Fractal Design ARC XL Reviewhornybluecow - October 8, 2013
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Fractal Design ARC XL Closer Look:
Removing the side panels wasn't as intuitive as it could have been. Normally after taking out the screws holding the panel in place, it's a simple matter of tugging built-in handles. After removing the screws, I realized Fractal Design took a different approach. Instead of handles you either have to use your palm and push the panel off or pull the top back corner out, then use that as a makeshift handle. Neither worked very well and It left me disappointed that this problem could have been avoided completely with a notch or a handle on the side panels. Inside you can see eight 3.5" HDD bays via two removable cages. Being a full tower has its advantages and without removing a cage you have 13" (330mm) for a video card and a whopping 18.8" (480mm) with the top cage removed. I cannot imagine needing that much space and it's a safe bet that you still can use all eight bays even with the longest video card on the market. This chassis is very spacious with nine PCI expansion slots for the largest motherboards. Officially Fractal Design supports up to E-ATX/XL-ATX specifcations, but SSI EEB could fit if you are okay with missing a few mounting screws. Finally you have four 5.25" bays, which is enough for the everyday user and two SSD mounts on the back of motherboard tray.
Each hard drive bay is made of solid metal with mounting options for SSDs and standard hard drives. Each bay has rubber standoffs that use a special type of long screw (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 four 5.25" bays that require screws. This is a bit of a step back from most cases I have seen. Every company is going the route of tool-less design. For the most part, I have a screwdriver in my hand anyways, which defeats the conveniences of tool-less design.
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 is also well thought out because not many left over wires get pushed into the corner, in fact I've never used the area before this computer case. Installing the SSD wasn't much of an issue but because of the depth, a screwdriver may not work for some people. Luckily Fractal Design thought of this already and made the SSD mounts thumb screw compatible.
In the picture below we see how the case wires are routed, with a bit of extra room on top to spare. I am happy to report that these cables were all long enough for a standard ATX motherboard. Even the fan wires are long enough to reach the built-in fan controller if you plan to use it. If it is hard to tell what is in the jumble of wires, let me list what they are. Starting at the top, from left to right is the 5v/7v/12v fan controller, headphone and mic jacks, power button, two USB 3.0, and lastly two USB 2.0. The power button is built solid. I did not feel I could break it by pressing hard or that it would fail anything soon. Moving on, the lights are a bit bright for me. Dimming it down would have helped. Once again not a huge deal; I have seen much brighter lights in the past.
Inside one of the hard drive bays was a long black box containing all the screws along with a few zip ties. At first I thought the company was overdoing it or added one too many bags of screws, but they all can be used. 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. Usually I overlook manuals as I am a handy guy. This time I could not because the manual includes only four pages in English explaining nothing more than the outside of the box. I became a bit annoyed finding out more about the case from trial and error than information inside the manual. I first opened the manual trying to figure out how to remove the side panels, then again when I wanted to install the SSD. I use manuals for guidance and to make sure I'm using the correct screws for mounting motherboards and hard drives. For a chassis that is very well built, I am surpised to find you will come across an assortment of screws and a bit of confusion where they go. 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.
If you worry about how much space is available for wire management, you are in luck. This case has 1" (26mm) of space in the back! Because I am not using a modular power supply, I run into this space problem often. "Where do I hide the wires?" and "Can they overlap?" are questions I ask myself every time. Even with all the extra wires I was able to put everything behind the motherboard tray. This is great and makes me extremely happy to see a company thinking ahead.
Here it is! Assembly was very simple and a pleasure to do. Normally I have something to complain about but honestly other than bit of confusion about which screws to use, it was an easy install with plenty of space to hide any leftover cables. If I have to nitpick, I would have liked to see the side window without a tint to it.