Fractal Design Define Nano S Review
The increasing popularity of mini-ITX cases has led to a somewhat downsizing trend by manufacturers. And we mean that in the most literal sense - many companies are now releasing smaller mITX versions of their full-size line instead of redesigning from the ground up for the smaller board size. The Fractal Design Define Nano S is one such case, a miniaturized version of the Define S. Let's take a look at how this small case measures up.
The Nano S ($69) is priced competitively with the rest of the mITX category, which is worthwhile to note because of our recent review of the NZXT Manta, which is double the price of the Nano S. Our reviewer thinks it might be time for a showdown between these two cases.
The Nano S shares its exterior styling with its bigger sibling in the Define S, with a plastic brushed front panel, a large side window, interior sound dampening, and attached thumbscrews. The silent features of the Nano S, its small size and its relatively unobtrusive design make it a good choice for a living-room gaming PC.
The removable front panel of the Nano S is set well out from the body, giving good airflow through the front dust filter with the included 140mm fan. The front pane lcan take dual 120mm or 140mm fan setups, as well as an up to 280mm radiator for the increasingly popular AIO setups. The case I/O includes two USB 3.0 ports, audio jacks and an illuminated ambient blue LED under the power button.
The top of the case includes one large vent with special features that Fractal Design calls a ModuVent. If the top vent isn't being used for cooling, the ModuVent stays in place and helps damp the sound coming from inside the case. If either or both of the top 120mm/140mm fan mounts are in use, you can remove the vent to facilitate airflow. The fan mounts are offset towards the side away from the motherboard, adding extra clearance for larger radiators.
The problem with the removable ModuVent is that the top doesn't include a separate dust filter, so using the top cooling mounts can expose the computer to extra dust. That seems like a strange omission, especially given the high-quality rigid and removable dust filter on the bottom of the case.
One of the implications of the shrink-ray philosophy for case makers is that the Nano S and other similarly shrunken cases are often relatively larger than those designed for mITX from the ground up. The Nano S is 12 inches high, 15 inches deep and nearly 8 inches wide, making it great to work in but meaning the footprint isn't exactly small. The Nano S is aimed at the increasing number of PC builders who want a smaller case but with the option of water cooling, which means extra space for fans and radiators, as well as improved airflow and cable management
The floor of the case includes a multi-function bracket mount on rails that can be used for a 3.5-inch drive or a water-cooling pump. A great feature is that this bracket can be moved and mounted vertically, providing even more flexibility with the layout. The case has a dual 2.5-inch mount behind the motherboard as well as an additional mount that fits either size of hard drive.
The Fractal Design Nano S is a great case for an mITX build, combining the best elements of the Define S with a smaller footprint. Other than the oversight of not including a dust filter for the top of the case, Fractal Design has done a great job of splitting the difference between flexibility and size.
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