Summer of Cases: Fractal Design Core 3000
Here at Computer Ed our Summer of Cases continues and to say we are overwhelmed with cases is an understatement. People think, when I explain to them what we do, that reviewing cases is easy, they could not be more wrong. Cases are one of those things that have a large aesthetic component to it and so a great deal of determining a great case is personal choice. To counter this many reviewer will look at a case with a feature check list and judge based on the list but this in my opinion is wrong as it leaves out that entire aesthetic component and fails to look at the case as a whole.
The next case up on the Computer Ed work bench is the Fractal Design Core 3000. Fractal is a smaller company that has really begun to make it’s move into the US market. They essentially have two product lines, their quiet computing live, the Define series and their gaming line up that is currently led by the Arc. The Core 3000 is their value entry in that gaming line up.
Looking at the packaging, a simple brown box with a picture of the case in black line art and then seeing the case itself you can see an obvious pattern, subdued. This case right from the start does not seek to grab your attention or stand out in any way. The front bevel is essentially a grill design with 2 external 5.25” bays at the top and the rest is for a 140mm stock intake fan with the mount to hold an additional 120mm fan. The subdued look continues even to the logo at the top of the bevel with is engraved into the base, no extra color added.
The top of the case has room for dual 140/120mm fans with a single 140mm fan coming with the case stock. The front panel sports the traditional power button, power LED, HD activity LED, reset, headset jacks and 4 USB 2.0 ports. I am torn in my thoughts about the 4 front ports. I mean having 4 front ports is a good thing, lots of easy access however the lack of USB 3.0 ports seems an oversight. This is especially true with the appearance of USB headers on more motherboards, not just Intel either, I have a 970 based board with it sitting in the lab right now.
Moving to the bottom of the case we find an easy access filter for a PSU air intake as well as an area for a bottom fan intake, un-filtered. Note the case feet, they provide a good lift for air intake space and the rubber bottoms mean the case does not move around a lot plus does not transmit any noise through the floor or desk.
The sides of the case as with all of the exterior are understated with the left side panel having a vented area for a 120/140mm fan and the right being a blank slate. The rear of the case allows for 7 expansion slots, all of the covers are in a nice white, providing a bit of contrast to the rest of the black case. We also find the PSU opening, 2 water cooling holes and a 120mm exhaust fan.
Opening the side panel we now look at the inside of the Core 3000. The first thing you will notice is the 6 easy to remove HD trays. They are hard to miss with their white paint job in the back case. The trays are metal, making them very sturdy and use screws to hold the drives into place. Unlike most HD mounting systems these make use of the bottom mounting holes of a 3.5” drive, with rubber grommets to help reduce vibration. Each of the trays also has holes for mounting 2.5” drives as well.
Normally at this point I would be having my normal tirade about mounting the HD bays across the intake fan axis and reducing air flow. However it seems Fractal noticed this as well and put in a feature to correct this for people wanting the intake fan to be more effective. The top tray area is removable and can be rotated 90 degrees to allow it to act as achannel for the 140 mm stock fan. This is a great idea that is very well implemented. If you have a large video card, removing the bay gives you all the room you will need. If you have a normal sized or even smaller card and want better air flow then you rotate the HD bay and remove the mounting trays. The bay then acts as a tunnel for the intake, keeping the air directed right toward the video card. It is a simple design that performs it’s function perfectly and shows attention to detail.
The bottom of the case houses the PSU as we noted with an intake for cool air through the bottom, it also has room for mounting a 120mm intake fan. I really wish they would have extended the PSU filter to include this intake. A bottom intake is a good idea as it brings in cool air and channels it up to take advantage of the natural air flow created by the cases warm internal air. However it is also a potential dust magnet that really should be filtered. The PSU has rubber mounts to reduce noise and right in front of the PSU is an elongated cutout for routing power cables behind the motherboard tray. The back plate has two more elongated cutouts running up the tray area for cable management and there is a nice cutout for CPU cooler back plates.
As with the Define, which we reviewed a few weeks ago, the looks of the Core 3000 are subdued, they do not draw attention to themselves but that is NOT a bad thing. There has been a slow and quite movement within the DIY community away from the bling and noisy looking cases to the more stately, simple look. For those that want a louder appearance though the Core 3000 offers a great blank slate for case modding.
Opening up the case you find a design that takes into account people will actually build a computer in this case. The HD mounting system appeals to those that like the easy drive access of the side mount setup and those that want max air flow provided by the inline system. The solution they came up with keeps both happy, works really well and offers a good option set. The cable management is adequate, especially since there is no stock side window. You can get a clean tidy build with a little bit of effort.
From a cooling perspective the stock setup gets the job done, a three fan setup at this price point is pretty much par for the course and the use of 140mm fans over 120mm fans means we get a quieter experience. You have good fan options being able to use two more 120mm intake fans as well as another 140mm top exhaust and still can add a 120 or 140 to the side panel. The Fractal fans provided with the case however play a large part in the quiet operation of this case, and it is quiet. These fans do not move a ton of air, but they move air quietly. With a full fan load this case is still quieter than many cases with less fans.
We began this review by using the word subdued when describing this case and that is a word that is used often and fits through this entire review. Price at $75 on Newegg this case is in the middle of the road on price point. It’s feature set is solid but nothing that screams out in a crowd and it’s looks can be described the same way. However this is NOT a bad thing. You often see people get caught up in the extremes, be it extreme looks, feature or price. I am not just talking upper extremes but lower as well. The truth however is usually not found in the extremes but in the middle and the same can be said for value.
At $75 the Core 3000 gives you a case with classic, stately, simple looks as well as solid construction and a good feature set that makes building a PC an enjoyable process. It has enough cooling potential for an overclocker and can handle even some of the most high end hardware when it comes to room for mounting. While this may not be a case that screams for attention it is deserving of some and should be in anyone’s short list of looking for a value case.
For more pictures of the Core 3000 case head over to our Facebook page, Facebook.com/computered.
Core 3000 review segment aired live 4 September 2011