The focused design brief - as a HTPC or NAS box - isn't necessarily a bad thing though; it's better to do one thing right than attempt to be a jack of all trades, and master of none. At least Fractal knows how to make a beautiful, or at least minimalist, bit of kit that'll fit perfectly into any home theatre setup.

*Fractal Design Array R2 mini-ITX  case review Array R2 Exterior *Fractal Design Array R2 mini-ITX  case review Array R2 Exterior
The front fan and mounting is completely removable. Click to enlarge

While the Define R2 was made of steel and plastic, steel the Array R2 is entirely comprosied of black-anodised, brushed aluminium. The front of the case simply presents a power button that illuminates when powered, and that's it: there are no USB ports, no audio jacks, not even an optical drive bay. That's a brave move by Fractal, but as optical media is used less and less these days, you could argue that this isn't an issue. However, the move toward ultra-minimalism may be a touch too early, we feel.

The absence of an optical drive has benefits beyond mere aesthetics though. Full-size 5.25in drives take up a lot of space in small cases, and their trays always look ugly, while more elegant slim drives are prohibitively expensive for most people. Some could argue that a Blu-ray drive is a must for your HTPC, but with space for six hard disks, clearly Fractal expects most people to simply digitise their collections.

*Fractal Design Array R2 mini-ITX  case review Array R2 Exterior *Fractal Design Array R2 mini-ITX  case review Array R2 Exterior
The hard drive cage, and how it sits inside the Array R2. Click to enlarge

Fractal has evidently taken the time to think about the hard disks in some detail. Firstly they are each mounted on rubber grommets in a single cage that itself sits on rubber mountings along the inside edges of the case. To keep the case lid from rattling against the cage, there's also a foam sheet that presses down onto the drive cage to help mimimise the vibrations further.

The case itself is extremely well constructed, with precisely fitting panels and a simple, yet, solid build quality. This is exactly the level of quality we'd expect from Fractal's chosen OEM manufacturer, a certain Lian Li.

Despite the obvious upsides of an all-aluminium construction (looks, feel, weight), it still presents the same significant downsides as any soft metal. Screwing the wrong (steel) screws into the aluminium threaded holes will simply sheer off the threads - you have to remember which screws go where. This is a pain, because the case has six screws to just get it open, there's then another four to remove the drive cage, with four more to get to the fan filter and another four to remove the PSU. That would be fine, apart from the fact that each set of screw is different.

Apart form the issue of aluminium being a soft metal, it's also a more expensive material than steel. A steel Array R2, while not being as luxurious would have cost significantly less than the €149 that's predicted to be.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04