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January 25, 2014

Fractal Design Arc Mini R2


Fractal Design, a name which is much endorsed by PC builders and enthusiasts who aimed for a minimalist design PC chassis. Landed on our shore back in 2012, Fractal Design chassis has received compliments from various builders with their ArcCoreDefine & Node series PC chassis.

We have the Fractal Design Arc Mini R2 here with us, with great thanks to Fractal Design for providing us the review unit. The Arc Mini R2 is a revision of the all popular Arc Mini and it falls at the price point of 369 Malaysian Ringgit. Will the Arc Mini R2 beat its predecessor in terms of price and performance?




Features
Dimension515mm x 230mm x 460mm
Motherboard SupportmATX, ITX
Expansion Slots7 + 1
TypeMid Tower
MaterialSteel, Plastic 
Drive Baysx 5.25”, 8 x 3.5”, 2 x 2.5” (Behind motherboard tray)
Cooling Optionx 120mm/140mm fan at the front panel (120mm fan included)
1 x 120mm/140mm fan at the rear (120mm fan included)
3 x 120mm fan at the top or 2 x 140mm fans at the top (140mm fan inluded)
1 x 120mm/140mm fan at the bottom
*A simple fan controller is included*
Front I/Ox USB 3.0 Ports
x Speaker/ headphone
x Microphone
Power SupplyNot included




Overview

The package reaches us in a very good condition, great thanks again to Fractal Design for the excellent packaging.

It must have been a rough trip, a small dent at the side of the box is found even with all those protection.

Fractal Design's usual eco friendly packaging and detailed structure of the chassis is printed on the box. The detailed structure diagram is very useful especially to modders for a basic detail on how the chassis can be disassembled.
 

The content of the box is our Arc Mini R2 flanked by 2 pieces of protective polystyrene foam for protection against shock. Thanks to these, the chassis is left unharmed even after a dent is done on the box.


There's also a plastic layer covering the Arc Mini R2 which helps to prevent minor scratches on the chassis.





Before going directly to the Arc Mini R2, here's a brief details on what's included other than the chassis itself. We have a guide on how to deal with product defect (Red colored paper), a user's manual on the Arc Mini R2 features and a box containing all the accessories required to mount your hardwares (Screws, cable tie etc).


At first glance, the Arc Mini R2 really resembles its predecessor (Arc Mini) A LOT.


The front panel is made of plastic, but the imitated brushed metal texture gave it an excellent look as if it is really brushed metal.


On top of the front panel is the power button, reset button, audio jacks, USB 3.0 ports and the fan controllers. The reset button is rather small and it'll be a little difficult to press, but the advantage of this design is that it will prevent any pressing of the reset button by accident.


The top panel is a mesh high airflow design to allow better airflow going in and out of the system with fans installed.


The top panel can be removed by removing the thumbscrews located at the rear of the chassis. Before going further with the top panel, there's two rubber grommets at the rear of the chassis which cover up the holes for watercooling tubes in case you need to install an external watercooling setup.


Back with the top panel, we're now looking at the removed top panel. Right under the mesh of the top panel is a layer of sponge to filter out dust, reducing dust intake to your system.



A close up look at the sponge filter, we can see these fine pores on the sponge - the dust will have to be really fine particles to get through these pores. Sponge filters tends to capture dust in between so we recommend washing it to remove the dust thoroughly. 





A view from the top shows cooling options offered by the Arc Mini R2 - 2 x 140mm fans, 3 x 120mm fans, 280mm/240mm radiator and even 360mm radiator. This is where the Arc Mini R2 shines as there's isn't many mid tower out there offers this much of flexibility in cooling options. 



Continuing with the front panel, the Arc Mini R2 now comes with an attractive. shiny and reflective Fractal Design tag on the removable front filter.


The front filter can be easily removed by pressing both sides of the front filter top and it will popped out easily for fans and radiator installation.


There's a 120mm fan pre-installed, you can remove it for the installation of 240mm radiator along with the removal of the hard drive cage.


By removing the entire front panel, we can see that the bracket for fan installation is actually attached to the front panel. You will need to be extra careful for not to over tightening screws on it as it is made of plastic and might break if you do so.


Here's something to highlight: every fans included comes sleeved. 



The large window panel allow you observe your beautiful rig and even showcase your rig to your friends. The window also appears to be tinted, good for dimming bright LED from the inside of the chassis.


There's 4 pieces of large rubber feet and a large removable filter sheet installed right at the bottom of the chassis.


The removable filter is supported by slide in structure where you can easily remove and install in with a simple slide.




These triangular shaped nodes is what keeps the filter from sliding out of place.


Unlike the filter on the top mesh, the bottom filter uses the nylon mesh which is much easier to clean.


These aesthetic looking thick rubber feet not only gives the chassis itself a premium appearance, it also helps in reducing noise caused by vibration from moving parts such as hard drives, water pumps, fans etc.


Fractal Design's idea of pairing white colored PCI covers, fans and hard drive brackets to the black interior of the Arc Mini R2 gave it a rather unique and fresh look compared to what other competitor has - pitch black.
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You have the cables for front IO panel USB 3.0, Audio Jack, Power & reset switch, etc which usually comes with the modern day chassis. 


You have these holes specially designed for routing audio jack cables through it for a cleaner looking cable management right next to the power supply mount and 4 pieces of these rubber spacers to absorb vibration produced by moving parts in the power supply for noise reduction. 


The included rubber grommets not only helps to hide your cable trails behind the motherboard tray, it also act as a protective cushion for your power supply cables at the edge of cable routing holes.



There's 4 expansion slot available since the Arc Mini R2 itself is a micro ATX chassis and a uniquely,vertically placed expansion slot. For those of you who was wondering how on earth are you going to get something mounted vertically to run, a PCI / PCI-e riser is your answer. 


The included fans are the Silent Series R2 120mm and 140mm silent fans by Fractal Design with the specification displayed as below:


ModelSilent Series R2 120mm
Dimension120mm x 120mm x 25mm
Fan Airflow40.6 CFM
Fan Speed1200 RPM ± 10% 
Sound Level15 dBA


ModelSilent Series R2 140mm
Dimension140mm x 140mm x 25mm
Fan Airflow66 CFM
Fan Speed1000 RPM ± 10% 
Sound Level18.5 dBA




There are total of 6 hard drive brackets included with the Arc Mini R2 and what's best, it's a fully metal hard drive bracket.




The hard drive bracket isn't much tool less if you ask, you will need to secure your drives with screws. W're not really pleased with the design, but Fractal Design did included these rubber spacers for noise reduction. The idea here is that the spacers will help to reduce noise production by absorbing vibration from the hard drive.
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If you're a watercooling pioneer and having just one radiator on the top isn't enough, you may remove the optical drive bay and both hard drive cage to install another radiator.


The optical drive bay and both hard drive cage is secured with screws instead of rivets, you can easily remove these by removing the screws that is securing these. Unless you relocate the most bottom hard drive cage to the front of your power supply, so you will lost the ability to mount any 3.5' hard drive.







As you can see, you can install a 240mm radiator in the front but you will have to secure the radiator on the plastic bracket on the front panel as there's no other way to secure it on the front without any modding.





Fractal Design has included a very simple fan controller that allows you to control the power supplied to the fans connected to it - available option ranged from 5V to 12V. The controller is basically powered up by a 4-pin molex and support up to 3 fans with 3-pin.


Behind the motherboard tray, there's 2 2.5' drive mount that allow you to install up to 2 SSD or 2.5' hard drives, very useful when it comes to situation where all hard drive cage has been removed to accommodate a radiator at the front. 


with our test components installed, you can see that it's still quite spacious even with a Corsair H100 installed.


There's something to highlight before we're moving on to the testing method - RAM clearance and Graphics card clearance. 

As you can see, there's still plenty of space left even after the H100 is installed and you can consider for a push and pull setup with slim radiator  As for the GPU clearance, by default it can support  the top hard drive cage must be removed in order to be able to support long graphics card such as the R9 290 Tri-X from Sapphire. 


Testing Method

Up next is a quick test with the temperature with the setup as shown below:

Test Rig Configuration
CPUIntel Core 2 Duo E7500 overclocked to 3.5GHz
MotherboardDFI LP JR P45-T2RS
MemoryMushkin Value RAM 800 MHz 1GB x 4
GraphicsPalit GeForce 9500GT
Power SupplySilverstone ST60F-P 600W 80+ Bronze
DrivesWestern Digital Caviar Blue 500GB
Cooler
Corsair Hydro Series H100

The ambient temperature during the test is 28ยบC and the airflow of the chassis is supported only by the fans included along with the Arc Mini R2 - a single 120mm at the front and rear, the top 140mm fan has been removed to accommodate the radiator for Corsair H100.

We have conducted CPU stress test using Prime95 with the option 'In-place large FFTs' for maximum heat output from the CPU and GPU stress test with Furmark. The test is done under 2 different scenario: case fans running and case fan removed. The final result of the data we have collected is presented in the graph below:


The temperature we're getting for the case fan running scenario is pretty good and there's nothing bad that can be brought up throughout the test. The fans included is pretty much inaudible even from a near distance of 1 foot away from the Arc Mini R2.



For the case fan removed scenario, the temperature is slightly higher compared to the scenario where the fans is running. With the difference in temperature from both test, we can come to a conclusion in which the included fans is actually doing a pretty good job keeping good air ventilation for the system and at the same time, the air ventilation is still reliable even though the only fans that is keeping hot air out of the system is on the top mounted Radiator.


Final Thoughts

Throughout the review, it is undeniable that the Fractal Design Arc Mini R2 is a true solid build that offers much enthusiast-oriented flexibility especially for watercooling setup, even more than most mainstream micro ATX chassis you can find on the market. Priced at 369 Malaysian Ringgit, it is definitely a bang for the buck deal and you won't go wrong with this chassis.

Pros:
- Visually eye pleasing design

- Fully metal hard drive bracket which is unlikely to break compared to plastic bracket
- Well designed top mounting slots that gives big clearance for tall memory module (RAM)
- Sleeved fan cables which gives the chassis itself a premium feel

- Well performed silent fans with a decent airflow is included
- Easily removable front filter for dust cleaning and installation for cooling option
- Removable hard drive cage and optical drive bay for radiator installation
- Tinted side window that allows you to showcase your rig 
- Large rubber feet and rubber spacers that helps reducing noise production by absorbing vibration from moving parts
- A built-in fan voltage controller for 2 fans is included to control your fan speed by voltage
- 2.5' drive mount behind motherboard tray for drive installation if the hard drive cage is removed to accommodate radiators in front


Cons:

- The hard drive bracket requires screws to secure the hard drive onto it, not tool free.
- The reset button is extremely small and difficult to be actuated, might be troublesome during times of need
- The front panel fan mount is actually made of plastic, you will need to be extra careful and not to over tighten it


The final decision is made and we're awarding the Fractal Design Arc Mini R2 with a Gold Award and Recommend Award. The Arc Mini R2 has been doing an excellent job in overall but there's still headroom for further improvement such as using a real metal front panel instead of imitated brushed metal texture plastic, tool free installation for the hard drive bracket and optical drive bay would really adds up its worthiness. 



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