Fractal Designs Arc Midi Mid Tower Case

Dec 20 2011
We are continuing our reviews of Fractal Design cases today with their Arc Midi mid tower desktop case.  We have previously reviewed the Core 3000, Define Mini, Array R2, and Define XL.  Like the other Fractal Design cases, the Arc Midi features a sleek, minimalist design, but it stands out as a versatile case that would work equally well for gaming, HTPC, as a media server, or a combination of all three.  It can work as an HTPC but with more built in storage than the R2 and Define Mini.  It has 2 fewer HDD bays than the XL, but won’t cost near as much (~$50 less) if you are looking for a great server option, and although the Core 3000 is the closest in design and price, the Arc Midi is slightly larger (8 HDD bays as opposed to 6, more fans, etc.) and has a USB 3.0 port that the Core 3000 lacks.


SPECIFICATIONS

The Fractal Design Arc Midi offers plenty of cooling options and comes with three fans (1x 140mm in front, 1x 140mm in rear, and 1x 140mm in top) and a three-fan controller.  It has the capacity for up to eight fans total (2x 140mm in front, 3x 120/140mm in top, 1x 120/140mm in bottom, 1x 120/140mm in rear,1x 140/180mm in side panel).  In addition, the case supports a dual 120mm radiator in the top if you prefer water cooling.  The case can accommodate 8 hard drives of any size and has two external 5.25” bays with 5.25” > 3.5” converter included. The internal hard drive bays feature silicon grommets to help reduce vibration.  The upper four HDD bays are in a cage that you can either rotate to direct air from the upper front fan over the GPU/CPU or remove to accommodate video cards up to 470mm in length.
MaterialSteel and Plastic
Motherboard CompatabilityMini ITX, Micro ATX and ATX
Drive  BaysExternal
2 x 5.25
1 x 3.5 (with included 5.25 > 3.5 adaptor)

Internal
8 x 3.5 (compatible with 2.5/SSD)
- Top 4 bays are removable.
CoolingIncluded
1 front mounted 140mm fan @ 1000rpm
1 rear mounted 140mm fan @ 1000rpm
1 top mounted 140mm fan @ 1000rpm
Expansion Slots7 x 270mm
1 x bonus slot for fan controller or other applications
Support for graphics cards at  470mm when upper hard drive bays are removed.
Front I/O Ports2 x USB 2.0
1 x USB 3.0
Audio I/O
All mounted on top of front panel
Power SupplySupports PSU's with a depth of maximum circa 170mm, when using bottom 120mm fan location. When not using the bottom 120mm fan location, the case supports also longer PSU's of 270mm in length
Weight10kg
Dimensions (WxHxD)230x460x515mm



Test System
MotherboardASUS M4A88T-M LE AM3 AMD 880G Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
CPUAMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition Processor
CPU CoolerThermaltake A4022 92mm CPU Cooler
MemoryG.Skill NS 4GB (2x2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM
GPUASUS EAH6570 Radeon HD 6570 1GB
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM
Optical Drive 
Power SupplyRosewill RV2-700 (700 watt PSU)
Operating SystemWindows 7 Home Premium



PACKAGING & HARDWARE

The Fractal Design Arc Midi arrived safely, although the box definitely had some bumps and scrapes from the trip.  The case itself was nicely protected in a plastic covering and Styrofoam packing, and unlike what happened to the Fractal Design Core 3000 unit we received, the box with the hardware accessories was safely stored on top of the unit rather than inside.

Here’s everything that came in the box:

1. Arc Midi Chassis

2. Manual

3. Accessory box including a wrench for the HDD slide rails, screws, and zip ties

4. 5.25” > 3.5” adapter with front cover

5. Fan controller


As mentioned above, the chassis is solid black, sleek and minimalist.  One nice feature of the case is its unique brushed metal finish that sets it apart from the flat or glossy black finishes that you typically find. The case weighs in at 22lbs when empty, and definitely feels sturdy and well made.  Most of the top and front of the case are covered by the plastic filters that cover the fan slots.  While the filters are a great feature and don’t detract from the overall look, it would have been nice if the covers were made from the same high quality steel as the rest of the case rather than plastic.  If you prefer a water cooled solution, the top fans can be replaced with dual 120mm radiators.  There is also a removable filter for the PSU intake in the bottom of the case and the four anti-skid feet allow for adequate air flow beneath the chasis.

The USB ports, power button and LED, and audio I/O jacks are all located on the top of the case, while the two 5.25” drive bays find a home on the front.  This gives it a very clean look that would fit nicely in a home theater setup or at an office.  I like having the USB ports on the top of the case rather than the front, but it could be an issue if you are storing it in a cabinet or desk without a lot of head room.

The side panels and top filter are each secured with two thumbscrews. The side panels are made from the same metal as the rest of the chassis and are sturdy but not too heavy.  One panel has a vent for a 180mm fan while the other is solid and covers the cable storage recess (more on that below).




BUILD

I took a quick look through the manual before beginning to make sure I didn’t miss any important info.  Like the chassis, the manual also takes a minimalist approach.  Unlike the chassis, this isn’t a good thing.  Thankfully the case is well designed which makes for an easy build.

Upon removing the side panels, the first thing I noticed were the white hard drive trays, fans and expansion slot covers, which really stood out against the rest of the black case.  The next thing I noticed was how roomy the case was.  There was plenty of space to work even with the upper hard drive bay in place.

I started with installation of the motherboard, which  took some careful setup to make sure I had the standoffs in the right spots, but otherwise was smooth sailing.  As I mounted the power supply, I was pleased to find a foam pad surrounding the opening in the back panel which made for a nice, snug fit.   Installation of the disk drive was quick and simple.  The hard drive trays are removable with the included wrench, and are compatible with both 3.5” and 2.5” drives (including SSDs).  As mentioned, the trays also have ant-vibration grommets on the screw mounts, which help contribute to the quiet operation of this case.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding cable management system on the Fractal Design Arc Midi.  There are a number of openings on the motherboard tray with foam inserts to protect the cable.  There is a recess behind the motherboard tray with stand-offs for zip ties and plenty of room to run your cables to the other openings near the drive bays and hard drive trays.  This keeps the inside of the case open and easy to access components like RAM, graphics cards, and other expansion cards.

I also installed the included fan controller in the vertical expansion slot designed for this purpose, and was somewhat disappointed.  The controller works fine, but there isn’t a hole nearby to access the cable management area behind the motherboard tray.  In addition, the wires aren’t long enough to utilize any of the other access holes.  This means you have to run the wires in the main area of the chassis, which ruins the clean look/installation provided by the cable management system.  I also felt that the card was not well protected when mounted in the vertical slot.  I decided to try one of the horizontal slots and it felt much more secure and made it easier to hide the wires running to each fan.  The rest of the cables are clearly labeled on the headers and are plenty long to utilize the cable management system.  Please note, this was a temporary build for the sake of this review, so I did not tie-off the cables in the back resulting in the messy look.

PERFORMANCE

For the performance test, I ran the machine at idle (just open to the desktop) for 15 minutes and then ran Prime 95 In-Place FFT test, FurMark at 1080p, and PassMark Advanced Disk Test in Workstation mode for load testing the CPU, GPU, and HDD respectively.  I used the fan control to turn all exhaust fans up to full speed and let the motherboard control the CPU fan and GPU control its fan.  
 

Idle (⁰C)

Load (⁰C)

Ambient

22

22

CPU

28

50

System

32

37

GPU

52

68

HDD

34

38



As the numbers above indicate, the machine stays pretty cool with just the stock fans and the upper HDD cage in place.  WIth the ability to add five more fans and remove the upper HDD cage for better airflow, you can be sure that the Arc Midi will keep your system cool no matter what you throw at it.

CONCLUSION

Overall I am impressed with the Fractal Design Arc Midi.  The feature set and the $99 price point make this a very good value for a  mid size case. The cable management, cooling options, drive bays, and overall case design are major pluses, and the only cons are minimal.  The biggest issues I ran into were the design of the fan control and the plastic covers for the front and top filters.  As I mentioned, the quiet fans, lack of light emission (aside from a faint blue glow from the power LED on the top of the case), and variety of configuration options make this case an outstanding performer for a gaming PC, HTPC/media center or server.

PROS
  • Looks (brushed metal finish, white accents, etc.)
  • Silicone mounting for hard drives and removable HDD bays
  • Outstanding cable management
  • Room for a variety of cooling options
  • Versatility (gaming rig, HTPC, server, etc.)

CONS
  • Minimal users manual
  • Plastic covers for the front and top air filters
  • Fan control design
  • No included chassis speaker
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