|Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 Case|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by Tom Jaskulka|
|Monday, 15 April 2013|
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Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 Final Thoughts
So where does all of that leave us? Overall, building a system in the Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 was a pleasant experience. I'm not sure if this chassis offers anything above and beyond most other ~$110 ATX mid-towers with a basic, air-cooled build other than the general level of quality, great style and extensive amount of removable filters (which, depending on your environment, can absolutely make a difference). However, when you start placing some specialized components into the Arc Midi R2, you really begin to see the amount of thought that went into many aspects of this case. There aren't many other mid-tower cases that can fit two 240mm radiators (along with a 140mm for the rear exhaust!) with space left over for all of the fans required. That is something many full towers cannot claim! The number of options given to the system builder (especially for water cooling) are pretty incredible for a $110 enclosure, and outpaces the competition in my opinion.
Still, there are some caveats. I have to mention the notched side panels...this method just needs to be deprecated in favor of hinged side panels in all computer cases above $100 in my opinion. It isn't much of an issue - until you've worked in a case that uses hinged panels. It is a vastly better solution, especially if you are regularly switching out hardware. Honestly, the only chassis using notched side panels that didn't annoy me every time I opened it up was a Cooler Master Storm Stryker. If the panel goes on smoothly every time, then I won't bring it up. Otherwise, just use a hinged panel. There, I said it.
Even though the window is nice (especially for showing off some new water cooling kit!) I would love the option to trade it for a side intake. Yes, I understand this would raise the noise level of the fans by allowing another opening for sound to escape, but in my experience direct cooling of graphics cards keeps the GPU fans from spinning up too high. Besides, the entire top of the Arc Midi R2 is mesh anyway - you'll definitely hear the hottest fan-cooled component in your rig with or without a window. I will say I have been quite spoiled by the significantly small amount of dust inside the Arc Midi due to those filters though... Maybe a solid side panel with a window was the better choice here. A Crossfire or SLI system will get toasty at full burn, but perhaps most of those users would be looking a larger enclosure anyway (and with the radiator mounting options in the Arc Midi, water cooling two GPUs would take care of that issue - well played, Fractal Design).
Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 Conclusion
One thing Fractal Design does well is presentation. There is a design language at work here that flows through everything they do - even the manual follows suit. I think Fractal Design single-handedly made me a fan (please excuse the pun) of white bladed fans and contrasting looks. While NZXT does this nicely as well, Fractal Design manages it with a subtly powerful design that blends in with any décor. You do have to like this type of style though - and I should admit it may not be for everyone.
Appearance is such a subjective rating. Still, there are things that almost everyone can agree with: paint looks best when it is applied evenly...gaps between panels become an eyesore...a "cohesive" design throughout is more appealing than a random spattering of design decisions. These things aren't an issue with the Arc Midi R2. It is apparent Fractal Design deserves the "Design" in their name, as they really follow through with their design language throughout all of their enclosures. The original Arc Midi was distinctive enough to stand out from the crowd, and the R2 ratchets the build quality and design up a notch. The window itself isn't just a tacked on piece of acrylic, but is finished well and is of good quality. The new removable front filter looks great, as well as the mesh filter up top. Personally, I've become a huge fan of the Fractal Design aesthetic, and the Arc Midi R2 does not disappoint. The matte/brushed finish on the plastic front panel blends well with the rest of the case, but using an actual metal here would be really nice. I can't quite nail down what catches my eye about the Arc Midi R2, but I like it.
The Arc Midi R2 is constructed fairly well. I'd give it an 8 out of 10 here, because I still ran into some issues that plagued my Core 3000 - namely, I constantly felt like I was cross-threading every screw. I'm assuming some of the threads were covered during the painting process, because they seem to tighten like normal after the first use (I needed a screwdriver to remove most of the thumbscrews). Fractal Design might be aware of this issue, as they included a neat "thumbscrew" cover for the motherboard standoffs (very thoughtful, and the first encounter of such a thing for me). Also, those notched side panels...well, I talked about that already. There is a better solution. Still, the mesh filters are all of a sturdy look and feel, and the front panel snaps on and off with a solid feeling. The case doesn't creak or groan as you are lifting it, and everything fits together well.
Functionally, the Arc Midi R2 delivers. Especially for a mid-tower! I was surprised to find I couldn't mount a Swiftech H220 in a Thor V2 without some modification, but the Arc Midi R2 handled it without a problem - in two different locations, nonetheless! The various drive mounting options (with the exception of the bonus 2.5" drive mounts - but at least they are there!), removable filters (resulting in a very dust-free interior), radiator mounting options, multiple fan mounts... This is almost everything you could ask for in a $100 mid-tower.
As of mid-April 2013 the Arc Midi R2 is available online for around $90 (Newegg|Amazon), and at that price I'd say it should be at the top of your list if you want to try water cooling at some point (or just like the Fractal Design aesthetic). Granted, the competition is fierce at that price point, but I believe the Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 brings a few more options (all intakes filtered, modular interior, lots of radiators!) to the table than most of its peers. The main problem in this category is the sheer amount of options, which isn't so much a fault of the Arc Midi as it is the nature of the market.
You can't go wrong with the Arc Midi R2. It is a well built, stylish enclosure that can fit many different builds with room to accommodate some unique hardware. It isn't perfect, but it gets a lot more right than it does wrong while improving incrementally on its predecessor. If you are in the market for a mid-tower that maximizes the potential of your build, I think you'd be satisfied with the Arc Midi R2. I'm impressed, but I don't think it deserves the highest of awards quite yet - which just means I'm anxiously awaiting an R3...