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Fractal Design Core Series 3300 Mid-Tower Chassis Review

Fractal Design Core Series 3300 Mid-Tower Chassis Review

This is our first look into the Core Series cases from Fractal Design. It is time to see what they have evolved into as we look at the mid-tower Core 3300.

@chad_sebring
Chad Sebring
Published Thu, Sep 4 2014 4:10 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 36 IMAGES

While technically we should have been bringing forth the Core 3500 with window for review, we received an email from Fractal, stating that there were some inconstancies in the chassis. So, Fractal asked us not to go forward with the review, as they pretty much recalled the line for a while until the kinks could be worked out, and the chassis perfected for their customers. That is something all of us can appreciate, and shows just how "stand-up" this company really is. What we were given instead is no less impressive, although it does lack a few items like a fan controller, and option for a window. The chassis we are about to see is slightly longer, the storage has been changed, and it lacks grommets inside, but even with that list ahead of it, this chassis is still well-worth your attention.

The Core Series of cases from Fractal Design has been around for quite a while, as it ran through the Core 1X00 cases, into the Core 2X00 versions, and now we are into the third series. Somewhere along the lines we seemed to have missed out on the previous two editions of the chassis in its various forms, but today is a new day as we delve into the Core Series from Fractal Design. We don't know what to really expect outside of getting a very solid chassis with the black and white theme that we have seen in all of our other Fractal Design cases.

So, why would we expect those things to change any time soon? This is more of a builder series chassis in concept and design, but that does not mean it is not capable of housing more advanced and powerful systems.

So, rather than us bringing you the Core 3500, we are taking a look at its smaller sibling, the Core 3300. You may be thinking that we are looking at the lower-end of the barrel from the Fractal Design lineup, but get that thought out of your mind, because Fractal has brought a quality product to the table. Fractal's Core 3300 delivers smooth elegance on the outside, great ventilation and water cooling options, and takes a different approach to storage mounting on the inside, and does all of this at a really good price point. While it may lack a few things its larger companion was to offer us, considering the price this chassis is available at, you will not be disappointed in what you are about to see. So, let's get up close and personal with the Core Series 3300 mid-tower chassis from Fractal Design.

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Out of the gate, when looking at the specifications, we see something not typical to a mid-tower chassis, and that is that this 233mm wide by 451mm tall by 517mm deep chassis will not only hold Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, and ATX motherboards, but it shows that 295mm wide EATX boards will also fit. The rest of the inside consists of a pair of 5.25" bays at the top, and rather than a typical drive rack, they have used a plate that will house three 2.5" drives and three 3.5" drives at the same time. On top of that, two 2.5" drives can be mounted to the back of the motherboard tray too.

At the back we get seven expansion slots, and a PSU location with rubber supports under it and a gasket at the back -both isolate it as much as possible. There are some limitations, if you want to call them that. The CPU cooler can be 185mm in height, the PSU can be 170mm if you plan to install a fan in front of it, otherwise it is unlimited, and video cards have no real limit with the new drive rack orientation. Along with the chassis' seventeen pound weight while empty, we also see that they list the 22mm of room behind the motherboard tray to hide wiring.

Cooling is handled well in this mid-tower. Fractal has designed this chassis with room for a pair of either 120mm or 140mm fans in the front. This also means radiator support for 30mm radiators. Thicker radiators can be installed, but that will encroach on the room needed for the 3.5" drive storage. The rear of the chassis offers a single fan location, again for either 120mm or 140mm fans, and can also house a single fan radiator.

The top is just like the front, and so is the 30mm radiator thickness specification. This time the specification is due to motherboard clearance, and if the top of the motherboard is free of obstruction, thicker radiators can be used. The bottom offers a single fan location, as does the left side panel, and just like all the others, they are drilled for 120mm and 140mm fans. Of those seven fan locations, the top front location, and the rear exhaust location have been filled with 140mm R2 Series fans.

At first, as we looked around, we were seeing a lot about the Core 3300 and its $99.99 MSRP. To us, that seems a bit expensive for a chassis like the Core 3300, even if it's well designed and thought out. However, if you shop around as we always try to do, you can save yourself a fairly good chunk of change. Some listings, well most of them, try to beat the MSRP, and are offering out the door pricing in the $75 range. Amazon.com currently has the lowest price listed, as we are seeing it there at $67.99 with free shipping. Now that is a price we can really appreciate. With what this Core 3300 mid-tower offers, we feel this price is definitely justified.

PRICING: You can find the Fractal Design Core 3300 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 Core 3300 retails for $67.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Core 3300 retails for CDN$70.54 at Amazon Canada.

Packaging

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Sticking to the KISS principle, Fractal Design ships the Core 3300 in a plain brown box. In the black print applied to the front of the box, we see a large rendering of the chassis in the middle, and a web address at the bottom where you can find more information on this chassis if needed.

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As we spin the box to the left, we find this narrower panel. While the thick stripe at the top and bottom are straight, we can see the part number FD-CA-CORE-3300-BL and the rendering of the inside of the chassis are slightly off level. Even so, it still gets the point across.

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Around back, we again find the company and chassis naming at the top, which is followed by descriptions of eight key features in this design. The bottom is left for another large rendering; this time there are numbers on the rendering to point out the features described above.

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After spinning the box around one more time, we get to view the last panel of the packaging. Here Fractal has placed the specifications chart and the cooling system chart to be sure that someone standing in the store is fully informed and can make an educated purchase.

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Inside the box, we find that the chassis has been wrapped in a clear plastic liner to protect the front finish and the paint from getting scratched or abraded. To keep the chassis off the cardboard, and keep this nearly twenty pound chassis safe from the hands of shipping agents, dense Styrofoam caps were employed to securely and safely deliver our Core 3300 to us in perfect condition for our review.

Fractal Design Core 3300 Mid-Tower Chassis

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The front bezel of the Core 3300 protrudes in the middle, and we see the bay that covers the majority of the plastic has a brushed look to it. There are wide strips of mesh to both sides that allow for the intake to the chassis; these also deflect the noise produced behind them.

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At the top of the bezel, where the bezel meets the top of the chassis, we find the front I/O panel. From left to right, we see the power button, the reset button, the HDD Activity LED, a pair of 3.5mm HD audio jacks, and it ends with a pair of USB 3.0 ports for easy connectivity.

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The top of the chassis is an expanse of steel that is solid near the front, but opens up over the motherboard with large honeycomb mesh that is punched out for optional fan placement.

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Rather than just offering a plain, flat left side panel, Fractal decides to offer a ventilation option for the video cards. Even if you decide not to place a fan here, there is a passive inflow of air here when the chassis fans are running, so it will still offer some cooling as-is.

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At the back, we see the top of the chassis is ventilated, and offers more room for water cooling. Below that is the rear I/O, and a 140mm fan is hanging next to it. We also get seven white expansion slot covers, leaving the PSU and lower dust filter at the bottom.

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The right side of the chassis is flat and plain -just a painted sheet of steel. Although, with 22mm of room between this panel and the motherboard tray on the inside, there is no need for a bump or any other odd shaping.

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Under the chassis, we find four round feet placed near the corners to solidly support the Core 3300. We put the dust filter back to show it covers not only the PSU, but the optional fan location in the floor as well. There are some extra holes near the front, but in this design, they go unused.

Inside the Core 3300

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The front bezel pops right off to clean the side venting when needed, and it also shows the front I/O is attached to the chassis. There is a breakout plate in the lower 5.25" drive, and we can see the fan at the front is inset into the frame to give it a good chance of drawing in air.

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Our first look inside shows that things are left to pretty much flop around at will. The wiring is tied behind the tray and run through again to minimize its movement, but the hardware box broke free of the tie on the storage plate, and we found it as you see it. However, without a window to protect, it doesn't matter too much.

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The pair of 5.25" bays are a permanent fixture in this design, and are not easily removed for extra cooling capacity. There also aren't any tool-less mechanisms in place, but thumbscrews are offered to ease the installation of drives and devices here.

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This way of handling storage drives is new to Fractal. This plate is held in place with three thumbscrews for easy removal to install 2.5" drives on one side, while 3.5" drives hang on the other, both clear of video cards.

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With the storage plate out of the way, we can see how the steel is cut, bent, and inset to offer the fan mounting. This not only sets the fans further from the bezel for better air flow, but it also makes the front of the chassis much stronger due to the bends, so it can hold the weight of water cooling bits.

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While the motherboard tray is only marked for ATX, and Micro-ATX motherboards, it will also fit Mini-ITX, and even EATX motherboards as long as they aren't so wide as to run into the 5.25" bays. We also see four management holes, a large access hole in the middle, and six tie points to tame wiring. Also, there are holes near the bottom of the tray that will allow you to mount 2.5" drives to the back of this tray, allowing storage options for those who want to use a thick radiator in the front.

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The floor of the chassis has the same honeycomb mesh as the top, and along with the fan location, we find the rubber pads to support the PSU. It is tough to see the outline, but there is also a padded gasket on the back to tighten the PSU to for complete isolation of the PSU from the case.

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Near the top, we find the eleven white blades and black frame of the R2 Series 140mm fan that matches the front fan; both are powered via three-pin fan connections. The seven expansion slots are also white to match the white trim of the fans. Thumbscrews are used to secure these and the expansion cards.

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The 22mm measurement taken for this chassis is from the inside of the frame to the nearest bumps of the motherboard tray. In some areas there is a little more room, but where the tray ends, it is less before you move all the way left to an unlimited amount of room for whatever you need.

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The length of the cabling is fairly short in our opinion; it does reach where it is intended to go, but just barely, and without much slack. All of the cables are black, and ribbon cables are used for the HD Audio and button and LED connections, leaving the native USB 3.0 connection off to the right.

Accessories and Documentation

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Most of the hardware in the box made it into this one image. We have the nine standoffs and a socket to help install them, the ODD thumbscrews, and 3.5" drive mounting screws across the top. The bottom shows a set of long fan screws for a second front fan, a handful of 2.5" drive mounting screws, and the motherboard screws.

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Outside of what we just saw, the rest of the hardware is summed up in this image. There are six wire ties, and four screws intended to be used for PSU installation.

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Paperwork is quite abundant. We get a user guide that explains the chassis from the moment you unboxed it, what you need to build inside of it, and it even covers all of the fan and water cooling options to show off just what is possible inside this chassis. There is also an insert about the warranty that covers this chassis for two years, and a bold red insert telling you to not take this back to the retailer if there is an issue. If an issue does arise, you are to contact Fractal directly for assistance.

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In case you were not aware, Fractal Design bought Func, the peripherals manufacturer. So, along with the chassis, they also send this product catalog for other things like keyboards, mice, pads, and headphones.

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To explain how this drive plate works, we took this image of it to help. The way the plate is oriented, 2.5" drives would go under the plate, using the recessed holes in the square cutouts near both edges. For 3.5" drive mounting, you would take the long screws and send them through the grommets to install them on the top side. If you are still confused, then the next page should sort it out for you.

Case Build and Finished Product

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We opted to air cool in this chassis, and found plenty of room to do so. Even with our video card, we went ahead and mocked up the plate with a 3.5" drive, and it clears the card without issue. All the way around, there really is nothing to complain about with the build process.

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The back of the chassis takes on the I/O plate with relative ease, the card installs level and securely, and the PSU is solidly mounted as it rests on the pads and is tightened up against that gasket.

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The wire management options may not be the best offered on the market, but we had no issues keeping things clean and tidy. You can also see that the front panel wiring is held taut at the top left when connected to our system. Off to the left, you will have some wiring going to the drives on the plate, so make sure they don't run into issues with the fan up front.

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Packaging the Core 3300 back up is accomplished by installing the door panel with relative ease, and ease is what we like to see here. All you need to do is start with the tabs at the top and bottom of the frame (mind you, the doors are solid and do not flex much at all), and you just give it a pop forward and they lock into the chassis. We also like that from start to finish, we get the same clean, simplistic look to admire.

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When the chassis is powered, there is very little audible noise from the front and sides. Around the back, the exhaust fan will emit roughly 40dB of noise, but again, only at the back, as all noise is redirected away from its user. The power button does illuminate white, and while we missed it in this shot, the flicker of the HDD activity LED is also white.

Final Thoughts

While aesthetically pleasing, this chassis is not over-the-top in any real way on the outside, but it does offer a lot to be liked. On the outside, this chassis simply offers a brushed looking appearance to the main section of the bezel, long strips of venting kicked back at an angle, and lots of black textured steel. As the chassis is shipped with two fans, that is how we tested things, and we found that this chassis has very good ventilation even as it sits.

Of course, having the option to fill the other five locations with fans will only increase this case's thermal efficiency. Although, even with its equalized air flow, all optional fan locations would bend the flame of a lighter as the fans make them draw air in passively from their flow. We also liked the LED placement on the top of the chassis, since it is highly unlikely that we will be blinded by it, or kept up at night from it shining across the room at you. And this is just the outside and one aspect of cooling that we have covered.

Inside of the chassis, the amount of room afforded for gear is really impressive for a mid-tower. Removing the lower storage bays and opting for the plate is a great compromise for the majority of users out there. Not many still run a bunch of spinners these days, as this is why NAS is so popular. Even so, with room for a total of eight drives throughout the chassis, there is ample room for many terabytes of information.

When it comes to the motherboard tray, we may be left with less access holes and tie points than in many other offerings; but really, EATX motherboards in a mid-tower?. Nicely played Fractal. Even as we tried to encroach on the GPU by installing a HDD right where it would cross the chassis, we found there is plenty of room, even enough that powering plugs on that side of the card versus the end will not cause issues either. Everywhere you look in this chassis, it would appear Fractal has thought of everything. Even so, they have kept to the white trimmed, black cases we have come to know, and also kept the super solid structural design that we love about the "tanks" that Fractal Design releases under the guise of cases.

Now, we aren't going to try to tell you this is the sexiest case on the market, but we are here to tell you that you are getting a ton of bang for your buck when purchasing the Core 3300. Structural integrity is a huge issue when it comes to economically friendly designs, and Fractal Design has proven that you don't have to skimp on the metal thickness, or in the way it is bent, connected to each other, or otherwise supported. While we may not have grommets, it has been a while since we have seen the use of a PSU gasket, and they do have their advantages. The front pops right off for easy cleaning, and the removable dust filter is short enough not to be impossible to pull out of the back. The drive plate is a terrific addition to the design, and leaves a ton of room to allow for pumps, reservoirs, and with it removed, only the video card length will restrict the thickness of the radiator that can be installed there.

While a Windowed side panel option would be cool, for what the Core 3300 offers, how can you pass it up when it will only set you back $67.99? The likelihood that you can pass it up is rather low, and we don't blame you either, as we will be recommending this chassis to others for all the reasons we have stated.

PRICING: You can find the Fractal Design Core 3300 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 Core 3300 retails for $67.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Core 3300 retails for CDN$70.54 at Amazon Canada.

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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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