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Fractal Design Era ITX Review – A Small Case With Big Ambitions

Rating: 8.5.

Over the years we have seen a number of cases from Fractal Design that we admire, including the new Define 7, however the new Mini-ITX Fractal Design Era takes the company’s design in a fresh direction. In addition to the solid engineering and design we have come to expect from Fractal, Era looks clean, stylish and minimalist with aluminium panels on four sides finished in bright Cobalt blue. Add in a dark smoked tempered glass top panel and you have a tiny PC case that deserves to take pride of place on your desk.

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Main features

  • Compact profile uniquely designed aluminium exterior available in five colours
  • Stylish top panel designed to match the case colour
  • Additional steel mesh top panel included for higher airflow
  • Versatile interior supporting professional grade hardware
  • Small, flexible and space efficient with volume just over 16 litres

Specification:

  • Motherboard support: Mini-ITX.
  • Expansion slots: 2.
  • Included fans: 1x SSR 80mm rear exhaust.
  • Fan mounts: 2x 120mm roof, 1x 80mm rear, 2x 140mm floor.
  • Radiator mounts: 120mm/240mm or 2x 120mm roof.
  • 5.25-inch optical drive bays: None.
  • Internal drive bays:
    • 1x 3.5-inch and 2x 2.5-inch with ATX PSU.
    • 2x 3.5-inch or 1x 3.5-inch and 2x 2.5-inch plus 2x 2.5-inch with SFX PSU.
  • Dimensions: 310mm H x 325mm D x 166mm W.

Fractal Design has gone all-out with the colour choices for Era. We received a sample in Cobalt with a dark tinted Tempered Glass top panel, however we would have been happy with the colour options in Gold, Silver or Titanium Grey. Those latter two choices come with a wood top panel, rather than glass, and they look very swish in the photos. Perhaps the fifth colour choice in Carbon i.e. Black is a bit dull but four out of five is a pretty good hit rate.

Building a test PC inside Fractal Design Era boils down to a series of choice. We went for an SFX-L power supply from Seasonic, a full length dual slot RTX 2080 graphics card and a 240mm Fractal Design Celsius S24 liquid cooler and we avoided hard drives and SSDs to free up space. The result was a PC that was tight for space and had a fair amount of cable clutter however it went together without any drama and merely required some attention to detail.

Testing

To put this case through its cooling paces we will be using a test system consisting of an AMD Ryzen 5 3600, RTX 2080 Founders Edition and an SSD. This system allows us to produce a substantial amount of heat and effectively test the Fractal Design Era ITX ‘s cooling capabilities. For stress testing we use AIDA64 to create the maximum amount of load our CPU and GPU are ever likely to see.

Test System:

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 (6 cores/12 threads, 4.2GHz)
  • CPU Cooler: Fractal Design Celsius S24
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte B450 I Aorus Pro WiFi
  • Memory: 32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo DDR4-3600MHz
  • Graphics card: Nvidia RTX 2080 Founders Edition 8GB
  • Power supply: Seasonic Focus Gold SGX-650 SFX-L
  • SSD: 240GB Toshiba RC100 M.2 NVMe
  • OS: Windows 10

Cooling Performance

Cooling Performance Overview

When we ran the Time Spy Stress test with the top Glass panel installed we saw temperatures that were on the toasty side, however they were acceptable. Swapping to the Mesh panel reduced the CPU temperature considerably.

AIDA64 pushed the CPU much harder and regardless of which top panel we used the temperature passed 90 degrees Celsius. That isn’t surprising in such a small case and reinforces the obvious point that tough workloads require high airflow. The Fractal Design Era is best suited to moderate workloads.

Closing Thoughts

We are very pleased that Fractal Design has worked on the looks of Era as that hasn’t always been a strong area for the company. While we admire the looks of this ITX case, we are more impressed by the design and the way you can configure it for air or liquid cooling. It makes a big difference to your build if you use a graphics card or instead plump for an APU. Despite the compact nature of Era you can easily work inside the case and gain access to the various brackets and mounts.

The only aspect of the design that we consider to be a problem is the power supply pass-through cable as it has to snake around the interior of the case, pass directly below the cooling you install in the top of the case and then line up correctly with your power supply plug. This was slightly tricky with our Seasonic Focus Gold SFX power supply and considerably more difficult with a full sized ATX Focus.

Overall this is a welcome addition to the Fractal Design family and we would be intrigued to see a larger version at some point, perhaps in MicroATX.

You can buy the Fractal Design Era in cobalt for £144.99 from Overclockers UK HERE.

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Pros:

  • Stylish good looks.
  • Very neat design and build quality.
  • Era offers an impressive array of internal configurations.
  • Fully filtered air flow.
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port on front I/O panel.

Cons:

  • Power supply pass-through cable is tricky to route.
  • Mesh top panel in our sample did not sit flat.
  • Anodised Cobalt finish on aluminium panels needs some work.

KitGuru says: Fractal Design Era is a serious case, despite its small size.

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Rating: 8.5.

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