Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fractal Design Core 2500 Review

Finding an affordable computer case to house all the nice components you just bought is not always easy, if you're planning on expanding your machine later down the line, the amount of options and solutions available on these cases is not always optimal. Sometimes saving a couple of bucks today will cost you big when you want to upgrade and/or expand. 
Planning and searching for the correct choice amongst the sea of possibilities on the market is essential. 
With the aforementioned ideas in mind, today we will be reviewing the Core 2500, a compact and very affordable ATX mid-tower from Fractal Design. This company from Sweden is well known for their high-end silent cases with extremely elegant designs, but how well do their entry-level cases stack up against the fierce competition? Let's find out.

In terms of packaging the Core 2500 comes in a plain but sturdy cardboard box that will perform its main function of protecting the actual computer case without many problems. While the interior "defenses" are composed mainly of hard foam, that shouldn't be a problem, the actual case is not that heavy (around 7.0 kgs).
Bundled with the Core 2500 you will find a decent amount of extras, besides the nicely detailed manual you will also encounter two 120mm fans from Fractal Design, all the screws and standoffs that you might need are also included along with a couple of cable ties to keep the interior of your case neat and tidy. The final little extra is actually built-in the back of the case and that's a fan controller with 3 speed settings, low, medium and high (it supports up to 3x3-pin fans). It would've been nice to see the fan controller in a more accessible spot, still it's always a nice feature to have available.

Moving on to the actual case it's easy to notice, even at first glance, the sheer amount of cooling options and solutions made available by Fractal Design. Particularly for an entry-level case priced at around 65$ (at the time of this review), the Core 2500 has a considerable number of options for cooling your machine. There are a total of 7 positions for you to place your fans, 3 of this positions are filtered (4 if you count the PSU), while the other 4 are not. Regarding CPU coolers you can fit in towers up to 162mm in height which is a considerable size when compared to other ATX mid-towers on the market.
If you prefer to cool your system using some sort of liquid there are also a few options available, mainly at the front where you can fit a 240 or 280mm radiator, but that's not all, at the back you can replace the fan that Fractal included with a 120mm radiator if you so desire, finally at the top you can also squeeze a thin 240mm radiator (if its thickness surpasses the 35mm mark then it might interfere with some components from your motherboard).

The aforementioned cooling options are great for keeping your computer running at decent temperatures, unfortunately the numerous spots for the fans don't really match the sleek visual design from the rest of the case, they actually stand out and make it feel a bit inconsistent.
Still we got to give credit where credit is due and the front of the Core 2500 looks amazing, the minimalist feel blends in perfectly with the brushed aluminum-look from the front panel (it's plastic though), the vents for intaking air present on each side of the front panel also look really nice and unlike the ones present on the top and side panels, these ones are very subtle.
Power and reset buttons are located at the top of the case along with power and HDD activity LEDs, 2 USB 3.0 ports and your typical microphone and headphone connections.

Opening the case is a tool-free process and it reveals a very standard case where everything seems to be in the right place, easy to access HDD trays, lots of holes for routing your cables and a very large cutout for an easier installation/removal of your CPU cooler. This sort of standard configuration is great especially for users building their first machine, I imagine this is one of the main target audiences for this case.
But lets get down to the numbers, there are 7 expansion slots in the back, these slots have removable covers that can be easily reinstalled at a later date, this is great to see in such an affordable case. In terms of storage options you have 4 very sturdy trays compatible with both 3.5'' and 2.5'' drives, these trays are split between 2 cages that can be removed if you wish to improve air-flow or need the space for something else, note that for long graphics cards (up to 380mm) no cage removal is necessary. Behind the PSU area there's another spot for installing an extra 2.5'' drive, a great option if you wish to remove both cages from the front and improve the air-flow inside your case.

In terms of construction quality and much like the visual design I previously mentioned, the level of quality fluctuates a bit, most of the Core 2500 is very well built with little to no flex in most areas, unfortunately the side and top panels are once again the weakest link. Don't get me wrong as they're not terrible or anything like that, it's just that when compared to the rest of the case they certainly feel a bit out of place.

Final Thoughts
Fractal Design has stayed true to their Core series, delivering more bang for your buck and above all, tons of building options at a low-low price.
If you're a first-time builder or someone on a tight budget I would certainly recommend the 2500, it's relatively compact, it looks good and it is decently built. Within this price range it is one of the best options currently on the market.

The Good
+Lots of options
+Decent construction
+Lots of space inside
+Elegant front panel

The Bad
-Top/Side panels vents don't match front panel
-Top/Side panels construction lower than the rest of the case
-Case is a bit limited for the most "serious" builders
-Fan controller could be located in a better position

Thanks to Fractal Design for providing the review sample