Fractal Design Define Nano S Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Outside

If last week’s NZXT Manta was surprising in styling, the Fractal Design Define Nano S is a return to the more conventional. By appearance, it is the shrunken version of the Fractal Design Define S. You might call it a fridge case, but due to its smaller size, I do not see the refrigerator resemblance as much. In fact, I think its sleek and simple styling is excellent here, especially with its size in mind. As this is meant to hold a mini-ITX system, the compactness of the case keeps in line with the internal components. The design may be too simple for some, but I really like it. Fractal Design may not have taken huge leaps of faith in making this case, but it does align with their Scandinavian build appearances.

The front panel features a nice brushed metal-like look, just like its older brother, but it is still plastic here. The side panels are made out of some sort of ferrous metal, which is probably steel. They have a nice surface with only a small amount of grit to make the panels easy to hold. The left side panel also has a relatively big side window, revealing all internally to the user. This does mean you should be more careful in your cable management, but we will look more into this during our installation. At the top, there is the front I/O connectors; exactly in the same location as the Define S. In addition, like the Define S, the Nano S has very little Fractal Design branding. While you may think this sacrifices brand recognition, I think Fractal Design is one of the few manufacturers who place a higher priority on simplicity rather than just getting people to know who they are. I commend all companies who remove their logos for a cleaner look, and Fractal Design is no different. Otherwise, the rest of the case follows the same black look you see today. In addition to the windowed version, a non-window Nano S is also available.

As the Fractal Design Define Nano S is classified as a mini-ITX case, it is quite a bit smaller than most mid-towers we see here at APH Networks. Even so, it is still larger than some of the slimmer cases in the same form factor. At a height of 330mm, width of 203mm, and depth of 400mm, this case is smaller than the Manta in all dimensions. Even so, the internal space is still quite adequate for larger components. At a weight of 4.6kg, this is approximately only two-thirds the weight of the NZXT Manta, but you will see where some of the weight comes from as we continue this physical look.

Taking off the front panel, and you can see Fractal Design has done some interesting things. In order to actually take off the front panel, you must first remove the bottom air ventilation filter by sliding it out the front. Next from the bottom, you can pop off the front panel. It is held to the case by several plastic pegs. On the back of the front panel, you can see the first signs of Fractal Design's sound dampening material. The original Define S actually did not have any of this material on the front, and this is a good addition. However, like the Define S, there is no integrated fan controller here, but this omission is not entirely surprising. The front panel also has intake ventilation on the sides, which is where the air is drawn in from. Behind the panel is another plastic air filter. It sits on the front frame with some plastic pegs and two magnets. You can remove this by pulling on the right side of the filter, releasing the magnetic hold, and sliding it out of its plastic pegs. On the right side of the front, you will notice a few more ventilation holes, and this is for the storage drives sitting on the backside of the case. Finally behind the filter at the front is a place to put some intake fans. Two 120mm or 140mm fans can be slotted on the rails here. Fractal Design has included a single Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fan out of the box.

At the top of the case, we have a grid of various inputs and outputs. From left to right, we have two 3.5mm audio jacks; one for headphones and one for a microphone. Next to it is a small reset button. In the middle is a large power button with quite a bit of actuation travel. In fact, I was almost surprised how far you have to press into the button to activate it. Finally, we have two USB 3.0 ports. While they are not marked with the standard blue connections you see on other cases, I can assure you these are USB 3.0. Underneath these ports is a small plastic divot, which is where the LED power indicator is located. Finally, at the top, you can see Fractal Design's ModuVent system. This single plastic piece allows users to either pop it off when used for cooling intake, or to keep it on for a quieter system. The ModuVent also has another layer of their sound insulation material behind for more noise suppression

The backside of the Fractal Design Define Nano S is pretty standard. On the left, we have the motherboard shield cutout. Beside it is the air exhaust area, where a single Fractal Design Dynamic GP12 sits. This place is capable of holding a 120mm fan or radiator. Beneath the motherboard opening are two expansion port covers. As mITX motherboards only have one PCIe expansion slot, only having two slots is quite normal. Both of these brackets are tool-free, and are held in by thumbscrews. By now you can tell this is a bottom mounted power supply case, so at the bottom we have an ATX-size cutout for the power supply. As the Define Nano S has adequate room for a larger power supply, this means you will not be limited to an SFX power supply for this build. I have to say after using a case with some LED lighting at the back, it would be nice to see a rear lighting solution for the I/O ports, even if it may not be used daily. This type of convenience is a nice gesture, but its omission is not a huge deal either.

At the bottom of the case, we can see how the Fractal Design Define Nano S stands up. Four silver feet protrude from the bottom, with rubber padding underneath. This reduces the vibration created between the floor and the case, which is good to see. I will say the feet are not as effective as ensuring adequate airflow in comparison to some other solutions, especially on plushier carpets. Thus I would recommend using the case on some sort of hard surface if given the opportunity. As already mentioned, you can see the full mesh air filter. Spanning the entire floor, it is intended to protect the power supply and the rest of the components in the Fractal Design Define Nano S from dust particles getting in. It is conveniently removable from the front, as alluded to earlier.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion