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

Test Setup And Hardware Configuration

As with the Arc Midi R2's predecessor, Fractal Design built this case to provide a balance between cooling performance and noise. This is illustrated, in part, by the three bundled fans that spin at a maximum of 1000 RPM at a full 12 V. The integrated controller offers two additional settings that let you dial this back even further to 7 and 5 V. Our Aqua Computer Aquaero 5 LT measured 1030, 714, and 539 RPM for each voltage level, respectively. 

Those numbers could be a little lower with all of the fans attached to the controller at the same time. Unfortunately, we found its fans to be the Arc Midi R2’s biggest weakness. If one of them (and we tried all three) is installed horizontally with the blades aiming down, then it starts to vibrate. These vibrations are transmitted to the case, where they can easily be heard. We'll quantify this shortly.

Benchmark Gaming System
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge), 3.3 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.7 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
Processor CoolerThermalright Macho HR-02 SE
MotherboardGigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD4, Z68 Express PCH
System Memory1 x 4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 F3-1333C9S-4GNS
Graphics CardMSI N470 GTX TwinFrozr II, GeForce GTX 470
DrivesHard Drive: Samsung HD322GJ
SSD: 60 GB Kingston SSDNow V+ 200
Power Supply850 W Xilence XQ R2
Operating SystemWindows 7 Home Premium

We similarly tried to strike a good balance between usability and airflow for our benchmarks. For this reason, we removed the upper hard drive cage to achieve unrestricted airflow to the CPU cooler and the graphics card. This should allow us to run the system stably with lower fan speeds. We went with Intel's Core i5-2500K processor and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 470 graphics card on a Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD4 motherboard. Each component ran at its stock settings.

Sticking with Fractal Design's color scheme, we settled on the older second revision of the 850 W Xilence XQ PSU finished in white, along with Thermalright's Macho HR-02 Special Edition with its black-and-white fan. The latter runs at 1300 RPM, but can easily be slowed down significantly thanks to the sink's copious surface area. For our testing, it was adjusted to run at the same speed as the case fans for consistency's sake.

Thermals on both of our storage devices were tracked as well. The hard drive occupied the lowest internal bay, while the SSD was installed on the back of the motherboard tray, closest to the CPU interface. We assumed this would yield higher SSD temperatures, which we wanted to measure for the folks planning to actually use both mounting positions.

A combination of Prime95 with Small FTTs and MSI Kombustor with the Furry and Tessy tests provided our load, and temperatures were recorded after 60 minutes.

  • 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