Computex — In just a few short years, Fractal Design has come out of nowhere (Sweden, actually) to become one of the most talked-about enclosure makers in the PC business. The company opened its first North American office last year, and cases have finally started to become available in the US via Newegg.
Members of the Define series were the first to hit US shores, and it's this family that best illustrates Fractal's minimalist aesthetic. The Define's clean lines cut a striking profile that's at the same time understated enough to sit unobtrusively in one's living room. I see a lot of Ikea in the Define's design, an impression that's reinforced by the surprisingly reasonable price tags attached to the models available at Newegg.
At the moment, the 'egg only carries the mid-tower Define R3 and its taller XL brother. Neither is equipped with native USB 3.0 connectivity, but you'll be able to buy SuperSpeed upgrade kits soon. USB 3.0 is built into the microATX Define Mini, which is pictured above and due to hit Newegg next month.
SuperSpeed ports have also infiltrated the Arc family, which deviates from the Define's focus on low noise levels to offer better airflow to overclockers. The Arc ditches sound-insulating foam in favor of a mesh front panel and offers more internal mounts for fans and large water-cooling radiators. Fractal also adds a little more space behind the motherboard tray for cabling. As newer designs, the Arc micro and mid-towers have made the move to USB 3.0. They're not available in North America just yet, though.
Fractal's Core enclosures are targeted at budget systems, but they offer nearly all of the perks available in the more expensive models. Sadly, USB 3.0 ports didn't make the cut. The microATX Core 1000 lacks a cutout behind the CPU socket, and its big brothers don't have as many cable routing options as the Arc and Define cases. Although Newegg doesn't currently stock any of Fractal's low-end models, NCIX does carry the Core 3000 mid-tower.
After spending well over and hour talking to the guys from Fractal Design, I can see why there's a lot of buzz surrounding the company's cases. Fractal's focus on value, combined with slick designs and an emphasis on low noise levels, strikes the appealing balance for PC enthusiasts. We're going to have to get one of these cases in for testing—but which one?