Introducing the Fractal Design Arc Midi

The more enclosures we get in, the more amazed I am at just how competitive the market is for $99 cases. That market is made only more competitive by younger, hungrier companies like BitFenix and Fractal Design, along with new entries from Corsair and NZXT. In another welcome change of pace, these enclosures tend to be slicker, more streamlined, and less gaudy than the gaming cases of yore while providing oftentimes excellent thermal and acoustic performance. With those things in mind, today we look at our first of hopefully many cases from Fractal Design: the Arc Midi.

I don't mind saying one of the names that keeps getting brought up in our comments is Fractal Design, and even our own Brian Klug has messaged me on Facebook "politely suggesting" I get some of their hardware in. Thankfully the wait is now over, and Fractal Design has decided the best foot to put forward in starting reviews with AnandTech is the Arc Midi. Having played with it, I can see why.

Fractal Design Arc Midi Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25" (one 5.25"-to-3.5" converter included)
Internal 8x 3.5"/2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 140mm intake fan; 1x 140mm fan mount
Rear 1x 140mm exhaust fan
Top 1x 140mm exhaust fan; 2x 120/140mm fan mounts
Side 1x 140/180mm fan mount
Bottom 1x 120/140mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 7+1
Front I/O Port -
Top I/O Port 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, mic and headphone jacks
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearance 11.4" with drive cage/18.5" without (Expansion Cards), 180mm (CPU HSF), 270mm (PSU)
Weight 22.05 lbs. (10 kg)
Dimensions 20.28" x 9.06" x 18.11" (515mm x 230mm x 460mm)
Price Online starting at $99

Not mentioned but also included is a separate fan controller supporting up to three fans that fits into one of the expansion slots. I was a little bit on the fence about testing with the controller, but it was included with the case and ultimately there's no real reason not to.

In and Around the Fractal Design Arc Midi
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  • Z Throckmorton - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    Thanks again, Dustin. I wholeheartedly agree that the Arc Midi is about as good as it gets for just under $100. I've used it for a handful of builds and it has become my go-to Benjamin case for many of the reasons you highlight - it's very good at stock and great when you take the time tweak it a bit (primarily, replace its fans or at least volt mod them). That said, I'm surprised that you'd put the IN-WIN BUC slightly ahead, or even really near the Arc Midi. In my opinion the BUC feels noticeably cheaper, it's harder to work with, and while looks are subjective, it's hideous compared to the Arc Midi. The Corsair 400R is a compelling alternative, but its rounded, bulbous, flared accents make it look like something the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man might design. The customers for whom I've assembled systems in the Arc Midi rave about it. Reply
  • ckryan - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    Dustin, do you actually have time to do anything other than review cases?

    I agree about the aesthetics of the 400R, but questionable styling is an epidemic in all case segments. I know that many of the readers here at AnandTech are more likely to enjoy understated and classic styling cues than ostentatious adornment. The Arc is not hideous, which is always a plus in my book. But I've taken a different approach than in the past, and I prefer to have as little venting as possible on the case sides, as well as the front and the back where possible. It sounds counter productive, but I've been able to achieve both high performance and almost-silence with just a little work and the right components. Sandy Bridge has gone a long way to getting performance to noise ratios down, and Seasonic's X series (with fan and without) make a huge difference, and going all SSD is fantastic if you can swing it. Perhaps the next generation of GPUs can bring the same level of performance and low noise to the table, as I think every one deserves a quiet system. The case will always make a huge difference, but the fans in cases are always going to be an issue -- I just plan on replacing them, and if I don't have to, then it's all the better.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, October 08, 2011 - link

    You'd be surprised. I'm almost done with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I also play Magic, hang out with friends and my cat, and get swirlies from all the jocks who scream "NEERRRD" whenever I walk by. Reply
  • ckryan - Sunday, October 09, 2011 - link

    I'm AM so jealous! You mean the jocks actually talk to you?

    I bet all the cool kids were copying off of you in that senior-level Case Review Dynamics class you had after homeroom.
    Reply
  • KamikaZeeFu - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    "And while it looks like the enclosure is capable of supporting a 240mm radiator, clearance above the motherboard is pretty tight as it is, so I wouldn't recommend it."

    Check again, the arc is the most dual Rad friendly case you can probably get. It's wider than other cases, and the top mounts are positioned to the left of the case.
    This creates enough clearance for the thickest of radiators. The fractal design product page even has a picture of a fat Rad mounted with motherboard inside.
    The case is wide enough that the Rad clears the ram easily, with a few inches of room even!
    Reply
  • KamikaZeeFu - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    Also the top mounts allow a variety of fans being mounted, 2x120/140 or a 180 maybe even a 200 Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    You beat me to it.

    Really, really poor work by the reviewer, 5 mins on the Fractal Website would have given the reviewer a clue.

    This is the first cheap case that is designed for water cooling. There are a couple of things I would change (start with the fans) but nothing major.

    This is the case for my next build
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    But isn't a cheap water build kind of an oxymoron?

    Perhaps its a growing market, but I still feel that water is pretty niche. Buying a $200 case is probably fine for those who already have the time and money to invest.

    But it's always good to have more options in the market.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    Saving money on the case allows me to spend more on the other bits of water cooling.

    Water cooling is for most of us - a bit of fun, an expensive hobby, good for silent computer and (when the **** thing leaks again) wonderfully frustrating
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    You'll note that the review says, "While it looks like the enclosure is capable of supporting a 240mm radiator, clearance above the motherboard is pretty tight as it is, so I wouldn't recommend it." Not recommending something isn't the same as saying it won't work. For the record, I wouldn't recommend water-cooling at all. It isn't much better than air-cooling, and the potential for things to go really bad (i.e. leaking) is enough of a concern that I just wouldn't bother.

    Given the appropriate choice of a radiator, motherboard, etc. you can certainly get everything to work well. However, spending $200 on water-cooling and putting it in a $100 case just isn't a common need or desire. It's not about it being a "fun hobby" or even silent; if you want silent you're going to want a better case in the first place. Not that this is a bad case, but thin metal and plastic won't be as good as thicker metal, no plastic, and sound dampening material. By the time you make a few judicious upgrades to the Arc Midi, you could have purchased a different case that already includes those "extras".
    Reply

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