There’s something familiar here. I’m sure it’ll Pop up
Just a few short weeks ago, Fractal released its new Pop line of PC enclosures. I was able to review two of the Pop series cases, the Pop Air and Pop Air Mini, and I liked both cases for their price points and features.
Now, instead of an all new enclosure line, we’re taking a look at the Fractal Focus 2, a refresh of their ageing, fan favorite budget case. At this early point, you may be asking why I’m mentioning the Pop enclosures so prominently in a review of the new Focus 2.
As you’ll see in the coming text, the new Focus shares much more than the Fractal branding with its Pop named siblings, plus it arrives at a much lower price point. Let’s dive in and take a look to see if the Focus 2 is worth a look.
- Dedicated 2.5″ drive mounts: 2 included, 6 total
- Dedicated 3.5″ drive mounts: 2 (included)
- Expansion slots: 7
- Front interface: 2x USB 3.0, Audio (RGB controller included in RGB version)
- Total fan mounts: 6x 120 mm or 4x 140 mm
- Front fan (RGB version): 2x Aspect 14 RGB included
- Front fan (Non-RGB version): 2x Aspect 14 included
- Top fan: 2x 120/140 mm
- Rear fan: Place for 1x 120 mm (not included)
- Dust filters: Top (plastic mesh, PSU (nylon), Front (steel mesh)
- Fixed cable ties: No
- Captive thumbscrews: Side Panels
- Left side panel: Steel or tempered glass (RGB version: tempered glass only)
- Right side panel: Steel
- Motherboard compatibility: ATX / mATX / Mini ITX
- Power supply type: ATX
- PSU max length: 250 mm (175 mm recommended)
- GPU max length: 405 mm with front fan mounted
- CPU cooler max height: 170 mm
- Front radiator: Up to 360 mm
- Top radiator: Up to 240 mm (max 46 mm RAM height)
- Rear radiator: Up to 120 mm
- Cable routing space: 19 mm
- Case dimensions (LxWxH): 472 x 215 x 451 mm
- Case dimensions w/o feet/protrusions/screws (LxWxH): 459 x 215 x 437 mm
- Net weight: TG: 6,4 kg, Solid: 6,1 kg
Focus 2 Black TG Clear Tint (FD-C-FOC2A-01) – $69.99
Focus 2 White TG Clear Tint (FD-C-FOC2A-02) – $69.99
Focus 2 RGB Black TG Clear Tint (FD-C-FOC2A-03) – $79.99
Focus 2 RGB White TG Clear Tint (FD-C-FOC2A-04) – $79.99
Focus 2 Black Solid (FD-C-FOC2A-07) – $69.99
Focus 2 Design
I’ll get this out of the way in the beginning; the Fractal Focus 2 is very close in design, construction, and dimensions to the Pop Air I reviewed. That is not a bad thing as I felt both of the Pop cases I tested were well built, especially at the price point.
The Focus 2 has a full height front mesh panel and a larger tempered glass side panel. It does sacrifice the two front optical drive slots, the separated power supply compartment, as well as a few other minor cost saving measures.
The Focus 2 does have a somewhat more traditional look than the other recent Fractal offerings (the Torrent and Pop lines), especially considering the lack of a separate PSU basement. Fractal did make an effort to hide the PSU area somewhat. On the tempered glass side panel, you will find a branded metal brace which angles inward and extends upward to hide the PSU and its cables slightly.
The lack of the PSU basement also means the sacrifice of the space for optical drives that so many (surprisingly) loved about the Pop cases. In exchange for this loss, you gain the ability to utilize a 360mm radiator at the front of the case. In an age where we will soon be seeing 200 watt CPUs from both Intel and AMD, but also 600 watt GPUs (allegedly), that much radiator space (or just space for more fans) is not only welcome, but possibly needed.
Unfortunately, the top panel on the Focus 2 is limited to a 240mm radiator, or if you’re using just fans, you can fit two 140’s. This is unfortunate because the panel is actually long enough that Fractal could have manufactured it to accept a 360mm radiator. This would have been the perfect place to mount a 360mm AIO cooler, but Fractal maybe thinking that the people in the market for a $70-$80 case likely won’t be using high TDP processors that will require that much cooling.
The front I/O on the top panel is identical to the Pop series, right down to the RGB light on the power button, and the lack of an included Type C connector (which can be purchased separately for around $10). Of course, if the Type C wasn’t included with the more expensive line, it wasn’t going to be present here. At least the option is available to add it in later, which can’t be said for most cases in this price range.
The Focus 2 does include the same radiator offset brackets that Fractal shipped with the Pop series, so if you do decide to mount a 240mm radiator on top, you won’t have to worry about interference with tall RAM, or large rear I/O covers.
If you’re more of an air cooling aficionado, then you’ll be happy with the Focus 2 as there is a measured 168mm space from the CPU to the side panel, which should allow just about any air cooler on the market to be used.
In the front of the case, the Focus 2 includes uses two 140mm fans (RGB on my review sample) which run at a max of 1000 RPM, and are very quiet at max speed. Both the 3 pin power connectors and 5v Addressable RGB connectors have dongles allowing the two fans to be connected together to a single fan control plug and single ARGB plug on your motherboard.
Even knowing that Fractal was making concessions to hit this price point, I still wish that they had included a rear exhaust fan, even a non RGB, 120mm fan would have been a welcome improvement.
Building in the Focus 2, was really straightforward. I honestly don’t remember the last tower case I’ve used in which I installed the power supply from the motherboard side.
I did find that the pass-through for the PSU cables was a bit on the small side, and caused some frustration in getting connectors through the space if there were already a few cables going through it. I think there is space for a 24 pin, a couple of PCIe power cables, and maybe a SATA or Molex, but any more is going to be difficult.
Also, as there is no PSU basement opening, and the motherboard tray extends from the top of the case to the bottom, there is no opening to stash excess cables, and there is not a huge amount of space on the backside for cable management.
On the Pop series, excess cables could be hidden away in the bottom, but this isn’t possible on the Focus 2. In what was one more cost cutting measure by Fractal, the Focus 2 also lost the included Velcro ties for cable routing that you find on most other cases from the brand.
Before I get into the temperature testing, one of the first things I noticed when I removed the Focus 2 from the box was the front mesh panel. It is an attractively designed panel, but I was concerned that the mesh pattern was exceptionally dense and fine. It seems more like a dust filter than a mesh panel.
The magnetic dust filter on the top panel was also quite dense, and unless I was using the top as an intake, I’d remove this filter permanently. For this reason I ran my temperature tests three times for both my CPU and GPU tests, once in stock configuration, one with the top filter removed, and one with both the top filter, and front panel removed.
Specification of Test System:
- AMD Ryzen 7 3800x [@4.0 Ghz, all core, 1.138 volts (1.08 Vdroop under load) 90 watt package power]
- ASRock X570M Pro4 Motherboard
- Be Quiet! Dark Rock TF2 CPU Cooler with middle fan only fixed @ 1400 rpm
- 16 GB (2×8) G Skill Trident Z 3333 (@3600) Memory
- Zotac GTX 1080ti Amp Extreme fans speed fixed @ 1200 rpm
- WD Black Edition 500 GB NVMe SSD
- CPU Temperature Testing: OCCT set to Small FFT Extreme Steady for 30 minutes
- GPU Temperature Testing: Unigine Heaven set to Ultra Detail, Extreme Tesselation, and 8x Anti Aliasing at 1440p for 30 minutes
- All tests conducted at a controlled ambient temperature of 23.5° C
- Sound Testing conducted with microphone placed 30 cm from system, measured ambient noise floor is 28.5 dB, all fans set to same speeds as temperature testing
While the removal of the top filter did not affect temperatures as much as I thought, it did have a small negative effect on the CPU temps during my 30 minute test. I do feel that in longer gaming sessions, with both the CPU and GPU working, the top filter should be removed as it will hinder the exit of hot air through the top of the chassis.
In both the CPU and GPU tests, the removal of the front panel improved temperatures by 2.5 ℃, showing that it is more of a hindrance to air flow than is usual for front mesh panels. It is still far better than a solid panel, so there is that benefit.
Given the current state of the PC enclosure market, a new budget focused, well built, high airflow case from a reputable brand like Fractal might be just what many looking to build a new system might need. Let’s face it; PC cases have gotten a lot more expensive over the last couple of years, and not completely without some justification.
The cost of basic materials, like the steel its built from, has increased, not to mention the difficulty in transport of goods across the world’s oceans. It’s been mentioned by myself, and others, that enclosures we used to see being released at around the $75 USD price, are now pushing $100 or more.
At the time of writing the existing Fractal Focus G case sells for around $55 US. Fractal will be listing the MSRP of the new Focus at $80 US for the RGB version I have here, or $70 for the non RGB model.
While I like the Fractal Focus 2, I just don’t feel the value is there for the $10-$20 savings versus the Pop Air. To me, there were too many features omitted from the Focus 2 in an attempt to hit this price point. I’d really recommend spending that extra $10-$20 and get the Fractal Pop Air.
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