We’ll be taking a look at Fractal Design‘s Arc series of cases, the Arc Midi and Arc Mini. When Fractal Design first moved into the US market, we had the opportunity to review one of their high-end cases, the Define R3. That case turned out to be a well-built, feature-rich case for the money, which followed Fractal Design’s concept word-for-word:
The concept of Fractal Design is to provide products with an extraordinary design level, without compromising the important factor of quality, functionality, and pricing.
Let’s see if the Arc series continues to follow that creed.
Features & Specifications
|Arc Midi Tower||Arc Mini|
|3.5/2.5″ HDD Trays||8||6|
|MB Compatibility||ATX, mATX, Mini ITX||mATX, Mini ITX|
|Front Panel||2x USB2.0, 1x USB3.0, Audio I/O||2x USB2.0, 1x USB3.0, Audio I/O|
|Included Fans||Front 140 mm||Front 120 mm|
|Rear 140 mm||Rear 120 mm|
|Top 140 mm||Top 140 mm|
|Additional Fan Slots||Front 140 mm||Front 120 mm|
|Bottom 140 mm||Bottom 120 mm|
|Top 120/140 mm (2) or 180 mm||Top 120/140 mm|
|Side 140/180 mm||Side 120/140 mm|
|GPU Length||290 mm||260 mm|
|470 mm without HDD cage||400 mm without HDD cage|
|CPU Cooler Height||180 mm||165 mm|
|PSU Depth||170 mm||170 mm|
|270 mm without bottom fan||220 mm without bottom fan|
|Case Size (WxHxD)||230 x 460 x 515 mm||210 x 405 x 484 mm|
|Net Weight||10 kg||9 kg|
- Stylish minimalistic front panel design with alu-look.
- Arc offers plenty of cooling options, up to 8 fans of various sizes can be installed.
- Support for a dual 120 mm radiator at the top of the case, even thicker radiators up to 60 mm in thickness.
- Upper hard drive cage is rotatable and removable.
- USB3.0 support on the front panel.
- Excellent cable routing and cable routing covers.
Packaging & Accessories
Unlike with the Define R3, Fractal Design used typical packaging with the Arc series. The packaging uses Styrofoam on two ends of the case to isolate it from the box to protect it from possible damage during shipment.
The accessories box includes all the necessary screws to mount everything, an Allen wrench/Phillips head screwdriver, a couple of thick zipties, a 5.25″ faceplate when using 3.5″ devices (floppy, card reader, etc.), and the single channel fan controller. However, neither a USB3.0 20-pin to USB2.0 header adapter nor a USB3.0 20-pin to male USB3.0 adapter is included for the front panel USB3.0 port. So, if the motherboard doesn’t have a 20-pin USB3.0 header, then the front panel USB3.0 port is useless unless you buy an adapter.
The front of the Arc series is plastic meant to look like brushed aluminum. However, it doesn’t really look as intended. In my opinion, it looks more like wood grain than brushed aluminum. There is a huge intake vent in the front panel of both cases as well, which has an air filter and one or two intake fans mounted. The Midi can mount 140 mm fans in the front and the Mini uses 120 mm fans. The front panel can be removed for cleaning the air filter, installing fans, and removing the 5.25″ bay covers. Also note that the Arc series only has two 5.25″ bays, like the Define R3. It’s debatable whether or not this is a con, but I think the majority of consumers are more likely to need or want more than two 5.25″ devices than 7-8 hard drives, especially since 2 TB hard drives are accessible.
The sides of the Arc series have a matte black finish, and the left side of the cases have a spot for a side fan. The Midi takes advantage of a 140/180 mm fan, and for the Mini a 120/140 mm fan.
The tops have huge vents similar to the front panels. The top panel can be removed for cleaning the air filter. Typically, the top is used for exhaust fans, so the top air filter seems kind of odd. The filter will come in handy if mounting a radiator up top set up to pull air from outside of the case. The “front panel” I/O is actually on top of the Arc cases and consists of two USB2.0 ports, one USB3.0 port, power button, reset button, 3.5 mm headphone output, and 3.5 mm microphone input. The addition of USB3.0 is an improvement over the Define R3 which doesn’t have stock front panel USB3.0 support. However, Fractal Design has recently released a front panel USB3.0 upgrade kit for the Define R3. The downside to top panel I/O is that the cases cannot be pushed back into a desk with a denoted spot for a PC tower and still have access to the I/O and power/reset buttons.
The backs of the Arc Midi and Mini are pretty standard with the exception of one feature, the vertical PCIe slot. This slot was most likely added for the included fan controller, so that it wouldn’t take up any spots for actual PCIe devices like graphics cards, sound cards, RAID cards, PCIe solid state drives, etc. However, if the included fan controller isn’t needed, then another device can definitely be used. One that comes to mind are the eSATA PCIe brackets that are included with some Gigabyte boards.
There’s not much to the bottom of the Arc cases. The case is supported by four thick, rubber feet to help prevent the case from moving or causing any noise from vibration and to lift it from the ground for the bottom intake fans. There’s also an air filter that covers two vents. One vent is for the power supply’s fan and the other is for an optional intake fan. The air filter can be removed from the back of the case, which isn’t the most convenient location. Being able to remove the filter from the side or front would have made it easier on the user. The bottom filters of the Midi and Mini aren’t the same either. The Midi has a much more dense filter than the Mini, which means less dust will get into the Midi.
Interior & Component Installation
The top hard drive cage on both the Midi and Mini can be removed or rotated , this allows for bigger graphics cards while still having access to three or four 3.5″ hard drive trays.
The hard drive trays all have four rubber grommets installed to isolate the 3.5″ hard drives from any metal, which will reduce vibration significantly. However, there are no grommet for 2.5″ drives, which is fine for solid state drives, but not for 2.5″ mechanical hard drives. This isn’t a big issue since most of the 2.5″ drives installed in desktops will be solid state. Also, the finish of the hard drives tray differ between the Midi and the Mini. The Midi’s trays have a smooth, glossy finish, whereas the Mini’s tray have a rough, matte finish.
The power supply sits on top of four stands equipped with either rubber (Midi) or foam (Mini) disks and butts up against a foam gasket in the back of the case. These stands raise the power supply from the bottom of the case giving the fan access to more air. The foam gasket and rubber/foam disks reduce vibration and noise that the power supply may cause.
Installing 5.25″ devices is typical. To remove the 5.25″ bay covers, the front panel needs removing by grabbing underneath the bottom and pulling, then the covers can be removed by pressing the covers’ tabs and popping it out. The optical disk drive slides in the front and is secured with screws on either side of the 5.25″ bay.
I installed an ATX board in the Midi and a mATX board in the Mini (thanks goes out to Bobnova for lending me the mATX). The motherboard installation went smoothly. The cases come without the standoffs installed, so they can be installed where needed based on the motherboard’s form factor. The motherboard mounting screws are black Phillips head screws, so a screwdriver is needed. Also, the holes in the motherboard trays will allow for easy access to the backplates of various coolers.
Fan Controller & Noise Level
The single channel fan controller looks to be exactly like the one included with the Define R3, which handled 18.72 W in my previous review. So, you shouldn’t have to worry about it not handling more powerful fans if you decide to swap out the stock Fractal Design fans.
Mini – 27-45 dbA
- Two Gentle Typhoon D1225C12B5AP-15 fans at 1850 RPM
- Three Fractal Design fans (1x 140 mm and 2x 120 mm) varied by using the included fan controller
- Asus GTX580 Matrix DirectCUII cooler at 20%
Midi – 26-38 dbA
- Two Gentle Typhoon D1225C12B5AP-15 fans at 1850 RPM
- Three Fractal Design 140 mm fans varied by using the included fan controller
- Asus GTX580 Matrix DirectCUII cooler at 20%
Modding in Mind
The Arc series supports internal radiators in the top of the case, and there’s also routing holes for external radiators. So, there’s not much, if any, modding needed for water cooling.
The most common mods on window-less cases are side window mods since everyone enjoys looking at the hardware that put a dent in their wallet. With the Arc series has a pretty bare side panel, sans the side fan mount, that leaves a good canvas for the window modding artists to work with. To give an example, here is an Arc Midi window mod done by one of our members, chaos.
The Arc series looks like a prime candidate for a top window mod as well. Since the Arc cases have a grill and filter across almost the entire top panel, a top window mod should be as simple as removing the grill and filter then replacing them with a piece of Plexi glass.
Summary of Minor Differences in the Midi & Mini
- The filters on the Mini are less dense.
- Less “finished” paint job on the Mini’s white HDD trays and PCIe slot covers.
- Foam is used instead of rubber on Mini’s PSU mount.
- The Mini isn’t really much smaller than the Midi.
- The thumbscrews used on the Midi have “points” at the beginning of the threads, which makes it easier to thread the screw.
- Midi supports 140 mm or larger fans, whereas the Mini supports 120 mm or larger.
Fractal Design’s Arc series are well-built, quality cases with quite a few nice features. There are plenty of spots for multiple sizes of fans throughout the Midi and Mini for superb airflow if additional fans are purchased. However, the Arc series does include one more fan than the Define R3, and that’s definitely welcome. There are air filters to prevent dust accumulation for most of the intake fans. The included fan controller allows for either near silence or max airflow. Some of the largest graphics cards are supported with the use of the removable and rotatable hard drive cage. Not to mention the Arc Midi and Mini look great with Fractal Design’s signature theme: matte black exterior and interior with contrasting white hard drive trays, PCIe slot covers, and fan blades.
The Arc Midi and Arc Mini both cost $100 at Newegg, which seems odd to me. Not that it’s a high price for what you get, but it’s that the prices are very close to their Define series regardless of quality or feature differences between cases. So, the Define series still holds Fractal Design’s “bang-for-the-buck” title, in my opinion. However, the Arc series is still really good for the money.
The Midi doesn’t support the more common 120 mm fans in the front or side panels; that’s the only real downside to that case. However, the bigger fans do result in less noise. The Mini really isn’t all that “mini” coming in at only 0.78″ x 2.16″ x 1.22″ (WxHxD) smaller than the Midi. Also, some of the materials used on the Mini seem cheaper, but this isn’t reflected in the cost of the case. As with the Define R3, I’d prefer to have more 5.25″ bays over more 3.5″ trays. More fans are always a nice addition, but that would increase the cost and reduce Fractal Design’s good features per dollar ratio.
Overall, I believe Fractal Design has followed their concept with the Arc series and the result is a couple of well-priced, quality cases in the Arc Midi and Arc Mini.
Of course, a big thanks goes out to Fractal Design for allowing Overclockers.com to check some of their newest offerings.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)