Fractal Design’s first case was introduced back in 2005. Since then, the company has continued to innovate with new products built to last and engineered for performance. The Nano S is their flagship PC case and an excellent option for any enthusiast or gamer on a budget who wants an entry-level solution without cutting corners.
For a long time, Fractal Design has been one of the top designers and manufacturers of PC cases, providing both high-end and low-end PC cases to meet practically any demand. However, as technology grows more compact as time passes, issues inevitably become smaller. With that in mind, we’ll be looking at the Nano S is defined by fractal design., one of Fractal Design’s compact form factor ITX cases.
The Nano S is an ITX case that combines Define’s unique noise-blocking features with a tiny form factor. It’s a case with impressive features oriented at the simplicity of construction, full-size components, and even water-cooling compatibility. To say we were thrilled to see what this case offers in a market flooded with high-performance, low-cost options is an understatement.
The Nano S is defined by fractal design. It will be examined in further detail in the following tutorial to see how it performs in various settings. In addition, we’ll evaluate how it feels to build in, component compatibility, water cooling possibilities, overall build quality, and anything else that a PC builder may need to know.
- Excellent Airflow
- Support for water cooling
- It is pretty simple to construct in
- Side panels that absorb sound
- Excellent value for money
- Window for viewing
- Mini-ITX is the only option.
- Design fundamentals
|Case Type||The tower is complete.|
|Measurements (mm)||592 x 274 x 577 pixels (L x W x H)|
|Materials||Stainless steel, plastic, and glass|
|Available colors||White and black|
|I/O panel in the front||2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 2 HD audio ports, 1 microphone jack|
|Slots for Expansion||8+2|
|Bays for driving||3.5″x4″ or 2.5″x4″ (HDD Rack) 3.5″ x 3″ or 2.5″ x 6″|
|Support for motherboards||E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX are all types of motherboards.|
|Cooling (front, back, front, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back,||2 x 140mm or 3 x 120mm 3 x 120mm or 3 x 140mm x 3 x 120mm x 3 x 140mm x 3 2 x 120mm or 1 x 140mm 1 x 120mm or 1 x 140mm|
|Maximum CPU Height||190mm|
|GPU’s maximum length||With the HDD rack fitted, the height is 310mm. Without the HDD rack, the size is 410mm.|
What’s in the Box, Anyway?
Fractal Design has utilized a plain brown box for the Nano S, as do other PC case makers these days, with some generic information about the system and its characteristics on the exterior. To prevent scratches during shipment, the case is sealed inside between two pieces of styrofoam and a thin piece of plastic—all quite ordinary.
The following items may be found within the box:
- Nano S is defined by fractal design.
- Accessory Container
- User’s Guide
So, let’s go to work on the design.
Let’s face it, Fractal Design has never been known for its complex case designs; look at the original Define series for proof. Because the Define Nano S is a smaller version of the Define S, it is identical to the Define S.
While this case is Mini-ITX, it is on the bigger end of the size range compared to similar cases. This is because they’ve built the chassis larger than other ITX cases to allow users to employ enthusiast-grade components, which we’ll go into more depth later.
Size aside, the Define Nano S looks pretty budget, if truth be told. It does offer a faux brushed aluminum front panel that looks pretty good, accompanied by an acrylic side panel window to see the internal workings of this build. Grills can be found on either side of the front panel with the I/O ports on top. This case certainly falls into the “no bells and whistles” category regarding case aesthetics. I personally quite like the Design fundamentals aesthetic Fractal Design brings to the table.
The front of the casing has the most to offer in terms of design aspects. The brushed metal design on the front panel, made of plastic, is rather attractive. Another minor design detail is a tiny slot towards the top of the front panel that holds a little blue LED light that turns on when the PC is turned on. The side of the front panel has grill-like airflow entrance holes that let a reasonable quantity of air into the case.
The front of the case may be removed by first removing the dust filter beneath – which pulls out from the show – and then withdrawing the front panel from the bottom with light-medium force. Once removed, you can see the noise dampening technology employed in this case—the same noise dampening technology used on their premium goods.
Users have access to the fans and dust filters From the Inside. The fans can be readily replaced, while the dust filter is magnetic and can be quickly cleaned.
Moving to the rear of the case doesn’t offer anything extra in terms of features, if truth be told. The Nano S comes equipped with a mere two Slots for Expansion for a decent-sized GPU. Like all Fractal Design cases, the Nano S comes equipped with replaceable expansion slot covers, unlike others at this price point.
Underneath the Slots for Expansion, users will find the PSU cutout that feels well manufactured and durable. The I/O shield cutout is located next to the rear exhaust fan, as you’d expect, and feels well finished. The rear exhaust fan is pre-installed, and the airflow filter is designed using honeycomb holes. The rear fan can be adjusted in height to alter airflow, with around 30mm of adjustment available.
The main side panel is thin steel and feels the light and flimsy side. It comes with an acrylic Window for viewing that makes up pretty much the entirety of the side panel – giving users access to view their components when in use. The side panels can easily be removed by unscrewing the thumbscrews found at the rear of the case. The screws feel robust and well made, with little to no effort required to unscrew them. The screws sit inside a bit of recess (captive) in the side panel so that you won’t be losing them anytime soon – this isn’t exactly a premium feature, but one I enjoy nonetheless.
Because the side panel is supported by rails on the case’s interior, removing it is simple. Remove the side panel by sliding it back. Unfortunately, the primary side panel does not provide any noise reduction. The back, on the other hand, has a lot to give. As a result, we’ll let them go.
The rear panel is a plain black steel panel with no decorative elements. However, it’s not a huge problem since most people never see this aspect. However, this allows for some rudimentary cable management. If users wish to utilize enthusiast-level components, the rear panel has a massive piece of noise dampening material, which helps muffle a lot of noise. Like the main side panel, the Panel on the Back may be removed using the thumbscrews on the back.
The top of the case is, once again, reasonably uncharacteristic. It offers Design fundamentals with a removable top panel equipped with more sound dampening. The top panel can be popped off by pushing the holds from the Inside of the case. This is a little annoying if truth be told, but an option if you want to fit radiators or other fans. If this is your aim, you will have to sacrifice some of the sound dampening as the roof cover offers zero airflow holes whatsoeverorts, as well as the reset and start buttons are located on the front of the top. The start button has a nice tactile feel, and it feels far better than cheaper versions, which is a significant positive for me. A microphone and headphone connector and power and reset buttons, and two USB 3.0 ports are available to users.
From the Inside
The interior of this case is where things start to get interesting, particularly if you want to create a mini-ITX water-cooled PC.
Up to two 120mm or 140mm, fans may be mounted in the front of the case, with one Fractal Design Dynamic GP-14 fan already fitted. It can also accept a 1 x 120/240mm or 1 x 140/280mm radiator, with a maximum width of 147mm and a maximum length of 312mm. There have previously been concerns with fitting radiators in this case, with some of the mounting screws obstructing the dust filter’s proper placement. However, we have yet to be inconvenienced in this way.
When it comes to the roof, customers have other fan, and radiator installation alternatives after the vent cover are removed. Like the other panels in this example, the ceiling is made of Fractal’s sound-dampening ModuVent technology. By removing the roof, you’ll have access to the mounting holes, which, unlike most cases in this price range, allow for positioning modification. The mounting holes have been positioned off-center to prevent your fans from interfering with other components. The roof can accommodate two 120/140mm fans or one 120/240mm radiator, with a maximum height of 35mm to guarantee that the RAM, CPU Cooler, and motherboard VRM covers are not obstructed.
The base of this case allows for a maximum PSU length of 160mm while still allowing for a water-cooling reservoir to be installed. Users will also discover an SSD mount on the bottom of the chassis, which may house a 2.5′′ drive or a water pump. On the case’s base, you’ll be able to attach a 120mm fan or radiator. The radiator, however, is restricted to a maximum width of 125mm. An easy-to-remove dust filter is located under the base and can be taken out from the front and cleaned with reasonable ease.
This case provides enough room for cooling and cable management when it comes to the motherboard mounting tray. As previously stated, the enclosure is restricted to Mini-ITX motherboards. Hence M-ATX motherboards will not fit. Grommets are used on all cable management passthrough holes, making the construction process more accessible and making the finished product appear cleaner. Users may access their CPU cooler from the rear through a wide opening in the motherboard tray, while reservoir mount spots can be located towards the front of the chassis.
The case itself can house a GPU with a max length of 315mm, giving you many options to choose from. Unfortunately, however, if you are going to look to equip your build with enthusiast-level components, you will have to find a GPU that only takes up two Slots for Expansion. A 2.5 slot card may work, but it might cause complications.
The Panel on the Back
Removing The Panel on the Back unveils many cable management and hard drive mounting positions. On the left-hand side, there is a fairly sizable gap between the motherboard tray and The Panel on the Back, meaning if you do have any cables left over, you’ll have a bit of space to manage them in.
On the rear of the reservoir, the mount location is a 3.5′′ hard drive mount. It’s made in the form of a hinge and may be unscrewed and removed with ease. Two more hard drive mounts and Fractal Design’s characteristic straps for keeping cables tidy are located on the rear of the motherboard tray.
Another great feature that I haven’t touched upon yet is the tiny grooves and cutouts Fractal has designed the case for ease of building. For example, on the front where the Slots for Expansion lie, the edge of the case has been cut away where your screwdriver lies when removing a GPU. Furthermore, the same design consideration has been used at the back where the CPU power cable runs. It’s little things like this that set Fractal Design apart, in my opinion.
The features included with a case are one of the most essential selling elements. Of course, when dealing with a Mini-ITX case, this notion holds much more weight. However, when it comes to constructing cases with features and advantages, Fractal is unrivaled.
Below, I’ve highlighted the most significant characteristics that this little Mini-ITX case offers.
Design — Let’s get started on the plan. The Nano S comes with everything you’ll need to neatly manage your cables and cool your little setup with water. The inside design of this case has been thoroughly considered by Fractal Design to make your life simpler. You’ll be able to water cool this construct with confidence thanks to a slew of easy-to-reach mounting points. The inside contains well-placed cable management passthrough holes to keep everything appearing orderly, and wall panels are simple to remove, clean, and personalize.
Water cooling — As previously said, water cooling is one of the Nano S’s most notable characteristics, as it is not available in many cases of this form factor or size. Therefore, if you want to design a very complex custom loop, this case enables you to do so. I also think water-cooling in a case this size looks fantastic, so give it a go if you have the opportunity.
Airflow & Fans – One of the issues many cases of this price point and size have is a lack of airflow and cooling. Luckily, this isn’t a problem with this Mini-ITX case. Fractal Design has given users the option to mount up to 6 fans, in this case, providing decent airflow to all your components. The two pre-installed fans that come with this case do an excellent job of creating enough airflow right out the box.
Last but not least, we have the construction procedure. Thankfully, because of their well-thought-out designs, all Fractal Design cases have been a delight to construct. The Nano S has a lot in common with the Nano. This is going to be a lot of fun to build.
I put together a straightforward construction for the Nano S using some spare parts from our NZXT 210 case build, and it went incredibly quickly — as I’d anticipated. Everything fit together well, and the grommeted passthrough holes helped keep the inside looking tidy. Unfortunately, we couldn’t set up a bespoke loop this time since all of the pieces were needed for a larger project we’re working on. Still, after the construction was finished, it was clear that there was plenty of area for water-cooling and radiators.
Overall, I can’t knock the Nano S defined by fractal design. One bit when it comes to the build process. Fractal Design has, and always will, impress me when it comes to its case designs.
So, to wrap up our Nano S review, we’ll provide our last views and comments on the case from comparison and financial standpoint. We’ll also address the main question that many Mini-ITX enthusiasts will have: is this worth my money?
Let’s first take a look at the price. The Define Nano S currently retails for around $60, which I feel is hugely Excellent value for money straight off the bat. There are two things I look for when selecting a case for my next upgrade. One is how easy the point is to build in, and the other is airflow. If a patient has these two must-have design features, it will be worthy of my consideration. Thankfully, the Nano S excels in these two areas.
We’ve previously discussed both of these points, so that I won’t go over them again, but I was blown away by how simple this was to implement—another fantastic work by Fractal.
The quality of this construction is something we didn’t discuss at great length. There are many cases available for approximately $60, the most of them of poor build quality. But that isn’t the situation here. The Nano S has a solid, solid feel about it. When you combine this with the other advantages listed above, it’s easy to see how valuable this case is.
The Nano S provides the perfect housing for your Mini-ITX build, offering enthusiast-level component compatibility (for the most part), excellent airflow, and Support for water cooling. Unfortunately, comparing this to other Mini-ITX cases is like night and day. It won’t be for everyone, and I’ll explain why.
When it comes to Mini-ITX setups, this case is on the larger side. Many people in the small form factor market will undoubtedly think this is too huge. However, Fractal seems to have attempted to develop a case that combines the best of both worlds. Despite having a smaller form factor than M-ATX, it can still accommodate hefty components seen in larger projects.
But, in the end, this, in my judgment, adds nothing to the case. On the contrary, it’s a well-designed case with all the features you’d expect in a mini-ITX setup.
So, if you’re looking for an excellent mini-ITX build that offers superb value for money, extensive component compatibility, decent airflow, and supports water-cooling. Look no further; the Nano S is defined by fractal design. Have you covered?
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