Over the years case designs have significantly evolved to the stage where a large portion of a system budget can be spend on that area of a build. In the enthusiast arena for example bigger tends to be better and the ability to install liquid cooling is a must, especially as GPUs are now available which have their own radiator block for a 12cm fan location. At the opposite end of the spectrum budget cases have changed too. Even in the last 4 or 5 years that has been the case and thanks to some great design we have a bunch of low cost, high quality and flexible options.
Fractal Design recently released their Core 3300 case, a model designed to appeal to those looking for a low cost chassis with plenty of flexibility. Today we take a look at it.
Packaging and Bundle
The Core 3300 arrives in a box using a familiar Fractal Design style. We get an outline of the case and a note of its key specifications then inside we find the chassis wrapped in plastic and suspended in foam. Also present in the box is a short manual, information on Func peripherals and then the various screws etc which we require to build a system in the case.
The Core 3300 External
The Core 3300 is an all-black chassis which has brushed metal effect front panel. Two dust filtered intakes run down the side and towards the top we find two 5.25” drive bays. Up on top of the case we find the power/reset buttons, 3.5mm audio ports and two USB 3.0 ports. Further back we then see two exhaust areas which allow installation of 2×12 or 2x14cm fans (or radiators).
In terms of dimensions the Core 3300 is 233x451x517mm and it weighs 7.8kg.
Round at the left side of the case we find a panel which can be removed by taking out two thumbscrews and towards the centre is a 12/14cm fan intake location. As is common on the right side (or back as it could be seen) we have a blank panel.
On the bank panel we find a perforated section towards the top and beneath it a 14cm exhaust (which is also 12cm compatible). There are also 7 expansion slots beneath this and at the base our PSU location. That is dust filtered and as we can see from the image above we can install a further 12/14cm fan. Also worthy of note is that the case is raised off the surface it is on by four feet.
The Core 3300 Internal
Inside the case we find a fairly standard layout, other than the drive bays. More on those shortly. Elsewhere we have a motherboard tray capable of taking mini-ITX boards right up to E-ATX. A CPU backplate cutout helps with CPU cooler installs and various holes are cut in the tray to make wiring as easy as possible. Coolers of 18.5cm in height are supported as are graphics cards up to 430mm (when 3.5mm drives are not adjacent).
PSUs of 170mm are supported and above that we can see our expansion slots we use thumbscrews. The exhaust location is populated by a 14cm Silent Series R2 fan with 3pin connector and above that we can again see the top exhaust location.
Round at the front we see the use of another Silent Series R2 fan, again 14cm with 3pin connector and behind the board is a 22mm cavity for wiring. Also in this area behind the board is a location which can accept two 2.5” drives. Our other drive location is the column that runs down the front edge of the system. This allows us to install three drives (vibration dampened), 3.5mm or 2.5mm and can be removed completely by taking out 3 thumbscrews.
Performance and Conclusion
Performance was tested using the i7-4960X and ASRock X79. The case fans used are the hydraulic bearing, 140mm models provided as standard with 1000RPM speed.
Radiator Compatibility from Fractal Design:
Front –30mm thick 240 or 280mm radiator: 15mm fan spacing required for full fastening, radiators with 20mm fan spacing can be used with only the top half fastened to the case. (Radiators of any thickness may be used if all 3.5″ positions are empty).
Top – 30mm thick 240mm radiator (with no components on the upper 11 mm on the motherboard that are taller than 38mm).
Top – 30mm thick 280mm radiator with slim fans.
Rear – 120/140 mm radiator.
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Overall we have found the Core 3300 to be an impressive entry to mid-level case. The build quality is decent with a solid main construction. Yes the front panel is plastic, but it isn’t flimsy and is finished well. It is also easy to remove giving us quick access to clean fans and filters if required.
Elsewhere on the design we get plenty of flexibility on the range of components we can install. As the images above show the case is more than capable of taking some fairly hefty radiators and we could for example add in an E-ATX board, Radeon 295X2 with its radiator, 240mm CPU liquid cooler and a couple of SSDs. Hard to complain about that. Our only note on that config is that the E-ATX boards do cover the wiring holes a little so flat cables are beneficial on the PSU we choose.
The other design aspect worthy of note is the drive install. Having two 2.5” locations behind the motherboard tray is ideal. The column at the front of the case seems oddly located though. We like it as a concept but having it hang down at the other side of the 5.25” bays would make wiring so much easier and tidier. Actually, Fractal could have easily designed the column and case so we could choose which side to attach it.
In terms of performance we get reasonable airflow in the default configuration and the Fractal Design fans are low noise. So all good there. We can of course add plenty more airflow ourselves from both 12cm and 14cm fans but the key aspect of this case is its pricing. At £56 ($75) it is hugely impressive in its flexibility and so wins our value award.
Price: Dabs.com – £56.61