Fractal Design ARC Mini R2 Review
Published: 28th October 2013 | Source: Fractal Design | Price: £70.00 |
In the introduction we talked about the increase in popularity of the M-ATX format and the resulting increase in the number of quality enclosures that are designed to accept it. We say quality because since Noah was a lad there have always been M-ATX focussed cases, most of which were very cheap OEM bargain basement affairs, barely able to support their own weight let alone the hardware inside.
The ARC Mini R2 is most definitely not a cheap OEM affair. The feeling of quality starts from the moment you open the box and continues all the way though as you strip down the case to its bare chassis. The level of finish on the outside of the case is top notch, in particular the brushed Aluminium effect front which being carried off so well that in writing the review we actually had to go back and check it was in fact plastic and not Aluminium.
There's also plenty of room inside the Mini R2. Two banks of removable and configurable HDD racks at the front give storage for up to 6x3.5" or 2.5" drives, and there's certainly enough for GPUs up to 260mm with the upper HDD rack in place or 400mm with it removed. CPU coolers up to 165mm can also be housed.
It's also nice to see that along with the large side panel window Fractal Design have been thoughtful enough to include rubber grommets in all their cable management holes. It seems obvious to you and I that the sort of person who buys a case with a window in is looking to show off the interior of their case, and as such will want to make their cabling look as clean and minimalistic as possible. However you wouldn't believe how many cases there are out there, some of which we've reviewed recently that have a window but no grommets on the management holes.
Building into the Mini R2 is a relatively straightforward job, things are a little tight between the bottom of the motherboard and the PSU as can be the case with M-ATX builds but if you make sure you insert your GPU last you should still have ample room to work with. Cable management options are excellent, and although the holes are a little on the small side they are plentiful and well distributed. Where it's by no means unusual to have a space at the top of the case to pass the 8 pin CPU power cable through Fractal have actually put two up there , both of which are grommeted. Behind the motherboard there's 18-20mm of room for your cables and 10 well-spaced cable tie points, so there should be no excuses for shoddy cable management. While we're back here it's also worth mentioning the brace of SSD stealth mounts situated below the CPU cut out.
Having read the whole review (what? Well go and read it then...) you'll know that along with the usual 120mm rad based AIOs in the base and rear, the Mini R2 has native water cooling support for larger rads both in the roof and in the front. A 360mm rad can be placed in the roof if you're willing to sacrifice the pair of 5.25" bays provided, and with the screw holes in the roof off set there's a bit more than the indicated 50mm of head room available. As with all off-set mountings there are far too many provisos and measurements to be summarised here, so if you're interested head back over to page seven for the detail. Should you decide that roof mounting a rad is not your bag then you could always whip out the HDD racks and pop in a 240mm rad. Again there are provisos. If you want to keep the 5.25" bays the rad will need to be under 272mm long. Now this might seem fine until you look at the rad lengths of the AIOs out there and realise that pretty much all of them are a good few millimetres over this measurement. Cast your eyes over a selection of 240mm rads and again you'll notice that each of them is between 2-6mm over this upper limit. All of which means in simple terms that if you want to put a 240mm rad in the front the 5.25" bays are going to have to come out. It's almost as if Fractal didn't bother to look how long most 240 rads were when they addressed this element of the case interior. Shame really, for sake of a few more millimetres things would have been so much better.
Although the ARC Mini R2 is designed to take the smaller M-ATX boards, at 210x405x484mm (WxHxD) it's actually still quite a large case. If we're going to be making the change from ATX to M-ATX, and manufacturers are going to offer us feature packed performance in, as Fractal put it, a " Minimalistic" chassis design then we think it's fair to expect that package to be...well.. Small. This is especially pertinent when you consider the likes of the new M-ATX version of the Prodigy, and of course the new Phenom M. Both of these cases offer water cooling support and both of these cases offer much of what the ARC Mini R2 does, only in a much smaller package and at a very similar price.
Comparing the Mini to its bigger full ATX capable brother the ARC Midi you'd be surprised to learn there's actually only a small difference in size between them, with the midi being just 2cm wider 5.5cm taller and 3cm deeper. The Mini isn't the only M-ATX case to compare badly in this respect though with the Corsair 350D being smaller than a full ATX by only a few centimetres here and there. Now take a look back through some of our more recent ATX case reviews and you'll note when looking at such cases as the 230T and the 330R that the Mini R2 only gives up a few centimetres to each of them.
None of this actually makes the Mini R2 a bad case though, it's just worth mentioning that if you're looking for something really small you might want to look elsewhere. If you like the looks of the Mini R2 and aren't that fussed about achieving the smallest footprint possible then the case has a lot to offer. Sadly it isn't perfect with a few indicators that a bit more thought here and there, especially around the water cooling options would have made for a much better option. Having determined that the Mini R2 is not that much smaller than a good many ATX cases the next problem it has is that it also happens to be priced very similarly to a good many very capable ATX cases, with its own big brother the Midi R2 in particular standing out as offering excellent if not better value.