Completed Build, Performance, and Conclusion

Completed Build

With minimal effort to rout cables through the grommets I achieved a fairly tidy build. There is quite a bit of empty space to the right of the motherboard, just as with the larger Define S, which provides room for a custom watercooling loop if desired.

I can't over-stress just how easy it is to keep cables neat and organized with this enclosure. I love the velco straps, and there is a lot of clearance behind the rear panel for cables (no worries about a bulging side panel). I particularly like the choice to have the SSD mounts on a bracket over the motherboard cutout, as helps free up additional cable routing space below.

The one word that comes to mind from working with the Nano S is clean. It's just a pleasure to build in.

Performance

Among the mini-ITX designs in this little group the Nano S was at the top of both air and liquid results (the Carbide 400C is an ATX case). Excellent results for a small enclosure! There is a notable difference in performance between air and liquid coolers with this group of enclosures, with the Corsair H75 at a significant advantage. This is largely due to the low-profile air cooler in use (DEEPCOOL Gabriel), which – while a good cooler – is never going to compete with a closed-loop option like the H75.

Now we'll take a look at GPU numbers:

Here we see excellent numbers for an aftermarket GPU cooler in a small enclosure. Very nice! I still think blower-style coolers are the best option for mini-ITX enclosures in general, but I chose an aftermarket design with my R9 290X to get a better idea of each enclosure's ability to exhaust warm air.

Of note: the GPU results with the air CPU cooler are better with all of these enclosures, and that extra airflow against the back of the GPU seems to lower core temps a bit during testing.

Now we'll check out noise levels:

The Nano S wasn't as quiet in testing as I subjectively determined from my benchmarking sessions, though still a quiet enclosure overall. Idle and CPU load levels on air were excellent, but the noise from the liquid CPU cooler was louder than I expected. 37 dB is just fine for load noise, however, and the Nano S is just fine in this department. The non-insulated side panel with that large window keeps this from being as quiet as could be.

Note: All noise testing was performed with the top vent cover in place, and noise levels will be a little higher if it is removed.

Conclusion

I have very little to add here, other than to say that the Define Nano S is a fantastic enclosure for the money. It's no small feat to produce an enclosure at this price-point that looks good, performs well, and offers a wonderfully simple build experience. Fractal Design has a winner with their smallest Define enclosure, and the Nano S gets my enthusiastic endorsement!

The $69.99 retail price makes this fine mini-ITX enclosure a no-brainer, and I can unreservedly give it my highest marks.

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