Fractal Design Arc XL – Test and Review

Fractal Design’s case arrived to me in a standard carton box with only black text regarding the name of the case, its specifications along with an actual picture of the case on the front side.

Picture of removable parts Packaging of the case
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On the other side of the box there was a picture of the case and all the parts that can be unmounted. This is actually very handy because if a certain part is damaged it could be easily replaced as Fractal Design says in the red flyer. Although I am not a big fan of the hard Styrofoam, this one was quite thick, from about 15 mm to 40 mm at its thickest sides. It kept the case perfectly fine when being transported, with no damage at all. In the box there were the usual user manual and the red flyer I was telling you about. I began to partially remove the nylon covers until the case revealed itself to me in its full glory.

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All I can say is – this case is big! By far this is the biggest case I’ve put my hands on. The dimensions of the case are: (WxHxD): 232 x 572 x 552mm and weighs 13.8kg right out of the box. Being big, the XL supports ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX, E-ATX, XL-ATX motherboards.

The exterior of the case is completely black and the Fractal logo stands out in white/silver at the bottom of the front dust filter/grill.

Fractal Design ARC XL Full Tower Case Fractal Design Beautiful Logo
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I spent a couple of minutes observing and admiring the case from all sides. The windowed side panel has a smoked finish and looks really nice. I regret the fact that I do not own LED fans, but that’ll change soon, hopefully.

Front/Side view Rear/Side View
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On the front of the case you see the four 5.25″ drive bays and a removable grill with an integrated dust filter along with the company’s logo. The whole front panel has a brushed aluminum finish and even though it is plastic, it feels and looks very good. On the back of the case you can see 9 expansion slots and the rear fan mount.

Before removing the removable parts of the case I wanted to test the build quality of the case out of the box. I began to twist it holding it on the top front and back angles. Overall, I was satisfied with the result, although the case felt a bit flimsy and not as solid as my Fractal Design ARC Midi. I am not saying it is a bad thing, but it’s just something to keep in mind.

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I took apart most of the case, starting with the side panels that were actually easy to remove, but I would have liked to see some kind of handles on both of them. Then I took apart the top dust filter/grill, front panel and dust filter/grill. While disassembling the front panel dust filter/grill, one of the two clicking hinges was not as clickable as the other one. I had to press the front grill in the two top corners hard to get it out. The right hinge just didn’t click as the left one, but I am sure that this is not a production fault, just a minor issue with my particular sample.

Inside the case was a smaller box with the Fractal Design logo which contained all the screws and bolts you’ll ever need and 6 non-reusable zip ties. Personally, I would have liked to see a couple of reusable ones that came with the Arc Midi – they are really strong and easy to work with, and the best thing is that you can use them multiple times.

MB Plate view Interior View
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After removing the parts of the case, I saw the interior which is in matte black and looks awesome. HDD brackets, fan propellers and expansion slots are in white and add a nice touch to the whole look of the interior.

Included fans and large CPU cutout Front Panel Cables – Black Sleeved
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Looking inside the case, I noticed the front panel cables, that are long enough and fully black sleeved. Again, good attention to the whole look of the interior. Next to them were rubber feet to support the PSU, which felt sturdy and had a good connection with the case – they won’t break from actual use. Something more that adds up to the nice interior are all the included high quality rubber grommets. Keeping a case clean of cables is very important nowadays and Fractal Design has done a perfect job including these as standard. There is also a large CPU cutout which is perfect for installing/removing CPU coolers with ease and is an absolute must have on a case like this. I couldn’t miss the big number of zip tie mounts that will come in handy when cables are being installed, especially if you have non-modular PSU, like me. There is also plenty of space (26 mm) behind the MB plate, so I guess even with many cables being ran through the case side panels would close easily.

Okay, enough about cable management, let’s go to the cooling capabilities of this XL case.

There are 7 fan positions in the case – three of them are included with the case.

  • Front: 2 – 120/140mm fans (included is one hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
  • Rear: 1 – 120/140mm fan (included is a hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
  • Top: 3 – 120x140mm fans (included is one hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
  • Bottom: 1 – 120/140mm fan (not included)

With so many fans, dust is surely to become an enemy if you decide to use most of the slots, so Fractal Design has included three dust filters to keep the inside of the case clean. 

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You can connect these three included fans in the integrated fan controller, mounted on the front panel. Three voltage options are available – 5,7 12 volts via slider style button, that feels sturdy and gives good feedback when you change settings. The fan controller has one 4-pin molex as an input and three 3-pin output fan connectors that fit perfectly for the pre-installed fans. Given the fact that there are 7 fan slots, I would have liked to see more possible connections to the fan controller, but it is not a deal breaker.

Seven fan positions sound nice for an air-cooled machine, but Fractal Design decided to go a little further by designing the case for very serious water cooling setups.

  • Water cooling compatibility: Front – 240 mm radiators (thick and slim) when HDD cages are repositioned or removed
  • Top – 240mm radiators (thick) or 280 and 360mm radiators (slim)
  • Bottom – 120mm radiators
  • Rear – 120 and 140mm radiators

Of course, if you want to put all these radiators you have to do some redesign of the HDD cage – another cool feature of the case:

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There are eight 3.5”/ 2.25” slots and two SSD dedicated bays on the back of the MB plate. If you want to change that, get yourself a screwdriver and you will like the hybrid style of the HDD cage. There are 2 screws holding the top 4 slots of the cage, which can be removed or rotated with ease to allow for more airflow inside the case.

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If you would like to water cool your system, on the other hand, you need to remove and re-position the bottom cage.

Bottom four HDD cage screws Front two HDD cage screws
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After removing the screws you have a couple of options:

If you need to place a thick water cooling radiator you can do the following…

HDD cage in fan slot for thick rad support HDD cage alternate mounting
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…or another option that is suitable for mounting a slim front radiator:

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I’d say the HDD cage is very easy to work with and for 7-8 minutes of your time you can change the whole interior look and cooling performance of the case. When it comes to cooling, this case has much to offer.

Last but not least is the front panel controls and connections. From left to right the first thing we see is the slider for the integrated fan controller, 3.5 mm jacks for the mic and headphones, big power button with HDD LED, reset button, two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. The power button has very little travel and clicks really nice when pressed. I am not sure if the reset button is good or bad, but it is only usable if you press it with a point edge – finger or nail just won’t work. Keep in mind that the power button and HDD LED are too bright, I had this same issue with the Arc Midi case. Nothing too bad, it just might distract you if you are in a dark room.

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Okay, to do a proper test of this case capabilities I must not only disassemble it but put a system inside and check things out.

Actually, I didn’t think that it would be so easy and hassle-free. My PSU is non-modular and has a number of unnecessary cables, but I had no difficulties whatsoever. The room in the case is enough and you are left with the enjoyment of easy installation. I used no zip ties to attach the cables of my PSU, and the side panel just closed with no push or force. Speaking of side panels, I forgot to mention that both of them have a bit of flex, but nothing to worry about. I had to apply some force to the non-windowed one to twist it. The windowed panel is not so rigid, but nothing to complain about.

So this is the complete system build, it took me no more than 20 minutes of work:

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I decided to remove the top HDD cage just for the fun of it and the result is one very tidy and clean case with no cables hanging. Of course, on the back side the story is different:

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It doesn’t look as tidy as the front, but as I said, I closed the side panel with no force at all. No zip ties used! The room in this case is absolutely awesome!

I was eager to see the size difference with XL’s little brother – the Arc Midi tower:

Front view Side View
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The XL is considerably bigger, not only on the outside, but interior-wise also. With the Arc Midi you have to spend a little more time cable managing and putting everything in place.

Now comes the actual test environment:

Test system:

  • MB: Asus P6T Deluxe X58 OC Palm Edition
  • CPU: Intel I7-920, D0 stepping
  • Video: Palit GT 640
  • HDD: Western Digital 640 GB Black Series
  • PSU: Corsair TX750 W, Non-modular, rev.1.0
  • RAM: A-Data XPG 6 GB Triple channel

Case fans are all set to 12 volts and I have moved the rear fan to the top, due to my CPU cooler (set at silent mode from BIOS) position as an exhaust. Room temperature is about 20 degrees.

Idle:

Idle-ARC XL

Stress, no OC, everything is at default settings:

Stress-Arc XL

Final thoughts:

  1. Fractal Design Arc XL performance – Well…I loved the case. I really like the black and white interior, the integrated fan controller, the hybrid HDD cage and the 2 SSD slots on the back. I like the build quality, even though there are a couple of things that raised my attention, but there’s nothing to be worried about. I love the expandability, dust filters and the attention to details that Fractal gave to the case – you have the large CPU cutout, the rubber grommets and support for a nice water cooled/air cooled setup. The case also offers some decent cooling capability out of the box – you should not expect enthusiast level of cooling with the stock fans. They perform very well even at 7 volts and you’ve got one silent and nicely cooled machine.
  2. Fractal Design Arc XL noise level – With the three fans included running at 7 volts I could barely hear the rig. At 5 volts it is dead silent, but at 12 volts there is some audible noise from the rotation of the fans. I would not call it completely silent at 12 volts, but it is not irritating, either. Every person hears and bears noises differently and I am kind of a silent freak when it comes to PC’s, so just keep that in mind.
  3. Fractal Design Arc XL appearance – This case looks absolutely gorgeous! If you are a fan of the clean and stylish PC cases – buy one Arc XL – this is one BIG, clean and stylish case. The brushed aluminum front panel and the big grill give a very recognizable look. The windowed side panel offers perfect view inside the case and I bet that some white LED lights would make it look flawless.

I think Fractal Design Arc XL deserves the following reward:

Best-Perf-Visual

Official price (MSRP): Fractal Design Arc XL – unknown

Warranty: unknown

I thank Fractal Design for the test sample.

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Nikola Milanov is reviewer and newsman at DVTests and has more than 6 years of experience in telecommunications. I'm really enthusiastic about the website and its development by sharing a user's point of view and experience with the products we test. We are honest and objective in all of the articles, the products get tested and reviewed thoroughly with no exception! Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section or use the emails in About us page!
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