Overall and Final Verdict
It’s always exciting to see more of the mainstream case brands bring out SFF cases, in this case Fractal was already in the market years ago with the Node 202, and the Ridge has improved on the styling and brought updated features into the same form factor. Both with the black and white color options the Fractal Ridge has a simple but good looking design that completely avoids looking like a “gamer” design. Who knew all it took was a little fabric to give a simple case a little style and help it look at home in your office or living room? Like with the Node 202 and the Sentry 2.0 as well, this “console-like” form factor has advantages by being able to fit in a TV stand or in a vertical orientation it has a small footprint that makes it great for offices with little space or LAN parties as well. Because the design is larger than the Sentry 2.0 it has support for a larger heatsink and can fit more of the modern larger GPUs which are most of what you will find. The extra space helps when building in the system as well, wiring was a lot easier with space to hide some of it behind the power supply. With that space, Fractal was able to make sure the wires that come with the case can reach anywhere on the ITX motherboard to work with any design. Fractal has also addressed the PCIe 4.0 issues with an updated riser which will help now that most motherboard and GPU options using it.
I did run into a few issues when building in the Ridge that you will have to keep in mind. The power cable that runs from the power supply to the back of the case gets in the way with some coolers when used on some motherboards. That same power cable with its right-angled connection to the PSU also caused issues with our older 600 watts Silverstone SFX power supply, switching to another brand that had the power plug flipped around fixed that issue. I also found the two included fans to be a touch loud when in use. This can be fixed by making sure they aren’t tied to the CPU temperatures for their fan profile, with the fans being up in the top half with the GPU they would be more useful being tied to GPU temperatures. The biggest issue with the Ridge is just an issue that you will run into with all SFF builds as they get smaller and smaller. Current generation CPUs put out a lot of heat and to deal with that you need a big heatsink or water cooling. Even though the Ridge does open up space and supports water cooling, the tradeoff is that it goes in the space for your video card. A short GPU and a short radiator could work, but none of today's GPUs are coming out in the ITX form factor as well. I would love to see a mainstream option like the Ridge that is similar in size that could make the AIO and GPU setup work with a standard length 2 slot GPU. This way we wouldn’t be limited to just the lower wattage CPUs and worrying about heatsink/motherboard compatibility.
As for pricing, the Fractal Ridge has an MSRP of $129.99 which these days isn’t too bad. The original Node 202 was a great value at $79.99 and while the Ridge isn’t priced badly, it isn’t targeting a value like that these days. The build quality has improved, as has styling, and overall compatibility. Overall the Ridge is a great case if you want to build a crazy GPU-less PC with amazing cooling or if you are willing to work around some of the constraints that the size offers you can piece together a monster build by utilizing the 70mm cooler height with a wide cooler and avoiding a few of the crazy wattage CPU offerings. Any of the new 65-watt AMD Ryzen 7000 CPUs for example would be perfect paired up with a good cooler leaving plenty of room for one of today's large video cards. If you need more storage than your motherboard can support in M.2 drives the Ridge can also pack in up to four 2.5-inch SSDs as well adding to the flexibility in build options.
Live Pricing: HERE