Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Case Reviewhornybluecow - December 17, 2013
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Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Closer Look:
Removing the side panels was easy and intuitive compared to the ARC XL. Following the trend of many other chassis, simply remove the two thumb screws and pull the built in notches. Inside you can see six 3.5" HDD bays via two removable cages. Being a small chassis has its advantages, but majority of the time it can cause problems. Fortunately, the people at Fractal Design thought this one out. Without removing a cage, you have 10.2" (260mm) for a video card and a whopping 15.7" (400mm) with the top cage removed. This means you are going to have to double check the length of the video card to see if it is going to fit without giving up some hard drive bays. This chassis is spacious for the size. Many chassis I have dealt with that say "mini" really mean it. While every bit of extra space counts towards the overall size, this is by far the best compared to getting my hand stuck. With only four PCI expansion slots, this chassis is limited to Micro ATX (M-ATX) and ITX motherboards. Finally you have two 5.25" bays, which is enough for the everyday user, and two SSD mounts on the back of the motherboard tray. You cannot realistically ask for more from a chassis this size.
Each hard drive bay is made of solid metal with mounting options for 2.5" (laptop) and 3.5" (standard hard drives). Each bay has rubber standoffs that use a special type of long screws (included). I was able to use normal screws, but they are not meant for the rubber holes and only good in a pinch. Next you can see two 5.25" bays that require screws. This is a bit of a step back from most cases I have seen, but unless the tool-less design is done right, it is no better than having to use screws. For the most part, I am more of a screwdriver type of guy, so this does not bother me.
Behind the motherboard tray are two dedicated 2.5" SSD mounts. This is great if you only have an SSD and want to hide the wires. The placement this time is good enough, but once again, with a smaller chassis there is less space to hide the wires and having a SSD in the way will cause problems closing the back panel with only 20mm of space. To install an SSD is a simple matter of using the universal thumb screws to hold the drive in place. It might be possible to use traditional screws, but I did not try that method of installation.
Behind the motherboard tray is 20mm (0.78") of space. This is enough to put most of the wires behind the tray, but beware of bulky cables like the 24-pin motherboard connector. Overall I was able to put all the cables behind the tray and some to the side. It was a tight squeeze, but with a bit of adjustment the back panel went on without much fuss.
When it comes to some of the extra features, first let's start with the basics, which are the removable hard drive cages. Removing the top cage was a simple matter of two thumb screws and then it slides out. Both cages can be oriented in different directions to suit your needs. The bottom cage requires you to remove four screws from underneath the chassis. It may not be worth the effort to try to get to it unless you really need to reorient the bottom cage. This chassis also supports a front 240mm radiator and up to 360mm on the top. Again, due to this being an already small chassis, the options to mount a radiator and have usable bays is not possible. On top of that, mounting a pump and reservoir brings its own set of challenges. It is good Fractal Design allows for the option of thick or thin radiators, but it is a bit of a moot point considering the size and loss of bays.
Here it is! Assembly was straight forward and easy enough to do. As you can see it is a bit of a squeeze when it comes to the GTX 770 video card (or really any high-end card). Once again, I have very little to complain about except for the bright lights on the front, but I will leave that for the conclusion. Similar to the XL, if I have to nitpick, I would have liked to see the side window without a dark tint to it.