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.

Introducing the Fractal Design Arc Midi Assembling the Fractal Design Arc Midi
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  • beginner99 - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I'm quiet surprised about the noise. I'm not sure that buying new fans helps much. i have the fractal R2 and those fans are inaudible, ok they don't have very good air flow but still. The noise comes from the GPU and probably cpu cooler and not the case fans and hence replacing them will mainly help improve cooling.
    But then if you want quiet you would not buy this case anyway.
  • Iketh - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    For some reason, this article got me thinking about tiptronic fans... what happened to them?? I can't find in google searches
  • Kepe - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I strongly recommend you guys at Anandtech check out and review the Define R3. The internal and external layouts are pretty much identical despite differing aesthetics on the outside. What the R3 has over the Arc Midi, though, is noise insulation all over the case. It also has removable noise insulation pieces for those fan intakes and exhausts that are not occupied by a fan. This way you can choose to have a VERY quiet case, or a very well ventilated case that is still quite quiet.

    I have the R3 with 2 intake fans in the front, 1 intake fan at the bottom and 1 exhaust fan at the back. This creates a nice overpressure that ensures there is minimal dust build-up in the case. When idling, the computer is very quiet. So quiet in fact, that when I come home from somewhere, I can't even hear if the thing is turned on or off (I have a small 1 room apartment). Also the thermals are astonishing. My Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti runs at 34 degrees Celsius when idle, and never reaches 75 degrees Celsius in Furmark.

    The Define R3 cost me 75€ here in Finland (and we have huge taxes on everything), so I think it should be in the same exact price range as the Arc Midi.
  • barry spock - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Yes, similarly I have the define mini. It has a lot of the same components as the arc here. For me the rubber access grommits did come loose, but apart from that I quite like it.
  • Cyleo - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Seriously, I've been waiting for this to be reviewed by Anand. I've had a hard time choosing between the R3, Carbide 400R and this one for a couple of weeks now and been hoping Anand would at least review one of them (your reviews can be a real dealbreaker for me). It didn't make my choose any easier, I still love the design of the fractal's and Anand hasn't reviewed the R3 (yet?) but I have some new arguments now. Any tips/suggestions from the other good chaps around here?
  • Kepe - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    As I mentioned in my post above yours, I would definitely recommend the R3. It has the same layout but with very good noise insulation (even on the side panel fan mount) that lets you decide how exactly the air circulates in your case. But I do recommend at least 1 extra intake fan with the R3. With stock cooling, performance isn't that great. It's not bad, but it isn't industry-leading either.
  • hechacker1 - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I agree.

    I also have the R3, and the stock fan configuration can be lacking depending on your needs.

    1. If you populate all the hard drive bays (it makes an excellent RAID box case), you will need another fan in the front.

    2. If you have a hot chipset, you will either need a bottom or side panel mounted fan. My X58 chipset was crashing due to heat in the summer (110F outside), and putting on a low noise side panel fan solved the issue.

    3. It's default configuration is damn near silent compared to the ambient noise. You could significantly improve it buying a few higher quality low noise fans. And this is on a gaming PC/RAID box config. I can hear the hard drives over the fans.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I just requested the R3, but I have a pretty hefty backlog of cases to review still.

    Honestly without knowing about the R3, between the 400R and the Arc Midi it's a tough call. I think I'd probably lean toward the Arc Midi, but I'd definitely populate the side vents with low-speed intake fans.
  • Kepe - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Personally, I don't like side intake fans. A friend of mine actually installed a side intake fan to his rig, but all it did was raise the GPU temperature. This might have something to do with airflow and turbulence messing up the airflow to the GPU fan. Of course the placement of the side panel cutout for the fan affects this too. I don't remember the make and model of the case he uses, but it is a 50-70€ gaming case from a well-known manufacturer.

    If you want more airflow for the GPU, it's at least worth a shot to install a fan to the bottom of the case.
  • Z Throckmorton - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    If your friend has an intake fan at the front of the case towards the bottom, tell him to try that lower side fan as an exhaust rather than as an intake. IME that lowers GPU temperatures.

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