In December Fractal introduced their new ION SFX PSUs and at that time I speculated that Fractal having a renewed interest in SFX could potentially also mean a new SFX case in the future. I probed our Fractal rep with no luck as well but not long ago they reached out about a new case called the Era ITX and guess what, it has SFX support. I was already in, but after seeing the pictures I was even more interested as they had multiple color options and a top panel that was made out of tempered glass or wood with the wood type depending on which color option you went with! The Era ITX is a 16-liter capacity case that can fit ATX or SFX PSUs, up to a 240mm radiator, and full-length video cards. Not necessarily all at once, but I will get into that here in just a minute.

Product Name: Fractal Era ITX

Review Sample Provided by: Fractal Design

Written by: Wes Compton

Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE

 

Specifications

Color options

Silver – White Oak
Titanium Gray – Walnut
Carbon – Tempered Glass
Gold – Tempered Glass
Cobalt – Tempered Glass

Case Material

Aluminum panels, steel frame

Motherboard compatibility

Mini-ITX

Power supply type

ATX, SFX-L, SFX

External 5.25" drive bays

N/A

3.5” drive support

SFX PSU: 2 HDDs or 1 HDD + 2 SSDs

ATX PSU: 1 HDD

2.5” drive support

SFX PSU: 4 SSDs or 2 SSDs + 1 HDD

ATX PSU: 2 SSDs

Expansion slots

2

Front ports

1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C

2 x USB 3.0

3.5 mm CTIA combined audio/mic

Total fan mounts

5

Front fan

N/A

Rear fan

1 x 80 mm (1 x SSR3 80mm included)

Top fan

2 x 120 mm

Bottom fan

2 x 140 mm (without 2-slot GPU)

Dust filters

Bottom intake

Side intakes

Top exhaust

Front radiator

N/A

Top radiator

120/240 mm or 2 x 120 mm

(max 125 mm width, 67 mm thickness w/ fans, dependent on PSU position/type)

Rear radiator

N/A

Bottom radiator

N/A

PSU max length

200 mm

GPU max length

295 mm (210/190 mm with low-mounted SFX/ATX PSU)

GPU max width

125 mm

GPU max thickness

47 mm

CPU cooler max height

120 mm without side-mounted 3.5” HDD

70 mm recommended (91 mm max) with side-mounted HDD

Cable routing space

N/A

Cable routing grommets

N/A

Fixed Velcro straps

Yes

Tool-less push-to-lock

Both side panels

Captive thumbscrews

None

Case dimensions (L x W x H)

325 x 166 x 310 mm

Case dimensions w/o feet/protrusions/screws

325 x 166 x 307 mm

Net weight

BK/BU/CHP versions: 4.019 kg

GY/SI version: 4.129 kg

 

 


Packaging

The packaging for the Era ITX was smaller than the last Fractal case that I had come in. But it has the same look. Fractal keeps things simple with brown boxes and no color or multi-color prints. Everything is printed in black including the line drawing of the case on the front of the box. The model name is in the top right corner and it wraps around to the back where it is up top as well. The front does have a small box for the color of the model with a sticker in the color of the case. Then around on the side, it has a specification listing which is nice for anyone shopping in retail. The back of the box has another line drawing, but this time it is smaller and it is blown up to show each piece of the case. Above that, they talk about a few of its main features including its modularity which is obvious with the number of components in the picture lol.

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When you open the box up they have put a box right at the top with all of the accessories. This is interesting because normally most cases only have a few things and they can fit inside of the case. Under that, you will find the Era ITX wrapped up in a foam bag and then sitting in between two foam trays to hold it away from the edges of the box and keep it safe in shipping.

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Then once you get the case out, you have a bag with the instruction manual inside as well as a paper explaining how to handle returns. I will talk more about the instructions later. But I have to say that Fractal did a great job with them, don’t skip over them.

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The accessories box has a thick layer of foam padding. Then in the middle, there are two of the swappable top panels. All of the Era ITX cases come with the mesh panel but depending on the color of the case you go with the other will be different. I hope that they also sell them independently as well to let people change things up even more. Our Titanium Gray model came with a Walnut top panel and it is the only model with Walnut. Silver has White Oak, then the Carbon, Gold, and Cobalt all come with a tempered glass top panel. In addition to the top panels, there is a small box with the other accessories. It has a picture diagram with each screw pictured along with the quality. You also get 5 small zip ties as well.

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Outside

So the Era ITX comes in at 325 mm deep 166 mm wide and 310 mm tall. SFF cases are normally compared by their liters for simplicity and the Era ITX comes in at 16 liters which isn’t in the same range as some of the community designed cases like the Sentry 2.0 at 7 liters. Even the NCase is 12.5  liters but 16 liters isn’t bad for a commercially produced case that also has support for a 240mm radiator. Most of Fractal Designs cases are boxy and black with a focus on noise or with a few of their cases they have full mesh fronts for better airflow. The Era ITX is a big departure for them aesthetically but it does still somehow have the same clean and simple design that they are known for. It is an aluminum case with some slight sweeping curves, especially at the top and bottom where it curves out. On the color front, other than the optional mesh fronts for their Meshify C Fractal doesn’t use much color other than their normal black with lots of white accents. The Era ITX comes in a few different colors.  The black is called carbon then they have a silver for relatively normal colors. Then they have a gold which I have been seeing more of lately, the titanium grey that I have here, and an amazing looking cobalt blue. All of the color options look great and I think the Cobalt is my favorite but this Titanium Gray is my second favorite. I am surprised they didn’t also include a white as well when that is a relatively normal color and white finally has traction for getting matching components like motherboards, video cards, memory, and even water coolers or heatsinks.

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The side view of the Era ITX does show how it bows out at the top and bottom but in addition to that, you can see a bend in the middle along with ventilation holes cut into the side panels along the same angle as the bend. There is also ventilation at the bottom of the case on both sides as well. Without a window option, there isn’t any way to see what is inside and the aluminum side panels also have no visible screws or mounting holes.

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The front has a really cool wavy look that shows how the left side has its main curve out at the bottom and the right has it's at the top. The front also has that same angled bend from corner to corner as well. Front panel I/O is all on the left side starting from the middle down. The top is a power button with a status LED at the top. Below that is a proper USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C connection for speeds up to 10GBps assuming your motherboard has the header for it. Then below that are two normal USB 3.1 Type-A ports. The audio is combined into one 3.5mm headphone and microphone port.

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Around on the back, you can see the waviness as well with the same lip on the bottom left and top right as the front. I love that even the back panel matches the same titanium gray color and back here is where you will find our first Fractal Design logo as well. It sits below the fan vent which goes next to the rear I/O hole. This is an 80mm fan mount and as you can see with the vertical slots it can be moved up or down depending on where you need it. Below the Fractal Design logo is the power plug, as you can see the PSU is mounted inside of the case so they run a cord to the back. Then below that are just two PCI brackets which are black with vents in them. They are held in place with two screws along with a color matched bracket that has one screw holding it. The lip that goes around the back is plastic and near the PCI brackets there is one gap for screw access, there is another above the bottom screw as well, but it is a hole, not a slot so it isn’t visible.

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Without a doubt, one of the most unique parts about the Era ITX is the top of the case. I mentioned earlier than depending on what color of case you get that the top is different. Well, they use magnets for swappable top panels. You get a full mesh panel for proper airflow, especially if you are using a top-mounted radiator. Then there is also a wood or tempered glass panel for styling. The titanium gray model comes with a wood panel, specifically a maple which looks amazing. Silver comes with white oak and the rest all come with a blacked-out tempered glass top panel. The wood, in my opinion, is unique and looks much better than the glass. The wood panel has a metal plate on the bottom that allows it to stick to the top with the magnets and it does have a little raise to it to still allow for limited airflow. Under the top panel, the top also has a removable filter as well which is also held in with magnets.

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The bottom of the Era ITX, on the other hand, is a lot simpler. This is a plastic panel and it is also color-matched to the color of the case. There is a sticker on the one end with your model and serial numbers. Beyond that, they went really basic for the feet which are wide foam feet.

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Inside

Most ITX cases don’t have too much going on, but the Era ITX is a little more interesting because Fractal has integrated a surprising amount of modularity. This means you have a lot of flexibility in the components you can pick out, but it does also add a little more to the build. Once you first get a look inside of the case there are a few brackets that you may or may not end up using so initially it looks really cramped. Not that it isn’t cramped, but it looks worse than it actually is. This is because of the hard drive/SSD bracket that covers the entire left side of the main opening as well as the PSU brackets on the right. The left hard drive bracket is interesting because it does have mounting holes for two 2.5 SSDs or one 3.5-inch drive which offers options. The full interior is a dark grey powder-coated finish with a slight texture and they stuck with that same color and finish on all of the different exterior color versions and it looks good with them all.

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The back of the interior doesn’t actually have much going on. There is a gap between the side panel and this motherboard tray, but it isn’t very thick. The motherboard tray does have a large CPU bracket access hole but it isn’t orientated high enough for some AMD boards. The left has a large opening the full height and there is an opening at the top as well which depending on if you run water cooling or not can leave a lot of room or just a little room.

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The side panels, like I mentioned earlier are all aluminum which is nice. For the hidden mounting, both panels have pegs sticking out of them that pop into the case so they can be pulled off from the top. Each side panels pegs have two long legs and two short with rubber mounts. The side panels also have removable intake filters on them which combined with the top filter and the hidden bottom filters makes the entire Era ITX filtered with cleanable filters no matter what orientation you lay your fans out. The only exception to that is the rear fan which comes installed as an exhaust. 

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The main portion of the case that allows for the modularity is on the right side. There are two brackets and both come installed from the factory. They are both power supply brackets and you will only use one or the other depending on the layout you want to go with. The top is for an ATX power supply and the bottom is for SFX. The SFX bracket has an additional bracket attached that is also removable which can mount a 3.5 or 2.5 SSD or hard drive. I personally prefer to run SFX PSUs in all of my SFF builds, even when they call for ATX just to have the space. But having the ATX option is nice. But just know, what PSU you go with will determine everything else about your build. When running an ATX PSU you can’t also include a 240mm AIO in the build but you can still go with a full-length video card. If you have an SFX-L PSU you can pick between a 240mm AIO or a full-length card and a standard SFX PSU will allow both.

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I’m sure you might be wondering how the different PSU sizes affect both the AIO mounted at the top and a full-length GPU at the bottom. It is because those mounts have 5 different mounting heights thanks to the 6 holes on the right and the five at the back of the case. Depending on what components you run you can move it up or down to get the most out of the space. I’ll talk more about it, but the instruction manual does a great job of showing some of your options including the possibility of not running a dedicated GPU at all and mounting additional fans at the bottom for high airflow. The front also has all of the front I/O cables running out of it so you have to work around those as well. The plastic cover that protects the front I/O PCB is also removable which can be needed to get your long video card in sometimes.

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With all of the brackets removed, the Era ITX looks a lot more spacious inside. You can see that on the left the motherboard mounts towards the bottom and the standoffs are built-in. The rear exhaust fan is preinstalled and can be adjusted up or down but the power plug is also here and sticks out a LOT. I really wish this was right-angled for a better fit, but I do understand that it is a component that isn’t normally custom made. I mentioned bottom-mounted fans, you can see that the bottom does have some openings cut into it along with mounting holes for 140mm fans. The vents along the sides on each side of the bottom is where that air goes/comes from and those do also have built-in removable filters. It is hard to see but there are tiny tabs on each side to pull them up for cleaning. Over on the right side, under where the power supplies mount Fractal also included a built-in Velcro scrap with their logo on it.

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I mentioned earlier that the Era ITX has a Type-C connection on the front panel. That means inside it has the new style Gen 2 plug as well. I also want to point out how nice all of the cables are. The normal USB 3 cable is split in half and has two flat cables and the Gen 2 cable also has a flat cable making them all a lot easier to work with. They are also all blacked out which matches the dark gray interior.

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Installation and Performance

For me, half of the performance of a case is how easy or hard it is to work with when you are building a system in it. It is only a one time thing, but it is also one of the biggest areas where cases have improved over the last 10/15 years. A lot of that goes out the window when it comes to true SFF cases. There are lots of larger ITX cases that are easy to build in, but when you start looking at your case size by the number of liters it is like the Era ITX is looked at. The room inside starts getting tighter and tighter. Going into this one I was really curious how all of the modularity would work out as well. One of the big helps, and frankly a big surprise, was how much Fractal helped things right from the start with their instructions. I’ve had some cases come with basically no instructions but on top of normal instructions Fractal stands out here because they went farther by showing how to layout each of the modular configurations. They also have a section of cable management tips where they show you how to run the wires. The only instructions that I have seen similar to this were from the Sentry 2.0 case. Even with simple things like installing the video card they give you tips like removing the front I/O PCB shield to help with getting long cards in.

With all of that information, I picked out our components and jumped in. I originally planned on using the Asus ROG Impact but when using the riser card for an M.2 drive the power cable on the back of the Era interfered. So I switched to a Gigabyte X470 board and set out to build in the Era. For a power supply, I had a standard SFX but decided to try out Fractals' own SFX PSU that recently came out, being an SFX-L it did mean I had to go with a shorter video card but I have the EVGA RTX 2060 KO. For CPU power I went with the AMD Ryzen 2600 and Corsairs H100i RGB Platinum for cooling. I could have gone with an air cooler and been happy but with 240mm radiator support in the Era, I wanted to see how well it would work.

To get things started I installed I pulled all of the brackets out of the Era ITX. Obviously, with both ATX and SFX PSU brackets I wouldn’t need both but it also opened up room for working. Then I installed our WD Blue M.2 drive on the motherboard in the GSkill memory. Then from there, I installed the motherboard, which went smoothly. It was easier after removing the rear fan, because it does stick out, but you can slip in it around it and with just four screws it is an easy install. From there I mounted the Corsair fans to the AIO and put the AMD brackets on then mounted it up top. There is room to slide left and right. I went more to the right to leave room for the cooling tubes to go around the rear fan. From there you can install your CPU if you haven’t already and the pump on to the CPU.

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Next, I picked out my PSU bracket and installed it on to the PSU and grabbed all of the PSU cables we would need. It is easier to connect them all with it out of the case. Then you mount the PSU, because of the AIO cooler and to keep the power cable from hitting the fans I had to install the PSU on the bottom setting. This is where a standard SFX PSU helps keep room for a full-length card.

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From there you still have to install the GPU and run the cables. It was easier to put the video card in after running wires. This is the hardest part of working in the Era ITX, Fractal does a great job of showing how to run wires but you don’t have much room behind the motherboard tray so plan on having to hide most of your cables up under the PSU. The front I/O cables were easy because they are all flat and flexible and the motherboard standoffs are taller so you can work behind the motherboard in that way as well. I ended up routing our 8 pin CPU across the back and I was worried that the door wouldn’t go back on but it did so there is a little room for flat cables. Installing the video card did cause a small challenge with getting at the PCI bracket screws. One has a small access hole which was high enough that some of my screwdrivers wouldn’t reach and the hole is small enough that my normal torque-controlled powered screwdriver bit fit but rubbed.

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The other half of performance for me is cooling, especially with ITX builds. The Ryzen 2600 and RTX 2060 KO are a mice mid to high build for a system like this but I was curious how warm things would get. As a worst-case, I ran AIDA64 with the CPU load and the GPU at the same time for a half-hour. Having room for that 240mm AIO really helps keep the CPU cool. The GPU did run warmer than it did in my open-air testbench testing from our initial review where it reached 63 degrees under load. Here it stayed at 71 which is warm but still useable. This was while the CPU and motherboard stayed at 49c.

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Here are thermal images of the case close and right after I opened the door up. You can see the heat from the AIO venting out of the top of the case but even on the outside, you can also see the video card heat soaking in that bottom left corner. The dual fans on the video card can pull in air from the bottom but the 2060 KO vents out of the top of the card when pushes that heat against the door. The side vent on the door does help some of that but I think if it ran the length of the video card slot it would be more effective.

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Overall and Final Verdict

I’ve been excited for a while with my theory that Fractal Design might be bringing out more ITX cases. Specifically, ITX cases that would use an SFX PSU like they introduced and the Era ITX is exactly that. But does it live up to the hype? Well first, I was really hoping it would be a new version of the Node 202, but this isn’t far off. The Era ITX is a more traditional tower design, but with that SFF footprint and at a capacity of 16 liters it isn’t small but it is once you also remember it also can fit a 240mm AIO and a full-length card if you for with a standard SFX PSU. CPU cooling is always a challenge with SFF cases, especially with CPUs putting out more and more heat and having AIO support is huge. The modular design allows you to use the Era ITX in multiple ways as well, if you want you can go for even more cooling or use an ATX PSU or put two 3.5 inch hard drives. You do have to plan depending on the direction you go though.

The styling is my favorite part of the case which is interesting because I normally like the clean and simple look that Fractal does and this is a departure from that in a lot of ways. The aluminum design is anodized in multiple color options, all of which look great, and it has a curvier design that normal for Fractal. To go with the colors, they also include a magnetic top panel that can be swapped out. The mesh is good for airflow but the maple wood that our titanium gray model comes with is amazing. The only downside is the wood top doesn’t offer nearly as much airflow so when you are running an AIO on the top you may have to swap it out to keep things running cooler.

The entire case is decked out with air filters on almost every intake or exhaust location and most are held in with magnets. You can open everything up without any tools and clean the filters. Working in the case wasn’t too bad for this small of a case, mostly thanks to the amazing instruction manual. I often ignore instructions, but they did a great job with these and they are worth the look. The only difficulty is with wire management, you don’t get your hand held as much as on some of today's new cases with wire tracks behind the motherboard and Velcro wire ties all over. You will have to actually work on cleaning things up a little “the old fashioned way” (with zip ties).

The other big elephant in the room is the price. The Era ITX isn’t a cheap case with an MSRP of $159.99. It is a premium case however being built from thick aluminum panels with relatively exotic bends. The other big cost is, of course, the swappable top panel. You are paying for two and one of them is tempered glass or in the case of the silver and titanium gray models, they used premium woods. Considering how many of the community designed cases are popular even with even higher prices I do still think there is a market for the Era ITX. But the price is going to chase off a few people as well. Altogether I do really dig what Fractal Design has going on here and the Era ITX without a doubt is going to show up on a few desks on Reddit's r/battlestations with its clean look and unique styling.

fv5recommended

Live Pricing: HERE

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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