Today we're going north with Fractal Design and their North case. This is a Scandinavian-inspired design and it's got some wood, so let's get it out and have a look.
As I said, it comes with some wood. So this comes with white oak on the front, and this particular model comes with a tinted glass side panel. There's also an alternative with a mesh side panel which also supports additional fans for intake or extraction if you really wanted to. And it comes with a little bracket on the inside. This layout is always just glass. This is more like a mid-size case. You can sort of fit a full-size ATX motherboard in it, and a full-size ATX power supply, but it is still a bit more compact than, for example, the Torrent case.
The side panel comes off by just unscrewing little captive thumb nuts at the back, and just pulling it out. It slides right out and gives you access to the whole case. It's a pretty standard design. We've got some grommets for the cabling on the side here, we've got a few big holes at the bottom for cables and a larger hole at the top here as well and there's a lot of places to cable tie for the backside. I also like how Fractal has labelling for the sizes of the motherboards. So you've got the ATX, micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX and they're labelled up so you can actually tell what's what.
One thing I immediately noticed - the feet on this case are actually really tall. So you actually can place this on a carpet. I don't recommend placing this kind of case, or any case, on top of thick carpet, but this gives you a bit more flexibility if you have to leave it on the carpet to give it a bit more airflow for your power supply at the bottom. The top panel also pulls back and comes off, and it actually comes with a little leather strap. It's a nice little touch and it makes it look kind of neat with the rest of it.
But there's no actual dust filter at the top. You've got one at the back for the power supply, another one behind the front panel and one more at the back.
Let’s check out the wood. So you can see from the back, the wood is actually glued into the plastic. It is actual real wood, not some sort of plastic painted wood.
Another thing that sets the North case apart is its compatibility with a variety of cooling options. It comes with two pre-installed fans, and you can add up to six more depending on the version you choose. The mesh panel version even allows you to add two more fans on the side bracket. This means that you can customise the case to suit your cooling needs, whether you want to run a quiet system or push the limits with a high-performance setup.
Overall, I think the Fractal Design North case is a great option for anyone looking for a high-quality, versatile case with a unique design. It offers a number of features and cooling options, and the attention to detail is impressive. Whether you're building a new system or looking to upgrade your existing setup, the North case is definitely worth considering.
With the build complete, I want to mention a few observations. First of all, I am a big fan of the middle standoff to hold the motherboard in place. I could put it in with a heavy air cooler pre-installed and without any help screw things in while the case is in an upright position. I also really like the grey tint of the internals in this case, it looks somewhat smart. Do note that this interior colour is only for the white version. The black case comes all black.
Space wise there is plenty for a full size ATX motherboard but for our performance testing we are using an ITX system in order for it to be compatible with most cases.
At the back there is plenty of space to hide the cables even without using any of the tie-down points which this case has a lot of.
Also since this case comes with two multi drive cages below, you could fill them up and leave all of your cables above where there is still plenty of room. While we are on the subject of drives, the multi drive cages support up to two drives each. If you want to put in more drives then there is also an option to buy a third cage.
For those who don’t really need hard drives, instead would prefer installing a larger power supply - then you can either remove both sleds or take one out and move the other one around based on 4 mounting positions.
With the physical overview done, let's talk performance. For this we have our new refined testing set-up which includes professional Sound Level Meter and new more consistent testing methodology. With this test bench we used Intel i7 8700K overclocked to 4.2 GHz and Radeon 6900 XT running at stock.
The fans on the cooler and GPU were tweaked to hit 40 dBA target which would be a very reasonable loudness for the system to run on an ongoing basis. To be honest, the actual equipment doesn't really matter as we just need to have consistent heat output from components to get us good repeatable results, but we wanted something that does produce considerable heat. Do bear in mind - temperatures are shown in degrees above ambient.
In the noise normalised test when we compare Fractal North to an Open Bench it does run hotter, but not by much. There is a 5 degrees difference on the CPU and 4 degrees on the GPU. When we hone in on the GPU hotspot we also find Fractal North is 5 degrees hotter. This is not surprising as in the open test bench there is almost unlimited supply of unobstructed fresh air.
It includes two 140mm fans that can actually go really fast - we put them to 100% speed and here the temperatures dropped and now are even with the Open Bench on both CPU and GPU, but still have the same 5 degree higher temperature on the GPU hotspot. This is all at a cost of 8.4 dBA. While I would consider 40 dBa very reasonable - at 48 it gets pretty loud and I would say it is only acceptable to run for a short period of time to get the most performance out of your system like rendering a file or compiling some sort of application. But this still shows the potential of this system.
With this being said, let me sum it all up. It is a somewhat different take on a generally pretty plain formfactor. I could just see Fractal engineers trying to make an efficient case at a reasonable price and someone from the design team suggesting adding some wood to it for a more Nordic feel. I think they did a good job at this. The case actually looks almost like a fashion statement which may be why it has a 150 USD price tag. While you do get two fans and a fan hub, there isn’t anything too fancy in here and it is pricey for a generally basic case. At the same time I could see this kind of case getting a pretty high wife approval rating and fitting well with most household designs.
What do you guys think about it? Also which one do you prefer - white case with oak or black with walnut? Let us know in the comments below.