The recently launched Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 comes in at the same attractive £75 price point as its predecessor, the Fractal Design Arc, which was impressive enough to earn itself an Approved award when we first looked at it. Unlike Fractal's Define series, the Arc range of chassis prioritises high performance over low noise, with the R2 promising a design optimised for both air and water-cooling. These are bold claims for a relatively small mid-tower, especially for one in so crowded a price range, but Fractal isn't a company to be taken lightly in the realm of case design.
The 230mm width of the chassis is apparent as soon as you lay eyes on it, and it's this width that means the case supports CPU coolers all the way up to 180mm tall. The plastic front panel has the same brushed aluminium effect to it as before, while the flat side panel has had its fan mount swapped out for a large window. This does lead to a little less ventilation around the GPU area, but naturally also allows you to show off your hard work. Oddly, the window has a brown tint to it, which may or may not be to your favour.
Click to enlarge - Fractal's case now features a tinted side window
Applying pressure to various parts of the case reveals that it's sturdy and well made, with no rattly or loose panels to speak of. The case feet, while not providing very much clearance, do gift the Arc Midi R2 a serious amount of grip that means it won't be sliding around the floor or desk any time soon. We usually take the opportunity to test the rigidity of rear grommets too, but Fractal's new case has none, relying on its own internal water-cooling capabilities instead of catering to external set-ups.
Although the front of the case looks identical to before with the same pair of optical drive covers and a lower meshed section featuring dust filtering foam, a simple but important improvement has been made. It's no longer necessary to fully remove the front panel just to clean the dust filter; the meshed section is now its own panel which pops out with a simple push. It's only held in place by clips at the top, however, so it's a little loose compared to the rest of the case's fittings, which are all very secure. Peeping behind it reveals a single 140mm intake fan, with room for another in the mount below it.
Click to enlarge - The front dust filter pops on and off for easy cleaning
The roof panel is made almost entirely of mesh, and like the front panel this is backed by dust filtering foam, meaning your components are protected even when your system is off. The whole panel can be removed thanks to two thumbscrews at the rear, and doing so reveals the numerous top fan mounts, the furthest back one being filled with another 140mm fan.
The final 140mm fan is found in the usual rear position, and as with the others is a Silent Series R2 fan with a relatively low maximum RPM of 1,000. In traditional Fractal style, all the fan blades as well as the 7+1 PCI expansion slots are highlighted in white, with the extra expansion slot being a vertical one for cards that don't need a direct connection to the motherboard.
Click to enlarge - The front panel now features an integrated fan controller
Fractal has decided to ditch one of the three USB ports from the original case's front panel, but the remaining two are USB 3.0 ones that are naturally both fully backwards compatible with the USB 2.0 spec. The power button is nice and sturdy, and pleasingly the case's fan controller is now fully integrated. It has three speed settings (5V, 7V and 12V) and can control up to three fans, so all the default ones can be hooked up.
The last feature worth mentioning is the lower filter, which slides in and out of place and guards both the PSU and bottom fan mount from dust. It can be a little hard to replace without lifting the case off the ground a little, due to its proximity to the ground, but it's still great to see every inlet for dust protected.
Dimensions (mm) 230 x 515 x 460 (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available colours Black
Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, stereo, microphone
Drive bays 2 x external 5.25in, 8 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 2 x internal 2.5in
Form factor(s) ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITX
Cooling 2 x 140mm/120mm front fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm rear fan mount (1 x 140mm fan included), 3 x 140mm/120mm or; 1 x 180mm and 1 x 140mm/120mm roof fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm bottom fan mount (fan not included)
CPU cooler clearance 180mm
Maximum graphics card length 290mm (430mm with HDD cage removed)
Extras Removable dust filters, three speed fan control