In and Around the Fractal Design Core 1000

Black monoliths are fast becoming the "beige boxes" of the 21st century, but at least black goes with everything—ask the 1970's just how much beige goes with. Fractal Design has maintained a very specific, very minimalistic style with their enclosures that has by and large served them well, and that style remains in full force even with a case this small and inexpensive.

The front of the Core 1000 is an almost totally uniform mesh, broken only where the 5.25" drive bay shields are. The I/O ports, power button, and reset button are all on the right side of the front of the case. It's a fairly unique placement for them, but "unique" doesn't always translate to "good," and by placing them there Fractal Design has substantially reduced the overall utility of the case. I get the impression the Core 1000 was meant to be placed on a desk to the left of the user, but as someone who doesn't want to hear his computer running I've never liked the idea of having a tower on my desk, even a small one like this. If you regularly use front/top mounted I/O ports, their placement on the Core 1000 will likely be very inconvenient.

As both a minimalistic Fractal Design case and a budget entrant in general, the sides of the Core 1000 are spare. There's nowhere to mount a fan on the bottom of the enclosure, no openings on the top or the right side, and a single 120mm fan mount on the left side panel. The back is even pretty plain, though it's there where you really understand just how small the Core 1000 is: there simply isn't enough space for an exhaust fan bigger than 92mm. They don't make any allowances for routing watercooling tubing out of the back of the enclosure, but I take a bit of absurd pleasure in that: if you're planning to build a sophisticated watercooling loop, why would you buy the cheapest case you can find?

The side panels are affixed using thumbscrews, and once they come off it becomes painfully easy to see where Fractal Design made many of their sacrifices to reach that $40 price point. There are no allowances made for cable management, no space behind the motherboard tray, no cutout in the tray for aftermarket cooling, and the drive "cage" is just a single tray that's kept in place by three thumbscrews.

All told, build quality is actually decent for a case this inexpensive, but it's a situation where I'm concerned that Fractal Design may have put some of their eggs in the wrong baskets. Fair enough, something this small is going to have space at a premium, so I can't complain too much about the lack of cable management or the awkward-looking drive cage. I still would've appreciated a cutout in the motherboard tray for aftermarket cooling, though. Even if the clearance in the case is low, there are still excellent and inexpensive aftermarket solutions that would be ideal for a case with this kind of thermal design, and you can't argue that Intel's stock cooling mounting solution is a dog.

Introducing the Fractal Design Core 1000 Assembling the Fractal Design Core 1000
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  • sicofante - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    Sharkoon makes two models almost identical to the one reviewed here, the MS120 and MS140. The differences are: front ports are actually at the front, and the HDD tray is not removable. Otherwise, the manufacturer is obviously the same. The MS120 has two 120mm fans at the front. The MS140 has a single 140mm fan.

    http://www.sharkoon.com/?q=en/content/ms120
    http://www.sharkoon.com/?q=en/content/ms140

    I found them while searching for an alternative to the Fractal Design model because of the side ports. The price is virtually the same too.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    Haha "almost identical" - except the ports, the hard drive tray, and the fans?

    Sorry, not really picking on you but that made me laugh.

    There seems to be this thing these days about using words or phrases like "identical" and "exactly like" when those adjectives don't apply at all. It either makes me laugh, or if it's someone with a computer problem I'm trying to help, it makes me roll my eyes; It seems to me that when someone says something like "My friend Joe Bob has a computer exactly like mine, and it doesn't do that", I find out that Joe Bob's computer is only alike, most often, in that they are both computers.

    ;)
    Reply
  • sicofante - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    Have you even checked the links?

    The boxes are identical indeed where it matters: the architecture of the chassis. It's the finishing that changes, exactly on the places where it's needed by many (front ports or fan choice, and the tray being removal or not). So "almost identical" is exactly the right expression here.
    Reply
  • valinor89 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    Well, if it has decent thermal and acoustic qualities and everything I need fits inside I don't need much more. I have allways used crappy boxes and I put them on the desk besyde me.
    I just use headphones when playing or up the volume when I'm alone.
    I prefer to spend my money on a better GPU than on a box which I open once in a wile to clean. I usually avoid changing the mobo or CPU as far as I can so ease of use is not a factor for me.
    If I had to change those every week I would tell you diferent but...
    The only problem I see is the lack of USB 3 but I can allways use the rear ports if I need to.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    You might want to be able to fit a mATX mainboard though ;)

    This, depending on the specific board, is apparently very tricky, due to the missing few millimeters of overall length.
    So, there's probably other boxes that may be slightly better, within this same price bracket.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    I tend to agree that if you want to save money on your build, the case is the best place to do that, because it least effects the quality when your system is up and running. The potential problems are, of course, cooling and noise, especially cooling, as a system that's too noisy for you will still run, but poor ventilation can stop you dead.

    That being said, a case lasts a long time, and can easily be used for several builds. I have an Antec that's around 10 years old that I still use, and I don't see why I couldn't use it, aesthetics aside, for another 20 - except it's too small for my main computer build. Back then, overclocking-intentional CPU coolers weren't half the size of a shoebox, and I wasn't thinking about a multiple graphics card setup, or even having more than 2 hard drives (one was enough for me at the time). The cooling design is weak, and I've heavily modified it for the build that it holds now..

    So, if I buy a case today, I want a case that will be able to handle all I can foresee doing with it, which really means a 10-slot case. I want it to be able to fit whatever PSU and cooling solution I put in it. I may actually build in that case for the rest of my computer building life. Viewed with all those points in mind, how expensive is a $200-300 case, when it lasts me at least a decade?

    Viewed that way, such an investment could be seen as the cheapest way to go, in that it gives me more proverbial bang for my buck, and it will be very unlikely that I need to replace it for hardware build reasons. Regardless, viewed as $30 a year, a case price of $300 isn't all that much, even if your income and budget make a $300 price tag a big deal for you..

    ;)
    Reply
  • PubFiction - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    I think most people skimp on the case and PSU, Neither has much effect on performance. The problem I see with this is that, the case is the one item you can carry through multiple builds without any problems. It also has a decent resale value, a good case is almost always good. So I prefer to buy a good case I like and then skip on one of the parts that will be replaced in a year or so anyway like the GPU. Reply
  • Taft12 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    My cousin has this case, and I have a very different opinion than Dustin. It's absolutely perfect for any low-mid range system. Many of the complaints are about things nobody should be doing with a $40 mATX case:
    -aftermarket tower-style 120mm CPU cooler
    -higher-end video card with 2 PCIE power connectors
    -more than 2 hard drives

    For anything up to and including a Llano or i3 system with or without a no-power-connector video card, I couldn't name a better case since it fits in the budget perfectly. Even a modular PSU is not budget-appropriate, but I expect readers of this site would know to use a zip tie to bundle up all those unused connectors and stuff it into the space between the top of the case and the optical drive.

    If we move up a notch to an i5 or FX CPU plus a HD6850 or better video card, a $40 case is no longer in line with the budget, and we'll move up to something with the frills Dustin has been spoiled by that come with cases 2-5x more expensive.

    Looks great of course, much better than anything you could find at Newegg at a <$50 price point.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    I'd be willing to concede on some of those points, but I've known too many people that keep adding more hard drives, and a thermal design like this one benefits strongly from a tower style heatsink. Reply
  • Meaker10 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    At the same time, so long as you are not in the business of replacing the cooler often, what difference does it make? Reply

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