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

Addressing An Issue With Vibration

We made this part of the noise level testing a separate page for a reason. The Arc Midi R2 has major vibration problems due to its bundled fans. Not only can they be felt, but easily heard as well. The fan under the top cover is especially bad about this. We tried the other two fans in the same spot to make sure we weren't working with one defective unit, but the results were the same: the fans simply get noisy when you install them with the fan blades pointing down. Curiously, they do a lot better when they’re installed blowing air from one side to the other, though this only means that they operate within an acceptable range, not that the problem is eliminated altogether.

It’s hard to explain why a case that was designed to balance cooling and noise isn't equipped with better fans, or at least some form of vibration isolation. The issue isn't as severe when we step down to 700 RPM, and it's greatly diminished at 500 RPM. Still, this is a large flaw in Fractal Design’s otherwise very good product.

The following noise measurements were performed at idle, and they're mostly influenced by the chassis fans. Since we really didn't like the noise coming from the top cover, we hunted down some grommets we had in the lab and repeated the measurements with them installed. We used inexpensive, but effective, rubber pins, which sell for around a dollar per fan.

Noise Levels at Idle
RPM1000 RPM, Fan Screwed In1000 RPM, Fan Isolated700 RPM, Fan Screwed In700 RPM, Fan Isolated500 RPM, Fan Screwed In500 RPM, Fan Isolated
Noise Level from Front, 50 cm41 dB(A)40 dB(A)37.6 dB(A)36.8 dB(A)36.6 dB(A)36.5 dB(A)
Noise Level from Top Left Diagonal, 50 cm40.8 dB(A)40.1 dB(A)37.8 dB(A)36.9 dB(A)36.9 dB(A)36.5 dB(A)
Noise Level from Top Right Diagonal,  50 cm40.5 dB(A)40.2 dB(A)37.5 dB(A)37 dB(A)36 dB(A)36.6 dB(A)

The numbers seem to suggest that the difference isn't very significant, varying by about 0.5 to 1.0 dB(A). The reality of the situation, however, is that the top fan's vibrations are a lot more grating than the objective measurements reveal. The other two case fans also cause some vibrations, but those are easier to feel than hear.

Despite those issues, and the fact that the Arc Midi R2 is very noticeable at its highest fan speeds, we have to admit that the components inside do benefit from excellent airflow. You get the best compromise between thermal performance and acoustics at the 700 RPM setting. Temperatures inside are low enough for stable everyday operation, and you aren't bothered by the fans. Whether or not you're able to step all the way down to 500 RPM depends on the components you're using and whether you want additional case fans. So long as you're cognizant of the power your hardware is dissipating and the cooling it'll take to cope with that power, Fractal Design's Arc Midi R2 can be both quiet and versatile.

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. Fair enough. But be aware that there are fairly strict limits imposed by the integrated controller. Fractal Design told us, upon request, that it's rated for a maximum of 0.3 A. At the full 12 V, this translates to a peak of 3.6 W for the connected fans, immediately ruling out LED fans if they get their power from the fan controller.

The Noiseblocker and Phobya NB-eLoop 120 mm fans are a premium alternative that sport a particularly good air throughput to noise ratio. They'll set you back anywhere from $21 to $29, depending on the model, but they offer good performance. Taking the power consumption ratings of the various coolers we were looking at, 1600 is the highest RPM that Fractal Design's fan controller (with its 3.6 W ceiling) can handle.

  • f-14
    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.
    Reply
  • dish_moose
    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
    Reply
  • mouse24
    ^ Was it a sleeve bearing fan? If so thats more or less normal due to how that bearing is designed.
    Reply
  • SchizoFrog
    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.
    Reply
  • cjny71
    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
    Reply
  • RazberyBandit
    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.
    Reply
  • brazuka331
    Just got the Define R4 last week and i could not be happier!
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    11627141 said:
    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.
    Reply
  • basketcase87
    11626775 said:
    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.
    Reply
  • fat_panda
    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.
    Reply