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.