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 7
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic, 6-pin FireWire, Card Reader
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 125mm
PSU 180mm (190mm with one drive cage removed)
GPU 180mm, up to 290mm
Dimensions 17.5" x 6.5" x 13.7"
445mm x 164mm x 349mm
Weight 13.23 lbs / 6kg
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header (includes built-in 2.0 adapter)
CF/SD/MMC card reader
Three-speed fan controller
Acoustic padding in top panel
Price $159

The Node 605 features an integrated card reader that hides behind a flip-down door on the front of the case, and I cannot stress enough how much I like seeing vendors include card readers. A card reader is included almost as a matter of principle on notebooks, yet continue to be rarefied in desktop cases. Also appreciated is the three-speed, three-channel fan controller.

What isn't appreciated is the frankly outlandish price tag. I can tell you right off the bat that this isn't a cheaply made case, enjoying sturdy aluminum in the fascia and thick steel in the sides and body, but Fractal Design is competing with established designs from SilverStone. SilverStone's Grandia enclosures fill much the same niche the Node 605 does, and the GD04 even does so at ~$50 less.

In and Around the Fractal Design Node 605
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  • Blibbax - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    If you for some reason insist on using only two fans, have one at the side (next to the PSU, I suppose) as an intake, and one next to the CPU above the backplate as an exhaust.

    Fractal have done what they have with the fans because they (rightly) assume that users will want to drop in at least one of their own choice of exhaust fan. Ignoring this in an otherwise excellent and well thought out review is a huge shame imo.
  • chrissp - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    I havent seen any reviews for the Origin AE lineup on your site? I have the s14v in black and it is the nicest htpc case on the market imo. it is expensive but its made from a solid block of aluminium so i think its worth it.

    would love to see some reviews for their ranges on here.

    thanks for the great great reviews.

  • Conficio - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    Really, what do you do with ports behind a flap? I might understand it for a card reader and may be a DVD drive? But head phones and mic and USB ports behind a flap? What is the user experience of this? If I use such things, the flap needs to stay open, so making the entire design horrid. I'd understand if the USB ports would be sideways and the flap had side channels to route the cables of an external drive, so I can still close it. But mic and head phone ports need to be outside of the flap!

    For that price, I'd like to see some display included, that can be controlled by software. I'd think that it must be possible to produce a simple display with a USB interface that can show output channel, and volume, etc. just by the virtue of it's driver. Not to mention adding any sort tuner card and being able to see tune information or similar.
  • kenyee - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    with a 2500K, it's not even audible and there's enough space.
    Would have been nice if this case worked well though...having space for 4 drives would have been nice...
  • smitty123 - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - link

    i don't need flash , just something else than a gray slab.
  • rockoqatsi - Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - link

    I don't need flash either. And I'll deviate from most posters and say that this is one of the best HTPC chassis I've ever seen for the money (if only just from the front.)

    I like that the optical bay and all of the I/O ports are behind a flap. I don't need (visible) ports, a headphone or mic jack, and all sorts of buttons---and certainly not a volume knob---on my HTPC. I have a bloody preamp for that. And as far as VFDs and touchscreens go, they look pretty, but at the end of the day are a distraction. Touchscreens are for remotes anyway. An HTPC should be like Seraph from The Matrix: dark, svelte, mysterious, pretty, and silent.

    So on the outside the Node 605 does just fine for me. It's such a shame the interior was designed by an ape. Why did they put the HDD hangers on the same side as the expansion slots, power supply and optical bay? The cpu side is like Montana and the other is like Tokyo. No f---ing sense for a case this size.
  • perrydoell - Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - link

    After all these years, and no case designer cares to design their case with airflow in mind?

    I mean, all I see is a box with holes all around it. You design your own airflow, depending upon what you put in and where you put the fans. I'm sure a thermal engineer geek (I'm an electrical engineering geek myself :-P ) could design a case that has a single, well defined airflow path that could have far better thermal and accoustic performance than you or I could manage.
  • cjs150 - Thursday, January 3, 2013 - link

    Silverstone TJ08-E springs to mind as clearly designed around proper airflow.

    Personally I wonder why there is a need for these big HTPC cases. To be honest they are nothing more than a standard 1990s case laid on its side. Having built a silent HTPC, mini-itx motherboard was sufficient for me (but I do have a separate NAS for storage), although I accept some audiophiles will want a separate audio card
  • Wwhat - Sunday, January 6, 2013 - link

    It's amazing how involved people get with something that is just a metal box.
    And even more amazing and odd what some companies ask for it. Especially since some devices/tools/vehicles come with large metal housings and those don't seem to significantly influence the cost half the time.

    But on the other hand some basically simple spare parts for cars that are very basic are also sold for outrageous prices if they are hard to source. It truly is a fine example of price and demand and making a business out of things.
  • dj christian - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    "ATX motherboard support on the right side of the case, power supply standing on its side on the left."

    should be

    ATX motherboard support on the left side of the case, power supply standing on its side on the right.

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