Fractal Design Node 202 Compact Gaming Case

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System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95 processor stress software.
  • FurMark stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer: SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed in two states: idle, and load using Prime95 (2/4 instances, large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 80°C (at an ambient temperature of 22°C).


System Measurements (Vertical Orientation)
Video Card
Zotac GTX 750 ZONE
Asus Strix GTX 980
RE6 Demo (Peak)
Prime95x2 + FurMark
RE6 Demo (Peak)
Prime95x2 + FurMark
CPU Fan Speed
1080 RPM
2000 RPM
2490 RPM (max)
SYS Fan Speed
500 RPM
850 RPM
GPU Fan Speed
2930 RPM (max)
CPU Temp
MB Temp
SSD Temp
GPU Temp
System Power (AC)
16 dBA
26 dBA
41~42 dBA
Idle noise level (CPU fan at min. speed only): 15 [email protected]
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front of case.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Our reference video card, the Asus GTX 980, fit comfortably in the Node 202, but under synthetic load (two threads of Prime95 plus FurMark stability test), the GPU core heated up excessively, causing it throttle clock speeds until it reached only ~90% of its normal power target, even with the fans blowing at full speed. These components should pull more than 300W from the wall but power topped out at under 270W. The CPU fan had its work cut out for it, requiring top speed just to keep the processor under 70°C. I typically don't use the Resident Evil 6 Demo Benchmark for case testing but it is a less demanding, more realistic test. Even so, during the most taxing points of the benchmark, the GPU didn't fare much better, still requiring 100% fan speed. The noise level during these tests was unreal, a skull-shattering 41~42 [email protected]

Adding fans would improve efficiency but only slim models can be used, which wouldn't help much. Standard 25 mm thick fans would press right up against the GPU fans, and this fan stacking would create horrendous noise. The horizontal position is worse, as a brief test was stopped shortly after I noticed the GPU temperature shooting up even more quickly than in the vertical position. The main vents become more restricted in this orientation as the included feet aren't tall enough to provide good clearance for the vents.

Given this poor result, a more modest card seems like a better choice. The only modern low power GPU we had on hand was a passively cooled Zotac GTX 750 (55W TDP). Obviously, it had a much better time of it. During the Resident Evil test, the CPU fan's minimum speed was more than sufficient, and the single extra exhaust fan spinning at 500 RPM was enough to keep the GPU temperature at a reasonable 80°C during the most demanding portions. The noise level was barely higher than the machine idling with just the CPU fan at minimum speed. The synthetic test required higher fan speeds, mainly on the part of the CPU cooler. So while the two portions of the case are cordoned off, the heat from the GPU still had a great effect on the CPU section.

The system generated 26 [email protected] in this state which is somewhat loud but the subjective quality of the noise was excellent as both the Noctua and Scythe fans have pleasant acoustic profiles. Fractal's power supply didn't make any discernible noise during testing except for a slight buzzing when idle. During the load tests, it was quickly drowned out by either the CPU or GPU fans. In this configuration, the CPU fan was by far the biggest noise contributor so an improved cooling solution would go a long way to silencing the machine (on its own, the Scythe fan produced less than 20 [email protected] at 850 RPM). Also keep in mind, the 26 [email protected] figure is with the case angled diagonally from our mic with CPU vent facing partially toward it. A 2 dB drop was observed when the case was flipped around, so your position relative to the case also plays a part in how the system sounds.

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