Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Micro-ATX Chassis Review - Smallest ARC Yet

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Micro-ATX Chassis Review - Smallest ARC Yet

The smallest chassis in the ARC series is revised by Fractal Designs. Let's have a look at the ARC Mini R2. Follow as Chad gives us the details.

| Feb 6, 2014 at 8:00 am CST
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction

VIEW GALLERY - 36 IMAGES

My avid readers will likely remember when I was looking for a chassis for a build I had in mind for the lady of the house. With this build I went with a Micro-ATX motherboard, which will go in a lot of cases, but my real struggle was to find a chassis that would take an H220 with a push/pull fan configuration. Some cases will offer this possibility, but the reality is that most at that time would only allow this if you had low profile memory, and even then the water cooling would block the view of the top of the motherboard as well.

This is when we caught wind of the ACR Midi R2, a mid-tower that offers enough flexibility, that even though I had to give up the HDD bays, I was able to get the H220 into the front without any issues. It also filled my desire for something rounded in the front, and while I was looking for an aluminum chassis initially, the look of aluminum used on the bezel was close enough for me to move to steel and plastic.

So where does that leave us today? Well, wishing that the chassis we are about to see had released first, as we get much of the same design the ARC Midi R2 offers, in a much more compact form. Of course, there were original incarnations of these designs that have since been discontinued, but at that time we were not sampling from Fractal Design yet. Without actually seeing the original designs, I had to do a bit of homework to figure out exactly what the changes were.

What I am finding is that there is a new fan controller in the new design, and there is now a thumbscrew to remove the top. Also, not only are the storage drive bays completely removable, but the ODD bays are also installed with screws this time around for easy removal, and maximizing space inside for a chassis that can now house a pair of 240mm radiators in the top and front of the chassis.

Not much has changed when looking at things in a broader sense, but we can say this: Fractal Design is offering a chassis that we not only think will be a huge success to air coolers who prefer to use smaller motherboards for a gaming system, but will also open doors to a lot of those users who wanted to add water cooling, but can't fit their needs in a small form factor chassis and also do not want to step up to a mid-tower chassis. In today's offices, space is a premium commodity, so why have a chassis with twenty-five percent of its space that is virtually unused, when you could opt for the Fractal Design ARC Mini R2, and solve all of your needs at once.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

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While the ARC Midi R2 we saw before and this ARC Mini R2 look almost identical, when they are sat side by side, you will instantly notice the compact size of the ARC Mini R2. This chassis is 55mm shorter now, standing at 405mm in height. It is also 31mm shorter from front to back, and is 50mm skinnier in width, now measuring 210mm wide. As for the rest of the exterior, we get a similar front bezel that offers a pair of 5.25" bay covers near the top, with a large removable mesh cover for the intake at the bottom that also offers a built-in dust filter.

The top offers a front I/O that is similar to the original, with the addition of the three positions, six fans, and a fan controller that has 5V, 7V, and 12V settings to choose from. The rest of the top is mostly taken up by a steel mesh insert that allows the top to breathe. The left side of the chassis offers a large tinted side window, while the right panel is flat and only offers the texture of the black paint that is applied to all of the steel components, inside and out. Around the back of the chassis, there are all of the usual suspects that we expect, but for the expansion slots, they use a four plus one system.

Inside of the chassis, there are two 5.25" bays at the top that require the use of thumbscrews, but this rack is also fully removable. Below that is a HDD rack set up in two groups of three, for a total of six 2.5" or 3.5" trays in this layout. The upper section can be removed to improve airflow as we typically do, but the lower section is also fully removable. Don't worry though; there are a couple of places provided behind the motherboard tray to hide an SSD or two. The motherboard tray will of course house Micro-ATX boards, but it will also house ITX varieties as well. Also, there is a need to consider the restrictions, and this design still allows for 165mm CPU coolers. While originally showing 260mm for video cards, if you remove the bays, there is 400mm of room afforded to you.

Cooling is kept above average in this design as well. While providing three fans pre-installed into this chassis, there are a total of six locations for fans in the ARC Mini R2. The front will allow for two 120mm fans, and there is one Silent Series R2 120mm fan installed in the top location. The top of the chassis also offers the same arrangement, and also has one fan located there. The back of the chassis will hold a 140mm fan, and this is the final fan location that offers a fan already in position. The last location for an additional fan is on the floor, but only if the PSU is around 170mm in length.

The only thing I see that may hold one back from buying this chassis may be the pricing. While this chassis does fit the mold for a lot of users out there, keeps things compact, offers very good modularity in its design, and looks good doing all of this, in reality, this design will cost as much as what most mid-tower designs will cost. So the real question at this point is: Just how well will the Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 suit your needs, and can it assimilate to fit what you have planned to install? We plan to go over all of this, and hopefully when we are done you can appreciate the value a little better once you have the full picture in mind.

PRICING: You can find the Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 retails for $112.38 at Amazon.

Canada: The Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 retails for $116.96 at Amazon Canada.

Packaging

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Fractal Design likes to keep things simple with the packaging, and more black screening applied to plain cardboard goes to prove that. They offer the naming at the top, a large drawing of the front and left side of the ARC Mini R2, and offer the logo and web address at the bottom.

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On this smaller side, we have the naming again at the top, but the middle of this panel offers a rendering of the interior of the chassis under the FD-CA-ARC-MINI-R2-BL-W chassis part number. The "W" at the end designates the windowed side panel over the flat steel panel option.

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The back offers eight features listed near the top, with lengthy descriptions of what they are and what they do. Just below them is a large exploded diagram, with the same eight numbers located around it to show where those specific features are in this design.

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The second smaller panel of the packaging offers the same specifications chart for the chassis, and the cooling system that we just went over on the last page.

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Inside of the cardboard, you will find Styrofoam end caps to take the brunt of any hits to the packaging as well as keeping the chassis away from the cardboard sides of the box. Inside of that is a plastic liner, and for added precautions, there is tape holding the front air filter in place, and plastic clinging to both the inside and outside of the side panel window on the left.

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Micro-ATX Chassis

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The front of the ARC Mini R2 is rounded on the sides, but flat at the top and bottom. The plastic exterior has had a brushed aluminium pattern applied to it, and the pair of 5.25" bay covers for a bit of elegance. As for the rest of the panel, this is covered with the removable mesh panel that also offers the Fractal Design name.

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Two clips at the top allow the mesh to be pressed in to release the latches, and the top won't fall out as the bottom has a pair of tabs that help hold it into the bezel. There is a layer of foam for a dust filter inside of it, to keep the 120mm fan placed there free from debris.

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At the top of the front bezel, but actually attached to the front frame, we find the front I/O panel. Here, there is a reset button, the audio jacks, the power button with LED indicators, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, and a three-way fan controller switch.

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The rest of the top panel has a bit of plastic trim around the edges for structural purposes, but the mesh takes up as much room as possible, while still being structurally sound. This panel is also easily removable to allow much better access for mounting fans or water cooling.

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All we had to do was remove two thumbscrews, and the top slides off of the back. Under the top is the same foam insert we found in the front. We know this will allow a 240mm radiator, but a tower of this stature allowing for a 360mm option as well? Well done Fractal Design, well done.

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The left side of the chassis shows the top, front, and the side panel itself all line up well, and leave very even gaps and lines around the chassis. We also see a large tinted window that is mostly rectangular with rounded corners, but has two corners cut back more to add a bit of styling.

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The back of the chassis starts with the removable top, just above a pair of holes with grommets in them for water cooling. We then see the rear I/O next to the exhaust fan, with the four plus one expansion slot configuration just below that. This leaves the PSU to go in the bottom.

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The right side of the chassis is pretty plain. There is a lot of steel and textured black paint to look at, but since the window offers such a nice view, the likelihood of seeing this side on a regular basis is slim anyways.

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The bottom of the chassis offers four round legs with rubber feet applied to keep it stable and in one place. There is a long removable dust filter to cover the PSU and the optional fan location, and if you look closely, you can see the screw heads to remove the lower HDD rack from the chassis.

Inside the ARC Mini R2

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As we glance inside with the panels now out of the way, we can see the wiring is somewhat tended to, as it was run through the management hole, but still allowed to flop around. We also find the hardware packed in the HDD rack near the bottom.

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The pair of 5.25" bays does require the use of thumbscrews instead of tool-free clips, but if you look above the bays, there are screws in the frame rail that will allow complete removal of these. Inside of the bays is the wiring for the fan controller, six fan leads, and a 4-pin Molex.

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The HDD rack holds six white trays that allow for either 2.5" or 3.5" drives to be installed. These are also broken up into two sections to allow some modularity, to fit both a long video card, and still offer some storage space.

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That is exactly what we have done here. We removed a couple of thumbscrews, lifted a tab at the back, and the middle section slid right out to expose the 120mm fan installed at the front. There is still the option to remove screws from the floor of the chassis and remove this rack as well.

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The motherboard tray has not changed in the revision; we have the same setup as before. There are plenty of holes with grommets to fit the wiring through, and also a fair amount of tie points to tend to what is needed behind the tray. Also, the access hole is not very low in the way they cut it, and may cause issues.

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The floor of the chassis offers four rubber pads to set the PSU on to keep vibrations down, but we can also see a gasket on the back as well. If there are plans to use a smaller PSU, then you also have the option to fill the fan location with an optional 120mm fan.

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The back of the chassis offers the 140mm fan with white blades and a black frame, to match the theme in the HDD trays and the expansion card slot covers below. Also, note that all three fans have black braided sleeves, and use a 3-pin fan connector for power.

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Behind the motherboard tray you have 15mm of space in the low points, and 20mm where the SSD trays and structural bumps don't cut into the space. We can also see that they took the time to get a bit if the wire management done for you, but there is still fan controller and fan wiring to tend to.

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Pulling the wiring back through the grommet, we found the front I/O wiring close to the Native USB 3.0 connection, which also has a tail attached to offer USB 2.0 compatibility as well. The last cable closest to the chassis would be the HD Audio cable that is just long enough to reach across the case.

Accessories and Documentation

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The box we found in the HDD bay contains all of the hardware; this is also where you will look to be sure you have everything you need, and find what each part is used for. This is not included in the manual, so keep the box handy if you are unsure of what goes where.

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In the box, we found three bags and a group of plastic wire tie strips to help manage the PSU wiring during the build. Two of those bags are shown, one containing the standoffs, motherboard screws, and a socket, while the other bag offers screws to lock the slide out trays in place through the frame of the racks.

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Starting at top left and working clockwise, we see the thumbscrews for the 5.25" device mounting, and to the right we see the group of anti-vibration HDD screws that work with the grommets pre-set into each of the trays. Below that are the PSU screws, and to their left are the screws for 2.5" drive mounting.

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The User's Manual is pretty thorough when it comes to breaking down the build into easy to follow steps that we see in the images provided. This manual is multilingual, and does cut down a bit on the actual text supplied to go along with each step, but when you get stuck, this will get you through that point of the build. You can also use the flip out exploded diagram at the back to better understand how it all works. There is also an insert in red that states you should not return to the place of purchase if there is an issue, and it provides you with many ways to make contact regionally.

The Build and Finished Product

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The front of the ARC Mini R2 only changes slightly with the addition of the DVD drive. The rest of the chassis still offers great ventilation at the bottom, and has that brushed aluminum around pattern it

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Since we went water cooled in the Midi R2, I wanted to see what this was capable of with air cooling this time around. We have a large tower cooler in there and it fits well. We did need to remove the bays for the card, as its cooler would be just slightly too long if it were in place.

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The dust filter went right into place, the card fits in easily, and the PSU is snug against the gasket. With only four expansion slots for the motherboard, the plus one slot will come in handy for fan controllers, lighting switches, or even a cord tender bracket.

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Behind the tray, we had plenty of room to wire everything, and while it's not the best job we have done, with such few tie points, our options are somewhat limited. We also see that the back plate is not fully accessible, but we did also mock up a 2.5" drive in one of the provided hidden trays.

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We closed up shop so we could get on with powering the chassis and getting some testing done. Only two things have changed aesthetically from getting the Mini R2 out of the box to this pint. One is obviously the drive poking through the bezel, but now we have a somewhat darkened view of the PSU, video card, CPU cooler, and the motherboard through the window.

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Outside of the slightest audible hum at a distance of roughly a foot with the fan controller set to the 5V position, the only other indications of power are the blue LED indicating the system is powered on, and the red LED indicating HDD activity.

Final Thoughts

Considering its bigger brother is getting daily use in the office, it isn't that far of a stretch to assume we really liked the much more compact take on the same idea with what the ARC Mini R2 has brought to the table. There were some minor issues we don't recall when building in the Midi R2 though. Things like the HD Audio cable having to be under tension when plugged in. With more PSU wiring in this build, we also found the lack of tie points restrictive, and to get a really clean looking build, you are going to have to really work for it and get creative.

The last thing is that the access hole in the motherboard tray could have been cut much lower to more readily accept other socket locations, as our GIGABYTE Micro-ATX board has the socket too low to install the motherboard and then the cooler. With some huge coolers out there, once the cooler is on, you may not be able to screw in the motherboard.

On the flip side, there is a lot to like about this design as well. The modularity of not only the ability to remove the HDD racks and the optical drive bays completely, but that in a Micro-ATX chassis you can install a 240mm radiator in the front of the chassis. With the right parts selection, you can also house a 360mm radiator at the top, and still hang a single 140mm radiator in the back if you want to do so. We also liked that since to do what we just discussed, you essentially run out of drive bays, but with the pair of bays behind the motherboard tray, you can get an SSD for the OS and a 2.5" spinner for mass storage and still be fine.

We also liked the fact that this chassis delivers 31 dB noise levels at 5V, 33dB noise levels at 7V, and only 35 dB of noise when allowed to run with 12V via the fan controller. We also liked that the chassis comes with three fans, allowing not only a good front to back flow once the top HDD rack was removed, but also drawing heat naturally out of the top, with the third fan helped keep the temperatures down on the CPU and video card to average levels of most full-tower offerings.

All things taken into consideration: Is this the best chassis out on the market? Likely not at this price point, but there are many other things to consider when looking at a design like this. We did have a few minor things that came up, but all were remedied, and we were able to get the system into the ARC Mini R2. We cannot ignore that, but again, this chassis does bring a lot to the table. I can't say that I can recall a case of this stature that does just fine in its features and layout in a market where everyone is now offering those sorts of things, but none of them could strip down and take on this amount of water cooling potential so easily.

This may in fact, very well be a niche design, catering to mainly Micro-ATX motherboard users, with ideas of water cooling grandeur, and this market has greatly increased since my initial system building days. For those of you in this segment, at any cost, you will be hard pressed to find another solution that delivers in all aspects in the way Fractal Design is offering in this sleek and more compact ARC Mini R2.

PRICING: You can find the Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 retails for $112.38 at Amazon.

Canada: The Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 retails for $116.96 at Amazon Canada.

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Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:32 pm CDT

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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