The newest member of Fractal Design’s Arc series of Air Flow cases has arrived! Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at this latest offering from Fractal Design and see if the Arc Midi R2 lives up to its advanced billing. Touted as being a chassis built for high-performance systems with lots of water cooling options, it should raise the brow of computer enthusiasts and water cooling aficionados alike. Can all this really be done in a mid-tower case? Let’s find out together!
Here is a list of the specifications and features associated with the Arc Midi R2. Highlights include support for long video cards, long PSUs, and tall CPU coolers. It looks like we have a removable hard drive cage, three included fans, and a 3-speed fan controller. Nice start! Specifications and features provided courtesy of Fractal Design.
Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 Specifications/Features Specifications
- ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
- 2 – 5.25″ bays
- 8 – 3.5″ HDD trays – all compatible with SSDs
- 2 – 2.5″ additional SSD positions behind the mothboard plate
- 7 + 1 expansion slots
- 7 – Fan positions (3 Silent Series R2 fans included)
- Filtered fan slots in front, top and bottom
- CPU coolers up to 180 mm tall
- PSU compatibility: ATX PSUs up to 170 mm deep when using the bottom fan location; when not using this fan location longer PSUs (up to 270 mm deep) can be used
- Graphics card compatibility: Graphics cards up to 290mm in length with the top HDD cage installed – With the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 430mm in length may be installed
- 26 mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
- Thick rubber grommets on all holes on the motherboard plate
- Colors available: Black
- Case dimensions (WxHxD): 230 x 460 x 515mm
- Net weight: 10.7kg
- Package dimensions (WxHxD): 320 x 610 x 560mm
- Package weight: 12kg
- Designed with high airflow in mind while consistently holding a minimalistic, sleek look and feel
- Featuring a window side panel to show off your set up in style
- Extensive water cooling support, designed to support thick radiators in the front and top positions
- Three Silent Series R2 fans with integrated fan controller included
- HDD cages are now split 5 + 3 and are both rotatable and removable for maximum configuration and airflow
- Support for up to 8 hard drive bays with accommodation for an additional 2 x 2,5” inch drives behind the motherboard
- Easy installation and configuration with ample cable routing space making it simple for everyone to make a very tidy looking computer build
- Removable fan filters for easy dust maintenance and washing
- Front: 1 – hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed (included); 1 – 120/140mm fan (not included)
- Rear: 1 – hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed (included)
- Top: 1 – hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed (included); 2 – 120/140mm fans (not included)
- Bottom: 1 – 120/140mm fan (not included)
- Fan controller: 1 – integrated fan controller for up to 3 fans (included)
- Water cooling compatibility:
- Front – 240 mm radiators (thick and slim) when HDD cages are repositioned or removed
- Top – 240 mm radiators (thick and slim)
- Bottom – 120mm radiators
- Rear – 120mm radiators
- 2 – USB 3.0
- Audio in/out
- Power button with LED (blue)
- HDD activity LED (red)
- Reset button
- Fan controller
- Arc Midi R2 computer case
- Accessory box
- User manual
- EAN/GTIN-13: 7350041081081
- UPC: 817301011082
- Product code: FD-CA-ARC-R2-BL-W
- Available for System Integrators
Here is the marketing blurb Fractal Design assigned to the Arc Midi R2, which explains the vision they have for this case:
As the newest member of the Arc family of airflow cases, the Arc Midi R2 is developed with high-performance computer systems in mind. Featuring three high performance Silent Series R2 fans and ample water cooling options, the Arc Midi R2 layout maximizes airflow throughout the case and keeps even the most demanding systems at cool temperatures. Designed to house even the thickest radiators in both the top and front panels without extensive modifications, the Arc Midi R2 offers all this within a mid size case.
The chassis comes complete with a stylish window side panel, fan controller, easy to clean dust filters, high level of workmanship, flexible hard drive mounting system and plenty of space for cable routing.
A brown box with black lettering and graphics is how the product is presented to the end user. On the front, we have a large image of the case with some branding and the Fractal Design snowflake we see on all their product packaging. Flip the box around to the back, and you’ll find an exploded view of the Arc Midi R2 and a multilingual list of a few of the features. The box sides are reserved for specifications and another image of the case with the side panel off. The box top is home to some additional branding and the model name of the case.
Opening the box top reveals the case protection methods, which include the customary Styrofoam blocks with the case wrapped in a plastic bag. I love the fact Fractal Design uses an anti-static bag to wrap the case, it protects you from getting the “Holy Bejesus” shocked out of you when you remove a standard plastic bag most manufacturers use. Once removed from the box, you can see the case sitting in the Styrofoam blocks and wrapped up. As a side note, you’ll also find the side window is protected with a film strip on both sides. Unboxed, unwrapped, and film strips removed – here is your first look at the Fractal Design Arc Midi R2!
The accessories can be found tucked into one of the 3.5″ drive bays, and the users manual was found resting in the bottom Styrofoam block. The accessory box has a list of contents printed on it for easy identification of the parts within. You get the full ensemble of parts needed to assemble a fully loaded system, and you even get one of those fancy thumb screw sockets to install the motherboard standoffs.
All and all, a very nice job of packaging and providing ample accessories to the end user. Absolutely nothing to complain about here.
If you’re one who likes classic lines and elegant looks, the Arc Midi R2 will be right up your alley. I must admit the first thing I said to myself when looking at this case was “wow, this looks sharp.” The dark window blends in nicely with the overall theme of the case, and the large mesh areas in the front and top panels are both functional and good looking too.
There are two 5.25″ drive bays at your disposal on the front panel. The front panel will need to be removed in order to take the 5.25″ covers off. Around back, we have the opening for the bottom mount PSU design, 7+1 white expansion slot covers, an included 140 mm exhaust fan, and the cutout for a motherboard’s I/O shield.
At the top of the Arc Midi R2, we find a large mesh area that spans almost the entire top panel. The top panel I/O options include power and reset switches, headphone and mic jacks, and two USB 3.0 ports. There is also a 3-speed fan controller switch located here. The fan controller has three settings, High (12 V) – Medium (7 V) – Low (5 V).
The bottom area features a slide out filter that covers both the PSU air passage and the area for an optional 140/120 mm fan. The four feet are outfitted with thick rubber pads to protect the surface the case sits on and to provide anti-vibration qualities.
Ok, let’s get inside of the Arc Midi R2 and find out what we have available to us there!
Beginning with the front panel, we can remove the mesh area simply by pressing the upper two corners to release it. There is a foam filter on the back side and the whole mesh/filter piece can be easily rinsed out for cleaning. There is a Fractal Design Silent Series R2 140 mm fan installed in the front panel and an option for a second fan. Either fan location will also accept a 120 mm fan. Once the front panel is removed, you can see the sides of the hard drive cages and the lower knock-out 5.25″ drive bay plate. The center of the knock-out plate can be removed in order to accept a 3.5″ drive of some sort, but that won’t do you much good because neither drive bay cover has a removable center to match up with it. It would have been nice to see ventilation holes cut into the side rails of the hard drive cages. As it stands, it’s a rather restrictive design when the cages are left in their default position.
The top panel mesh and filter assembly can also be completely removed by removing two thumb screws at the back of the case and then sliding it back and off. This piece can also be easily rinsed out for cleaning.
Inside and at the bottom, we see the grilled areas for the PSU fan and an optional 140/120 mm fan. Both of these grill areas are protected by the slide out filter I showed you earlier. There are also four pads installed for the PSU to rest on.
Along the back, you can see the 7+1 ventilated expansion slot covers that are held in place with thumb screws. Above those is the second of three Fractal Design Silent Series R2 140 mm fans included with this case.
Under the top deck, you’ll find a host of cooling options at your disposal. You can install up to three 140/120 mm fans if air cooling is your desire, or you can install a 240 mm radiator here. The forward most fan opening is positioned differently than the two behind it, so any thoughts of a 360 mm radiator will require serious modding to the 5.25″ drive bays and some hole drilling. The included 140 mm fan is the same as the other two we’ve seen already, but you might be interested to know they run at a maximum 1000 RPM. I measured right at 2″ from under the top deck to the motherboard mounting holes, but you actually have about 1-3/4″ to the edge of the motherboard.
Moving over to the 5.25″ drive bay area, you can get a better look at the forwardmost fan location under the top deck and the two 5.25″ bays. There are no fancy tool-less latches for securing drives here, just the old school method of attaching them with screws. I don’t mind using screws because I normally add them anyway, even where tool-less latches are present.
The hard drive cage area is very unique and designed to accommodate large radiators at the front of the case, even with a push/pull configuration. The upper cage can be rotated 90 degrees or completely removed to accommodate longer video cards. If you leave the top cage out, you can then position the bottom cage in two additional locations. You can move it a little more towards the rear or a lot more towards the rear depending on needed room for front mounted water cooling setups. If you move it to the rearmost position, there are sacrifices to be made. You’ll more than likely run into clearance problems with the bottom card in a Crossfire or SLI setup, wiring connected to the bottom right area of your motherboard will be inaccessible, and shorter PSUs will be needed.
The upper hard drive cage houses five trays and the bottom holds three. The trays are made from metal and feature 3.5″ or 2.5″ mounting holes. The trays come with rubber pads to minimize hard drive vibration.
The motherboard tray offers a lot of cable management and a huge hole to access the CPU’s backplate. If you’ve ever had to change out a CPU cooler after the system is put together, then you know how much easier that access hole makes the process. There are two smaller pass-through holes just above the access hole, two more down the right side of the motherboard tray, and one located at the bottom. All five of these pass-through holes are protected with rubber grommets. Just above the PSU guide is yet another small hole that can be used if needed. None of the motherboard standoffs are pre-installed, but all the locations are marked with the form factor motherboard they work with. Between the motherboard tray and the right side panel, I measured right at an inch of space. That should be more than adequate for tucking cable away and out of sight.
In addition to the full one inch of cable routing room, the back of the motherboard tray has an option to install up to two SSDs. There is an upper and lower location to install the SSDs, but be advised they must be installed before the motherboard and PSU. The motherboard will block access to the mounting screws for the upper drive location, and the PSU will do the same for the lower drive location. Obviously, removal and replacement will be quite a chore. Rounding out the back of the motherboard tray are several loops to secure cables with wire ties.
The wiring for the 3-speed fan controller consists of a 4-pin Molex power connector and the three cables to connect fans too. Because you’re more than likely to have a SATA ROM drive installed right next to the fan controller’s power cable, I was surprised Fractal Design didn’t use a SATA power lead for the fan controller. That would make much more sense in my opinion, and in fact, many other case manufacturers have implemented that design.
The three included fans have very nice braided cables and 3-pin power cables. The USB 3.0 cable includes a USB 2.0 lead for motherboards that do not have an onboard USB 3.0 header. The audio cable also has dual connectors, one for AC97 and one for HD audio. The other case wiring is standard stuff you see on most cases out there.
Now that we’ve been through the Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 inside and out, let’s toss a system in it and see what we can come up with!
Putting it all together
ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 Motherboard (Overclockers Approved)
AMD A10-5800K APU (Overclockers Approved)
2×4 GB Kingston HyperX Memory
Western Digital Green 1 TB SATA 3.5″ HD
Super Talent TeraDrive CT3 120 GB SSD (Overclockers Meh)
Thermaltake Smart-M 750 Watt PSU (Overclockers Approved)
Sapphire HD 7770 Video Card (Overclockers Approved)
HP CD/DVD SATA Rom Drive
Zalman LQ320 AIO Water Cooler – For Fitment Only (Overclockers Approved)
Swiftech H220 LCS AIO Water Cooler (Overclockers approved)
I wanted to use to use the Swiftech H220 AIO cooler under the top deck, but unfortunately it’s too long with it’s built in reservoir on one end and hose fittings on the other end. The H220 easily fit in the front, however, so that’s where it’s going! Other 240 mm AIO coolers, such as the Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme, will fit under the top deck without any issues. So, if your plan is to install a 240 mm radiator under the top deck, just make sure it does not have top mounted fittings or a built in reservoir, and you’ll be fine.
I wanted to show you how thicker radiators fit in different locations. So, I grabbed the Zalman LQ320, which has a 53 mm thick radiator to illustrate the room available at the potential installation points. When installed at the front location, obviously, the top HDD cage will need to be removed. The radiator and one fan will fit with the bottom HDD cage moved back one spot to the rear, but it’s a tight fit. It would probably be best to go ahead and move the lower HDD cage to the rearmost position for better air flow. With the lower cage all the way back, you can see in the picture below that a push/pull setup will easily fit. You won’t run into any problems using a thick 240 mm radiator here either, there is plenty of room.
Fitment under the top deck works very well with thick radiators. This is due to how wide the case is and how far the radiator sits above the motherboard. You may recall I showed a picture earlier to illustrate the distance from under the top deck to the edge of the motherboard. As it turns out, that measurement is a moot point because you can easily overhang the motherboard with a radiator and fans. As with the front, you’ll run into no issues using a 240 mm radiator here.
There is no problem at all installing thick 120 mm radiators at the rear and bottom locations either, there is plenty of room at both locations.
Installing either 3.5″ or 2.5″ drives to the HDD trays requires screwing them in from the bottom. There are special screws included for attaching 3.5″ drives where the rubber dampening washers are used.
To install a 5.25″ drive, you’ll need to remove the front panel to relieve the bay cover. Once that is done, just slide the drive in place, and screw it down.
Next up was to install the Swiftech H220 at the front, and reinstall the lower HDD cage one position to the rear. Then, I mounted the motherboard, memory, and the H220 block/pump assembly to the motherboard.
From here, it’s just a matter of adding the rest of the components and tidying thing up. Putting this system together was about as easy as any mid-tower case build I have ever dealt with. The jungle of wires I had behind the motherboard tray was dwarfed by the room available there. The side panel literally fell into place and easily fit back on. The Arc Midi R2 is so customizable, the hardest part of putting a system together was deciding which options to take advantage of. Here are some pictures of the completed system, which show the options I chose. This is only one of many different ways a system can be assembled in this case, but I think this particular build came out pretty sharp looking.
Often times when planning a custom water cooled system build, the tendency might be to migrate towards purchasing a full tower chassis. This especially holds true if your considering multiple loops or multiple radiators. The Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 goes a long way towards dispelling the myth of needing a massive case to fit larger radiators in multiple quantities. It really is quite amazing how configurable the Arc Midi R2 is, especially when you consider this is a mid-tower case.
Currently, the Arc Midi R2 can be had for $99.99 at Newegg, which quite honestly is a lot less than I thought it would be. We’ve got a great dust filtration system, three included 140 mm fans, completely modular and adjustable HDD cages, metal HDD trays, and four locations to install radiators. If that’s not enough, there is also a 3-speed fan controller, a terrific cable management scheme, and support for the longest of video cards. I only have a couple very minor gripes with the Arc Midi R2. The first being one of the drive bay covers not having a removable center to accommodate a 3.5″ external drive. Secondly, 4-pin Molex power for the fan controller is outdated, it’s time to move into the 2010’s here and think SATA power! Obviously, neither one of these gripes are a deal breaker, but worth mentioning.
I’ll wrap this review up by saying Fractal Design has done a fantastic job with the Arc Midi R2. It holds true to its claim of being built for high-performance systems and water cooling enthusiasts. For $100, you’ll be hard pressed to find another case with this many features and customization options. Furthermore, if classic lines and elegant looks suit your taste, this case will definitely appeal to you. With everything the Arc Midi R2 has to offer at a surprisingly low price, I have no problem recommending this case to anyone looking for a mid-tower solution.
-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)