If you're looking for a chassis that's simple, elegant, affordable and able to do most things well, Fractal Design is a brand that should be on your radar. Without really pushing the boat out, the Swedish manufacturer has repeatedly impressed with well-rounded, no-nonsense cases.
After battling with Corsair's gargantuan Obsidian Series 900D, small-and-simple is exactly what the doctor ordered, so we're taking a closer look at Fractal's latest mid-tower offering, the Arc Midi R2.
Priced at £75 and introduced as a successor to the original Arc Midi, the revised R2 is best described as a basic-looking enclosure with a couple of hidden tricks. When looking at the 230mm x 460mm x 515mm frame you wouldn't think it has high-end water cooling potential, yet don't be fooled by the modest exterior as Fractal has designed the chassis with "high-performance computer systems in mind" and has made room for at least a couple of 240mm radiators.
The original Arc Midi didn't pass through the HEXUS labs, but the R2 changelog suggests that the core design remains largely intact. So what exactly is new? Well, a couple of things. Fractal has decided to ditch the old side panel design, which included a mesh fan mount, in favour of a tinted window that allows users to showcase their build. The loss of a side fan mount may frustrate some, while others will appreciate the window, but personally, we think the Arc Midi R2 would look better with a solid, uninterrupted panel. As it stands, the almost-beige tinted panel gives the chassis a dated appearance.
Elsewhere, the changes are more positive. The front mesh filter, previously cleaned by removing the entire facia, now springs out of the plastic surround via a push-to-release mechanism for easy maintenance, and the top I/O panel has been spruced up. Fractal has dropped one of the three USB ports and in its place added an integrated three-step (5V, 7V, 12V), single-channel fan controller that supports up to three fans.
And there are noteworthy upgrades on the inside, too. The Arc Midi R2 retains its 'high airflow' credentials courtesy of three bundled fans, but the chassis should now be easier to build into as a result of improved modular drive bays and a pair of dedicated 2.5in SSD mounts that have been added to the rear of the motherboard tray.
Outwardly, the Arc Midi R2 won't turn many heads, but more conservative gamers will appreciate the fact that the chassis is in no way vulgar and sticks to the Fractal Design rule book; meaning black inside and out, with white drive trays, expansion slot covers and fan blades.
We'd like to see Fractal show a smidge more finesse - the red hard-disk activity LED that's baked into the power button looks out of place and hinged, not notched, side panels would have been preferred - but these minor aesthetic concerns fall by the way side when you get inside the chassis.