Description

Objective

After a long hiatus from system building, I wanted to build something that would challenge me to pack as much performance as possible into a tiny package. When I found the Fractal Node 202, I just knew that it was the perfect platform for this build. The original intent was to use a small form factor GPU and water cool the CPU for maximum effect but I later reconsidered this idea because it would've involved cutting the bracing in the middle of the case and the only GPU that would fit next to a 120 rad was the R9 Nano. While the R9 Nano is a great performer, the high price and the limited upgrade path was a no go for me.

Part Selection

CPU - Some might call me crazy for putting an unlocked i7 in such a tiny build but I just had to have it. As you'll read below, managing temps wasn't easy and the cooling options are severely limited for those who are looking for performance CPU's that are 90W TDP and beyond in a build this small.

CPU Cooler - After searching for a high performing low profile cooler, the two that stood out to me were the Scythe Big Shuriken Rev.B and the Thermalright AXP-100r. The problem was on paper, neither of these coolers were supposed to fit in this case as Fractal claims that the max cooler height allowed is 56mm. A little more researched showed that while Fractal was right, removing the filter under the top cover of the case allowed me to gain several additional millimeters of height. And let me tell you that AXP-100r was a tight fit (see the pics) but I can assure you that it will fit and cools the 6700k @ 4.4Ghz without breaking a sweat. Also, I had to use a dremel tool to shave a little material in one small area due to interference with the chip-set heat sink mounting screw. (see the pics) After I checked that the back plate would clear the screw, I touched up the exposed metal with black paint and carried on with the cooler installation.

It's also worth noting that the mounting hardware is seriously beefy. As in I couldn't bend it with my bare hands if I wanted to kind of beefy.

Motherboard - I have to give credit to Kylie at Awesome Sauce Network for turning me on to this motherboard. The specs, looks and connection locations were a great fit in the Node 202. There are only a few mITX motherboards out there that had the kind of overclocking features that I wanted and this one has nearly all of the features that I'm used to seeing in a full size ATX motherboard.

Memory - Not much to say here. I've always had good experience with Kingston products and this 2x8GB kit has worked well in this build.

Storage - The Samsung EVO SSD is just simply awesome! My PC can go from "off" to "desktop" in under 25 seconds. Programs load super fast and even my game load times are a fraction of was they used to be.

Video Card - Admittedly, the GPU in this build is a GTX 1070 Founders Edition straight from Nvidia but I didn't see it in any of the searches on the website. That said, any of the board partners Founders Edition cards are going to get the job done. FYI...MSI Afterburner with custom fan curve is your friend. ((Doom 2016 at Ultra/Nightmare settings yield 100+ FPS. Flipping awesome!!!))

Case - The Fractal Design Node 202 makes this whole build even more awesome in my opinion. I have heard several criticisms about building in this case and I can honestly say that for the most part they are true. I too was nervous when it came time to remove the bottom cover from the metal frame of the case. The clips seem fragile at first but once you get the hang of it and start from the back clips near the IO access, it comes apart without too much trouble. Just be careful to clear the front IO connections when pulling the metal frame away from the bottom cover. The other criticism involves the filter configuration requiring the aforementioned tedious bottom cover removal anytime you want to access the filters. Also, when the case is in the vertical position, the top vents do not have any such filters. All filter woes aside, I say if you don't want to deal with all of that, just remove the filters and take a can of air to the case a couple of times a year and you'll be fine. Ultimately, I couldn't be happier with combination of smart internal layout and subtle visuals. Definitely primed for a understated performance monster!

UPDATE - I forgot to mention that the case fans are Fractal Venturi 120x25mm which are the high static pressure models. Since there's filter material on the intake and the GPU about 10mm away on the exhaust side, I wanted to make sure that air flow wouldn't be a problem. Also, it just so happens that the intake fan nearest the front I/O panel lines up perfectly to directly feed fresh air right into the GPU fan inlet. I did some testing and found that while gaming, the GPU does operate 2-4C cooler with the intake fans in use, which also keeps the GPU fan a little lower on the fan curve. It's like a ram air intake for my 1070!

OS - Windows 10 PRO 64 because of reasons. Enough said there.

Conclusions

Throughout the course of this build I was continually surprised by how easily things progressed. The cable management seemed complicated at first, but with a little trial and error, even that was a breeze. I had suspected from the beginning that temps would be an issue with this build and to some degree I was right. When overclocking the CPU a was able to achieve 4.6Ghz stable at 1.35v (88-92C when stress testing) but opted to run at 4.4Ghz at 1.25v (78-84C when stress testing) for better temps during daily use.

As this build is still new at the time of this writing, I'm really looking forward to seeing what this little power Node can do. I'm really loving this small form factor build and I hope you do too. Please feel free to leave comments to ask questions, leave feedback or just say hi and I'll respond as quickly as possible.

Happy Building!!!

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Comments

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice job.

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks!

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

I dont own a node 202 but was planning to, yet the cpu cooler clearance has always kept me from buying one. Was it difficult to remove the filter, and do you think you could place it ouside the case? Id gladly sacrifice a little bit of looks for less dust haha. Damn nice job!

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

nice avatar lmao

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah I'll have to get around to that...

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

It's not hard at all to remove the filter from under the top cover. However, it's different than the other magnetic filters because it has a plastic frame and clips in to place. I personally decided that better airflow from a better performing CPU cooler was worth the trade-off of removing the filter.

As for an alternate filter outside the case, their might be some products out there that could do the job but I honestly haven't looked into it enough. If I go that route in the future, I'll definitely post an update.

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

You can try Cryorig C7.. That fits well in the Node 202, no need to remove the filter.

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

I did look at the C7 but my research revealed that it wasn't up to the task. Most testing that I found showed that the Noctua NH-l9 performed as good if not better than the Cryorig C7 in most cases. However, even Noctua's own website says, "While it (NH-L9) provides first rate performance in its class, it is not suitable for overclocking and should be used with care on CPUs with more than 65W TDP (Thermal Design Power)."

Based on that info, I concluded that not only are both of these coolers NOT suitable for a 6700k at stock speeds (91W TDP), but it would actually roast my CPU when over clocked. (est. 110W TDP)

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

I think a larger cooler is worth the tradeoff, i know a c7 is a good sff cooler, but it is very hard to come by in my country. But a big shurkiken or the axp100 is definitely worth the extra effort to me

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice build :D

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks!

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice clean compact rg. Very well done +1

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you sir.

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

a GTX 1070 on that screen?!

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

I know...it's practically criminal to game on that monitor. I do plan on getting at least a 1440p monitor in the near future but at least I get to peak at the eye candy now. :D

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

What is it with everyone building with 1070's? Im so confused, but extremely good job on the build, that cable management is on point. Good job, +1 from me.

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks for the comments.

The choice for me on the 1070 was simple. It's the best performance that my budget would allow and since its the highest tier GPU that I've ever owned, I'm enjoying the crap out of it.

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

Ah ok, enjoy the 1070, I'm sure you're enjoyed the heck out of it. GG

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

They are also a lot easier to get a hold of than the 1080, though all ridiculously over priced.

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

True, are there even any major differences between 1070's and 1080's?

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

$200-$300 price tag difference. 1080 is top dog in the video card world by quit a margin too. You can dig around for reviews of the two models. There are a ton out there.

  • 37 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks Skyfall_PC. I followed your build using GTX 1080 and under link below I am sharing my variant with findings and solutions: https://pcpartpicker.com/b/v7r7YJ.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

Hi L0hki!

Great work on the node 202 build. I definitely agree with your findings as building in this case does present some challenges but you pulled it off nicely.

You get my +1 and let me know how your liking the finished product.

  • 36 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks, I like this little beast a lot. Just upgraded the CPU fan to 140 mm and overclocked CPU to 4.4 GHz ... still running smooth 70° C when stress testing.

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

praps..i love this one. +1 allday

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks!

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Great build Skyfall_PC! Out of curiosity, if you have time, what's the temp of the cpu at stock speeds under stress testing? I'm thinking about almost the same build. Thanks

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

At stock settings while stress testing, my hottest core was 73C. I used Realbench and AIDA 64 to collect my data.

  • 42 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks Skyfall_PC! Really appreciate it.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

Anytime.

[comment deleted]
  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the comments.

I found that the founders edition was much more sturdy and was less susceptible to flexing after installation. When I tried the EVGA GTX 1070 SC in the node 202, there was significant flexing of the GPU and I would definitely use the support piece in that situation.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

...as for the fans, I didn't have an issue using standard 120mm fans in the GPU area with the founders edition 1070 but you may have a different experience with an aftermarket option.