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Fractal Design Era Review: A Focus On Form Over Function?

The Era is stylish, but airflow and build issues abound.

Fractal Design mini-ITX Era
(Image: © Fractal Design)

Our Verdict

If stunning looks and minimal desktop real estate are high on your list of priorities and you aren’t bothered by the $160 price, Fractal’s Mini-ITX Era is worth considering. Just choose your parts carefully.

For

  • Sleek and elegant styling
  • Multiple layout options
  • Vented top panel included
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C

Against

  • Expensive for an Mini-ITX case
  • Loud under load
  • Poor airflow in stock configuration
  • Bottom fan mounts block GPU
  • Cable management lacking
  • Several trade-offs and compromises

Fractal Design's Era breaks rank with the company's signature style, thanks in part to a collaboration with Intel. The Mini-ITX case comes in black, blue, and rose gold, fitted with a black tempered glass top panel. The chassis is also available in white and silver equipped with a wood top panel. All models feature an optional vented top for added airflow. We tested the black-on-black version of the case.

Specifications

TypeMini-ITX
Motherboard SupportMini-ITX
Dimensions (HxWxD)12.8 x 6.5 x 12.2 inches (325 x 166 x 310 mm)
Space Above Motherboard3 inches (35 mm)
Card Length11.6 inches (295 mm)
CPU Cooler Height4.72 / 3.6 inches (120 / 91 mm)
Power Supply9.8 inches (250mm)
Weight8.82 lbs (4 kg)
External Bays
Internal Bays4 x 2.5 inches / 2 x 3.5 inches
Card Slots2x
Ports/Jacks2x USB 3.0, audio/mic jacks, 1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
Othermulti-layout design, optional ventilated top panel included
Front Fans
Rear Fans1x 80mm
Top Fans✗ (Up to 2 x 120)
Bottom Fans✗ (Up to 2 x 120 w/o GPU)
Side Fans
Damping
Warranty2 Year Limited

Features

The Fractal Design Era works with a variety of internal layouts. The company offers five examples; ATX PSU / 240 mm, ATX PSU 120 mm, double 120 mm rad build, air build, and high-airflow layout. The problem is that each layout comes with trade-offs and compromises, which we’ll detail later in the review.  

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Fractal Design Era internal layout diagrams

Fractal Design Era internal layout diagrams (Image credit: Fractal Design)
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(Image credit: Fractal Design)
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(Image credit: Fractal Design)
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(Image credit: Fractal Design)
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(Image credit: Fractal Design)

The chassis measures 325 x 166 x 310 mm  (12.8 x 6.5 x 12.2 inches) and tips the scales at 4 kg  (8.8 pounds). All versions of this chassis are priced at $160 USD MSRP, though it currently sells for as high as $180 USD at retailers such as Amazon. The chassis comes with a two-year limited warranty. 

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Fractal Design Era Exterior Photos

Fractal Design Era Exterior Photos (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The glass top panel of the Era is darkly tinted, though the chassis comes with a second vented top panel for added airflow. Both the solid and vented panels attach to the top of the chassis via magnets. Just below the surface of the top panel, you’ll find a large plastic mesh fan filter (also attached with magnets) and below that are mounting locations for two 120mm fans. 

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Fractal Design Era I/O

Fractal Design Era I/O (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Front panel I/O is fairly standard. You get two USB 3.0, a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, a headphone/mic jack and the power and reset buttons. The stylish asymmetrical front panel looks fantastic, though it lacks any holes for ventilation.  

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Fractal Design Era side angle

Fractal Design Era side angle (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The side panels are designed to mimic the look of the front, creating a very elegant aesthetic. Both side panels attach to the frame via push-pins and have small holes in the side for ventilation. The rear panel is made of plastic that is painted to match the rest of the chassis. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The rear of the Era has two standard expansion-card slots, a motherboard I/O area, an opening for your power cable, and a  80 mm exhaust-fan mount with slotted screw holes that let you adjust the position of the fan to fine-tune airflow or make room for system components. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The solid plastic bottom panel of the case is smooth and outfitted with thin foam-rubber feet. There are small filtered vent holes running along both sides of the bottom panel that allow airflow into the chassis. The bottom vent holes and shallow feet make the case much better suited to placement on a desk than on carpet. 

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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Fractal Design Era filters

Fractal Design Era filters (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Filters cover every intake fan mounting location and are easily removed for cleaning. The large filter that covers the  fans directly under the top panel is magnetic. The side filters snap into place, and the bottom-mounted filters slide up and out after removing the side panels. 

Although the visual appeal of a case is subjective, and will vary from person to person, we believe the biggest selling point of this chassis is its stylish looks.

  • Phaaze88
    Basically, it's fine for an Apu only build.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    "For comparison purposes, we brought in the Fractal Design's own Define Nano S and the Cooler Master MasterCase H100, "

    Need to edit your link: all of the charts reference the NZXT H210, not the CoolerMaster H100.
    Reply
  • WildCard999
    Phaaze88 said:
    Basically, it's fine for an Apu only build.
    And if someone goes that route there's the InWin Chopin or Asrock Deskmini which are not only cheaper but more portable/take up less desk space.
    Reply
  • Phaaze88
    WildCard999 said:
    And if someone goes that route there's the InWin Chopin or Asrock Deskmini which are not only cheaper but more portable/take up less desk space.
    Ouch.
    Those look nicer too.

    Seriously, there's too much form over function crap as it is. Why hasn't it died down yet?
    Oh right - because people keep buying into it...

    Then they later come here, or to some other site questioning why things have gone to the dumpster...:rolleyes:
    Reply