Fractal Design Era – the stylish Mini-ITX case under test
With the Era ITX, Fractal Design is taking on a lot. After all, the case experts try to offer the customer a Mini-ITX case that can convince in several points. For example, it should not only convince through flexibility and as a home for high-performance hardware. Furthermore, Fractal Design has obviously attached great importance to the appearance. Thus, the manufacturer offers the case not only in many different colors, but also with optional lid inserts. In our test, we would like to check whether Fractal Design’s plan was successful.
|Material||cover of aluminium, frame of steel|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||166 mm x 310 mm x 325 mm|
|Weight||approx. 4 kg|
|Raditor||top: 120/240 mm or 2x 120 mm (max. 125 mm width, 67 mm thickness with fans, depending on position/type of power supply)|
|Length graphic card||29.5 cm (21/19 cm with low mounted SFX/ATX power supply)|
|Cooler height of the CPU||120 mm (70 mm recommended with 3.5-inch side-mounted hard drive)|
|I/O ports||1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 2x USB 3.0, 1x 3.5 mm TTRS (audio combi)|
|Dust filter||top, bottom, side|
|Price||164.99 Euro (UVP)|
The scope of delivery
In addition to the case itself, a practical box with accessories is included in the packaging. Here you will find, among other things, practical material for assembly. In addition, a suitable manual is of course included. We were pleased with the included cable ties. We were also positively surprised that Fractal Design included two inserts for the lid.
An exotic among the Mini-ITX cases
With the Era ITX, Fractal Design clearly wants to distinguish itself from the other products in the case segment. This does not only apply to products of other manufacturers. Furthermore, the Mini-ITX case does not have much in common with Fractal Design’s own products. If you take a look at the Define Nano S, for example, it becomes clear that it is quite simply a shrunken version of the classic Dolphin by Fractal Design. With the Era ITX, Fractal Design is now taking a bold step. They have created a completely new design and have not reissued an existing one.
High quality and flexible
With the Era ITX Fractal Design has developed a completely new design. Here the manufacturer obviously tries to unite different aspects. So the case should not only look high-quality and elegant. It should also offer the user a high degree of flexibility. The Mini-ITX case achieves a high degree of flexibility through its slim dimensions of 166 mm x 310 mm x 325 mm alone. This should allow the Era ITX to find a suitable place in almost any setup. Fractal Design also gives the user extensive freedom in the choice of the right power supply. So one can choose between an ATX power supply and an SFX power supply. The same applies to the available drive slots. Here one has the choice between different sized hard disks. Even the installation of two large 3.5 inch hard disks is no problem here. Even a large radiator with a proud 240 mm finds room in the small case.
The new Era ITX is by no means boring. Besides the curved shapes it also offers a variety of customizable designs. So you can choose between five different colours. Apart from the case in matt sandblasted aluminum that we tested, Fractal Design also offers versions with a little more color. In addition to fine gold, the buyer can also choose a cool cobalt blue, for example. But it’s not just the case that offers different colour tones. The Era ITX can also be fitted with different lid inserts. You can choose between classic mesh, tempered glass and even wood.
Of course, appearance is also very important for a case. Whereas in the past everything was attributed to practicality, nowadays a PC setup simply has to look good. According to Fractal Design’s own statements, with Era ITX, special emphasis was placed on design and workmanship. Therefore we would like to take a look at the design of the Era ITX.
Differences to the Define series
When designing the Era ITX, the experts at Fractal Design did not take it easy. Instead of orienting themselves on their own products, they took a completely new path. The result is the Era ITX, which is clearly different from the popular Define series from Fractal Design. On one side are the angular corners of the Define products – on the other side are the elegant curves of the Era ITX. These rounded edges ensure a seamless transition from the sides to the front. The combination of the curved design and the narrow dimensions make for a case that is compact and by no means bulky.
The front of the Era ITX is designed closed. Here the user finds practical connections of the case. In addition to the power button with matching LED, Fractal Design provides the front with a custom-made I/O panel. In addition to a jack plug, there are also two USB 3.0 ports. In addition, the front has a USB-C port (3.1 Gen 2).
Different lid inserts
While you have to decide on a case colour when buying the Era ITX, you can change the cover of the case at any time. Fractal Design includes two different cover inserts for this purpose. Besides the classic mesh look, glass or wood are also possible. So as soon as you get bored with the design, you can freshen it up by changing the lid. The inserts are held in place by a magnet. Nothing has to be screwed to them.
No glass side
While the lid with Era ITX can be beautified with glass, Fractal Design otherwise completely dispenses with optical glass features. Instead, the sides are adorned by two aluminium parts. These are characterized by many small air holes, which are arranged in the form of a strip. Due to the high number of air holes, the Mini-ITX case achieves effective air circulation.
Fractal Design continues its curved shapes all the way to the back. Here the side parts merge gently into the back. The absence of additional mounting screws is extremely praiseworthy. This ensures that the Era ITX looks good even from behind. From a technical point of view, you can see the 80 mm fan on the back. This is the only pre-assembled fan in the case. Furthermore, Fractal Design has installed the connection for the power cable here. If you look closer, you can also see the space for the graphic card. This is simply mounted on the bottom.
If you are afraid of the stability of the Era ITX, the four rubber feet at the bottom of the case will please you. These make sure that the case never slips at any time. In addition, it conveniently protects the standing surface on which the Era ITX is placed. Only the laterally arranged air slots open the otherwise closed bottom. The graphic card gets its necessary fresh air supply here. You can’t catch a glimpse into the interior through the case’s bottom. However, we will take a look into the Era ITX’s interior on the next page.
The inner values
If you open a side panel of the Era ITX you can look inside the Mini ITX. The side flap itself can be attached and removed conveniently with push-to-lock pins. Recesses on the case make sure that you don’t break your fingernails. A light handle allows the side panel to be pushed away.
Our test system
To be able to check the practicability of the Era ITX, we have installed some components. For this we rely on the following hardware components:
- MSI Z390I Gaming Edge AC Motherboard*
- Intel Core i5-9600K processor*
- 16 GB Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO 3200 RAM*
- MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Super Ventus GP OC graphics card*
- Corsair MP510 480GB SSD*
- Raijintek EOS 240 RBW water cooling
- Fractal Design ION SFX 500G 500W power supply unit
Outside swank, inside rank
As soon as you take a look inside the Era ITX, you will be disappointed. After all, Fractal Design has designed it anything but beautiful. This also clarifies the question why the manufacturer did without a glass side. But in the interior of a Mini ITX, functionality is the most important thing. And here the case expert can more than score. Thus, the Era ITX offers space for a radiator and a large graphics card in addition to many brackets for power supplies and drives.
Due to the modular design, components that are not required can be removed or, for example, the radiator can be screwed outside the case. This makes it easier to assemble the components in tight spaces, but with a mini-ITX build, you should always be aware that it is more difficult to assemble the components in a tight space than in a large case.
We just got our powerful and relatively large components in. The graphics card in particular was a bit fiddly, but in the end everything fit. And even an i5-9600K and an RTX 2070 Super can be run in the battle dwarf without any problems. Due to the numerous air vents, there is no overheating of the components. Under Prime95 continuous load the CPU reaches a maximum of 85 degrees Celsius.
Cable tangle cannot be avoided
Once the components have been installed in the Era ITX, the picture is dominated by a large tangle of cables. Even the included cable ties can’t change that much. If you don’t like this, you should definitely use very short cables. With cables in standard length a chaotic interior is unfortunately almost unavoidable.
With the Era ITX Fractal Design has succeeded in creating a great product. Above all, the courage for new things has to be credited to the manufacturer. Unlike many other case manufacturers, Fractal Design does not rely on old-fashioned outward appearances. Instead, they have developed a completely new design with the Era ITX. And this can really be seen. Starting with the choice between five different color variations, you can also change the cover flap.
But the Mini ITX case is not only convincing in terms of design. So the Era ITX scores also in terms of functionality. If one considers that the small case offers only 16 litres of volume, it can score with great possibilities of use. For example, the Era ITX offers the right slot for owners of an ATX power supply. However, one should proceed somewhat strategically when installing the components. Otherwise, the Mini ITX case is quickly threatened by an annoying tangle of cables. It is advisable to use short cables.
Since the Era ITX only offers a pre-installed fan, the user should always keep cooling capacity in mind. Especially when choosing the appropriate flap on the lid this should be considered. Glass and wood look very good like this without a doubt. However, if you decide on the flap made of mesh, you’ll have to provide additional ventilation for the system. We would also like to mention the I/O panel on the case’s front especially praiseworthy. After all, it is very unobtrusively embedded in the design of the Era ITX. Nevertheless, it offers contemporary connections like USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C.
In summary, the Era ITX is a Mini ITX case that perfectly combines high-quality workmanship, great design and functionality. This is rounded off with flexible adjustment possibilities, which are expressed for example in exchangeable lids. Only very few competitors can keep up with this.
Fractal Design Era ITX
Value for money
With the Era ITX Fractal Design combines great design with functionality and flexibility.