As PC hardware becomes more power-hungry, the best PC case companies strive to balance sufficient airflow and attractive looks. And the past few years have proved all that takes is some tempered glass and mesh at the front. Add a dash of RGB and boom, you’ve got a great case like Phanteks’ recent Eclipse G360A.
The new Fractal Design Pop Silent, however, focuses on dampening noise from your fans and components, while also keeping the price low at just $80. And if you prize silence over looking at the interior of your case every day, the Pop Silent is also available without a tempered glass side panel for even more silence at the same price.
The word pop doesn’t really apply to the design of Pop Silent, but it’s part of a new line from Fractal that includes the Pop Air, which comes in an array of colors and three RGB fans. But this review will focus on the Pop Silent, which only comes in black or white, with no RGBs–a somewhat odd decision for a case line that seems to emphasize a pop of color as part of its name.
|Motherboard Support||Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||18.6 x 8.4 x 17.8-inches|
|Max GPU Length||14.96-inches|
|CPU Cooler Height||6.69-inches|
|Internal Bays||4x 2.5 or 3x 3.5-inch|
|Front I/O||2x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1x microphone and 1x headphone jack.|
|USB Type-C capability sold separately|
|Other||Tempered Glass Side Panel|
|Front Fans||2x 120mm|
|Rear Fans||1x 120mm|
Features of the Fractal Pop Silent
The Fractal Pop Silent is a mid-tower ATX chassis that doesn’t bring intrepid features like its Torrent siblings. As the name implies, this is a silent chassis that feels a bit old-fashioned – it also comes with two 5.25-inch drive bays.
Because this chassis is all about silence, there isn’t any fan or radiator support at the top due to the sound-dampening foam lining. However, while we don’t recommend it, radiators up to 280 can fit up front (radiators up front are never a good idea if you can avoid it), with just 120mm in the rear.
The model I received came with a tempered glass side panel, which adds some attractiveness to this chassis. But if you’re on a mission to truly silence your PC, there’s a solid panel option, for the same $90 price. The rear side panel is heavy, thanks to solid steel construction and the dense foam lining. While the chassis feels substantial, the paint finish isn’t great–at least on this review unit. I found multiple scratches on the edge of the PSU shroud. This didn’t ruin the case for me, but I can see this being a red flag for many.
While the chassis feels substantial, the paint finish isn’t great–at least on this review unit. I found multiple scratches on the edge of the PSU shroud. This didn’t ruin the case for me, but I can see this being a red flag for many.
The front panel of the Pop Silent isn’t your usual closed-off design. It features a compartment that can store two 5.25-inch drives at the bottom. I love 5.25-inch drive bays – there’s nothing like popping that Blu-Ray disk tray open and watching an HD without the compression artifacts than can come from streaming. Seeing the two 5.25-inch drive bays here was like seeing an old friend again. The bays are located at the bottom of the front panel, behind a small door that’s secured in by two magnets. Fractal included a little drawer in one of the bays that reminds me of the pull-out ashtrays in older cars–but is better suited to storing thumbscrews and flash drives.
The IO on the Pop Silent is a tease – even though there’s a USB Type-C port, you can’t use it unless you pay extra. Yeah, Fractal has an upgrade kit for this case that gives you just one Type-C port. This is ridiculous because almost every case these days comes with a USB-C port. Granted, the kit that makes the USB-C port functional is only $8, but then the company should have just made it standard and added that to the case’s price. Otherwise, the case’s IO sports two USB 3.0 ports, a power button and separate microphone and headphone jacks.
The Pop Silent is a good size, measuring 18.6 x 8.5 x 17.9 inches (HWD). Because of its size, any motherboard beyond ATX will not fit. Don’t worry though, Fractal Design offers a $99 Pop Silent XL for those of you with larger/more hardware.
The cable management design isn’t anything to get excited over, but it does the job. There are many tie-down points behind the tray, and I never had an issue closing the case, even with the thick foam pad on the side panel. Underneath the PSU shroud, there’s room for two 2.5 and 3.5-inch drives, as both can be mounted simultaneously. So, if you add up the two drive sleds underneath the shroud and the bracket behind the motherboard tray, you can fit a total of four 2.5 and two 3.5-inch drives. While this may not sound like a lot of mechanical drive space, the 5.25-inch drive bay gives you room for adapters (opens in new tab)for even more storage.
Fractal Pop Silent Cooling
When I think of Fractal Design, the first thing that comes to mind is airflow, because of the company’s well-known Meshify and Torrent lines. However, the Pop Silent is very different. The only area for this case to draw in air is from a mesh panel on the right front edge of the case that’s a bit over an inch wide. I know this case was designed to be as silent as possible, but I would’ve liked to see more airflow.
Fractal was kind enough to include three of its 120mm Aspect 12 fans, which are 3-pin. The Aspect fans are exciting because even though they’re stock case fans, they’re quiet and efficient. The Aspect 12s max out at 1200 RPM, which is respectable. However, because the Pop Silent has so much noise-dampening material, you could probably get away with using higher RPM fans without your rig being too loud.
With such limited intake space, you’ll want to ensure that a big CPU cooler can fit, and with 170mm (6.7 inches) of clearance, your big Noctua NH-D15 will fit just fine. Graphics cards shouldn’t be an issue either, with nearly 15 inches of clearance front to back.
We’ve updated our testing hardware to use Intel’s 12 Gen “Alder Lake” platform, which has shaken up the desktop landscape (and taken prominent spots on our best CPUs for gaming list). We’re now using a Core i7-12700KF, which is being cooled by a Noctua U12s air cooler. Our graphics card is a Gigabyte RTX 3070 Ti Gaming OC.
On top of that, going forward, we’ve switched our motherboard out for the MSI Pro Z690-A WIFI. The Aorus Z690 Elite we were using for previous reviews died sometime during the initial build of this review, so we had to swap it out.
Acoustic Results for the Fractal Pop Silent
Our acoustic test consists of three scenarios: We run the CPU at full load, the CPU and GPU at full load, and an optimized mode. The CPU full load test runs the CPU and case fans at their maximum speed. For the CPU and GPU full load acoustic test, we also stress the Gigabyte RTX 3070 Ti Gaming OC and set the fans at 75% speed, because in gaming the fans never run at 100 percent and are far too loud when they do.
For the optimized mode, we run the GPU fan speed at 30 % and run the CPU and included case fans at the lowest speed that they will spin.
As the name strongly suggests, the Pop Silent is indeed a very quiet case. During testing, there were multiple occasions where I forgot that the system was powered on because it’s that silent. As expected, the Pop Silent took the lead on our acoustics chart, with noise levels barely surpassing 37 decibels with the CPU at full load. Oddly enough, the Pop Silent was able to illustrate how silent the NZXT H7 Flow is, because it nearly matched the Pop Silent’s noise level. Overall, the acoustic results impressed me. But as you’ll see next in the thermal results, you may want to trade higher noise levels for more RPM and/or airflow.
Thermal Results for the Fractal Pop Silent
For the thermal tests, all case and CPU fan speeds are set to 100%. The Core i7-12700K is set at a 4.7GHz clock at 1.3v on all performance cores to ensure consistent power consumption across test scenarios. Letting the GPU run at 75% fan speed enables it to maintain its power target while sticking to one set reasonable fan speed, so that the temperature is the only variable.
The thermal results for the Fractal Pop Silent made me appreciate the smaller things in a PC case, like the PCIe slot covers. Going into testing, I expected high temperatures across the chart and I was somewhat wrong. The PCIe slot covers were the saving grace for our beefy RTX 3070 Ti, as the fans were able to grab air in through the rear of the chassis. Don’t get me wrong, if this were a normal case, then these temps wouldn’t be impressive, but for a silence-first chassis, I gotta give Fractal credit.
That said, don’t expect low temperatures for your CPU in this case – we hit 85 degrees celsius during testing. Am I surprised? No. While our temps were warm, we used a single-tower cooler and an Intel i7 in Aida 64, so our hardware and the stress test isn’t too practical for a silent case. It does, though, tell us that you shouldn’t consider this case for a workstation where you’ll be maxing out your CPU for hours on end. For a mainstream gaming rig or mixed use in a room where you want to keep things quiet it should be fine–just don’t expect the kind of temperatures you’d get with a more mainstream case.
Fractal has proven to be an innovative case company over the years, whether we’re talking about the simple, yet effective design of the Meshify or the epic 160mm fans and aggressive design of the Torrent. But the company has dialed back the aesthetically creative design flourishes–along with the noise level with the Pop Silent.
While they were more popular in the past, there aren’t many silent cases on the market–particularly recent ones designed for modern hardware. And with persistent rumors of next-gen hardware leaning hard on power consumption, quiet cases may be something many of us will be looking for in our next build. With that said, whether you’ll be using current or future hardware, with a high-end build you are going to want to move a lot of air through the case. And so I wish this chassis had a tad more airflow. Still, despite some battle scars on the PSU shroud of our review unit, the Pop Silent is a very high-quality and quiet case for $80. It’s certainly worth considering if you want to keep your fan noise and coil whine contained while you game or work.