Fractal Design ARC XL Full Tower Case
Fractal Design is a fairly new company designing computer hardware with a Scandinavian flair. This gives their cases a functional, clean, and sleek design. Previously Legit Reviews had the opportunity to take a look at their ARC Midi R2 case, a mid-tower; there is also a smaller version in the ARC line, the ARC Mini R2. Now, they have given us the chance to look at the big brother model, the ARC XL.
The ARC XL, sold under part number FD-CA-ARC-XL-BL-W, takes the common features of the ARC case line, expands on those features and puts them in a full tower that measures 232x572x552mm (WxHxD); or approximately 9.1x22.5x21.7inches. This is a pretty common size for full tower cases. It also weighs in at 13.8kg (30.4lbs), making it a fairly heavy case. The design of the ARC XL is very clean and simplistic, it has rounded edges for the front bezel, and is solid black except for the Fractal Design logo on the front.
The ARC XL has a tray designed system to support up to 8 3.5" or 2.5" hard drives. They have also hidden two 2.5" hard drive trays behind the motherboard. This is using the available space wisely and a nice improvement over the ARC Midi R2's hidden drive system.
With a full tower case, there will be plenty of room inside for your components. Internally there is room to install up to seven 120mm or 140mm fans, liquid cooling options (four radiator options), two hard drive cages that can be repositioned, integrated fan controller, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 along and a 2 year warranty. All those features and more are included in the ARC XL for $129.99 with free shipping.
Fractal Design ARC XL Features:
- Delivering maximum airflow within a sleek and minimalistic body design
- Designed for extensive water cooling configurations, accommodating multiple thick 240mm radiators and slim radiators up to 360mm in length with space to spare for pumps and reservoirs!
- With multiple easy-to-clean dust filters designed into the case, you can ensure a dust free interior
- Providing ample storage capacity with a flexible hard drive mounting system for up to 8 x 3,5” drives while accommodating an additional 2 x 2,5” drives behind the motherboard
- ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX, E-ATX, XL-ATX motherboard compatibility
- 4 - 5.25" bays
- 8 - 3.5" HDD trays - all compatible with SSDs
- 2 - 2.5" dedicated SSD positions behind the mothboard plate
- 9 expansion slots
- 7 - Fan positions (3 Silent Series R2 fans included)
- Filtered fan slots in front, top and bottom
- CPU coolers up to 180 mm tall
- PSU compatibility: ATX PSUs up to 190 mm deep when using the bottom fan location; when not using this fan location longer PSUs (up to 345 mm deep) can be used
- Graphics card compatibility: Graphics cards up to 330mm in length with the top HDD cage installed - With the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 480mm in length may be installed
- 26 mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
- Thick rubber grommets on all holes on the motherboard plate
- Window side panel included
- Colors available: Black
- Case dimensions (WxHxD): 232 x 572 x 552mm
- Net weight: 13.8kg
- Package dimensions (WxHxD): 322 x 625 x 635mm
- Package weight: 16.3kg
- Front: 2 - 120/140mm fans (included is one hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
- Rear: 1 - 120/140mm fan (included is a hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
- Top: 3 - 120x140mm fans (included is one hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
- Bottom: 1 - 120/140mm fan (not included)
- Fan controller: 1 - Integrated fan controller for up to 3 fans (included)
- Water cooling compatibility:
- Front – 240 mm radiators (thick and slim) when HDD cages are repositioned or removed
- Top – 240mm radiators (thick) or 280 and 360mm radiators (slim)
- Bottom – 120mm radiators
- Rear – 120 and 140mm radiators
- 2 - USB 3.0
- 2 - USB 2.0
- Audio in/out
- Power button with LED (blue)
- HDD activity LED (red)
- Reset button
- Fan controller
Fractal Design ARC XL Case Packaging
The front of the Fractal Design ARC XL case has their logo, website and a nice side view of the case. The plain cardboard box has become pretty common as most are sold online instead of in a retail setting. In shipping, the top left corner got a little crushed, nothing that should raise any red flags, the packaging of the case should be sufficient to protect the case from this little bit of damage.
The back of the box goes into some detail on the features. There is a picture of the case taken apart with the eight major features discussed.
One of the side panels of the box presents the model name, and a view of the interior portion of the ARC XL. The other side goes into detail on the specifications and the cooling options.
Insidethe box, the ARC XL is packaged in a plastic bag to keep moisture off the case. Surrounding the case is two large Styrofoam blocks, this is a very common method of shipping a case. As expected, the slightly crushed corner was protected by this shipping method.
Fractal Design includes a large number of accessories with the ARC XL; 16 thumbscrews for the 5.25" bays, 32 anti-vibration screws for the 3.5" trays, 32 screws for SSD's, 4 power supply screws, 6 cable ties, 8 3.5" tray security screws, 11 motherboard screws, 4 fan screws, 11 standoffs, and a standoff fastening bit. All this should allow a user to fully load the ARC XL.
ARC XL Exterior Impressions
The ARC XL is a large Full Tower case, measuring 9.1x22.5x21.7inches (WxHxD) and weighs in at just over 30 lbs! Compared to the ARC Midi R2 which is 9.1x18.1x20.3inches (WxHxD) and 23.6lbs. The majority of the case is made out of steel while the front bezel is made out of a heavy duty plastic.
On the front bezel, at the very top are four 5.25" drive bays, with covers designed to match the rest of the bezel, keeping a smooth, nearly seemless look. Below the 5.25" drive bays is a large metal mesh area, that hides the front intake fans.
The metal mesh front intake filter is held in place by two click latches, which makes removing the filter for cleaning extremely easy. Behind the filter is room for two fans, either 120mm or 140mm. A 140mm Silent Series R2 fan is included, it is rated for 1000RPM, 66CFM and 18.5dBA.
Like the ARC Midi R2, the side panel has a smoked window that comes protected by a sheet of plastic. This panel is held in place by two thumb screws, which when removed the side panel swings outwards for removal. Also, at this view, we can see the case feet, which are chrome with a rubber base to keep the case from sliding around.
The back panel of the ARC XL we find the usual items. At the top are some honeycomb exhaust vents, the motherboard I/O and 140mm exhuast fan; a 120mm exhaust fan will also fit. In the middle are nine vented expansion ports, which leads to the bottom mounted power supply. There are no external liquid cooling ports, with all the all-in-one liquid cooling options, external coolers aren't as popular. Finally, below the power supply is an easily removed fan filter.
The bottom fan filter can be removed out the back very easily. In addition to the power supply, it covers the bottom intake fan location.
The right side panel is devoid of anything to look at. Like the windowed panel, it is held in place by two thumbscrews. Removing the thumbscrews the panel swings out for removal. Like most cases, the ARC XL shows fingerprints very easily, it would be nice if there was a coating that wouldn't show them so much.
The entire top panel is done with wire mesh to allow airflow. At the very front of the top panel is the front I/O cluster. Here we find the three speed fan controller, headphone/microphone jacks, power button, reset, 2x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0. The fan controller, works by adjusting the power to the fans at 5V to 7V to 12V.
The bottom of the case, we find the fan filter that can be removed from the back of the case. At the front of the case are two large feet, while the back of the case has significantly smaller feet.
ARC XL Interior Impressions
The ARC XL has a large area for a motherboard, as it will support up to E-ATX and XL-ATX boards. The interior is painted black to match the exterior with the 3.5" drive trays, expansion ports and fan blades being white to contrast against the black. Seven cable management holes (four large, and three small) with rubber guards to keep cables tidy. There is also a large CPU bracket cut-out that should support all CPU positions.
While at first glance the 5.25" device cage on the ARC XL do not appear to be tool-less, Fractal Design includes thumbscrews for those devices, making it tool-less. The 3.5" drive cage, uses screws as well, however these are not thumbscrews; thumbscrews connect the two 3.5" drive cages. There are two 3.5" drive cages that can be removed; with the top one in place a video card up to 13 inches can be installed, however if your card is longer, once the cage is removed a video card up to 18.75 inches can be installed.
While t he ARC Midi R2 comes with hard drive cages that support 3 drives each, the ARC XL support 4 drives in each cage. For the hard drive cages, that's where the differences end. The ARC XL continues the tradition of allowing the user to determine the optimal position for the drive cages by making them removable and repositionable. Removing both of the drive cages, still allows use of the hidden SSD trays behind the motherboard and the 5.25" drive bays. Each of the drive cage positions has a purpose, allowing the use of extremely long enthusiast grade video cards, better airflow, or using various size of liquid cooling radiators. With the drive cages moved 240mm radiator could be installed in the front of the case.
The drive trays are metal with rubber anti-vibration grommets. 3.5" hard drives are secured to the tray with screws through the grommets, while the 2.5" drives are secured using different screws. Once the drives are secured, the tray slides into place and securely locks into place using clips.
The bottom area, for the power supply, will support up to 345mm (13.5inches). If a 120mm or 140mm fan is installed that space is reduced to 190mm (7.5inches). The power supply is supported by two large rubber feet which will keep it off the bottom of the case to allow for sufficient airflow through the bottom vents. This is one of the locations that a 120mm liquid cooling radiator could be installed.
The back panel is pretty normal, with nine expansion ports, a 140mm case fan, motherboard I/O plate, and plenty of vents. Each of the expansion port covers are white to contrast against the black case; these are held in place by a thumbscrew. The fan can be replaced by a smaller 120mm fan or even a 120mm or 140mm liquid cooler. The power supply location has an integrated gasket to help keep the vibrations to a minimum.
The top view provides another look at the top fan or liquid cooling locations. Here either three 120mm or two 140mm fan can be installed, or for those going the liquid cooling route, a 240mm long thick radiator or up to a 360mm slim radiator could be installed.
On the back of the motherboard tray there are seven locations to secure the cables with the included cable ties. Two hidden SSD locations are found here as well, one is right below the motherboard CPU support bracket cut-out and the other would be located right behind the power supply. There is 26mm (1inch) of cable routing space, using a straight SATA connection cable will be necessary as there is not much room for the right angle connections.
The SSD installation on the little brother, ARC Midi R2, was an annoyance. To install a SSD, the screws were put through the motherboard tray; which is fine when installing the drives before the motherboard. However if they needed to be changed, it would be a headache. The ARC XL changes that by using two trays for the 2.5" drives. This is a much better implementation of the SSD installation.
A quick pull from the bottom of the front bezel, and it comes right off. The 5.25" drive bays do not have any additional covers that need to be removed so the bays are ready for installation. On the backside of the bezel, the 5.25" drive bay covers are held in place by a latch on each side of the cover. The front wire mesh filter has a foam filter on the inside.
ARC XL Hardware Installation
With the amount of space in the ARC XL, installing any components should be a breeze. There were no surprises when doing the install with the case itself, however the main motherboard power cable was a bit too short for proper cable routing. So instead of going behind the motherboard tray like it should, it has to go on this side; an extension for the power cable would resolve this issue.
The ARC XL supports the largest of motherboards, E-ATX, and XL-ATX. The install was done using a micro ATX motherboard, there are two additional sets of standoff locations below it. The ones with the brass standoffs installed is for a standard ATX motherboard, while the holes that are in line with the small cable routing hole is for the larger motherboards.
Installing the hard drives is done front the motherboard side of the case, while the connections are completed on the backside of the motherboard tray. With the cable management holes, routing the cables is very easy. While routing the cables, the rubber guards stayed in place while meant less headaches. The cables that come with the case are long enough to reach the motherboard connections.
The CPU cooler support bracket hole is large enough that it should support the majority of CPU locations. To the left of the cooler support bracket is the first memory slow, while below it would be the first PCI-E slot. An Intel SSD is installed in the first hidden SSD location, the tray comes off the case by two screws, then attaching the SSD with four additional screws. Reattaching the SSD tray to the case is done easily, nothing was obstructing the installation. Using a straight SATA cable will be necessary, however the power connection is a little more forgiving as there is 1 inch of space between the motherboard tray and the side panel.
The integrated fan controller is done by adjusting the power voltage going to the fans. It uses a 4-pin Molex connector for power, and standard three pin fan connectors for the fans. Using the top mounted switch the power can be adjusted between 5V to 7V and 12V.
There is a good 5/8inch gap between the power supply and the motherboard tray. What its good for I couldn't tell you, however I thought it was interesting.
Fractal Design ARC XL Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The Fractal Design ARC XL has many of the same features of the ARC Midi R2, and even improves on several of those features, just in a larger case. One of the major improvements was to the 2.5" SSD mounting behind the motherboard tray. Now using a tray design for installation, means easier installation and upgrade.
Internally the options on the ARC XL allow for virtually unlimited configurations. Starting with the hard drive trays, they can be moved into various positions to allow for extremely long video cards, or large liquid cooling radiators. If liquid cooling isn't a consideration, the ARC XL handles up to seven fans; 2x front, 3x top, 1x back and 1x bottom. Three of Fractal Design's Silent Series R2 140mm case fans are included with the ARC XL. Thankfully the bottom, front and top mounted fan locations have filters installed to help keep the case free of dust.
Being a full tower, it can support a large number of devices; 4x 5.25" devices, 8x 3.5" or 2.5" hard drives, 2x 2.5" drives (hidden), and up to XL-ATX motherboards. All of which needs power. Even the longest power supplies shouldn't have an issue being installed in the ARC XL; the power supply is, of course, filtered.
I was impressed by the ARC XL, the change in the mounting of the hidden SSD's was a welcome change. The bottom and front filter is easily cleaned without moving the system. If I was to call out anything that could be improved on the ARC XL, it would be to make the top filter (yes, I realize it should be an exhaust) as easy to clean as the front filter. Otherwise, I'd like to see four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, rather than the 2x USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0.
The ARC XL, sold under part number FD-CA-ARC-XL-BL-W, can be found online for $129.99 with shipping at Amazon. This includes everything we discussed, and a 2 year warranty. There are full tower cases that are cheaper, and more expensive units. The price of the ARC XL puts it at the lower end of the price range, and while it could be considered cheap, there isn't anything cheap about the manufacturing of this case. With the build quality, and features on the ARC XL, the price is justified.
Legit Reviews Bottom Line: If a full tower is desired, the Fractal Design ARC XL has plenty of room for the largest of systems. Featuring a sleek minimalistic design, it supports up to seven fans, multiple liquid cooling options, plenty of hard drive space and great cable management options.