Assembling the Fractal Design Arc Midi

While the Fractal Design Arc Midi does feature a very smart internal design, there are a couple of small conveniences that are missing, the first of which being built in mounting studs for the motherboard. This is a simple thing, but can prove to be a minor nuisance should you ever replace the motherboard: if you don't put the studs in securely the first time, they're liable to join the motherboard when you try to remove it.

Still, getting the motherboard in was easy (as it often is), though routing the AUX 12V cable has been and almost always will be a royal pain. 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.

None of the drive bays or sleds are tool-less either. This is one area where Corsair has a slight lead, as their plastic drive sleds are actually pretty effective at keeping 3.5" drives in place. At the same time, though, the more traditional drive sleds do come complete with silicon grommets for 3.5" drives, and each sled has mounting holes for 2.5" drives directly in the center of the sled. Getting the hard drive, SSD, and optical drive in was easy enough, it just required a bit of elbow grease and the use of a screwdriver.

Video card clearance even in the native configuration of the top drive cage was also perfectly fine; our GeForce GTX 580 had plenty of breathing room between it and the cage. Getting the power supply in was a breeze too, although it's worth noting that if you use a PSU longer than 170mm you run the risk of covering up the bottom intake fan bay. Most users won't care but it's something to keep in mind.

Getting everything wired up was actually fairly breezy for the most part; the case's interior feels smaller than Corsair's cases which makes things a little more cramped, but it was still easy enough to work with. Where things got cagey was the installation of the expansion slot-based fan controller. My advice here is simple: if your motherboard has decent fan control and enough connectors to support the Arc Midi, just use it instead. The wiring for the fan controller really messes up what would otherwise have been a fairly clean interior. The fan controller has a breakout cable that splits into a molex and three three-pin fan plugs, and I'm not sure there's any good place to put it that isn't going to have you running fan cables all the heck over the system. It's certainly impossible to route those cables behind the motherboard tray, where Corsair wisely stashes theirs in the enclosures that include fan controllers, but you'll need long enough fan cables and it's still a bit of a pain.

Yet to be fair, Fractal Design does provide a tremendous amount of space behind the motherboard tray. In many other builds you'll often find yourself having to lay the case down on its side, then applying a bit of pressure and force to slide the panel back on. That doesn't happen with the Arc Midi: be as sloppy as you want to back there, nobody's going to notice and it's not going to seriously affect your ability to get the case shut.

Under the circumstances I'm liable to regard the fan controller as a "bonus" more than anything else. Without it mucking up the cabling, the interior of the Arc Midi is actually fairly well thought out and organized, easy enough to put together (although ever so slightly more difficult than the Corsair cases we've reviewed). I'm extremely pleased with the space for two 140mm intake fans, and the top one actually does get fairly closely in line with the CPU fan. Given how 5.25" drive bays are becoming progressively less and less relevant, I'd take the sacrifice as a net win.

In and Around the Fractal Design Arc Midi Testing Methodology
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  • Daedalus454 - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I 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 - link

    Sounds 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 - link

    I'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 - link

    1. 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 - link

    1. 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 - link

    Actually, 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 - link

    Yes, 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 - link

    You 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 - link

    What 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 - link

    Actually 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.

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