Black Wolfe CC presents a Custom modded Glass Windowed Node 202.
Last September I used the Fractal Design Node 202 for the first time to make a budget build. From the moment I took it out of the packaging I knew it was going to be the case to replace my aging Corsair 600T as the case for my daily driver. The case HAS its flaws, don't get me wrong. But I found them to be dwarfed by the unique features Fractal was able to squeeze out of so little room. I also came to realize that mITX was where I was going to stay for a long long time. I utilize everything in the tiny little package, something I always felt I could never do (or needed to) in standard ATX.
But one thing always left me wanting. I LIKE seeing the internals of computers, looking over and seeing the components brings a sense of accomplishment every single time. As does anything that one would create with their own two hands.
After a month or so of going back and forth with myself I finally decided to make the cut. It was my wife who gave me the actual push to go forward with this project and I have her to thank for the continuous motivation throughout this project. This isn't my first case mod, but it is the first of this kind.
Getting started wasn't easy. In most case mods, one already has the basic idea of how they are going to cut/drill/blast/whatever. But the Node 202 provided some unique challenges that forced me to do most of my planning on paper first. For example the cover of the Node 202 is a combination of two pieces. The first is a plastic body which makes up the entire cover, the second is a thin metal inlay that sits on top of the cover. Deciding how I wanted to cut this to fit some material that I hadn't decided on wasn't easy.
Material was the first step. In the past, the only material I had ever worked with was acrylic. I had all the tools necessary to cut, smooth, drill, and glue. So I decided to go with acrylic as my window.
How was I going to mount it to the case once I cut a big giant hole in the cover? My first thought was to cut the entire case top off, leave mounting brackets (or make my own) and attach the acrylic piece with screws. Once I pulled the metal inlay off, I realized I'd be unable to make a cut close enough to the edge of the case without severally crippling the integrity of the case. Back to the drawing board.
My next plan was to continue to use the idea that I'd secure the acrylic with screws, but cut both pieces slightly different to allow the acrylic sheet to sit just slightly on the plastic body but flush with the metal inlay. I also had to make my window a bit smaller than originally penned out to keep the cover as rigid as possible without the acrylic sheet in place. After a bunch of measurements and cutting sheets of paper the size of the eventual window to fit both on top of and below the plastic cover, I decided to go this route.
Before cutting I had drilled a hole at each corner which were going to be used for mounting. Cutting was pretty straight forward, though, I was so excited to jump in I bypassed some really basic safety items... The most prominent one is MAKING SURE EVERYTHING IS SECURED BEFORE CUTTING. For most of the case cutting I only had one side secured, this led to movement while cutting and made a few imperfect cuts. I'm not really sure why I didn't secure at two points, as is common with my projects, but lesson learned. I also didn't tape off the plastic cover, which I probably should have. This would have helped keep debris to minimum and help prevent nicking.
Once I had the case cut I did a dry fit to see how it all would look. My first impressions were pretty good. The mounting holes were at the exact spots I wanted them and the window space was the perfect size to show off everything inside the case yet leave some room to hide clutter. But after bringing over my acrylic sheet, I know there was no way I was going to get it to fit evenly. My cuts were pretty good, but there were still imperfections that would cause the acrylic to sit poorly (and very noticeably). It was also very apparent that the acrylic would get scratched... as I had already scratched it... somehow... and since I have two toddlers that touch everything, I KNEW it was going to get scratched worse. This was a bit disappointing, but only turned out to be a minor setback. On a trip to Home Depot for supplies for another project I ran across glass sheets. Because of how thin the glass was, an idea popped into my head. Why not sandwich the glass between the metal frame and the plastic body, drill the necessary holes for mounting? Now the imperfections in the cutting are no longer an issue. Even more of a non issue after sanding, priming, and painting. So I got a sheet and the necessary cutting tools and raced on home.
Fast forward through sanding, priming and painting (which turned out very well), the most boring part of this whole mod (and really... any mod), I was ready to work with the glass. Unfortunately, 4 sheets of glass later I decided drilling holes wasn't the best idea. It took me a couple of weeks to decide what to do next. I still thought the glass would look better sandwiched between the two pieces of the cover, but there wasn't enough pressure to keep the glass in place. I came up with the idea to use thin rubber gaskets around each edge of the glass, similar to car weather stripping. This added almost no extra thickness to the glass, and when I put the cover together with the glass it held firm and tight!
From there it was just a matter of reassembling the cover and putting it pack on its stand. But once on my desk I knew right away it needed lights to show off the parts within. The z270i board has some RGB LEDs but it wasn't enough. I jumped onto Amazon and ordered a pretty darn cheap 3 meter reel of 5050 RGB LED's. Once in I cut to the length I needed and ran the strip around the inside edge of the cover. ASUS provides a decent lengthy RGB cable that just so happened to be the perfect length to run from the RGB header on the MB to the bottom where the GPU mounts to the case. There is a small gab there that allows me to thread the RGB strip connector through to the inside of the case and is totally hidden once the cover is on.
But even after the window mod was complete and the RGB's were lighting up the interior in all its... RGB glory... I STILL felt like something else was needed. It was while I was in the middle of my 500th viewing of Rogue One with my boys when i glanced over at my PC and thought.. wouldn't it be cool if the rebel logo was highlighted in the glass and the Rogue One logo was etched in there as well? Why yes... Yes it would. I raced off to the net once more for a vector Rebel and Rogue One logo. A good friend at work went ahead and used his die cut machine to cut the two out of vinyl. From there it's basic etch work. I transferred the vinyl to the opposite side of the glass the image was going to be viewed from and slathered on etching cream. After 5 minutes I rinsed the glass, removed the vinyl and reinstalled the glass into the case cover.
All that was left was to turn it on and bask in my RGB Glass Windowed Node 202...
Well not quit. Turns out adding a piece of glass that blocks airflow over the CPU cooler raises temps by a LOT. I was actually prepared for this, and had a few items on stand by in case temps got above my comfortable zone. Which they did. Quickly. Under full load the 7700k hit 105c. I also witnessed several system shut downs. To help control temps I had several ideas in mind. The first was to delid the CPU and replace the TIM. This alone brought CPU temps down to a solid 90c under full load. I would have actually ended there, but this whole project kicked off the beginning of a much bigger project that turned my computer from a casual gaming machine into a full blown video editing rig. The amount of time the CPU was being kept at full load pushed me further to drive temps down. Second, I replaced the Scythe fan on the Big Shuriken with a Vortex 12 SP fan. With the case lid off it did a much better job of cooling the CPU than the Scythe, but once the cover was back on it's slower top speed just couldn't handle the temps. I wound up reinstalling the Scythe fan. Because of the way the glass sits on the case cover, a more space was available for air to pass through to the top of the case. By increasing the fans blowing air on the GPU, I was able to provide a bit of airflow up top, dropping temps by a few degrees. 87c to 88c seemed like the best I was going to get with what I had.
Throughout the process ot reduce temps, and editing videos for my new youtueb channel I was prepping to launch, I came to a couple conclusions. 1. I was absolutely going to move to Ryzen when decent mITX AM4 boards come to market. 2. I had to under clock and under volt my cpu to keep it from burning a hole in the case. But it turned out I didn't have to do much. I dropped the CPU to 4.2ghz and was able to dial in the voltage to 1.15v. Under full load CPU temps now stay below the 80c mark.
Mid way through this mod, I felt this project was so unique (I could only find one other Node 202 that had been significantly modded... and it's on this site) that it might be worth recording. Making this decision delayed the whole case mod by a good month as I went about building a studio in my garage so I had a place to shoot. My wife is an avid photographer so I had the basic equipment necessary to do a video setup. Once I had everything setup I did a series of successful video tests. I realized at that point all of this was developing into a much grander project, a much bigger project than just a simple window case mod. A YouTube channel.
This was a ridiculously rewarding project in every aspect. There are a few things I'd change and a few things I am going to change. I might even get another Node 202 and make a version 2. But for now, I wanted to share this amazing Node 202 Window Mod with everyone here on my favorite website. If any of you enjoyed this Mod Build, how about heading over to Black Wolfe CC and checking out some of my videos. There you can find videos to the build log as well as the mod log of this Windowed Node 202.
Thank you to the staff and community for being so awesome, keep on making this a wonderful site!