Fractal Design Arc Midi: The Mid Tower You've Been Waiting For?by Dustin Sklavos on October 7, 2011 12:45 AM EST
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- Fractal Design
In and Around the Fractal Design Arc Midi
Good artists borrow, great artists steal, and excellent case designers are like Dr. Moreau, fusing elements from different competitors together to produce something the market has really been asking for. In that vein, Fractal Design's Arc Midi borrows a lot of fantastic ideas from a few different places and comes up with something very special.
First, I'm a huge fan of the aesthetic. While the front is only given the appearance of brushed aluminum (all of the advertising material calls it a "brushed aluminum like look"), that's actually almost better than just using brushed aluminum on just one part. I also like the choice to use just two 5.25" external bays and the discreet row of I/O and buttons at the top of the case. By only putting in two bays, Fractal Design frees up most of the front of the enclosure for air intake. The way the grille is recessed into the bezel is particularly pleasing, and this is a design cue that extends to the top of the enclosure. Note that both the front panel and the top grill are removable to allow the user to clean the fan filters as well as mount additional fans.
I do think this is the first time I've ever been unhappy to see a side intake fan vent, though I probably wouldn't be as bothered by it if Fractal Design had included a fan. Because of how nice the case looks otherwise, that vent breaks up the style a bit. It's a sacrifice for practicality's sake but aesthetically it's a little disappointing.
When you get to the back of the Arc Midi you'll see Fractal Design opted for white accents for the fan blades and the ventilated expansion slot covers. I actually really like the "7+1" expansion slot design, where there are seven in a row and then an eighth mounted laterally above the others. This is something Fractal Design seems to have borrowed from Cooler Master, and it's a great choice, giving you a place to mount the fan controller without having to sacrifice any expansion slots on the motherboard. I'm ultimately a bigger fan of eight expansion slots in a row, but this is still appreciated in a mid tower.
Opening up the Arc Midi reveals a thoughtful interior that takes a lot of cues from Corsair while improving a bit on their design. Fractal Design includes two drive cages with four drive sleds each, and the top drive cage can actually be either rotated ninety degrees or removed entirely. In the default configuration, the metal drive sleds (metal instead of cheap plastic!) orient the drives facing behind the motherboard tray.
That space behind the motherboard tray is another area where Fractal Design one-ups a lot of the competition: it's copious. The rubber-lined grommets surrounding the routing holes in the tray also stay in place; with other cases I've often just removed these because they've come loose so easily, but in the Arc Midi they're in relatively firmly and I never had any of them pop out during assembly.
It should be pretty obvious that I'm a big fan of how the Arc Midi is laid out. Fractal Design has taken some good exterior aesthetic ideas and combined them with an improved interior that ought to make Corsair take notice. Corsair has traditionally been my benchmark for ease of assembly, but the Arc Midi has all the earmarks of a smart internal design.
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Daedalus454 - Friday, October 7, 2011 - linkI did a lot of airflow experimentation with a couple of cases. I found that without exception, a side intake fan raised my GPU temperature, in some circumstances by up to 7 C. I theorize that blowing across the video card's intake lowers the air pressure in the GPU cooler enough that the GPU fan has trouble getting the air it needs.
I'm using a Fractal Design R3 now too. I'm running two 120mm fans on the front intake, a 140mm fan in the bottom intake, a single 120mm fan on the rear exhaust, and 140mm fan top exhaust, trying to for the same high-pressure dust-resistance that you were going for. All the fans are the inexpensive Yate Loons. With all the fans on high, the only sound from the case is the soft whisper of rushing air, and my hardware runs very cool.
Kepe - Friday, October 7, 2011 - linkSounds pretty much like my configuration. I have the stock coolers still in place; 1 in the front, 1 in the back. In addition to those, I have a Noctua NF-S12 as a second intake in the front (used to be my CPU cooler fan, but I bought a new one when I bought the case), and some unknown 120mm 24V Papst model running at 12V and creating huge amounts of airflow (I stole/rescued it from work) at the bottom of the case, blowing air to the GPU cooler. The Papst makes a bit too much noise and I'm thinking about either lowering its voltage to 7V or buying a new fan altogether. Might as well replace the stock fans at the same time, too.
Anyways, I love the R3 since it gives so many options as to how my case is cooled, and the noise insulation is amazing. I used to have an NZXT Lexa Blackline, which has to be one of the most beautiful cases I've ever seen. But it was loud. I usually turned off my computer when going to bed because of the noise, but now I don't need to. The only gripe I have about the R3 is the bright power LED on top of the front of the case. It is way too bright and actually lights up my apartment at night.
Now I'm going way off topic, but I don't understand the use of bright LEDs in places where you only need to see some sort of light coming out. My new wireless N router has a blinking bright blue light that shoots me straight in the eye when sleeping. Also the Logitech speaker system I have, but don't use anymore, has a hugely bright blue LED that actually was a pretty nasty disturbance when watching movies on my computer. My point is why do manufacturers use these overly bright LEDs in applications where they actually disturb people? A regular LED isn't too bright, but one can see if it is on or not just fine.
TrackSmart - Saturday, October 8, 2011 - linkI've never found that very high air flow changed component temperatures by more than 1-3C under load, as long as air was flowing properly in the case (e.g. no dead spots for air to get trapped in).
Granted, I build systems with relatively low noise and power consumption in mind. Think quad-core 95W TDP processors and sub 200W TDP graphics cards.
Honestly, I think this case has too much ventilation for most builds. I'd rather have the sides and bottom sealed completely and have air move from the bottom front (intake) and out the top rear. The case would be quieter, require fewer fans, and probably have similar thermals. That's been my experience with modifying cases and testing component temperatures and noise.
marvdmartian - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link1. yes, replacing fans is pretty easy, and most enthusiasts will have some sitting on a shelf somewhere, for easy/quick replacement. HOWEVER, 120mm fans are a whole lot more commonly found in said enthusiast's stash than 140mm fans, I would imagine. While the slightly larger fan might move a little more air, if it's going to be replaced, it's not going to be cheap to do so.
2. I know many people love the sideways mounted hard drive cages. Personally, I loathe them, as I really don't have a need to swap out drives all that often (so the easy access is wasted on me, and, I imagine, many others as well), and the lower air flow past the drives is in no way a positive aspect. My question, then, is why has no case designer come up with a way to offer BOTH methods of hard drive mounting? Seriously, it can't be that difficult to design a cage-style hard drive mounting area that, with the removal of a handful of screws, can be turned 90 degrees and secured again. Shoot, you could even make it one or two screws, and a pivot mount at the top and bottom, since hard drives aren't as long as a case is wide.
Sorry, but in my opinion, a $100 case is going to have to offer much more than this, for me to shell out my money (especially in today's economy).
Fractal Design - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link1. Apart from the front fans (which are fitted with clips), all fan positions can be fitted with 120mm fans, since they have extra screw holes for that.
2. In our opinion, the biggest benefit of sideways mounted HDD's, isn't the improved accessibility. What we and, I believe, our users, like the most is the improved cable management. Instead of having all those cables sticking out over the MB, you get them out behind the HDD's towards the MB plate, which allows for a very neat build.
Actually, your wish of rotatable HDD cage have already been granted in the Arc Midi! It wasn't mentioned in the review, but you can both remove the middle HDD cage and rotate it 90 degrees.
JarredWalton - Friday, October 7, 2011 - linkActually, Dustin did mention the rotatable HDD cage (page 2):
"Opening up the Arc Midi reveals a thoughtful interior that takes a lot of cues from Corsair while improving a bit on their design. Fractal Design includes two drive cages with four drive sleds each, and the top drive cage can actually be either rotated ninety degrees or removed entirely. In the default configuration, the metal drive sleds (metal instead of cheap plastic!) orient the drives facing behind the motherboard tray."
Easy to miss with all the other stuff, though. :-)
Kepe - Friday, October 7, 2011 - linkYes, sideways mounted HDDs are way better than longitudinally mounted. The main reason for me is that longitudinally mounted HDDs tend to stick out so much that it's impossible to install an HDD to the height within the case where a long graphics card is installed. I.E. a long gfx card blocks at least one HDD position when the HDD mounts are longitudinal. This is of course in midi towers. Fullsize cases don't have this problem.
lwatcdr - Friday, October 7, 2011 - linkYou mentioned how sometimes the stand-offs/studs will come out when you swap motherboards. Ever think about using a little locktite on them when you installe them in the case?
Even a small dab of superglue should work. the cool thing is that if ever need to remove the stud just get a socket that fits it and it will come right out. Superglue is week in shear
kyuu - Friday, October 7, 2011 - linkWhat I'd like is for these companies to start offering an option of buying just the case without any of the cheap crap case fans. I like the case, but it's a waste to pay for the included fans and then buy some good fans separately.
Kepe - Friday, October 7, 2011 - linkActually the fans Fractal Design uses aren't that bad at all. They are very quiet when operating at 0 - 3/4 of how much the fan controller knob that comes with the case turns. The last 1/4 ups the sound level so that the sound of the air moving becomes clearly noticeable. But still the fans don't produce any whining or other kinds of extra noises. It's just the sound of the air humming by them.