Fractal Designs ARC XL

There are very few companies out there that listen to what people want, and deliver on the demand. Fractal Design is one such company. They have always listened to what people want from their products and they have delivered it to them. The Arc XL from Fractal Design is no such exception as the case delivers a lot of functionality from a very simple, and aesthetically pleasing design along with Fractal quality. Just like all their cases, the Arc XL has very simple and familiar look to it. The case offers un-matched air and water cooling abilities for its price. At a penny less than $130.00, the Arc XL is a full tower priced very close to what one would spend on a good mid tower. The case supports up to a 360mm radiator on the top and a thick 240mm radiator in the front. With a very spacious interior design, and 9 expansion slots, it’s a great case for air cooling and XL-ATX motherboards. The case also comes with 3 Silent Series R2 fans that can be controlled with the inbuilt fan controller. If storage is your thing, the case supports 8 x 3.5″ HDDs or 10 x 2.5 SSDs, without sacrificing any space for a 360mm radiator. The case also has a standard smoked acrylic window so that all your hard work can be seen by the world.

Dimensions:

  • Width – 232mm x Height – 572mm x Depth – 552mm
  • Width – 9.13″ x Height – 22.5″ x Depth – 21.7″

Specs:

  • ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX, E-ATX, XL-ATX motherboard compatibility
  • 4 – 5.25″ bays
  • 8 – 3.5″ HDD trays – all compatible with SSDs
  • 2 – 2.5″ dedicated SSD positions behind the mothboard plate
  • 9 expansion slots
  • 7 – Fan positions (3 Silent Series R2 fans included)
  • Filtered fan slots in front, top and bottom
  • CPU coolers up to 180mm tall
  • PSU compatibility: ATX PSUs up to 190mm deep when using the bottom fan location; when not using this fan location longer PSUs (up to 345mm deep) can be used
  • Graphics card compatibility: Graphics cards up to 330mm in length with the top HDD cage installed – With the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 480mm in length may be installed
  • 26mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
  • Thick rubber grommets on all holes on the motherboard plate
  • Window side panel included
  • Colors available: Black
  • Case dimensions (WxHxD): 232 x 572 x 552mm
  • Net weight: 13.8kg
  • Package dimensions (WxHxD): 322 x 625 x 635mm
  • Package weight: 16.3kg

Cooling system:

  • 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)
  • Fan controller: 1 – Integrated fan controller for up to 3 fans (included)
  • 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

Front interface:

  • 2 – USB 3.0
  • 2 – USB 2.0
  • Audio in/out
  • Power button with LED (blue)
  • HDD activity LED (red)
  • Reset button
  • Fan controller

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The case is made from steel with the front and the top panel made from plastic. The front panel has a nice brushed aluminum style finish to it. The Arc XL has a very “Fractaly” look to it, while simple, the case offers a lot of functionality to the users. The left side panel has a nice big smoked window for you to show off your build.

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The backside of the case is very simple, and simple is good. There are no ugly grommets for routing water cooling tubes or any other slots for cooling. With nine(9) expansion slots you have enough space to put in a XL-ATX motherboard.

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The right side panel is all solid with no ventilation, which is something I personally like, as it helps with keeping the dust bunnies out.

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The bottom of the case is simple, and features a nice long dust filter to keep the dust from entering the PSU and the 140mm fan position in the floor of the case.

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The filter can be removed very easily just by sliding it out. Fractal Design has made sure that all the filters are easy to clean and remove.

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Moving along to the top of the case, we can see the power button, reset switch, 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 2 x USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone jack, and an nice built-in fan controller. The fan controller has 3 settings – 5V, 7V, and 12V.

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The front panel can be removed very easily. All you have to do is pull the panel out, and it pops right off.

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The front panel is held in place with tabs, and has a removable filter for the front fans. It’s nice to see that Fractal made sure that all the intakes are filtered.

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With the front panel removed the front 240mm/280mm fan mount is exposed. The case comes with one 140mm fan already installed in the front.

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The top panel is held in place by two(2) thumb screws, and can be easily removed for easy fan/radiator installation.

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The case offers ample amount of room on the inside. There is space for up to eight(8) HDDs/SSDs in the drive bays. The case comes with a 140mm fan installed in the back and another one in the top of the case.

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The case has a lot of rubber grommets to make routing cables very easy. I also love the fact that Fractal Design does not use any special mechanism to keep the 5.25″ drives in place. Nothing beats the good ole screws. The huge CPU cooler cutout makes installing an aftermarket cooler very easy.

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The case comes with some really beautiful case feet already installed. The case feet feature nice soft rubber soles to make sure you do not scratch any surfaces.

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The HDD drive trays are made from metal, and not plastic, which makes this case even better as you don’t have to worry about twisting, or breaking the drive trays.

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By removing two thumb screws, you can remove the top drive bay.

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With the top HDD drive bay removed, you can use that area to mount a pump or any other accessory or device.

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The back of the case is simple as well, again it’s nice to see case manufacturers putting in SSD mounts in the back of the motherboard tray.

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The Arc XL allows you to install up to two(2) SSDs in the back of the motherboard tray.

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There is approximately an inch of space in the back for cable routing/management. That should be plenty to tuck those wires away nicely.

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The SSD trays are easy to remove, and install an SSD in them. There is no lack of quality in this case, even the SSD trays are of great quality.

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The case also features some nice thick rubber mounts for the PSU. Not only do they look good, but they also make sure that any vibrations from the PSU do not get annoying.

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The case comes with all the installation hardware you need. And if you want something to read, there is a manual as well.

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With a Maximus V Formula installed in the case, there is still lot of open room for water cooling gear or any HDDs.

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There are rubber grommets on the top of the case as well, and that makes routing the CPU power cable easy.

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There is 65mm of clearance from the top of the case to the top of the motherboard. This space is enough to install a slim 360mm radiator in push or pull.

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The case supports thick 240mm radiators in the front and the top. The top panel has two(2) sets of 120mm fan mount holes, one for the 360mm radiator, and the other ones are offset quite a bit to allow you to install a thick 240mm radiator.

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Removing the lower HDD cage creates enough room for you to install a 240mm radiator. There is enough space for someone to install a thick 240mm radiator in the front of the case.

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The simple design of the case makes installing radiators, and fans a very easy job.

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Installing a 360mm radiator was a breeze as well. Pictured above are three(3) AP-15 fans in push configuration on a HW Labs 360 X Flow radiator.

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By drilling a couple holes, I even had enough space to install an Aquacomputer Aqualis reservoir and pump combo. If I can fit in a 80mm thick Aqualis, then fitting a regular tube reservoir should not be an issue. Also, if you want to preserve the HDD storage space, a bay reservoir would be the perfect choice.

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Installing long GPUs is not a problem at all. Here I have a 7950 installed, with enough space for the reservoir and a thick radiator in the front.

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Even though the case does NOT support having the top HDD bay installed, I honestly think Fractal should find a way to make that possible. With just the top bay in place, I think that creates for a cleaned looking build and allows for better pump mounting.

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While getting the cables installed in the case, I realized that the CPU power cable will not reach the PSU without an extension. Here I feel that Fractal should have included an extension cable. I know some case manufacturer’s do include an extension cable.

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if using a single SSD, the bottom mount is easier to use as the cable routing cutout is in the perfect location and does not create a bulge. I also ended up using a sleeved 8-pin CPU cable to power the CPU.

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Given the cable routing options and grommets, no-one should have any issues when it comes to routing the cables. One thing I didn’t like is the length of the USB 2.0 connector, and the front audio header connector. They barely make it to the rear grommet (just above the SSD), and in order for me to get them connected, I would have had to route them internally.

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Got all the cables hooked up, and this is a perfect example of why it would have been nice if Fractal made it possible to just use the upper HDD cage by itself.

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Final Thoughts:

For $129.99, there is no better full tower out in the market with similar quality standards as Fractal Design, and the water cooling capabilities. A simple design is the best design as it allows for the most bang for the buck. I see the Arc XL as the perfect first full tower. It has everything that a beginner or a seasoned builder/modder would like to see. You have support for a 360mm radiator up top, a 240mm radiator in the front, and that is honestly enough to cool a basic setup consisting of a CPU and two GPUs. The case also allows you to accomplish all that without sacrificing a lot of storage space. To make the case even better, Fractal also included a built in fan controller. There is enough space on the inside for either a tube res or a bay res and the case also features some of the best looking case feet ever.

Fractal cases have always had great quality, and the Arc XL follows that quality and design tradition. The black and white color scheme used by Fractal adds a touch of class to the case. With 4 x 5.25″ drive bays, there is enough space for a bay reservoir, a fan controller and an optical drive. With nine(9) expansion slots, the case even supports XL-ATX motherboards and the nice huge window panel is like icing on the cake.

Pros:

  • A lot of case for $129.99
  • Removable dust filters
  • Best looking factory case feet
  • Great water cooling capabilities
  • Build quality
  • Multiple HDD cage locations

Cons:

  • Short USB 2.0 and front panel HD Audio connector cables.
  • Lack of 8-pin CPU power cable extension.
  • Not being able to use the top HDD cage by itself.

Modability:

A simple design is always fun to mod. The Arc XL is like an empty canvas begging to be drawn in. From an interesting paint job to some nice water cooling setups, there is a lot of room to mod in this case. I personally would start with the easy stuff first like the grills and paint.

Final Score:

Given the price, and the features that you get for $129.99, I have no issues giving the case a score of 5 out of 5 bananas.

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