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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  • cjs150 - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Jared you are making things worse for yourself.

    Radiators come in various thicknesses typically from about 34mm up to fat boys at 60mm. According to the Fractal website and other reviews the Arc supports up to 60mm thick radiators (although then it is tight). So a 34mm thick radiator would have about 1" of clearance

    If we take you at face value then surely you should be consistent and say that any case which has air cooling with clearance of less than 1" or 25mm is too tight and you would not recommend it.

    The price of the case is not as important as the quality of the design. If the side panels are a bit thin then stick some dampening foam on them (cost maybe $50 at worst). Up to now one of the best water cooling cases (maybe the best) has been the Silverstone TJ07 which is a lot more expensive, internal air flow is dreadful and needs some careful modding to make the water cooling work best. For someone like me who uses micro-ATX boards and storage is an SSD plus one HD, the Silverstone is completely overkill.

    The way Fractal have thought about the design is impressive and makes for a great case for watercooling without ANY (or at worst ditching one of the drive cages) modding. It could be better, but then again virtually every case on the market could be improved one way or another.
  • whatthehey - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Spoken like a true watercooling zealot. Thanks for that subjective evaluation, CJS!

    Just because something FITS doesn't mean it fits WELL. And just because you can pour a lot of money into a Honda Civic and turn it into a rice racer doesn't mean you won't end up looking like a douchebag. For the 1% of the market that uses water-cooling, the pertinent question is this: does the Arc Midi work better or worse than other options?

    There are always exceptions, but most watercooled PCs that I've seen are in large full-tower cases, and the people use such cases because:

    1 - You want all the room you can get for the radiator and reservoir.
    2 - You're not going to move the PC around much anyway.
    3 - More room to build means you can put the watercooling to good use by having dual GPUs and the chipset all cooled by the same loop.

    I don't dispute that the Arc Midi can use a 240mm radiator, but I would strongly dispute anyone claiming that it's one of the better cases for watercooling. Perhaps Anandtech could have worded things better, but I'm in agreement with them on not recommending this case for watercooling.
  • cjs150 - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    Zealot - I wish. At home I run 3 computers, one is passive, one is aircooled and one is water cooled.

    The passive one is a server, never gives any trouble but the mini-ITX case design (and integrated PSU - have these guys not realised that the world moved to 24 pin ATX cables years ago) could be a lot better.

    The air-cooled one is old faithful. It is noisy, needs the dust bunnies cleaned out every 6 months but is still going strong after 8 years, it is in an old coolermaster case and the design was pretty basic back then, for starters the "stealth" optical drive bay covers were useless.

    The water cooled one is the power house and gaming machine and to be honest a hobby. Although it only needs cleaned every 6-9 months, cleaning is a bit more complicated than the air cooled one. But it is very very quiet. It is in the Silverstone and anyone who has used that case knows that the design is deeply flawed (lack of airflow), it looks beautiful but not all the holes line up perfectly.

    Anyway back to the Fractal. People who know a lot more about water cooling than me are very impressed. The top rad placement is excellent because it is not dead centre of the top but shifted away from the motherboard to allow more room for bigger radiators.

    I probably would not use this case for a full ATX motherboard and quad SLI, but as I said I prefer micro-ATX boards. The only things that defintely need water cooled are the CPU and GPU(s). These days I am not convinced the chipset needs cooling, some people water cool the power delivery capacitors, but with a top radiator you are going to have a fan directly above them so that looks unnecessary. There is bags of room for a reservoir - use of the 5.25 bays or, given that the rear fan goes if you have a radiator up top, maybe where the rear fan is

    As I said the Fractal is not perfect, not convinced by the plastic front - and the front should definitely be re-tooled to support a front mounted radiator. But it is a lot better designed than many much more expensive cases. I have one on order for my next build
  • Zebo - Sunday, October 9, 2011 - link

    I've water cooled since athlon XP days and never had a leak and that was when manufactures were clueless about galvanic corrosion. Today with delrin tops and like metals you should have zero issue.
  • Tigashark - Sunday, October 9, 2011 - link

    Agree, if you end up with leaking issues you didnt put your loop together properly. Galvanic corrosion is one thing anyone looking into water SHOULD know about before they buy.

    I spent ~ 12 hours cutting, checking, rechecking, dissasembling, fittting, testing on my 1st custom loop, at that has been running 24/7 for the last 2 1/2 years.

    For those who dont get WHY you watercool, its simple , Water is 100 times more efficient at transferring heat than air.

    Running CPU/Chipset/GPU under water and temps are *significantly* better than air for 24/7/365 operation.

    Water is definitely worth the investment in time and money, and for those who dont have direct experience, you simply cant judge water performance on the pre-made "water cooling" loops such as those offered by Corsair.

    The diff between those sealed units and a custom loop is night and day.

    Other than that looks like a nice case, not sure how it would go with a custom loop however, looks like it would be cramped.
  • Kiste - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Looking at the gaping hole in the side panel (which doesn't even seem to come with a dust filter), I don't buy the statement that with "the "low" fan setting it's among the quietest". That's simply not possible, unless Fractal Design innovated some magic anti-sound tech that changes the laws of physics.
  • KamikaZeeFu - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I think that statement was meant as "compared to other sub $100 enclosures"
  • Kiste - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    There are sub $ 100 enclosures without these idiotic side panel cutouts. It's a problem with the cutouts, not the price.
  • Kegetys - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    In the R2 you can flip the side panels, ie. put the one with the fan grille to the right side. I find this helps to silence the noise quite a bit if you dont need the side fan. It looks like it might be possible to do it in this as well.
  • UNHchabo - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    Hmm... I have an R3, and I never even thought of doing that!

    I still have the grille cover on, so I doubt it will make any difference to noise, but it will make a difference to the aesthetics!

    I'll try it out; thanks!

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