Articles: Cases/PSU
 

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Fractal Design system cases seem to be targeted at gamers. They are large, have a lot of preinstalled fans and provide a lot of places to put more fans into. Today we’ll examine both seriously-looking products with a front door and conventional gaming solutions with a meshed façade. System cases of these kinds are widely available on the market and come in many shapes and colors to suite everyone’s taste, so it takes something special to stand out among competitors.

What’s special about these Fractal Design products? Well, three of them have an unusually large number of disk bays and allow installing 8 or 10 devices of both 3.5- and 2.5-inch form-factors. The fourth model isn't far behind the others with its six disk bays, either. So, they look like a perfect solution for a large multimedia collection.

A roomy interior is not enough, though. A good system case is supposed to be easy to install components in and provide efficient cooling. Let's see if the products of Scandinavian engineering thought manufactured in China are up to our strict requirements.

Testing Participants

Fractal Design Core 3000

The first product from Fractal Design we’ve got for our tests is the Core 3000 model. It’s got the simplest packaging of all – the box is smaller and not glossy as the others.

  

There’s hardly anything original about the exterior design of the Core 3000. It is a regular black box with a large-mesh front panel typical of gaming system cases. Take note that it has only two open 5.25-inch bays (that’s enough for 99% of users) whereas its buttons, I/O ports and indicators are all placed on the top panel, suggesting that the Core 3000 is supposed to stand on the floor or in a desk niche.

There is a box with fasteners and accessories inside the chassis. The printed user manual looks pretty but is not very detailed.

There is one accessory that’s included with each of the four Fractal Design products. It is a fan speed controller. The bracket with the rheostat knob is fastened in the back panel. The circuit is powered by a PATA power connector of the PSU. Using the included splitter, you can attach as many as three fans with 3-pin connectors to this controller.

This controller design is used for each system case, the only difference being the size of the controller knob. The knob is small here because you can only install the controller instead of a standard expansion-slot bracket.

The Core 3000 has a lot of I/O connectors but not many interfaces: four USB 2.0 ports and two audio connectors (microphone and headphones). The USB ports are placed rather too close to each other, so you may have problems plugging in and using concurrently large flash drives, for example.

A blue indicator is built into the Power button and a small red indicator of disk activity is placed nearby. The tiny Reset button in between them can hardly be pressed with a finger. You need some small-tipped object for that.

Although the junior model in the ATX system case series from Fractal Design, the Core 3000 betrays no signs of cost-cutting measures like single-use expansion-slot brackets or solid plastic feet.

The only cheap thing we can find about this product is the primitive fastening of the side panels (it’s used in every other model save for the Define XL, by the way). The panel can be closed easily enough unless pressed against a bulging tangle of cables behind the mainboard’s mounting plate.

 

The interior design of the Core 3000 is more interesting than its looks, but one thing must be noted right away. Trying to reduce the height of the system case as much as possible (it actually equals the height of the PSU plus the mainboard plus the top 25-mm-thick fan with almost no gaps in between), the engineers seem to have overdone it in their drive for compactness. An extra couple of centimeters wouldn’t make the Core 3000 detestably large or much more expensive to manufacture, but would certainly help make a cutout in the corner of the mainboard’s mounting plate for a CPU power cable. As a result, you have to route that cable through the main compartment of the chassis.

 

There are some other assembly related problems we can note. The threaded bushings for the mainboard go in so tight that you have to screw some of them in with pliers. The mounting screws of the expansion card brackets are also hard to tighten up, although they are thumbscrews. Their threading breaks in after a couple of uses, though, so you can do without a screwdriver afterwards.

 
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