The Arc series is Fractal Design’s answer to users who need massive amounts of airflow. This Mini R2 version is the smallest of the bunch, only supporting Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards, but it ships with three large fans and has room for more. This case promises to provide plenty of flexibility for positioning fans, radiators, and hard drives while not hurting your eyes and not breaking the bank.
Features and Specifications
(Courtesy Fractal Design)
- Micro ATX, Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
- 2 – 5.25″ bays
- 6 – 3.5″ HDD trays – all compatible with SSDs
- 2 – 2.5″ dedicated SSD positions behind the motherboard plate
- 4 + 1 expansion slots
- 7 – Fan positions (3 Silent Series R2 fans included)
- Filtered fan slots in front, top and bottom
- CPU coolers up to 165 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 220 mm deep) can be used
- Graphics card compatibility: Graphics cards up to 260 mm in length with the top HDD cage installed – With the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 400 mm in length may be installed
- 20 mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
- Thick rubber grommets on all holes on the motherboard plate
- Window side panel included
The most interesting thing to me about this case is how versatile it is. All of the front drive cages are removable which allows you to fit a radiator on the front, back, top (up to 360 mm!) and bottom of the case. Pair all of that with multiple pumps and you’ll be moving a lot of cool water around which could mean some awesomely high stable overclocks. However, this case could easily be used for a home NAS. In which case, you’ll want all the hard drive space you can get so all of the cages would be left in. Or maybe you have a super long graphics card, so one of the cages has to go to make room for it. Basically, it’s nice to have the option to do what you want without having to break out the cutting wheel.
Each of the hard drive cages come equipped with three sleds. These are nice quality sleds made out of steel. They won’t break with frequent use and include rubber grommets to isolate vibrations. When it is slid into place, there is a clearly audible click which helps you know it is secure. These sleds are generally a good thing, but they aren’t tool-less as you still need to screw the drive into place. So, unlike most drive sleds, these don’t really make installing hard drives quicker or easier.
On the back side of the motherboard plate, there are two SSD drive sleds too. Their inclusion is very interesting and especially useful if you intend on removing the drive cages from the front of the case. These sleds turned out to be functionally necessary, as opposed to being fixed in place, because of the logistics of securing the SSDs with screws in such a low profile position.
Another nice thing that you don’t see on most cases is the fan speed switch. It’s not necessarily needed with 120 mm and larger fans because they don’t make a lot of noise even at full speed, but if you happen to use this case for a HTPC in your bedroom for instance, you may welcome the ability to make the system as quiet as possible without having to purchase and install a separate controller panel. I love that it’s dead simple to use and only has three settings: low (6v), medium (7v), or high (12v). Sadly, though, it can only handle a maximum of three fans at once.
Another trend that I’m a big fan of (pun intended) is big fans. Multiple 120 mm or larger fans is another “must have” criteria that is very common to include with a case now, but wasn’t necessarily so five years ago. Two 120 mm fans and one 140 mm fan are included with this case, but I really wish they included more. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for four more to fill all seven mount locations since they are so inexpensive, but I guess ‘value engineering’ has to play it’s part somewhere. Still, the three large fans provide plenty of air flow at a low noise level.
Air filter panels have quickly become one of my “must haves” on any new case and the Arc Mini R2 has them on the front, top, and bottom fan openings. Sure, not all cases have them now but they are a lot more common than they were even five years ago, and for good reason. They do a superb job of keeping dust and other nasty stuff out of your case and out of your heatsinks. To clean them, it’s usually easy enough to just wipes the outside off with a soft cloth or use the vacuum quickly while you’re already vacuuming your floor. Either way, they’re much more convenient to clean than having to turn off your computer and open the side of the case.
Similar to the fan speed controller, the window on the side door is a long standing case mod tradition, but these have become much more commonplace in the stock case market. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s a good or bad thing, but at least if you want one you don’t need to make a separate purchase to get it or cut apart the door to make it yourself. If you’re more like me and you don’t need the thrill of seeing the CPU fan spin, then take solace in the fact that the plexiglass is tinted so it’s hard to tell it’s even there.
Installation and Operation
Putting components into the case was dead simple. There are absolutely zero sharp edges, so my hands stayed scar free. The ability to remove the drive cages helps here too, so there is more room to maneuver parts and cables around without hindrance.
I was very pleased to see the attention to cable management. All of the rubber grommets held up beautifully and there are many places to tie your cables to so they stay put. Of course, the back side of the motherboard plate looks like a mess, but the main compartment can be very tidy if you take your time. Unfortunately, only having 20 mm of space behind the motherboard plate and the case door wasn’t enough when i had the hard drives situated with all of their plugs facing that side. All of the other cables on the back of the tray have plenty of room, so turning the drives around would be better for usage but it wouldn’t look as clean, obviously.
On one hand, it is nice to have drive sleds that are as sturdy as these so they won’t break with frequent drive changes (it’s no secret that both SATA and SSD drives can and do die frequently). On the other hand, they didn’t really save me any time when installing them since I still had to secure them with screws. However, the rubber vibration dampers did seem to help keep the noise down in the case when the drives were under heavy use.
Even though you can fit seven fans into this case, the three included do a great job of keeping things cool. I created a 4 drive RAID5 with some Seagate 3 TB SATA disks to test, then ran a few scripts to generate data, and monitored the drive temperatures with ‘hddtemp’ After 30 minutes, none of the drives increased their temperature by more than 1 degree Celsius and all of them stayed below 45 degrees Celsius while the fan controller was set to Medium (7v).
Overall, this is a great case. It’s made well, has tons of high-end options and looks great. It isn’t particularly cheap, Newegg has it for $100 , but the specs make it worth it. Even though it cannot fit ATX sized boards, only M-ATX and Mini-ITX, there is still plenty of room for large CPU coolers and full size GPUs making for a powerful gaming machine while still having plenty of space for multiple HDDs and SDDs. Because of it’s modularity, this is an extremely versatile case and should be on everyone’s short list of cases to pick for their next project. I’m making this one Overclockers Approved.
Thanks to Fractal Design for providing the review sample.