Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Case Review

hornybluecow - 2013-10-26 19:34:40 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: hornybluecow   
Reviewed on: December 17, 2013
Price: $89.95

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Introduction:

Today we take a look at the Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 micro ATX tower. Fractal Design is a Swedish-based company that has popped up in North America this past year. It has been steadily growing while moving into the power supply and computer case markets. Currently priced at $89.95 MSRP, it is the smallest chassis under the Fractal Design ARC series. The Mini R2 falls under the mid range of the competition compared to other micro towers price-wise. In that case, the price has its advantages by adding more features. At this point in my career as a reviewer and prior experience dealing with chassis, I have come to the realization the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" holds true more times than not. This chassis has some hidden gems, so let's dive into this review and see what it has to offer.

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Closer Look:

Looking at the chassis right away, you can see the similarities to the Mini's big brother, the XL I reviewed earlier this year. Before I get too far into this review, let me clear up the naming scheme that will save some confusion when buying this chassis. When I originally received this chassis for review, I mistakenly thought this was the Midi (not Mini), which supports a full ATX motherboard. While taking pictures, I realized that something did not fit quite right with only four PCI expansion slots. In fact, this is the Mini chassis and not the Midi (surprise). So just be aware that the Mini is for Micro ATX and ITX motherboards.

Alright, now with that cleared up, onward to the review! Looking at the pictures below, the left side panel includes a large tinted side window without a fan mounting option. The right side panel is solid without a window. Next, the front side has two exposed 5.25" bays with a removable mesh covering a 120mm fan, while the back has four expansion slots, a 120mm fan, and space for a bottom mounted power supply. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top of the case has some of the best features. These features include a removable cover, a built-in fan controller, audio jacks, and a power button. The top also houses two USB 3.0 ports, which have a USB 2.0 connector attached. This is just in case the motherboard only has USB 2.0 ports and is something I haven't seen in anything else so far. Moving along, once you remove the top mesh, you can see the bare bones. The top comes off by removing two thumb screws at the back. After that is done, you are able to install an assortment of fan options all the way to a full 360mm radiator. By default, a 140mm fan is installed as the rear fan.

 

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Closer Look:

Once you flip the chassis over, it reveals a large dust filter covering both the power supply and extra fan spot. Removing the filter was easy and intuitive; simply pushing down on the back of the filter and pulling at the same time releases the filter. Once the dust filter is cleaned off, you can insert the filter just in reverse of how you removed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuing the similarities in the ARC series, you can see a metal mesh that doubles as a dust filter while looking at the front. To remove the filter, simply press both top corners and it pops right out. The locking mechanism on the chassis itself and on the filter is made of plastic; this is something I am not fond of and disappointed to see because of the possibility of it eventually breaking. The plastic does not feel flimsy and is hard, which is a good sign of a longer lasting lock, but you still want to be gentle with it. Once the filter is removed, there is an option to install up to two 120mm fans, with one already included. The fans themselves are mounted to the front panel as opposed to being installed on the chassis.

 

 

Inside one of the hard drive bays was a long black box containing all of the screws, along with a few zip ties. After opening the box, you will find a huge bag with all the necessary screws. Fractal Design was even kind enough to include four long screws for another front mounted fan. The case also includes a paper manual and a warranty sheet explaining what to do in case of defect. Due to prior feedback, I have given manuals more of a look over. Last time my problem with the XL case was the lack of information. Once again, I have mixed feelings because only four pages were in English explaining nothing more than the outside of the box. I know a few people that this would not go over well with. I understand most people who are building a computer from scratch will not have issues with lack of information, but to some this is a huge problem. At least Fractal Design included a manual, and it does explain in detail what is covered. To me, an ultimate manual would be one that lists what each screw is used for and how to install each part briefly.

 

In the pictures below, we see how the case wires are routed above the top 5.25" bay, with a bit of extra room on top to spare. The fan wires are long enough to reach the built-in fan controller if you plan to use it. However, it only comes with three connectors. This covers the included fans, but any extra ones will need to be plugged into the motherboard. Usually I have mixed feelings about built-in controllers. On one hand, it is a good thing because most ITX motherboards only have one case fan port. However, the downside is that the company is spending money on a feature not being used. For a small chassis like this, it is a very welcome addition, especially if you are using an ITX motherboard.

 

 

Next, looking at the top, from right to left is the 5v/7v/12v fan controller, headphone and mic jacks, power button, and two USB 3.0 ports. The power button is built solid. I did not feel I could break it by pressing too hard or that it would fail anytime soon. This brings me to talk about the power and hard drive access lights. The lights are very bright to me and enough that I want to put tape over them. Fractal Design should dim them down a bit; if the chassis is above or out of sight these bright LEDs will not bother you like it has me.

 

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.

 

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Specifications:

 

Case Type
Mini Tower
Dimension
484(L) X 210(W) X 405(H) mm (19 x 8.2 x 15.9 inch)
Side Panel
Transparent Window
Color
Exterior & Interior : Black
Cooling System
Front (intake) :
1 x 120mm Silent Series Fan (included)
1 x 120mm Fan (optional)
Side (intake / exhaust) :
-None
Back (exhaust) :
1 x 120mm Silent Series Fan (included)
Top (exhaust) :
2 x 120/140mm (total)
1 x 140mm Silent Series Fan (included)
Bottom (intake) :
1 x 120mm (optional)
Material
Metal / Plastic
Drive Bays
Accessible : 2 x 5.25’’
Hidden : 6 x 3.5’’
SSD: 2 x 2.5" (Behind MB Tray)
Expansion Slots
4 + 1
Motherboards
Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
I/O Ports
2 X USB3.0 / 2 x AUDIO
PSU
Standard ATX PSU (optional)
LCS Compatibly
Front – 240mm radiator (thick and slim) cannot exceed 275mm
 in total length with the ODD bay in place.
Top – 240mm or 360mm radiators (thick and slim);
the use of 360mm radiators requires removal of the ODD cage.
Bottom – 120mm radiators
Rear – 120 and 140mm radiators
Other
CPU cooler height limitation: 165mm
VGA length limitation: 260mm w/HDD Cage, 400mm w/o.
20 mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard tray

 

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Features:

 



 

All information courtesy of Fractal Designs @ http://www.fractal-design.com/home/product/cases/arc-series/arc-mini-r2

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Testing:

Testing a chassis requires the computer to stay at idle and load for one hour. Doing so will give you an idea of what your computer may be like under stress. Normally your computer will not be running this hot, but we do not all live in cold weather or do similar things. Therefore, a full stress test can give people the idea of what it can handle and whether or not heat gets trapped over time. The case is left with stock features to give you an idea of the temperatures without the need for extra fans. It's almost guaranteed to have a slight drop in temperature when more fans are added, but that will not be covered unless noted. I will be using Prime95 "small FFTs" for the CPU load and 3DMark Vantage "Extreme preset" for GPU for one hour. After an hour the temperatures are recorded using HWMonitor in Celsius (°C).

Setup:

Compared Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results are in! As expected the Mini R2 performs very well across the board. While the comparison so far is limited to only one other chassis, I believe as more get added over time you will see this one stand the test of time. The default fan setup allows for a good amount of airflow and right where it counts. The main intake fan is directly adjacent to the video card, which keeps the temperatures in check. Given that there are a wide variety of video card coolers, it may be necessary to install additional fans in the front or bottom.

Lastly, the CPU temperatures are completely within reason and that is because of the high stock air flow. By using Intel's own CPU cooler, getting below 80 °C on the temperature scale is nearly impossible. The cooler is tiny and the Haswell runs very hot, so this tells me that this chassis is ready for a good overclock with the right CPU cooler. Speaking of coolers, this chassis supports up to 165mm, which is enough for any decent cooler currently on the market.

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Conclusion:

Let us recap my reasoning and scoring method before diving into my final words. First I look at what the company is saying it offers. For example, say the company states the case supports large / long graphic cards or ten quiet fans. In this example, I examine what is advertised versus what is actually offered. Most of this becomes uncovered as I take pictures to document the product. If the company does not stay true to its word, then it loses points because no one ever wants to be sold on false advertisement. Next I look at what the product is marketed for and put it into perspective. An example of this could be trying to overclock a CPU in a Mini ITX case and expecting a low temperature. This would contradict its target market and something I try to catch so it does not affect the score. The last bit is my own interjection. What could the case offer in its price range, and what do other companies offer. This category may include an extra fan, cable management, different color paint, or support for larger video cards. This list is endless so let's move on to the conclusion.

Fractal Design has once again put thought and care into all of its features, so before I say my final words, let me explain the pros and cons. Starting with the negative, my issues are less of a deal and more of an annoyance. As explained in the previous page, the user manual is lacking in further useful information. Yes it does cover the basics, but I would like to see everyone rising to NZXT standards in the manual department. This product only contained four pages for the manual; that to me is the bare minimum and it was annoying trying to find information that should be included.

Next up is the size. While I didn't talk about this during the review, I realized it's an important topic. The Mini R2 is rather on the big side of mini and getting close to Mid-Tower. If you are looking for the smallest form factor this isn't it. I must say that it is hard to define mini since both Micro ATX and ITX motherboards are allowed in the category, so be aware of the size if that is a factor for you. Last on the list are the front panel lights. You can ignore this if bright lights do not bother you, but for me it did, and I wish it was a bit dimmer.

With a large amount of positive things to say, I am going to focus on the major selling points. To start off, this chassis includes the high quality standards of its big brother, the ARC XL. I think the biggest selling point is the large amount of spacing behind the motherboard tray. Usually a smaller chassis means the harder cable management becomes and this is no different. The expectation here is the good amount of space and I was able to hide all the wires of a non-modular power supply without much of an issue. Using the built-in fan controller was very useful and essential to small form factor motherboards.

Next, there is included support for larger video cards and CPU coolers, making it a very welcome addition to this small chassis. Lastly is the water cooling support, which to me it is a dud because you lose either one or both bays when installing anything other than a 240mm radiator on top. The reason why I kept it in the Pros was because it's very uncommon to support a custom liquid cooling setup in the realm of small chassis, but Fractal Design added it anyways, even if it might be less than practical. It does not hurt the chassis in any way by including it, so it is a warm welcome in my eyes.

To wrap up this review, the Fractal Design Mini R2 is a great chassis that follows the quality already set by the larger ARC XL I reviewed earlier this year. The only major downside is the cost and that is more of issue with me being cheap rather than a deal breaker. Chassis in this category sell from anywhere between $35 and $150, making it hard to pinpoint the sweet spot between a quality deal and paying more for the name. That being said, anyone looking for a quality chassis that is in need of a smaller form factor, the ARC Mini R2 is definitely something to keep an eye out for.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: