Airflow is Good
Air. We need it, our components need it, and for some time the industry’s fascination with solid front panels has impeded this basic need (for components, not humans). But there have been exceptions, with a number of open-front – often marketed as “high airflow” – designs introduced from major players in recent years.
While it makes sense to embrace airflow for your components, there would traditionally have been a noise penalty. This just isn’t as high as it once was. I like to live in the past, so let’s think of the sound emanating from your system in the 2000s! But we no longer use 80 mm CPU coolers with 5000 RPM fans, blower-style GPU coolers have become uncommon, SSDs are silent, and HDDs produced today spin in virtual silence. Again, why do we need solid front panels?
Happily, I can report that today’s review is a brand new high-airflow case, and, generally speaking, these can be nearly as quiet as solid-front designs due to increased cooling efficiency. It’s simple: open up the front panel, lower the fan RPM on all components (without a big hit to thermals), and enjoy less fan noise. Or, close everything up, add a bunch of insulation, and crank the fans. Your choice.
Fractal’s tagline for the new case is “all airflow, no compromise”. Let’s see the highlights and list of key features:
The Torrent is a high-performance PC case designed entirely around the objective of delivering the highest possible airflow out-of-the-box with conflict-free support for high-end hardware with unconventionally large cooling solutions.
Standout features include a newly designed component layout with top-mounted PSU compartment and full E-ATX/SSI-EEB support, large open front grille and bottom intakes, and most notably of all, two 180 x 38 mm Dynamic X2 PWM or Prisma ARGB PWM fans (both developed and released in tandem with the Torrent). Another three 140 mm PWM fans come pre-installed in the base for a total of five.
The Torrent also features support for the Flex B-20 Vertical Riser Bracket (available separately), allowing GPUs to be vertically mounted in a central position with excellent access to incoming air.
- Open front grille and full-length base intake with 180 mm fan support
- Newly developed 180 x 38 mm Dynamic X2 PWM and Prisma AL PWM ARGB fans leverage power, size, and thickness for greatly enhanced air-moving capacity
- Streamlined open interior with extra headroom for components and cooling
- Top mounted PSU compartment with aerodynamic shape and integrated ARGB effects (TG versions only)
- Five PWM fans included—three 140 mm and two 180 mm
- Both front and bottom panels support extra-thick radiators and push-pull fan configurations up to 420/360 mm
- New Nexus 9P Slim PWM fan hub pre-installed
- External Velcro tie-downs help manage the power cord and other cables on the rear exterior
- Seamless tempered glass panels with bolt-free top-latching mechanism
- Integrated ARGB lighting and Prisma ARGB fans use standard 5V RGB connectors for full software control on motherboards with addressable RGB support
- Removable top bezel and cable guides with Velcro ties behind the motherboard plate
- Two vibration-damped HDD trays and four dedicated SSD brackets included
- Integrated support for water-cooling reservoirs on the motherboard tray
- Seven bridgeless expansion slots ensure obstruction-free hookup
- GPU support bracket included
- Compatible with the Flex B-20 Vertical GPU Riser Bracket (sold separately)
- Recessed channels along left and right underside edges of the base for adding LED strips
- Dedicated 3.5” drive mounts: 2
- Dedicated 2.5″ drive mounts: 4
- Expansion slots: 7
- Motherboard compatibility: E-ATX / ATX / mATX / ITX / SSI-EEB / SSI-CEB
- Power supply type: ATX
- Front interface:
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C • 2 x USB 3.0
- HD Audio
- Power/Reset buttons
- Total fan mounts: 7 x 120/140 mm or 4 x 180 mm
- Included fans (as reviewed): 2x Prisma AL-18 ARGB PWM 180 mm, 3x Prisma AL-14 ARGB PWM 140 mm
- Fan Support
- Front fan:
- 3 x 120/140 mm or 2 x 180 mm
- (2 x 180 mm fans included)
- Rear fan: 1 x 120/140 mm
- Bottom fan:
- 3 x 120/140 mm or 2 x 180 mm
- (3 x 140 mm fans included)
- Dust filters: Front, Bottom
- Radiator Support
- Front radiator: Up to 360/420mm, including 360×180 mm
- Rear radiator: Up to 120/140 mm
- Bottom radiator: Up to 360/420mm
- Component Clearance
- PSU max length: 230 mm
- GPU max length: 461 mm total / 423 mm with preinstalled front fan
- CPU cooler max height: 188 mm
- Cable routing space: 32 mm
- Cable routing grommets: Yes
- Fixed Velcro straps: Yes
- Tool-less push-to-lock: Both side panels
- Captive thumbscrews: HDD brackets, SSD brackets, Top panel, Bottom fan bracket
- Case Material: Steel, Tempered Glass, Plastic
- Left side panel: Steel or Tempered glass (RGB version: Tempered glass only)
- Right side panel: Steel or Tempered glass (RGB version: Tempered glass only)
- Case dimensions (LxWxH): 544 x 242 x 530 mm
- Net weight:
- Solid: 10.4 kg
- Black/Gray TG: 11.1 kg
- White TG: 10.8 kg
- Torrent Black RGB TG Light Tint (as reviewed), FD-C-TOR1A-04: $229.99
- Torrent Black TG Light Tint, FD-C-TOR1A-01: $189.99
- Torrent Gray TG Light Tint, FD-C-TOR1A-02: $189.99
- Torrent White TG Clear Tint, FD-C-TOR1A-03: $189.99
- Torrent Black Solid, FD-C-TOR1A-05: $189.99
- Torrent Black TG Dark Tint, FD-C-TOR1A-06: $189.99
“The Torrent is a high-performance PC case designed entirely around the objective of delivering the highest possible airflow out-of-the-box with conflict-free support for high-end hardware with unconventionally large cooling solutions.”
The case design is dominated by the front panel, which features large plastic fins in what Fractal calls an “open front grille with stylized Y-shape vent design”.
I personally like this look quite a bit (I’m getting an Art Deco vibe), and even if you don’t like the aesthetic it will obviously provide a largely unobstructed path for airflow.
The side panels are both glass, and come off easily without any tools – making use of a clip system that requires only moderate force to pull them away from the latches along the top.
Special attention must be paid to the bottom of the case; normally an afterthought in my assessment of cases, I was immediately struck by the bottom of the Torrent. In fact, when I was unpacking it I initially confused it for the front panel!
We just don’t see triple-fan intake on the base of an enclosure very often. I’m quite interested in how this will work with the large front intake, particularly as there is no significant top exhaust beyond whatever warm air passes through the PSU, so hot air will be forced out of the rear of the case. At least the back panel is highly ventilated.
Interior and Build Notes
The Torrent has a slightly different feel once you are inside the component chamber compared to other recent mid-tower designs, with the power supply mounted above the motherboard (throwback!), and more room than usual below the motherboard.
I will also point out the obvious here as this design eliminates the possibility of a top-mounted radiator or AiO cooler – though the case floor and front intake are available for liquid cooling with up to 420 mm radiators supported in both locations.
You’ll no doubt notice from the interior photos that the front intake fans are massive, and you just don’t see dual 180 mm fans like this every day. These intake fans are two of Fractal’s Prisma AL-18 ARGB PWM model, and the 140 mm counterpart – Prisma AL-14 ARGB PWM – lines the case floor. Needless to say, A LOT of air will be drawn into this enclosure.
There are sufficient openings around the motherboard tray for tidy cable routing, and the larger openings have rubber grommets. Component clearance inside the chamber is excellent, with space for giant CPU coolers up to 188 mm (7.40 inches) tall and GPUs up to 423 mm (16.65 inches) in length with the front fans in place. Power supply clearance is similarly massive, with units up to 230 mm (9.06 inches) supported in the top-mount chamber.
This actually reminded me of my old SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E case, which also required the top of the case to be removed to install the PSU in a chamber over the motherboard. This process is very easy with the Torrent, and I quite like the return of top-mounted PSUs like this. It does mean that your PSU will intake warmer air from your system, but with a high-airflow design like this I doubt that is an issue.
As you can see from the above photo there is also plenty of dedicated cable-routing with the Torrent, with both plastic guides and velcro straps to keep things orderly. There is also a respectable amount of cable clearance, with 32 mm (1.26 inches) available before things start to compress against the rear panel. And speaking of that panel, while glass it is tinted darker than the component side, and this smokey tint can serve to help hide a less than tidy cable arrangement.
There are the typical flush-mount SSD brackets along one side, but hard drives are also mounted flush, beneath the motherboard cutout. We see a lot of cases with a 3.5-inch drive cage on the case floor, but with the bottom of the Torrent devoted to intake there was not room for this. As someone who doesn’t love those HDD cages I like this choice.
Storage support is good with the Torrent, as it offers dedicated mounts for 4x 2.5-inch drives and 2x 3.5-inch drives behind the system. The layout is a little different, however, at least for 3.5 inch drives.
I found the only frustrating thing about the build to be connecting all of the included fans. We received the RGB version of the case, and the fan hub these all connect to is for just that: fans. There is no central RGB hub, so the fans must all be daisy-chained together and then plugged into a motherboard header. Between the 4-pin PWM cables and all of the RGB cables there was quite a mess to take care of with five fans onboard.
One last thing about the fan hub, as it is located at the bottom left of the back side, below the SSD mounting brackets. This seems fine, considering the front and bottom fans easily reach, but the instructions call for the CPU fan to be connected to this hub as well, with the hub then connecting directly to the motherboard’s CPU fan header. Without a PWM extension cable none of the CPU coolers I use can fit this lower left hub position, and no extension cable is included.
I ended up just using the hub for the case fans, connecting the hub’s PWM cable to a system fan header, and the CPU cooler connected directly to the board’s CPU fan header.
With the components in place things look nice and clean up front:
As you can see, with all of the fan RGB cables daisy-chained together and connected to the motherboard it was easy to get any desired color out of the system, with the fans generating enough light to illuminate the case nicely.
I wish I could say that cable management was easy with this build, but the special care needed to manage the tangle of fan cables added quite a bit of time to the process. I ended up having to use electrical tape on some of the RGB cables to keep them together, as they kept wanting to separate during the process of folding them into some kind of order. Eventually things were sufficiently compacted to get the rear panel closed, and I appreciate that both side panels can optionally be screwed into place (snap-only solutions for a rear panel are asking for trouble sometimes).
One more interesting touch with this design: a series of velcro straps to act as guide for your PSU cable (and any other cables along the way. I’ve never seen this before.
Some Performance Testing
Using a high-powered (literally) test system consisting of an Intel Z590 motherboard / Intel Core i9-11900K combo, along with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition graphics card, I set to work testing out thermal performance of this high-airflow case design. I didn’t test beyond open bench vs. case, thus the heading “some” performance testing.
|PC Perspective Enclosure Test Platform|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z590 Taichi|
|Processor||Intel Core i9-11900K (all limits enforced)|
|Memory||32GB (16GBx2) G.Skill Trident Z NEO DDR4-3600 CL14|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition|
|Storage||CORSAIR Neutron Series XTi 480GB SSD|
|Power Supply||SilverStone ST1000-PTS 1000W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit (1903)|
The CPU cooler in this build is the Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition, which is just fine for a 125W TDP CPU, but inadequate for one of these Intel CPUs with no power limits and infinite 200+ watt power draw. I stubbornly used this cooler anyhow (after manually enforcing the actual PL1/PL2/Tau limits for this Core i9 CPU), setting the CPU fan speed to full in the motherboard setup. All other fan headers were set to the “performance” preset. The GPU is stock and uses its default fan profile (including zero RPM idle).
Not much of a difference at load with the CPU, obviously. A nice boost to thermals for the GPU inside the high-airflow case, however. The added airflow also helps with component temps at idle, particularly with the zero RPM idle GPU.
Noise levels were also very good, with a high reading of just 39.1 dBA taken 18 inches from the front panel during the gaming load test – and at idle. Yes, there was no audible change just from the GPU spinning up under load (CPU fan is already full), and the case fans produce the most audible noise in this configuration – which is to say they sound like they are moving air, but they are not loud even set to the board’s “performance” fan preset as they were.
The Torrent adds another high-airflow option to Fractal’s lineup, and while they have long been known for the excellent Define cases this is the company behind the Meshify series – so clearly they are no strangers to the power of airflow.
I felt a strong SilverStone vibe from this case (sorry, Fractal), for two reasons. One, I felt déjà vu when opening the top panel to install the PSU up there, just as with my old Temjin TJ08-E. Two, the bottom of the case was outfitted with triple intake fans, just like my old Fortress FT02. But both of those cases were slightly non-standard, featuring either rotated or inverted motherboard layouts. Fractal’s Torrent is a much more traditional design, though it does offer the modern “open layout” for components.
Between the triple bottom intake pushing air through our RTX 3080 Ti and the two massive 180 mm front intake fans helping push away heat from the GPU and our test system’s i9-11900K CPU, load temps were almost identical compared to the same components on the open test bench. I am going to call this enclosure design a success, and I particularly like the look of the front panel. I wish there was a more elegant solution to a tangle of fan PWM and RGB cables, and that the hub was closer to the motherboard, but these are pretty minor complaints.
Pricing for the Torrent is listed at $189.99 USD for the versions without RGB integration, and the model we tested is listed at $229.99. This is definitely in the “premium” pricing category, and might seem like a tough pill to swallow when Fractal’s own Meshify 2 case sells for $139.99, but the Torrent is obviously being positioned as a higher-end offering in the product stack. Personally, for its exceptional thermal performance and eye-catching aesthetics (not to mention solid build quality), I can easily recommend the Torrent to anyone looking for a high-airflow case in this price range.
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How Product Was Obtained
The product is on loan from Fractal for the purpose of this review.
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