Tom's Hardware Verdict
The Fractal Design Ridge looks stunning and slim, but its thermal performance means you’ll want to stick lower-power processors.
Surprisingly simple to build in
Two Aspect 14 PWM fans
Canvas-like mesh front panel
Respectable SSD support
Not enough airflow for high-end CPUs
Noisy under load
Why you can trust Tom's Hardware
There are many motives behind building a Mini-ITX PC: Do you want your PC to look like a console? Or, do you want the smallest PC possible? While it’s hard to fit powerful components into the dimensions of a PS5 or Xbox, Fractal Design lets you at least give it a go with its newest console-sized ITX chassis, the Ridge.
The $129.99 case is available in either black (as tested) or white, with a matching cloth front face. But note that there are no fans supported up front. Air is moved by a pair of 140mm PWM fans that sit above the motherboard, next to the GPU area. And while this helps keep GPU temperatures low, the perforations on the side panels aren’t enough to keep CPU temps similarly chilled, as we’ll see later in testing.
Specifications of the Fractal Design Ridge
|14.5 x 14 x 3.7 inches
|Max GPU Length
|CPU Cooler Height
|4x 2.5-inch SSDs
|Small form factor GPU: 3
|Full length GPU: 4
|2x USB Type A 3.2 Gen 1
|1x USB Type C 3.1 Gen 2
|1x PCIe riser card
Features of the Fractal Design Ridge
The Fractal Design Ridge is the companies newest ITX chassis, which takes inspiration from the 2015-era Node 202. And much like that case, the Ridge is small enough to mimic a console.
When it came to designing the Ridge, Fractal Design was aware of the success of the 202 and aimed to modernize it. The newest Fractal chassis is constructed of steel and features perforations on the sides for air intake, as well as a canvas-like perforated front. And that front is an eye-catching feature, for sure.
Instead of bringing back the 90-degree support stand from the 202, the Ridge features a stand that makes the case look like it’s floating an inch or so above your desk.
If the design has thrown you off, this is a computer case, not a modern speaker. So the Ridge needs everything from cooling support, room for drives and proper IO. On that last count, what the Ridge delivers is fair, especially for an ITX case. The front IO features one USB 3.1 Gen Type-C, two USB 3.0 and a combo audio jack at the bottom front.
As expected, the Ridge has no room for 3.5-inch drives, but storage support is otherwise sublime for its size. The Ridge can fit a total of four 2.5-inch SSDs or hard drives and go toe-to-toe with some mid-towers we’ve reviewed. Two SSDs can be installed behind the motherboard tray, like 99.9% of computer cases, but the latter two are mounted behind the front panel. I don’t like this location since it feels like that space could’ve been used for 80mm fans, but if you need four 2.5-inch drives, this is where two of them will go.
The Internal layout of the Fractal Design Ridge, is to be expected from an ITX case: congested. You’ll also need an SFX or SFX-L power supply, thanks to the narrowness of the case. That said, when the motherboard installation was finished, I was able to figure out the rest on my own, but Fractal includes a fantastic instruction book.
Standing at 14.5 x 14 x 3.7 inches (HDW), the Ridge is a very lanky case. Low-profile CPU coolers like Thermalright’s AXP120-X67 fit in just fine, but the maximum height allotted for CPU coolers is 2.8 inches (70mm). Because the graphics card is stowed behind the motherboard tray, you can fit cards up to 12.8 inches (325mm) long. But don’t expect to install a modern top-end here. Our EVGA RTX 3050 XC fits just fine, but anything much more than two slots thick is going to run up against the fans and the interior frame of the case.
The amount of additional fans that can be installed in the Ridge is impressive but also somewhat impractical. The side fan mounting bracket supports fans or radiators up to 280mm in diameter, but the top of the case only supports three 80mm. To be honest, I wish Fractal included three 80mm fans instead of the two 140mm Aspect 14 PWM fans. Don’t get me wrong, the Aspect fans are fantastic, but who has 80mm fans sitting around?
Our ITX case testing hardware uses an Intel 12th Gen “Alder Lake” 12600K, cooled by a Thermalright AXP120-X67 SFF. Our graphics card is an EVGA RTX 3050 XC. We don’t have comparisons with other cases in the tests below because the Ridge’s slim profile means we needed to use a different cooler than we do with larger cases.
Acoustic Results for the Fractal Design Ridge
Our acoustic test consists of three scenarios: We run the CPU at full load, the CPU and GPU at full load, and an optimized mode. The CPU full load test runs the CPU and case fans at their maximum speed. For the CPU and GPU full load acoustic test, we also stress the EVGA RTX 3050 XC and set the fans at 75% speed, because in gaming the fans never run at 100 percent and are far too loud when they do.
For the optimized mode, we run the GPU fan speed at 30% and run the CPU and included case fans at the lowest speed that they will spin.
The Ridge comes with two Aspect 14 PWM fans, designed for radiators, so don’t expect silence. I need to mention that because this case is very loud– especially when cranked to full speed. When I set the case and CPU fans to max RPM, we hit 55dB, which is pretty ear-piercing. Of course, in most situations, the fans wouldn’t spin so fast. But even in our CPU/GPU stress test with the case fans running at half speed, the Ridge was still somewhat noisy at 47dB.
Thermal Results for the Fractal Design Ridge
For the thermal tests, all case and CPU fan speeds are set to 100%. The Core i5-12600K is set at a 4.3GHz clock at 1.12v on all performance cores, to ensure consistent power consumption across test scenarios.
The thermal results from the Ridge are fascinating. The CPU thermals are pretty bad for a Core i5, but the GPU’s temps are great.
However, I’m not that surprised. The GPU we use for compact cases isn’t all that powerful, and with no case fans up above the CPU, the side panel design clearly isn’t pulling in enough cool air over the CPU to keep temperatures lower.
The Fractal Design Ridge is another interesting case design by the Swedish company, and with the proper hardware, it can be a killer HTPC. However, the perforations on the side are not air-cooler friendly and the lack of included 80mm fans is unfortunate.
Would I recommend this case for a high-end AM5 or Intel 12th or 13th Gen setup? No. However, if you want to run something like a 65W Ryzen 5 5600X, this case will do just fine. If you want to pack in more powerful components, you should opt for a case that’s a bit bigger – or at least wider.
MORE: Best PC Cases
MORE: Best Mini-ITX Cases
Myles Goldman is a freelance writer for Tom's Hardware US. He reviews keyboards and cases.
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I was about to call this a shameless ripoff of the Node 202 until I remembered that Fractal Design made that case, tooReply
I would love a case that's just the bottom half of this. My audio computer is an i9-9900k with no external gpu, and a 65mm noctua cooler. I'd really like not to waste all that space for a gpu i don't have...Reply
I hope this paves the way for an updated node 804. This looks really nice.Reply