Fractal Design Core 500 Mini-ITX Chassis Review

by - 4 years ago

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Introduction


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Fractal Design have a long history of creating high-end, very high-quality products, but in recent years they’ve also turned their attention to a more consumer friendly end of the market, with more affordable, yet still very stylish and well-made products, such as the Core 500 we have in the eTeknix office today.

“The Core 500 is the perfect PC case for those looking for a small, compact chassis that lets you build your computer without compromising on component selection.”

Designed for mini-ITX motherboards, but still offering support for a large GPU, a standard ATX PSU and more, the Core 500 is bound to appeal to those wanting a compact workstation or gaming system. With prices around £50 here in the UK, it’s also going to appeal to those who don’t have a huge amount of money to spend on their chassis, leaving more of the budget to focus on better performing internal components.

Key features

  • Brushed aluminum-look front panel with a sleek, three-dimensional textured finish
  • Very compact case with a volume of only 19.5 liters
  • Extremely good water cooling support for its size, supporting radiators up to 280mm long
  • Smart drive bay placement allows you to fit up to three 3.5″drives, three 2.5″ and one 5.25″ drive simultaneously
  • Supports Mini-ITX motherboards, ATX power supplies and graphics cards up to 310mm in length
  • Supports tall CPU cooler towers, up to 170mm in height
  • Featuring a Fractal Design Silent Series R3 140mm rear exhaust fan for great cooling
  • Big magnetic filters for the side and top air intake together with a PSU filter ensures a dust free interior

There’s certainly enough room for some high-end hardware in this chassis, with ample drive mounts, a 5.25″ bay and more.

Specifications

Mini ITX, Mini DTX motherboard compatibility; NOTE: motherboards with SATA ports that are angled 90 degrees may conflict with installation in the case.
2 expansion slots
3 – 3.5″ HDD positions
3 – 2.5″ dedicated SSD/HDD unit positions
1 – 5.25″ bay (removable)
CPU coolers up to 170mm in height
ATX PSUs, up to 170mm in length (non modular PSUs); ATX PSUs, up to 160mm in length (modular PSUs)
Graphics cards up to 310 mm in length (note: graphics cards longer than 170 mm will not fit with PSUs that exceed 170 mm)
Colours available: Black
Case volume: 19.5 liters
Case dimensions (WxHxD): 250 x 203 x 367 mm
Case dimensions – with feet/screws/protrusions: 250 x 213 x 380 mm
Net weight: 4.4 kg
Package dimensions (WxHxD): 285 x 335 x 450 mm
Package weight: 5.3 kg

What’s interesting is that while the chassis does come fitted with an R3 fan in the back, you can still add more fans to the top, and even a decent size AIO cooler.

  • Rear: 1 – 120/140 mm fan (included is 1 Fractal Design Silent Series R3 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
  • Top: 2 – 120/140 mm fan (not included)
  • Water cooling compatibility (note: not compatible with AIO water cooler units that feature the pump on the radiator):
    • Top – 280, 240, 140 and 120 mm radiators. (Thickness limitation of 100 mm for both radiator + fan) (240 and 280 mm radiators require removal of the ODD bay) (280mm radiator can be maximum 325mm in length)
    • Rear – 120 mm radiator (not compatible with the rear 3.5″ HDD position)
  • Dust filters: Magnetic filters on side and top panel, PSU filter

First impressions of the chassis are positive, as it has a really good weight to it, feels pretty solid and as is always the case for Fractal Design products, it has a flawless black paint job and matching black plastic trim.

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There’s a huge strip of ventilation down the left side, perfect for airflow to your graphics card, and there’s a little more ventilation on the right side, which is where your PSU will exhaust, as the PSU is mounted towards the front of the chassis.DSC_5878

The front panel is fairly straight forward, with the 5.25″ drive bay at the top. Not a lot of people use the 5.25″ drive these days, but it’s still nice to have one, especially on a chassis that’s likely to end up under your TV. There’s some ventilation towards the front, with a vertical strip on the left and right edges, which are angled to break up what would otherwise be a bland and boxey design.

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The front I/O has all the basics, with two USB ports for you flash pens, controllers or Wi-Fi dongle, as well as easily accessed audio jacks for your headset.

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Around the back, you’ll see there are four thumb screws holding the single piece left, top and right side panel component in place. The power cable pass-through is in the bottom left, which leads through to the PSU mount at the front edge of the chassis. There’s a high-quality 140mm fan pre-installed, which is certainly a welcome addition, but there are optional 120mm mounts there if you need them. Finally, we have a pair of expansion slots which come fitted with reusable ventilated metal covers.

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On the base, a slide out dust filter for the PSU, as well as four durable feel with anti-vibration/slip rubber washers on the bottom.

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Interior


The side panels are easily removed, giving you lots of big open sections to get all your hardware easily installed, which is important on such a small chassis. There’s certainly room for a large GPU here, just be sure you don’t pick a PSU that’s too long, or it could limit your options.

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There’s a smaller opening on this side, leaving enough room to connect a few cables to the motherboard, and a large cut out on the upper section for passing through hard drive cables.

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The PSU mounts here, and there’s a bit of clearance from the side panel to connect the pass-through cable.

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The hard drive mounts are located on the side, with anti-vibration rubber mounts for the 3.5″ drives and a simple drop-in and two screws mount for the 2.5″ drives; there’s also a few holes in the frame to allow your screwdriver to easily pass through.

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The top of the chassis has a cooling bracket that can support 2 x 120/140mm fans, as well as radiators up to 280mm. The screw holes are elongated to better ensure compatibility with your hardware too, which should ease the installation process.

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If it’s easier for you, you can actually remove this bracket completely, which can help even further with the installation process.

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The outer shell is a fairly heavy single piece of metal, with plenty of airflow. There are two dust filters in place here, each mounted on the interior with magnets for easy maintenance.

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Complete System


Installing our components into the Core 500 was a fairly straight forward task. Of course, it’s always going to be tricky working in a compact space like this, but we didn’t run into any major issues, despite the fact that we crammed in the fairly large Sapphire R9 270X Tri-X Toxic edition.

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As I said before about picking a PSU of the right size, our Seasonic unit has modular connectors that put a little pressure on the back of the GPU, it’s not a problem, but another 2mm and we would have had to switch to a more reasonable power supply; this isn’t Fractal Design’s fault of course.

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Cable routing isn’t fantastic on this chassis, but there are enough dark corners to cram excess cables into, keeping them free from any major airflow points and fans.

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There’s a lot of space at the top for extra cooling too. I don’t think we’ll need it for this build, but it’s certainly the perfect place for a robust AIO CPU cooler.

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The 2.5″ drive mounts work well enough, and line up nicely with that cable routing cut out in the middle.

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Lots of clearance for the CPU cooler, as well as a good amount of space around the top of the motherboard for CPU power cables and more.

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As you can see, the extra width of the chassis gives us plenty of room for our GPU down one side and the storage drives on the other, with plenty left over for a 5.25″ device.

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Since we didn’t install a 5.25″ device in this system, the extra space does come in very handy for storing excess cables, although your choice of components and PSU will vary, so how much space you have here may differ.

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All panels back in place and the Core 500 still looks as neat and tidy as it did when we took it out of the box.

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If you look closely, you can just about make out our graphics card behind the side panel, where it’s getting plenty of airflow from that filtered vent.

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Final Thoughts


Pricing

The Fractal Design Core 500 is available from most major retailers for around £50. We were able to find it from Overclockers UK for £49.99, While not the cheapest mini-ITX, nor the most expensive, it’s certainly competitive given the range of features and the fact it’s from a trusted brand name.

Overview

I really like what Fractal Design have done with their latest chassis. Will I reserve the fact that it’s not their best ever chassis, at just £50 it was never really designed to be. The heavy thick metal construction we often see on Fractal Design products is gone, but this is certainly not a poorly made product by any measure. The main panels are still quite thick and heavy, and while the front panel is plastic, it is very nicely finished and in keeping with the rest of their range. At this price, I am very happy to see one of the award-winning R3 140mm fans installed, as they retail at close to £10 each, 1/5th the value of this chassis.

Airflow is plentiful here, with ventilation on the side panel for the graphics card, as well as more on the top for any additional fans or radiators; both of which have magnetic and washable dust filters. There’s separate airflow for the PSU, with a filtered intake on the bottom of the chassis and the exhaust vent on the right side panel, as well as that lovely 140mm fan in the back. Cramming high-end hardware into a tight box can quickly leave your components overheating, but that’s really not going to be a problem here.

The internal layout can be a little tricky to work with, as there’s not always the most intuitive routes for cable management. However, there are no windows on this chassis, so as long as you cable tie excess wires out of the way of fans and vents, you won’t have any issues there at all. Of course, the more drives you add in, it’ll get a little trickier, but you’ll just need to take your time and a little extra care.

For a compact gaming system, the Core 500 certainly ticks all the right boxes. If you’re short on space, need something that’ll fit under or around your home entertainment setup, or even just a rig that you can pop in the boot of your car and take to LAN gaming events, you’ll find what you need here, and at a very reasonable price.

Pros

  • Robust build quality
  • Room for long graphics card
  • Excellent ventilation
  • Dust filters
  • High-quality 140mm fan pre-installed
  • Water cooling support
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Tricky cable routing/management

Neutral

  • The design is a little bland, but on the plus side, shouldn’t prove distracting if used as HTPC

“The Fractal Design Core 500 is a great option for those looking for a well made, competitively priced and capable mini-ITX chassis. Perfect for HTPC, LAN gaming system, or just a compact system for your home/office.”

Fractal Design Core 500 Mini-ITX Chassis Review

Fractal Design Core 500 Mini-ITX Chassis Review

Thank you Fractal Design for providing us with this sample.

Article Index

  1. Introduction
  2. Interior
  3. Complete System
  4. Final Thoughts
  5. View All

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