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Fractal North XL PC Case Review

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The Fractal North XL has emerged as a direct response to community feedback, amplifying the beloved features of its predecessor, the Fractal North, with a substantial focus on accommodating high-performance computing needs. This new iteration is not merely a size upgrade; it's a thoughtfully reimagined space designed to support the latest in PC hardware advancements. 


A standout feature of the Fractal North XL is its enhanced cooling capacity. Recognizing the trend towards more powerful and heat-generating components, the XL version is engineered to facilitate superior airflow and cooling solutions. It achieves this through additional fan mounts, including space for up to 9 x 120mm fans or 8 x 140mm fans, offering unprecedented airflow potential. This is complemented by the ability to house larger radiators, up to 420mm or 360mm at the front, and 280mm or 360mm at the top, catering to both air and liquid cooling enthusiasts. 


The case's design also emphasizes ease of use and versatility. Cable management is a focal point, with increased cut-out options ensuring a neat and organized build. These cut-outs are strategically placed to support extensive cable routing possibilities, essential for both aesthetic appeal and optimal airflow. The inclusion of a pre-wired fan controller in the XL variant further streamlines the setup process, offering a plug-and-play solution for fan management. 


Compatibility with larger components is another critical upgrade. The Fractal North XL is designed to accommodate larger E-ATX motherboards, providing the foundation for high-end builds that require extensive connectivity and expansion capabilities. This is complemented by the case's ability to support larger graphics cards and coolers, ensuring that users can install top-tier hardware without compromises. 


Despite its enhanced size, the Fractal North XL maintains a sleek and unobtrusive design, with features like a mesh side panel for improved airflow without sacrificing aesthetic appeal. The case also continues Fractal's tradition of using quality materials, such as real wood accents, adding a touch of elegance and durability. 


Priced at approximately $170, the Fractal North XL represents a significant investment in the realm of PC cases. However, its comprehensive feature set, focusing on cooling efficiency, component compatibility, and ease of use, makes it a compelling choice for enthusiasts looking to build a high-performance system with futureproofing in mind. 


After completing a build in it, the main thing I've noticed is how much size matters. Going bigger really makes a difference because it gives you more options for parts, and it's way more forgiving. If you're not super experienced with building PCs, this is a big plus. It means even if you don't get all the compatibility stuff perfect, you're probably still going to be okay. 


For the more seasoned builders, working with this case might feel a bit mundane. Its straightforward rectangular shape, typical cable management paths, and usual spots for fans and radiators don't offer much in the way of excitement. It is boring in a good way, but boring nonetheless.  


With that being said, I do appreciate the extra cable cut-outs and the placement and secure installation of the grommets, which keeps in place without slipping, even when you're pulling cables through. The case gets a bit trickier at the bottom, especially with a full-size ITX motherboard that requires more effort to connect the front header and audio connectors. This wouldn't be an issue with an M-ITX board, though. 


With our test bench using AIR cooler, we were not able to install the side fan bracket in its top most position. However, we managed to place it near the GPU, directing fresh air towards it. So, if you're using a large card or cooler, it's wise to verify compatibility first. 


Fractal has thoughtfully included a cutout at the top of the case, designed for a fill port of a custom water loop, which is a pretty cool feature. The case is spacious enough to accommodate an impressive custom loop setup. As previously noted, the fan headers come pre-wired, and there are also fan pass-throughs allowing for the addition of a few more fans. However, it's important to be cautious not to overload the headers. 


Regarding cable management there's ample room at the top for a power cable, especially when no fans or radiator installed there. It might get a bit trickier when those spaces are occupied. We will test that out in upcoming build video. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it. 


The bottom chamber next to the power supply is surprisingly spacious for tucking away extra cables, which is handy. However, I'd suggest sorting out the PSU cables first since the cutouts for lower cables, like the audio or front IO, are on the side and might get blocked if you don't. 


With the case being on the larger side and capable of housing more gear, it would've been nice to see bigger Velcro straps at the back for better cable management. The ideal setup would be hoop and loop style fasteners that really let you snug the cables up against the chassis for a tidy look. 


When you put this case side by side with others, like the standard North, the size difference really stands out. The XL case offers significantly more space, making it a more flexible option to build in. Given that this series is relatively new for Fractal, it seems they might not have followed the same sizing conventions as their other lineups. To those familiar with Fractal's offerings, the XL might seem like their usual large cases. As compared to others – North XL is more like standard Meshify case in size and North standard is more like Meshify Compact so don’t be deterred by the XL moniker. 


Now on to our benchmarking. Here we put this case through our thermal stress test and in our full fan speed test we found that it performed just two degrees cooler on the CPU than non XL variant while being about 1 dBa louder at 47.7. Because it is using 140mm fans, that noise is loud but not horrible. 


In a noise-normalized test at 40 dBa, the case maintained a 1-degree cooler temperature for the CPU and was 1 degree warmer for the GPU, which is quite similar in performance. The fact that it achieves this with an extra fan in the mix is commendable. 


This brings us to our final thoughts. While building in this case might not be the most exciting for me personally, it stands out as a very contemporary case packed with great features. It supports a wide range of coolers and large GPUs and has an appealing exterior. The price is on the higher side, but it's justified by the inclusion of 3 fans, a fan controller, and an attractive wooden accent on the front. I'm eager to start my own build in this case, so feel free to drop any questions below. We will work to address those in the upcoming video. 


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