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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  • lwatcdr - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    How about a case shoot out with a difference.
    How about the Fracal Design Arc Midi vs the BitFenix Merc Alpha?
    Except spend $60 on upgrading the Alpha. Use the money to put in better fans and such.

    Now hear me out before people jump on me.
    For a lot of builders they enjoy the act of building and improving. So it would be interesting to see if a hobbiest would be better off modding the Alpha vs buying the Midi.
    You can do the same thing with the Midi vs a more expensive case
  • Death666Angel - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I like the case. I might recommend it or the smaller brother, Arc Mini.

    However, I personally don't understand the obsession with:
    a) tool less installation in general and
    b) tool less installation of drives especially.

    I don't assemble / tear apart my cases that it is a big concern. And having actual screws to tighten gives me a better feeling. Depending on the approach, tool less drive assembly might also inhibit my ability to install non-drive stuff in the cages, for example water cooling equipment, fan controllers, back planes etc., when they use non-standard holes.
    This stuff may be important for big OEM who assemble millions of PCs. But for me as someone who assembles PCs for myself and friends and family, I see no reason to go with tool less, if I can avoid it. :-)

    But a good review overall! And I like that you guys are tackling a lot of normal-budget cases. I don't see the appeal in huge 200 to 300USD cases that can house 10 HDDs and 4 GFX cards. :D
  • bhima - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I'm sort of glad the noise levels were only OK, it makes my purchase of an Antec 902 feel I little bit more justified.
  • bunnyfubbles - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    plenty of space for a mid tower build and was easily one of the most pleasurable experiences I have ever had when actually putting the computer together, I can't really recall any instance where I was stumped or struggled on how or where i was going to route my cable management

    moved the top 140mm fan to the front to have dual 140 intakes and make room for the 240mm rad of the H100, and added an aftermarket NZXT 140mm to the bottom as an intake

    right now my biggest gripe is the side panel which allows for either at 140mm or 180mm fan could be improved as the 200mm round fans have mounting holes that are actually in between the 140mm and 180mm dimensions they provide and thus are simply not an option to install without some sort of mod.

    A filter would also be nice for the side panel otherwise I'm more inclined to use it as an exhaust but that would likely upset positive pressure

    all in all it has easily been one of my absolute favorite cases to work with thus far, I'm tempted to buy another and convert some old systems
  • cjs150 - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    That is one very nice clean build. I think I can spot my favourite Gentle Typhoons on the Rad.

    Do you need that many intake fans? Personally I would be tempted to pop in a thick 140mm rad at bottom (or front if you are not using the drive cage) a cool the GPU and CPU. But that is the problem with water cooling - once you start it is difficult not to tinker
  • Malih - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    I finally swing to Fractal Design after reading this review and seeng the build quality of the Arc Midi, and reading several other reviews,

    but I was looking to build a silent system, and I also think about microATX system, so I decided to get the Define Mini, there's a "bug" in the case regarding multi-GPU setup, but since I'm not thinking of going multi-GPU (budgetwise), I decided to get the Define Mini.
  • radium69 - Saturday, October 8, 2011 - link

    When are you guys going to review the Xigmatek cases?
    They a lot of midi towers that are very sleek and considered to be big value.
  • Zebo - Sunday, October 9, 2011 - link

    Just another el cheapo paper thin case. I have not seen a good case since wave master had like 3mm thick aluminum everywhere.
  • snapdrag0n - Sunday, October 9, 2011 - link

    CM Storm still the best pound for pound at this price range.
  • Bazzatron - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    The Fractal Design Define R3 is about the same price here in the UK. (About £75)

    Weighs a ton - combined with a "Be Quiet" PSU is the most silent PC I've ever built

    Very impressed with this case

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