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

Sizing Up Fractal Design's Arc Midi R2

A new version of something suggests that things wrong with the old one were fixed, and that other improvements have been made. Fractal Design keeps this promise with its Arc Midi R2. The exterior looks better, in our opinion, with the tinted side window. All of the components are manufactured to a high standard, and even the front and top covers fit well together thanks to their solid plastic and the brushed aluminum-style finish. On the inside, the Arc Midi R2 offer lots of space in spite of its relatively modest dimensions. This is achieved by making the case wide and providing modular hard drive cages. Extra-large CPU coolers, graphics cards, and power supplies are all easily accommodated. There’s also lots of room for cable management. Large filters in the front, top, and bottom of the case keep dust particles from entering, and are easy to access and remove for cleaning.

The Arc Midi R2’s bundled stock fans provide good cooling performance, and there are several additional spots to install more. Alternatively, the case will also take up to two 240 mm radiators. An integrated fan controller on the front panel allows you to dial in the rotational speed and noise level appropriate for the hardware inside of Fractal Design's enclosure.

Unfortunately, the stock fans produce a lot of vibrations when they're installed horizontally with the blades facing down. The one attached to the case’s top cover transfers these vibrations to the chassis, resulting in a noticeable increase in noise. We recommend either isolating the fan somehow or investing in an aftermarket cooler. The integrated fan controller has its limits though, so you need to be careful when it comes time to pick replacements. 

In addition to plenty of room for storage, Fractal Design builds in room for up to two SSDs on the back of the motherboard tray. If you find yourself in the market for a couple of large solid-state drives and don't need the hard disk cages, you can pull them out entirely, creating quite a bit of room for airflow, large graphics cards, and extra-long power supplies.

Fractal Design's Arc Midi R2 is a good next step for the company. It features a number of subtle improvements over the case's popular predecessor, but maintains solid build quality, enthusiast-oriented flexibility, and some of those same features we were introduced to for the first time under $100. In fact, for a fitting $85, you get a case that does many things right. Just the top fan needs some improvement.

  • 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.
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  • 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