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Under the hood
Removing the side panels is like unwrapping a gift. Similar to the Define R3 we tested a while back, the Core's internals look simply fantastic. Everything is painted black, with the exception of contrasting white fan blades, slot covers, and drive sleds.

There are six sleds in total, and each one has rubber grommets to dampen hard-drive vibrations. Holes have been drilled into each sled to accommodate 2.5" SSDs or mechanical drives, too. If you're worried about the tool-less sleds popping out of place, they can be secured to the cage using thumb screws.

The sleds are exactly the same as the ones found in the Define R3. Unlike the R3, however, the Core 3000 has an extra trick up its sleeve. The drive cage holding the top three sleds can be removed, improving airflow from the front intake and allowing the installation of graphics cards up to 16" long. With the cage in place, the Core will only accept graphics cards up to 10.6" in length.

The motherboard tray is just large enough to accept full-sized ATX motherboards, as well as those that conform to the microATX and Mini-ITX form factors. A cutout in the tray behind the CPU region provides easy access to a cooler's retention plate. Also present are several cable management cutouts intended to help keep things nice and tidy on the inside.

Unfortunately, Fractal doesn't provide anywhere near enough room behind the motherboard tray to cram excess cabling. At best, the distance between the tray and the side panel measures just half an inch. The cable management pain caused by this minuscule gap is further exacerbated by the protruding lip of the hard drive cage, which makes it difficult to stuff cabling behind the drive sleds. The motherboard tray also lacks cutouts along the top for routing the auxiliary 12V power connector to the motherboard.

As an added bonus, the Core comes with a three-fan speed controller that consumes one of the rear expansion slots. This accessory enables builders to exercise more control over their systems' cooling and acoustic properties, but the included three-pin case fans can also be plugged into motherboard headers or other fan-control units. I found that the fan controller added more clutter and cable management headaches to the build process, so I'd rather plug the case fans directly into the motherboard. That said, few motherboards have good speed control for their fan headers, and some don't have enough of 'em to feed the Core 3000's trio of spinners. Bundling a fan controller with such an inexpensive case is a nice touch. So is sheathing the cables coming off each of the internal fans. The cabling associated with the fan controller doesn't get the same treatment, though.