The Fractal Arc Midi R2 Chassis

Fractal Design is a Swedish company that designs its computer hardware from a minimalistic viewpoint.  This is common in Scandinavian design, where it has become very popular thanks to a well-known furniture store.  Their Arc Midi R2 continues the tradition of keeping things simple, yet providing all the necessary features to make a great case.

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The Arc Midi R2 is a mid-tower case that sells for $99.99 shipped under part number FD-CA-ARC-R2-BL-W.  This places it at the high end of mid-tower cases.  The Arc Midi R2 has many features that enthusiasts demand, such as USB 3.0, support for long video cards, tall CPU coolers, lots of cooling options and a sleek design. If those features and the design appeal to you, then the Arc Midi R2 might be a case for you.

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While having a filter on the front intake fans is great, often the entire front bezel needs to be removed to properly clean the filter and the fans.  Fractal Design has implemented an easy way to gain access to the filter and fans by making the front filter come off by pressing in the top corners.  The fan filter then swings downward and can be removed. 

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The Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 comes with two removable 3.5” hard drive cages.  This allows the use of video cards that are up to 430mm, and also allows a water cooling radiator to fit in the front of the case.  These removable hard drive cages can either be totally removed, leaving only the 2 – 2.5” SSD drives behind the motherboard, and the 2 – 5.25” drive bays for storage; or one of the cages can be moved to the bottom of the case for 3 – 3.5” hard drives.  In addition, to being removed and moved about, they can also be rotated to allow better airflow. 

Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 Key Features:

Let's move along and take a look at the retail packaging and accessory bundle that came with our review sample.

Arc Midi R2 Retail Packaging

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The Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 is a mid-tower case, so the box isn’t very large; it is approximately 12.5” x 24” x 22” (WxHxD) and with a shipping weight of 26.5lbs it shouldn’t be too hard to get it to its final destination.  The packaging isn’t very fancy, and the front of the box doesn’t provide much information, simply the model name and a picture of the case.

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The back of the packaging shows us a picture of the case in a breakdown view, with each of the major features numbered for easy identification and a quick description of the feature which is presented in four different languages.

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One side of the packaging provides a detailed list of the product specifications and the cooling system.  On the other side of the box it provides a simple view of the internal components of the case.

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Opening the box, we find the Arc Midi R2 is packaged in a plastic bag between two large Styrofoam blocks.  Each of these provides sufficient protection against moisture and most minor shipping damage.

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Within the Arc Midi R2 we found a little black box that is clearly identified as containing the accessories necessary to install your components.  This included four power supply screws, nine motherboard standoffs (and an installation bit), nine motherboard standoff screws, thirty-two SSD screws, eight 5.25” optical bay thumbscrews, thirty-two anti-vibration hard drive screws and finally six cable ties.

Arc Midi R2 External Impressions

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Taking a look at the front of the case, we can see the two 5.25” device bays at the top; which is a common place for them.  The majority of the front bezel is made out of a heavy duty plastic.

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The 5.25” drive bay covers are solid rather than having mesh; some might argue mesh covers allow more airflow. 

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Below the 5.25” drive bays, we find a large metal mesh area that has the Fractal Design logo.  In this area, I would expect to find the fans.

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Sure enough, removing the front mesh reveals the included 140mm Silent R2 intake fan, rated at 1,000RPM.  There is plenty of room to install another 120mm or 140mm intake fan.  The fans will need to be installed from inside the case, which is again a common method.  Another option would be to install up to a 240mm water cooling radiator, if the hard drive cages are removed (or repositioned).

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As this is the main air intake, a filter is necessary.  Right behind the metal mesh bezel is a foam filter.  I was a little surprised at the weight of the mesh portion, I don’t believe that through casual use any damage can come to it.

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One issue I always have is in order to properly clean the intake filter you need to take off the front bezel, which can be a headache.  Fractal Design has done a nice job by implementing a couple of click latches to allow the front fan intake filter to be removed for cleaning!

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The main side panel has a smoked window that comes protected by a sheet of plastic.   The side panel is held on by two thumbscrews in the back of the panel.  In addition, there is a little handle to help removing the panel once the thumbscrews are taken out.

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The back panel is where the exterior connections are made, here we can see that there are some vents at the top.  Below the vents is the standard keyboard I/O plate and a 120mm/140mm exhaust fan.  In the middle of the back panel is the 7 expansion slots, with an extra expansion port in the event one is necessary, for example an add-in USB or eSATA port.  Finally is the ATX power supply opening.  At the very bottom is a power supply fan filter that comes out the back of the case.  Unfortunately, there are no external water cooling ports.

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As previously mentioned, at the bottom of the case, a power supply filter can be pulled out.  It covers a large portion of the bottom of the case.  This is helpful to make it easy to clean.

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The back side panel is plain, there is nothing really to look at here.  Like the windowed side panel, it is held in place by two thumbscrews and has a little handle to help remove the panel.

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Like the front bezel, the top panel is plastic with a large metal mesh area for airflow.

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The front I/O panel is actually on the top of the case.  Here the usual items are found; reset button, microphone/headphone jack, power switch and two USB 3.0 ports.  In addition there is a simple fan controller that will adjust the voltage on the fans from 5V to 7V to 12V.

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After removing two screws at the top of the back panel, the top bezel can be removed.  Here we find an area to install up to three fans, one is included.  Other option is to install up to a 240mm water cooling radiator.

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Fractal Design has gone the extra step of including another filter on the top bezel.  While this area is usually an exhaust (since heat rises), some might wish to use it as an intake so the included filter is an added bonus.

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The bottom of the case is pretty normal.  The large power supply and bottom fan filter are located here.  It is easily slid out the back of the case for cleaning; this makes it so there is no need to tip the case to clean the filter.  In addition, there are four feet to keep the case raised off the ground.  Each of the feet has some rubber added to keep it from sliding around as well.

Arc Midi R2 Internal Impressions

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The interior of the case has the usual suspects.  A large CPU cooler bracket cut-out, large enough to support all positions of the CPU.  Five (three large and two small) cable management holes, each with a rubber guard to keep things tidy.

The Arc Midi R2 is compatible with ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ATX motherboards, ATX PSUs up to 170 mm deep when using the bottom fan location (when not using this fan location longer PSUs - up to 270 mm deep - can be used), and CPU coolers up to 180mm in height. As far as graphics cards are concerned, the Midi R2 supports cards up to 290mm in length with the top HDD cage installed (with the top cage removed, there's room for graphics cards up to 430mm in length).

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The top view provides another look at the top fan or water cooling radiator location.  One of the 120mm/140mm fan locations looks like it might interfere with the top optical drive bay. However, it doesn’t.

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The back panel is pretty normal as well.  The expansion port covers are white which contrasts with the black case nicely.  Each of the covers are held in place by a thumbscrew.  While the main expansion covers are solid, the extra is vented to help with airflow.  The 140mm included exhaust fan can be replaced by a small 120mm water cooling radiator if desired.

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On the bottom portion of the case we find that Fractal Design has included several rubber feet to reduce the vibration from the power supply, in addition there is another place to install a 120mm or 140mm fan, or a 120mm water cooling radiator.  However, if you reposition the hard drive cage to install a 240mm radiator in the front, this will not be an option.

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The 5.25” drive bays are only semi-tool-less, while they do not have any pre-installed tool-less clips, Fractal Design does include thumbscrews to make the installation fairly easy.  The main 3.5” drive cage will hold five 3.5” devices on trays, these trays will support a 3.5” or 2.5” drive.  This cage can be easily removed by two thumbscrews at the top and bottom.

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Once removed, the guides which ensure the hard drive cage is installed correctly can be seen.  This is a very easy method of lining up the cage, anybody can do it.

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In order to line up with the guides, the hard drive cage also needs to have guides to slide into the previous guides lines.  Large plastic guides make it easy to slide into the guide lines, while keep it feeling extremely solid.

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To reinsert the cage, simply line up the guides and slide it in.  You can have it oriented in one of two directions depending on your preference. 

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Here the cage has been rotated so the drive would face the motherboard.

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The drive trays are metal with rubber grommets to reduce the vibration from 3.5” hard drives.  The drives are secured to the tray with the included screws.  The tray then slides into place and is secured by clips on the edge of the grips.

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On the back of the motherboard tray there are six places to use the included cable ties to attach the cables, as well as room for two SSD’s.  These need to be installed before the motherboard as the screws need to be installed from the other side.  In addition, you must use straight SATA cables as there is not enough room to use the 90 degree connectors.

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Behind the motherboard tray there is also a large amount of room to route your cables.  Using a US Quarter as a reference, it is obvious how much space there is. For those that don't know, the US Quarter Dollar is 0.955 inch in diameter (24.26 mm).

Hardware Installation

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An empty case is boring and a waste, time to fill it with some components and see how it holds up in the end.

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With the Arc Midi R2 only having front USB 3.0 ports, this would typically require an adapter to convert the USB 3.0 internal connector to a USB 2.0 connector.  Fractal Design has thought about that and integrated the converter onto the USB 3.0 header cable.

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It might just be me, but whenever I do cable routing, the rubber grommets around the cable routing holes are always an issue.  They come off very easily.  The ones on the Arc Midi R2 weren’t an issue, I was able to route all the cables behind the motherboard tray and never had an issue with the rubber grommets!  Behind the motherboard tray there is more than enough room to route the cables, and keep them looking good.

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Originally, I had planned on installing an Intel 520 180GB SSD behind the motherboard tray, however I found that unless you install the SSD before the motherboard,  you had better plan to remove the motherboard.  This is a major flaw in my opinion.  Thankfully, there are plenty of drive trays which will accept SSD’s.

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Overall, the completed build can easily come out looking great.  For this build, the Zalman CNPS9900NT was included, it is a large cooler at 152mm (6 inches).  Fractal Design lists 180mm (7 inches) cooler compatibility within their specifications. 

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With everything installed, a quick look through the window reveals the entire motherboard, with some extra that shows the cable routing holes.  A nice clean build will look great through the smoked window.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

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The Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 has many features to make it worth taking a look at.  The cable routing and cooling options alone are hard to beat in a case this size.  The Arc Midi R2 can be found at Amazon for $99.99 shipped which places it in the higher tier of cases for the mid sized case category.  There are many cheaper alternatives, but not many will offer three included 140mm fans (with an integrated fan controller for them), along with room for four additional fans.  The top mounted SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports will be easy to access whether the case is on the floor, or next to the user on a desk.

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During the install, I was constantly thinking how easy connecting everything was, even while the cables were properly routed behind the motherboard tray.  I have fairly large hands and connecting any of the cables was easy, especially since the main hard drive cage can come out so easily.

While I am really impressed in the overall quality and features on the Fractal Design Arc Midi R2, I was disappointed in the how the pair of 2.5-inch hard drives or Solid-State Drives mount behind the motherboard tray. Since you have to secure the drives using four screws from the motherboard side of the case, it makes it tough to remove them once the board is installed. If your storage drive fails or if you want to upgrade it you need to take your motherboard out in order to remove the drive! Luckily, you have eight storage drive bays to fill up and that should be more than plenty. I hope that Fractal Design can come up with a better way to mount SSDs behind the motherboard tray as it would be nice to stealth mount some SSDs like that!

The Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 has everything necessary for a modern build, and includes a one year warranty.  This card is hard to beat when it comes to all these features and for being $99.99 shipped.

ASRock Z77 Pro3 Legit Reviews Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line: The Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 is a great case with tons of cooling options, an integrated fan controller and plenty of room for storage drives!