Introduction: A Crowded Market
A roomy ATX mid-tower case for under $70
The case market is not only saturated at every conceivable price point, but there is enough of a builder’s DNA in their enclosure selection that making recommendations in this area can be a galvanizing undertaking. The enclosure with less usefulness can have perceived deficiencies mitigated by style, and vice versa. For some, style is the most important attribute. But functionality alone, when unnecessary elements are stripped away, can be attractive as well. Here we have a bit of both.
Fractal Design is a Swedish company specializing in computer enclosures, though much like Corsair (which started life as a memory company) they have diversified their product offerings with a line power supplies and all-in-one liquid CPU coolers, as well as case fans and accessories. The company cites Scandinavian design as the influence behind their aesthetic, with the minimalist approach of 'less is more'. With the “Core” series Fractal Design has just what that nomenclature indicates. An entry-level offering that still provides the essentials for a solid build.
With the Core 3300 ATX case the basics are all represented, and it seems that nothing has been included for artistic reasons alone. The Core 3300 does not have a side window, and inside you won't see convenience features like toolless drive bays. Ultimately it’s a rather nondescript matte black case that’s mostly steel, but there are touches that help it stand out in this particular segment of a crowded market.
With the Core 3300 Fractal Design has targeted the sub-$70 case market. The MSRP is $69, which is about where you should expect to see it at the usual places online . This is significant since very often it is the price that will help distinguish a case, as a higher list price can offset the cost of implementing additional features or using better materials. At <$70 a quality build experience and smart design choices are a must, but there must always be compromise with any price/performance level. We will see exactly how Fractal Design has approached this in our review.
To begin with let’s take a look at some of the features and specifications:
Our thanks to Fractal Design for providing the Core 3300 case for review
- ATX, E-ATX (up to 295 mm wide) Micro ATX, Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
- 2x 5.25"drive bays
- 3x 3.5" bays – all compatible with SSDs
- 2x dedicated 2.5" SSD mounts
- 7 expansion slots
- Support graphics cards up to 430mm (16.9"). One or more 3.5" hard drives may interfere with side-mounted power connectors on graphics cards longer than 255mm (10")
- Support cooling system: 7 fan positions (2 Silent Series R2 fans included)
- Filtered fan slots in front and bottom
- CPU coolers up to 185mm (7.28") in height
- ATX PSUs up to 170mm (6.69") deep when using the bottom fan location for a 140mm fan; when not using this fan location longer PSUs can be used
- 22mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
- Case dimensions (WxHxD): 233 x 451 x 517mm (9.17"x17.76"x20.35")
- Net weight: 7.8 kg (17.2 lbs)
The Core 3300 ships in a standard enclosure box, and once inside we see the case well protected for shipping.
A small box inside the case contains the necessary hardware, and it's nice to see that each type of screw is in a separate bag.
The case is rather monolithic, but strong lines and good construction lead to an impressive fit and finish nonetheless.
The case is supported by a set of sturdy plastic feet that are tall enough to provide good airflow when using bottom fans; and here we also see a filter for these lower fan mounts. Excellent.
Up top there are two more 120/140mm fan mounts, and the usual controls and I/O along the top edge.
Next we'll check out the interior and walk through the build process.