Fractal Design Core 1000: How Little is Too Littleby Dustin Sklavos on April 13, 2012 11:35 AM EST
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.