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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
The Arc series is essentially a bridge, bringing together Fractal Design's minimalist roots and a wide audience of enthusiasts who crave big towers with tremendous cooling. In this regard, the Arc XL is a success, an oversized case that delivers excellent performance while maintaining a clean, reserved design aesthetic. It has many of the qualities big case lovers covet including a host of water cooling options, plenty of 140 mm fan placements with filters everywhere, and a built-in (albeit limited) fan speed controller. Its massive dimensions also allow users to fit just about anything inside, with its four 5.25 inch bays, eight 3.5 inch bays, and nine expansion slots, E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboard support, and effectively limitless heatsink and video card compatibility.
Given its target audience, there is unfortunately less of a focus on noise reduction than the Define series. While the fans provided are relatively low speed, there are no acoustic dampening sheets, unused fan positions are not blocked off, and the front fan intake position is more exposed to the user. To mitigate hard drive vibration, the upper drive cage could be more secure, as could the individual trays for themselves, which are noticeably looser than in the Define R2/R3 and Define Mini. Vibration was barely noticeable with our test configuration but we can imagine that multiple drives would compound the problem.
There's nothing refreshing about the Arc XL's design, though it is nice to see a big case without an equally big sticker-price. As it doesn't have flashy over-the-top features or any aluminum in its construction, the Arc XL sells for a modest US$125, on par with the Antec P280. However, like in the case of our Arc Mini R2 review, our preference for the Define series presents itself once again. From what we can tell, the Arc XL's counterpart, the Define XL, has an almost identical core, and addresses some of the Arc's noise-related issues. The Define XL also features a door and a windowless side panel, giving it a more elegant look, and even the price-tag is lower at just US$100. There are undoubtedly those who prefer the more open airflow scheme of the Arc line but our readership would likely be better served by the Define model.
Our thanks to Fractal Design for the Arc XL case sample.
Fractal Design Arc XL is Recommended by SPCR
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this article in the SPCR Forums.
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