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Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 Review: Improving On A Classic Case

Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 Review: Improving On A Classic Case
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Fractal Design scored a lot of fans with the simple and elegant architecture of its Arc Midi enclosure. The Arc Midi R2 represents an evolutionary step forward for the company, incorporating a number of refinements that build on the original's strengths.

Fractal Design introduced its Arc Midi about two years ago at a price point around $80, making it an affordable mid-tower PC case with a simple design. The chassis proved popular with customers and garnered a lot of editorial attention, too. The accolades weren't just related to price; it also boasted a number of features that were far from standard at the time, including cable management, extensive dust filters, an integrated fan controller, and modular hard drive cages.

The original Arc Midi might be two years old, but its aesthetic and feature set are still very much modern. Fractal Design's new Arc Midi R2 replaces the side fan with a large window, which naturally changes the case's look a bit. Other modifications are less obvious. You get the option to install 2.5” drives on the back of the motherboard tray, for example. Or, you can pop in a 240 mm radiator not just below the top, but also behind the front of the case. Finally, the integrated fan control is relocated to a more convenient position.

Since the Arc Midi R2 is only a few dollars pricier than its predecessor, there’s really no reason to skip out on the advertised improvements by stepping back to the old version. We're interested in these updates, and how big of an advantage they might lend to the evolved enclosure from Fractal Design.

Packaging

The Swedish case vendor typically builds its chassis to be simple and elegant. This isn’t only reflected in Fractal's products, but also in its packaging. The Arc Midi R2 ships in a basic cardboard box with side handles. There's a picture of the case on the front and an exploded view around back, describing the enclosure's unique features.

My colleague Igor Wallossek and I both have an issue with the messy Styrofoam used for packaging cases, but apparently nobody is listening. Fair enough.

In the Box

Apart from the case, the box includes a large pamphlet letting you know that you can contact Fractal Design if anything is wrong with the Arc Midi R2. The offer to send out a replacement part immediately and free of charge can save the hassle of returning it to the seller.

The multi-language manual doesn’t include complete installation instructions, but it does a fair job explaining the case’s unique features. The print quality is good, also.

All of the accessories are found in a small cardboard box. There are cable ties, motherboard spacers with a handy installation tool, and plenty of screws painted black to match.

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  • 3 Hide
    f-14 , September 29, 2013 10:26 PM
    Solution: buy some rubber toilet grommets or faucet washers from your local hardware store price will range from 25 cents to a little under a dollar and the problem is solved.

    Some Notes and Recommendations about Replacing the Fans

    Let's say everything else about the Arc Midi R2 is ideal for you, and you simply want to replace its fans.
  • -2 Hide
    dish_moose , September 30, 2013 3:01 AM
    I think a fan that vibrates when pointed down is an inferior product. I had to replace the fan on my Antec 302 for the same reason - drove me crazy. As for beauty over function - I would much rather keep my GPU cool that have a "pretty" side window.
    -Bruce
  • 2 Hide
    mouse24 , September 30, 2013 4:03 AM
    ^ Was it a sleeve bearing fan? If so thats more or less normal due to how that bearing is designed.
  • 2 Hide
    SchizoFrog , September 30, 2013 4:04 AM
    Who puts a fan in the roof of a case to blow downwards? Surely the roof is best used as an exhaust and it was specifically mentioned about the fan blowing downwards. Personally I think I would be likely to buy a full set of fans so that I can fill all the fan mounts with the same design range and then keep the stock fans as emergency spares.

    As for keeping the GPU cool, I don't that is an issue with 2 the fans in the front creating perfectly adequate airflow to keep the GPU cool unless you are using multiple GPUs. Although in time I would probably mod the window and inserting an extra fan there as that isn't a hard job to do.
  • 1 Hide
    cjny71 , September 30, 2013 5:17 AM
    Regarding the change from a side panel with a mesh vent to a window, I am not sure if this would make much of a difference to GPU cooling. I have the original Fractal Midi and I wanted to isolate noise a bit more, so I swapped the side panels so that the vented one is on the back of the mother board side. I had also installed 1 extra 140 mm fan in the bottom of the case blowing up to draw in cool air underneath. I did this before swapping the side panels. All of my 140 mm fans are turning at 700 rpm. Surprisingly I noticed that in this configuration the GPU was slightly cooler (1-2 C) at idle and under load with the solid panel on the right / GPU side, and the noise seemed a little lower. CPU temps did not change. I would have to guess that the mesh hole provides an escape port for air and the GPU fan has to work harder.
    Heat Sources: i5-3570K @ 4.4 GHz, Hyper 212 EVO, EVGA GTX 560Ti @ 900 MHz, 3 WD Cavier Black HD
  • 3 Hide
    RazberyBandit , September 30, 2013 6:22 AM
    The Arc Midi 2 and Define R4 use an identical core case design. The only design differences are found in the front and top panels. (Both are mesh in the Arc Midi 2, while the Define R4 has a front door and sound-proof material fan opening covers for the top fan openings.)
    With Define R4's often available for roughly $85 (on sale) and Arc Midi 2's typically about $65 online, I find the $20 additional cost for the sound-proofing included in the Define R4 models a very worthwhile investment.
  • 0 Hide
    brazuka331 , September 30, 2013 7:25 AM
    Just got the Define R4 last week and i could not be happier!
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , September 30, 2013 9:46 AM
    Quote:
    Surprisingly I noticed that in this configuration the GPU was slightly cooler (1-2 C) at idle and under load with the solid panel on the right / GPU side, and the noise seemed a little lower.

    Does your GPU have its fan at one end of the card and exhaust directly outside through the rear bracket? If it does, the reason you see lower GPU temps is likely that the slightly more positive (or slightly less negative) pressure in the case from going solid makes the GPU's HSF a little more efficient at shoving warm air out of the case. Cards with "mid-mount" fans may also benefit from this due to slightly increased vertical airflow between the GPU's top edge and case panel carrying warm air up through the case faster.

    That is what I like to call structured airflow. Placing fans in the most effective places and shutting off meshed areas that allow air to escape without contributing to net cooling can achieve superior results with much less meshed area and fewer fans.
  • 0 Hide
    basketcase87 , September 30, 2013 12:11 PM
    Quote:
    I think a fan that vibrates when pointed down is an inferior product. I had to replace the fan on my Antec 302 for the same reason - drove me crazy. As for beauty over function - I would much rather keep my GPU cool that have a "pretty" side window.
    -Bruce


    Side fans don't always help GPU temps, they can even hurt temps in some cases by interfering with the airflow from the GPU fan. It really depends on the case and GPU (and whether or not the front intakes do anything for the GPU), but saying categorically that having an intake there will improve GPU temps is certainly not true.
  • 0 Hide
    fat_panda , September 30, 2013 1:28 PM
    It deserves a "Smart Buy" Award. Arc Midi R2 offers much more for the price than the competition while often being on sale for $65.
  • 0 Hide
    dudewitbow , September 30, 2013 5:17 PM
    Quote:
    Who puts a fan in the roof of a case to blow downwards? Surely the roof is best used as an exhaust and it was specifically mentioned about the fan blowing downwards. Personally I think I would be likely to buy a full set of fans so that I can fill all the fan mounts with the same design range and then keep the stock fans as emergency spares.

    As for keeping the GPU cool, I don't that is an issue with 2 the fans in the front creating perfectly adequate airflow to keep the GPU cool unless you are using multiple GPUs. Although in time I would probably mod the window and inserting an extra fan there as that isn't a hard job to do.


    in an idealist situation, the top panel fans should indeed be exhaust, but there are people in the rare occasion who want to focus on CPU cooling rather than the rest of the build, this generally calls for Watercooling with top intakes instead of top exhales. There's a moderately large temperature change when alternating the fans directions, the negative impact would be directly adding dust into your system, which can be cured by a decent air filter and regular maintenance.
  • 0 Hide
    SirGCal , September 30, 2013 8:25 PM
    I actually have this case and a 280mm radiator will not fit even though the fans themselves will fit just fine on the top. (Corsair H110) For a fact, it does NOT fit properly. I had to get really creative to mount it to the top. (hoses won't fit to the front for this unit and also I couldn't see how to mount it there honestly). In the end the radiator is held up in the center of the top area, not the 'mounting' area, with only three screws through the metal mesh area. Fans are on the bottom of the radiator blowing up. It would not fit any other way. Rather PITA honestly. Other parts of the case cause the unit to not fit. Also this is with better (stock fans for this unit suck) and slimmer fans also.

    Otherwise I very much like the case.
  • 0 Hide
    dish_moose , October 1, 2013 10:15 AM
    Basket - there will always be exceptions - In many instances getting cool air from the side - not passing over any HHDs etc, will result in cooler GPU temps. In my case with SLI GTX 460 it is critical if I want to max out my cards. I was just stating my opinion - and I still think vents in the side are a must for any mid to High Performance gaming system.
    -Bruce
  • 0 Hide
    Alan_G , October 1, 2013 11:35 AM
    This is my workstation case and I've not tinkered with the case fans and have not seen the need to run them above the medium (7V) setting. In fact, when the weather is cool, I turn it down to the low (5V) setting. For photo editing and routine work, I've not seen CPU temperatures rise more than about 5C above ambient RT. I have only one game, Metro Last Light, that came with my NVIDIA GPU and when playing it temps seem to be OK as well (though a little higher obviously). CPU is an i5 Ivy Bridge cooled by an Enermax ETS-40 which also runs quiet. Personally I think this is a great case and if I do any ATX builds in the future it's the case I'll pick. Good cooling and runs pretty darn quiet even though it doesn't have any special padding inside. It's also really easy to build in.

    I did have a defective release clip for the front fan filter and an email to Fractal Designs support was answered right away and they sent me a replacement free of charge.
  • 0 Hide
    RedJaron , October 1, 2013 12:23 PM
    If they had to change the side panel, I would've preferred a solid panel for noise isolation and to retain the minimalist looks.

    Very happy to see the thumbscrews on the 5.25 bays. Most snap locks now still have some give when you hit the eject button on a DVD drive. I don't like that so you still have to use screws anyway. Easy thumbscrews gets major points from me.
  • 0 Hide
    Alan_G , October 1, 2013 12:36 PM
    This is my workstation case and I've not tinkered with the case fans and have not seen the need to run them above the medium (7V) setting. In fact, when the weather is cool, I turn it down to the low (5V) setting. For photo editing and routine work, I've not seen CPU temperatures rise more than about 5C above ambient RT. I have only one game, Metro Last Light, that came with my NVIDIA GPU and when playing it temps seem to be OK as well (though a little higher obviously). CPU is an i5 Ivy Bridge cooled by an Enermax ETS-40 which also runs quiet. Personally I think this is a great case and if I do any ATX builds in the future it's the case I'll pick. Good cooling and runs pretty darn quiet even though it doesn't have any special padding inside. It's also really easy to build in.

    I did have a defective release clip for the front fan filter and an email to Fractal Designs support was answered right away and they sent me a replacement free of charge.
  • 0 Hide
    TheBigTroll , October 1, 2013 5:14 PM
    @RedJaron: there is a Define R4 for that purpose
  • 0 Hide
    RedJaron , October 1, 2013 9:34 PM
    Quote:
    @RedJaron: there is a Define R4 for that purpose

    Yes, except the define cases still have a fan grill on the side walls. I mean a completely solid side wall, no mesh, no grill, for extra quiet.
  • 0 Hide
    TheBigTroll , October 2, 2013 3:56 AM
    there is like a massive block on the inside that covers the mesh part. i know what you mean, but still, it was meant so that some people could change around the acoustics of their case with that option
  • 0 Hide
    RazberyBandit , October 23, 2013 7:14 PM
    Quote:
    there is like a massive block on the inside that covers the mesh part. i know what you mean, but still, it was meant so that some people could change around the acoustics of their case with that option


    Windowed models have no side-fan opening, and they are almost just as quiet as their standard brethren.
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