Fractal Design North XL review: a beautifully embiggened PC case

Bigger, but still au naturel.



Fractal Design North was an early Christmas present back in 2022, rising above the bland boxes that flooded the market. The beautiful wooden panels not only prioritise airflow but provide a grounded alternative to RGB PC cases. Instead of asking you to compromise compatibility, however, the brand has now supersized it, putting an appetising XL model on the menu.

There’s a reason the chassis is just as easy on the eyes as its predecessor. It’s practically the same case aside from dimensions. You choose between mesh or tempered glass (TG) side panels in either Charcoal Black or Chalk White. The former features walnut wood slats on top of the mesh front panel, while the latter opts for oak. I get it. Why fix what’s not broken? We hoped this would become a trend, and Fractal Design’s making it happen.

Given the similarities between the two cases, the $169.99 MSRP is on the pricier side with a 30% bump. When you consider that this case is designed for full E-ATX motherboards and larger liquid cooling, it starts to make sense.


Its inflated form factor means North XL doesn’t quite camouflage as effectively as its little brother, but it’s still slender. Standing at 503 × 240 × 509mm (L × W × H), it’s firmly a mid-tower with a lot more in common with Lian Li Lancool 216 than behemoths like Corsair iCue 5000T RGB. You’ll need to pump the iron a bit, though, as it’s 2.1kg heavier than the original model.

With extended room to build in, the biggest change is that you can fit an E-ATX motherboard in here. You could go as tiny as a Mini-ITX if you want, but you’ll have to brave the cavernous look. This doesn’t matter so much with the mesh version I’m testing but it could appear a little out of place through tempered glass.

Fractal Design North XLFractal Design North
Dimensions (L×W×H)503 × 240 × 509mm447 × 215 × 469mm
Weight9.5kg (TG)
9.7kg (Mesh)
7.7kg (TG)
7.6kg (Mesh)
Motherboard supportE-ATX (up to 330mm)
PSU length175mm with two HDD trays
295mm with one HDD tray
155mm with two HDD trays
170mm with one HDD tray
Fans7x 120mm or 6x 140mm (TG)
9x 120mm or 8x 140mm (Mesh)
6x 120mm or 4x 140mm (TG model)
8x 120mm or 6x 120mm (Mesh)
AIO compatibility420mm front
360mm top
140mm rear
360mm front
240mm top
120mm rear
Max CPU height155mm with fan bracket
185mm without
145mm with fan bracket
170mm without
Max GPU length413mm355mm
Price$169.99$130 / £135 / €155

Balancing compatibility

In fact, there’s more space for just about every component to stretch their non-existent legs. You’d struggle to fit longer Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics cards into the original, but you’ll have no trouble with North XL’s 413mm wiggle room. There’s even more clearance for CPU coolers up to 185mm, although this will reduce to 155mm with the fan bracket.

North XL proves that how you use the space is more important than bolstering numbers. It’s smaller than be quiet! Dark Base 701 but manages to fit a 420mm radiator at the front. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, though, as it’s a balancing act with the top mount. The ceiling supports up to 360mm, but you’ll need to drop that down to 240mm if you use all the front has to offer. It’s a worthy sacrifice, and you can still have two 360mm running in tandem if you fancy.

Fractal Design kicks off your quest to fill fan slots by pre-installing three 140mm Aspect 14 PWMs at the front. They’re positioned as intakes, spin between 500RPM and 1,700RPM, and are ready for radiators with high static pressure. You’ll need to think about exhaust fans before building, but there’s plenty of space. North XL handles up to seven 120mm or six 140mm fans, plus a sneaky 80mm rear exhaust over the lower four expansion slots. The mesh version comes with an exclusive fan mount that adds another two 120mm or 140mm fans for side ventilation. This sits beneath the side panel, below your graphics card.

Storage is similarly a game of trade-offs. The case is capable of housing two 3.5in hard drives beneath the PSU shroud and two 2.5in SATA SSDs behind the motherboard. Using both HDD trays limits you to a power supply that’s up to 175mm long. Considering this is more spacious than the original North could handle, it’s difficult to imagine it’ll affect many of you. Still, you’ll need to offer up a single HDD tray for PSUs up to 295mm.

For better or worse, North XL features the same I/O panel as its predecessor. That means dual USB 3.0 Type-A, a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, and two audio jacks next to the power button. Some might prefer an extra Type-C to complement the bigger size, but this is par for the course. Personally, I don’t use them frequently enough for it to matter.

Building with North XL

Popping the side panel off could be a touch easier. Instead of the quick-release buttons Fractal uses on its Define R7, we’re stuck with old-school thumb screws. Fortunately, lining the side panel back up is much easier than most of its rivals, avoiding faff.

It’s easy to miss the accessories box, which Fractal neatly tucks behind the PSU shroud. You’ll want to remove it before you start building. I had a bit of a fight on my hands with the twist tie keeping it in place and could only separate it by unscrewing the HDD tray. Inside, the brand provides you with all the mounting screws you’ll need, extra standoffs for larger boards, and a few cable ties. It’s surprisingly comprehensive.

Fitting Club386’s Intel Core i9-13900K test bench was a cinch. I don’t have an E-ATX motherboard to use the full space available but my ATX ASRock Taichi Z690 still fits like a glove. There’s next to no flex on the mount and the standoffs hold steady as you screw it in. The process couldn’t have been smoother.

Removing the front panel to install fans requires a little oomph and you will hear a snap. Fear not, as the case is tougher than you think. The top panel contrasts this a bit too much for my liking. It features a leather pull tab, which is a nice touch, but largely redundant when it slides off at the mere hint of pressure. Just putting my hand on it when plugging in rear USBs and DisplayPorts dislodges it.

Cable management

Routing cables is similarly simple as wires pass through any direction but the left. There are two sets of rubber-lined grommets to the right, covering even the biggest boards out there. Flipping to the rear, there are plenty of hooks for your zip ties and the case’s I/O cables are already as neat as can be.

My only complaint is that the integrated fan hub only handles four devices. Considering the PC case packs more fans than ever, it’s hard not to feel a little robbed when be quiet! offers up an eight-way. Still, four for the price of one port is nothing to scoff at.

You don’t want to be lazy with cable management, as stuffing behind the motherboard is less of an option. The PSU shroud is perforated, giving you a clear view of what’s beneath, including the spaghetti of wires. I know, it’s an extra hassle, but you only need to do it once. Just keep telling yourself it’s set-and-forget.


North XL retains the minimalist approach of the original, so don’t expect a place for long-lost 5.25in drives. The reset button is also long gone, much to my colleague’s dismay. There are highs to this rollercoaster ride, however, as quality is just as important as simplification. The mesh panels look gorgeous against the natural tones, and I can imagine tempered glass would complete the look for those who’d prefer it.

Fractal Design North XL mesh side panel with RGB shining through.

Your choice will mainly come down to how much RGB you want in your build. The mesh version doesn’t diffuse lights particularly well. In fact, it emphasises the gaps between the panels and the rest of the case. But, as Parm points out in our Fractal Design North review, you’ll need a whole lot of luck sourcing components that don’t look like they belong on the Vegas Strip. Even if you need to download third-party app to switch it off, I’d recommend it. I’m not a fan of bloating my system software, but this is truly a case that needs no enhancements.


One thing that could sway you in the direction of the mesh model is its impeccable airflow. Thermals will always depend on you CPU cooler, fan configuration, choice of components, and what voltages you run them at. To get a baseline, I used the same Corsair A115 setup on top of an Intel Core i9-13900K at 153W, only changing the case. I added no fans, only using the air cooler as my exhaust.

The results were nothing short of impressive, hitting lows of 64.4°C in Cinebench R23 with fans running at max speed. This temperature alone boggles the mind as it successfully tames one of the hottest CPUs out there. Add to the fact this is a 7% improvement over be quiet! Shadow Base 800, and it shows just how important finding the right case is.

I can’t speak to how the tempered glass version performs, but I can say with confidence that the mesh’s side mount is a luxury. You can fill it with fans if you want, but keep in mind that this will just increase the noise of your system. As I’ve said before, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.


For an extra-large PC case, Fractal Design North XL does a fantastic job of not overwhelming. Part of the original’s charm was its ability to blend in with its surroundings. While there’s a natural sacrifice with stature, it only makes the necessary changes and is far from imposing.

Using its space wisely, the chassis carves out enough room for a 420mm radiator, E-ATX motherboard, and the longest graphics cards on the market. Of course, you’ll need to do the usual balancing act to strike the right combination, but all the puzzle pieces are there. Fractal Design North XL does more than the average PC case and does it more elegantly.

If I’m to nitpick, the case could use a bigger fan hub, as four doesn’t seem enough here. Fractal also needs to strengthen the top panel clasp, so it doesn’t slide off as easily. I’d even like to see push-button side panels rather than thumbscrews. However, the biggest reservation I have is the price. $169.99, or a 30% premium over the original, is a lot to ask. That said, you get what you pay for, and North XL treats your components to uncompromised cooling and a bloody beautiful wrapping.

Fractal Design North XL earns Club386 recommended award.

Fractal Design North XL

Verdict: a PC case that continues to raise the stylistic bar without compromising extreme builds.


Gorgeous natural look
Bigger, but not too big
Fantastic airflow
High-quality build
Great cable management


Needs a bigger fan hub
Top panel slides off
Side lacks quick release

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Fractal Design North was an early Christmas present back in 2022, rising above the bland boxes that flooded the market. The beautiful wooden panels not only prioritise airflow but provide a grounded alternative to RGB PC cases. Instead of asking you to compromise compatibility,...Fractal Design North XL review: a beautifully embiggened PC case