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Fractal Design's Core 3000 enclosure

Throwin' budget builders a bone

Manufacturer Fractal Design
Model Core 3000
Price (Street) $64.99
Availability Now

Do you religiously follow the Econobox section of our periodic system guides? If so, we've been testing an enclosure that might pique your interest. Fractal Design has taken a stab at creating a high-airflow chassis with limited frills and price point that falls within spitting distance of the Econobox's budget. Say hello to the Core 3000, which is selling for only $65 right now.

Despite being classified as a mid-tower chassis, the Core 3000 is one of the smallest such cases we've bumped heads with to date. Even so, our test subject can accept full-sized ATX motherboards in addition to high-end graphics cards up to 16 inches long. Let's see if this steel box has the mettle to go toe-to-toe with its pricier competitors.

When we first laid hands on the Core 3000, it had seen better days. Somewhere on its way to our labs, the chassis was impacted hard enough to twist the frame, dislodge the hard drive bays, warp the side panels, and bend in the metal behind the rear thumb screws. Interestingly, the shipping carton showed no visible signs of damage, so the blame finger remains in motion, without a definitive target. At least one Newegg review mentions receiving the Core 3000 in a similar state, so the issue doesn't appear to be isolated to our sample.

After assessing the situation and rooting through the tool box for a suitable pair of pliers, a repair attempt was made. The end result of our metal-shop flashback looked good enough to proceed without requiring a replacement unit.

The Core 3000's exterior bears a strong resemblance to the Antec Three Hundred, but Fractal has varied the design enough to create a distinctive look all its own. The case is all black and features a mesh face framed in an angular plastic bezel. Behind the mesh sits a thin layer of porous foam to filter out any stray dust particles caught in the eddies of the intake fan.

"Understated" is the best way to describe the case's outward appearance. The Core 3000 blends in neutrally with the environment, evoking neither lust nor repulsion. It seemingly looks up at you requesting nothing more than some internal components and an outlet with which to power them. Flashy chrome accents are nowhere to be found, and the only LEDs are for the utilitarian power and hard-drive activity indicators. The HDD indicator has an old-school red glow, which deviates from the blue and white LEDs common among modern cases. As a sucker for electronic nostalgia, I must admit that I rather enjoy the bright red throwback.