This chassis we will see today was a mix of me finding the perfect chassis for another build I had in mind for the house, and random happenstance that something new was down the line and seemed to be releasing right around the same time. I actively hunted down the right components after testing the H220 from Swiftech, as it inspired a sort of "mini-me" build idea from my daily driver. In this rig I run an ASUS MVE, 3770K, ASUS GTX 680 TOP, all housed in the Silverstone TJ11. Finding the motherboard and video card were easy enough, and with the H220 I was nearly set. The last requirement was to find something with the appearance of aluminum, or to be aluminum, but I wanted something rounded, not like the TJ11, but just rounded and not a square box.
This is where the hunt began. Surfing through tons and tons of images of cases I had reviewed and really coming up with many that would have worked, but they weren't exactly what I was looking for with this new build. So I got with a few friends and started taking recommendations of what they would buy with my needs in mind. Funny thing was both my friends and I kept ending up at Fractal Designs as I pondered which smaller tower to buy. The issue was I really wanted a chassis that looked like the ARC Mini, but I needed something the size of the Define Mini. The next step was to get with Josh over there at Fractal Designs and express to him what I was looking for, and low and behold he replied with his solution.
All he could tell me at that time was that they had a new chassis that I did not get to see at CES. There was this chassis he thought would work and so he put me on the sample list to get one once they were ready. All I knew at this point was that it was called the ARC Midi R2, and that it was a mid-tower chassis. After sitting and waiting, battling some failed attempts to locate all the parts, I can now bring you the Fractal Design ARC Midi R2, the chassis that is perfect for doing exactly what I needed and it also offers quite a few "hidden" features along the way to be the right chassis for anyone.
If you have idea of a sleek mid-tower build, are thinking about water cooling, need a strong but silent design, don't want to break the bank, and want a chassis built by Fractal Design, continue reading, as the ARC Midi R2 works on so many levels.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Steel is the metal of choice for the construction of this chassis, and the front bezel is made from ABS plastic, but in this design it covers two of my wishes. The bezel is not only curved on both sides as it meets the side panels, the panel are also molded to look like brushed aluminum. In this bezel you have two 5.25" bay covers in place at the top, and the majority of the area is then taken up with steel mesh with round holes in it. What is really handy is that this mesh panel pops out and allows you access to clean the fans as well as the filters on the back side of that mesh. The left side of the chassis is flat, but offers a very large, darkly tinted window for somewhat of a view inside the chassis. Around the back of the chassis you have a seven plus one expansion card setup, and easy to find access to fan controllers or light switches. The right panel of the chassis is flat and just gets painted with the same textured black paint that the rest of the steel received.
The inside has a lot to offer as well. In the front of the chassis there is room for up to a pair of 140mm fans under the pair of 5.25" bays at the top. Just behind the 140mm fan shipped in the front, there are eight total 3.5" drive bays. These are held in two rack assemblies that can be both rotated or removed entirely to allow for water cooling room in the front of the chassis. The top of the chassis also offers room for a dual radiator, and it can be thick too, as the motherboard tray is shifted down to allow for the extra radiator.
Speaking of the motherboard tray, while offering room for Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, and ATX motherboards, it also offers five large wire management holes with grommets, six strategic wire tie points, and a huge CPU cooler access hole - you can even screw a pair of 2.5" drives to it. To keep the flow from the front fan moving, you will also find a 140mm fan mounted in the top of the chassis as well as one on the back of the chassis acting as another exhaust.
The chassis had arrived to my house a few weeks ago, but with part sourcing being an issue, and some final tweaking and problem solving to go through, I definitely got to spend a little more time with this chassis than I usually do before a review. The other nice thing about the wait that I had with this chassis is that now you can find this chassis on the shelves just about anywhere you look. What I am pleased to see is that while some are charging almost outrageous amounts for this chassis, I did find that Newegg is at the low end of the spectrum with a reasonable price. I found that the ARC Midi R2 is currently selling for $109.99 with free shipping to boot.
I had to sift through quite a few cases to get to this point, and really could have chosen any mid-tower design and been happy. I was willing to go retail for this build too, and when shelling out my own money, I would have had no issues spending what Newegg is currently asking to get what I ended up with when I was done with this build.
A great way to save money for things invested into the chassis is to ship them in a plain brown box. Fractal has employed this with black screens made to cover it. On the front you can see what the chassis looks like from the rendering, and you get the name of the chassis and at the bottom the site address.
Spinning the box around to the right we are now looking at a rendering of the inside of the chassis. You can now get an idea of the layout I was explaining earlier.
The back of the box covers nine features found on, in or around the chassis. These cover everything you can see in the exploded look at the ARC Midi R2 at the bottom. Things like removable bays, dust filters, removable top and fan placements.
The same specifications we just went over on the last page are also shown on the last side of the packaging. I do like it when companies attempt to fully inform their buyers rather than saving a few extra pennies and simplifying these specifications lists.
Inside of the plain brown cardboard you will find the ARC Midi R2 enveloped in a plastic liner, and you can also see the bubbles under the plastic protecting the window. To keep the chassis secured in the center of the packaging and take any drops that may occur, thick Styrofoam was sufficient to deliver this chassis in excellent shape.
Fractal Design ARC Midi R2 Mid-Tower Chassis
The entire front bezel is made of ABS plastic and made to look as if it was metal with all the hair line grooves in the design. The edges are rounded on the sides, but flat at the top and bottom, with the main part being flat across the chassis. You also have the bay covers at the top and the large mesh panel for ample intake for this chassis.
The front I/O is at the top of the chassis and offers everything you will need. There is a tiny reset button on the left, followed by the pair of 3.5mm audio jacks. Then there are the power button with power LED and HDD activity lights built into it, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a three speed fan controller.
The top of the chassis has a steel mesh insert for airflow to match the front of the ARC Midi R2. The entire area is mesh since you can fit up to three fans across this expanse. If you look at the back edge, you can also see thumbscrews to make removal easy of this panel.
Removing the top and flipping the mesh over, you can see the steel is backed with foam that you can wash in the sink and replace. The roof of the chassis has the fans offset from the motherboard tray for more room, but only two fans line up. You can install a dual radiator up here, but the fan over the bays is offset too much for a triple.
The left side of the chassis is basically flat from front to back with a finger hold at the back to make removal easier. On this side you get a very darkly tinted window that is very well placed. With a pair of round corners and a pair that are angled, this definitely isn't the typical window shape.
Out back you find the 140mm exhaust fan peeking through the mesh next to the rear I/O opening. Under those the chassis is sent with a 7+1 expansion slot configuration to allow some options for mounting accessory cards. This leaves the large hole at the bottom for the PSU.
The right side of the ARC Midi R2 is nothing but an expanse of the texture black paint running behind the motherboard tray to retain the wiring and keep us from having to see them if they get a bit messy.
Under the chassis there is a place to grab and remove the bezel at the right, in front of the two large feet to support the front of the chassis. As you move left, you run into the dust filter for both the PSU and an optional 120mm fan hole in the floor. There are smaller feet used on the rear to allow the filter to slide out the back to clean it.
Inside the ARC Midi R2
With the doors off the chassis, you can see how things are shipped on the inside. The wiring is all tied up, the main wiring from the front I/O as well as the fans wiring is bundled and kept from flopping about in transit. As for the hardware, that can be found in the middle drive bay of the lower HDD rack.
In the front, up at the top of the chassis, you have a pair of 5.25" bays that require screws to mount the devices without the help of tool-free clips. Also the wiring from the front of the chassis is up and out of the way as not to block off the top bay.
Two racks, one with five drive trays in it, and another with three, are where you can install either a 3.5" or a 2.5" drive on each tray. This entire stack can be rotated 90 degrees, or the top half can be removed with just pulling the thumbscrews and sliding it out. To remove the bottom three, you need to pull screws from under the chassis.
For my build, I will need to remove the bays completely. You can now see the 140 mm fan that is installed in the front of the chassis, but I will be moving it to the top of the chassis, because it is in my way here.
The top of the chassis can house either a dual 120mm radiator or a 140mm version, and it can be a thicker radiator as well. There is also additional room at the front for a fan, but you can see it is shifted, so triple radiators are out unless you do some modding to the case.
A few things to notice about the motherboard tray are the printed lettering for the various motherboard types, all of the possibilities for the wire management, the large hole for accessing the cooler back plate, but I want you to notice the room at the top. This is to allow room for thick radiators and fans to fit without issue.
The floor of the chassis has four raised spots in the steel with rubber pads on them to support the PSU and isolate it like the gasket at the back does. In front of the PSU you can drop in another 120mm or 140mm fan if you wish.
Hanging in the back is the third of the 140mm fans in the ARC Midi R2. The black and white theme is continued even here with the fan and the 7+1 slot covers that are held in with thumbscrews.
Behind the motherboard tray you will see that Fractal Design has done some simple wire management to build off of, and you will find up to 30mm of space for all of your wiring needs. There is plenty of room and places to give you a very clean finished looking product.
All of the wiring is sleeved black to help it blend into the chassis, and it contains quite a few connections. There are three male fan connections and a 4-pin Molex connection for the fan controller, native USB 3.0 with a USB 2.0 tail on it, HD and AC'97 audio plugs, and the lighting and switch connections.
I also wanted to show that the front mesh is removable. With press in clips at the top, the panel will pop out and lift up to allow you to clean it easily.
Accessories and Documentation
The box that you will find the hardware and accessories in also acts as your parts list. You can see all of the various components along with a part count so you can check right away if you have everything you need to continue.
Inside of the box you will find six bags and six wire ties. In the bags you will find the stand-offs and a socket to set them, drive screws for the 2.5" drives and drive screws for 3.5" drives. The bottom row offers the motherboard screws, ODD bay thumbscrews and PSU screws.
Outside of the chassis there is some paperwork to look at. Here you will find the bright red "if you have a faulty product" insert right along with the ARC Midi R2 user manual.
Inside the manual you are congratulated on the purchase and are given the story of the development of this case. It then moves into how the fan controller works, covers the fan filters, shows how to move or remove the HDD cages, and then discusses radiator placement inside.
Flipping the page continues to show features like how you can screw a pair of 2.5" drives to the back of the motherboard tray so that you can hide them even if the HDD rack is removed. Things quickly move into the warranty information, and as you can see, just as quickly, the information moves onto another language.
The Build and Finished Product
First thing I had to do was to pull the bezel. Two things I love about this design is that the fans are connected to the bezel, and not to the chassis, and that all of the wiring is free from the bezel and allows you to get a radiator mounted here much easier.
Sliding in and using thumbscrews to mount the DVD drive was no hassle at all, and even with a radiator strapped to the back of the bezel now, it snaps right back into place without any clearance issues.
As you can see, with the brighter screws of the H220 kit, these 120mm fans are mounted to the bezel, and I have to say I am impressed with the integrity of the bezel, as it holds the weight like a champ, with no flex to the panel.
With the H220, the radiator is taller than a typical dual 120mm radiator, and since this is designed to take a dual 140mm radiator on the front bezel, I had plenty of room to add in water cooling and snap the parts into place with the bezel.
With the Maximus V Gene, GTX 660, AX760 and H220 in here, I have tons of room left over to allow the natural air flow in this chassis to keep everything nice and cool, whether air cooled or water cooled. The real thing that slowed my build down was wire management without the HDD rack installed.
The back fills out very well, too. The dust shield snapped right in. I didn't have to turn the fan to get the wire in the right place to hide it, the card went right in, and the PSU fits snug up to the gasket. Honestly the build sort of just fell together and I turned a few thumbscrews.
I did need way more wire ties than what are provided, but it does go to show the amount of wiring you can amass in one location and still allow the panel to go an. I won't lie, it was a challenge and took some time, but I am very pleased with the build overall.
Closing up shop before we plug it in and do our testing, you can see the ARC Midi R2 looks much like it did when we pulled it out of the box. Even with the large window, because of the dark tint, you can hardly see what is inside under a ton of lighting, so in a darkened room, I advise lighting if you want to see what is inside.
Besides looking at the debug LED's on the ASUS motherboard, the only lighting from the chassis once things have power is what I zoomed in on here. When the system is powered, the blue LED will shine. As the HDD or SDD is called on, you will get the red flicker of the activity LED to the right. That's it.
For me personally, the ARC Midi R2 is the right case at the right time. Josh from Fractal Design really knew deep down I would love it - I have no doubt about that now, as I really do enjoy the silence it offers and the style it offers, as it sits six feet to my left. As the chassis comes out of the box, it offers anything a builder would want. Plenty of room for various drives, removable hard drive bays, and a way to add in drives in another location once those are removed - the list just keeps going. The trio of 140mm fans offers a great mix of sufficient amounts of airflow, and with the fan controller set to 12V, the noise generated is just so slightly audible, in the 34 dB range. On top of that you are getting Fractal Designs thicker and sturdier cases, and you get the black and white theme that will match any build, no matter the color.
It is rare that I get this excited about a mid-tower chassis, and yes I know you can get more features such as side fan access, or maybe a hot swap dock for drives, but this isn't about that. The idea here is to give users a smaller sleek and sexy outward appearance, while still shaking things up on the inside. The way the front is designed with the bezel taking on the cooling is genius, and makes water cooling in the front of the chassis much simpler to do. Having the mesh be removable in front of it means not only will the case stay clean, but if you stay on top of it, the fans and radiator won't get dirty either and you can stretch out the cleaning of the loops as well. I also like that the top allows for a dual radiator, but there is plenty enough of a shift to the motherboard tray that you can add thin radiators with push/pull, or thicker radiators with a single fan and still not run into the memory or phase heat sinks.
There is not one thing about this chassis that I can put in the negatives column, and I can usually find something. Everything just fits, goes together easy, and even after removing a main structural components in most cases, the ARC Midi R2 stands strong as if the HDD bays were never there in the first place. The chassis covers all the needs of most users in looks, silence, options, and features, so the last category is sometimes the deal breaker. This is where the pricing comes in, and I will definitely back this chassis for some time to come, because even in cost, the $109.99 price point keeps this chassis in range for most people. Coming from someone who gets $600 to $700 cases a couple times a year, the ARC Midi R2 is making me rethink my TJ11 build (why do I need something this big, when the Midi R2 is so awesome?).
The ARC Midi R2 is just that kind of a case; it will surprise you while you smile in anticipation of the final product, as you build in this chassis. It has truly been a pleasure building my system in this chassis, and it will come highly recommended for anyone looking to water cool in an aesthetically pleasing mid-tower with plenty of room to cool loads of components under water, or shipped as-is, it can keep up with the best, especially at this solid price.
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