Page 2 - Physical Look - Outside
When it comes to Swedish design, the first thing I think of is Ikea. Their furniture is functional and simplistic. And this has translated similarly when we look at the Fractal Design Core 3300. Missing are the flashing lights and the shiny bling, but instead we have smooth lines and clean cuts. Of course, the aesthetic look is judged based on preference, but I have always tended to a more conservative design. Unlike the Fractal Design Define R4, this case does not look nearly as much like a refrigerator, but it still has an overall clean look. Of course, the Core 3300 is aimed at a wallet-friendly crowd, and thus there are no swinging doors, but what is here are the essentials. The front panel is completely plastic, and has a sort of brushed aluminum look to make it look more metallic than it actually is. The sides of the front are cut in to furthermore reduce the icebox appearance, and instead these two sidings are lined like with a speaker-like grille, with small holes to allow for ventilation. The Fractal Design logo can also be found at the very bottom in a very unnoticeable gray. On first impression, I really like the cleanliness of the Core 3300.
When I first pulled the retail box out of the shipping box, I was surprised at how wide the Fractal Design Core 3300 was. From the manufacturer's website, the Core 3300 is described as a "Wide-body ATX Mid Tower", and after holding the product, I can see why they would say this. In fact, this is proportionally one of the widest cases I have seen. Measuring in at 233mm wide, 451mm tall, and 517mm long, this is a full 10 mm wider than the last case I reviewed, the SilverStone Precision PS10. Even though that may not sound like a lot, it is definitely noticeable when putting the two cases side by side. In terms of weight, the Fractal Design Core 3300 tips the scale at 7.8kg. In comparison, the Define R4 is almost five kilograms heavier.
Near the back on the top panel of the case, we can see two large honeycomb grille openings to allow for more cooling capabilities, including two 120 or 140 mm fans, or a single 240 or 280 mm radiator. Missing in action are any signs of a removable vent cover, leaving large holes to allow dust to travel through. This can be annoying if you place the tower on the floor, as dust will easily go into the case. Moving on, there is a side vent on the left panel. This can accommodate a 120 or 140mm fan. While you might be wondering where the window on the case is, it unfortunately does not have one. If you do want to spend a few more dollars, you can buy this exact case with a window, and that is known as the Fractal Design Core 3500 - Window. However if you are already cash strapped, but want to see into the case, I can assure you that this side vent actually has holes big enough so you can see right inside. Woohoo for unintended windows!
At the very top of the case are the standard input/output ports, as well as the power button and reset button. Going left to right, we have the power button, reset button, LED for hard drive activity, headphone and microphone 3.5mm audio inputs, and two USB 3.0 ports. It is almost normal nowadays to see manufacturers put in USB 3.0 ports, even on budget cases, as this is practically a default. If you are wondering where the power LED is, the logo of the power button is actually transparent, and lights up when you turn the case on. The buttons on the top are quite small, and there is not a huge division between the power and the reset buttons. The buttons are also quite easy to press and activate, and so for these reasons, make sure you are pressing the right one. Port placement is somewhat subjective, as it depends on where you place your computer tower. If you put it on the floor like I do, then you probably would prefer the ports being at the top, as they are easily accessible. You can then rest your larger USB devices, like an external hard drive, on top of the case rather than having it dangle or on the floor. However, if you place the case on your desk, then front-facing ports will be more desirable. The other good thing about having the ports at the top though is it means there are no connected wires between the front panel and the rest of the case, as we will see soon enough.
Taking off the front panel can be achieved by starting at the bottom and pulling the panel out. Unlike the SilverStone Precision PS10 that had front panel buttons, the Core 3300's front panel can be removed without worry of disconnecting any wires. At the very top we can see the two 5.25" drive bay openings, which is quite standard. While some users may want to have more than two, I think this number is more than sufficient to meet most people's needs. I personally only have one drive, and I have never utilized more than one 5.25" device at a time. Underneath is a black and white 140mm Silent Series R2 fan. In fact, Fractal Design has thrown in two of these; one at the front and one at the back, to provide cooling. This front area can also house a 240mm or 280mm radiator, and is handy if you are planning to have water cooling. It is a bit surprising Fractal Design would think of water cooling, especially with a budget case like the Core 3300, but it is a good addition. The front panel is made entirely out of plastic, and the front grilles are filtered with foam to reduce the amount of dust going through into the case.
Moving to the back, and we can see the aforementioned second Silent Series R2 fan through the grille. The grilles on the entire case are a honeycomb-like design, allowing for maximal airflow, while being sturdy and rugged enough. Beside the fan is the opening for the motherboard I/O shield. Underneath this area is the white expansion port coverings, which provide contrast to the color scheme of the case. To remove these metal brackets, you can undo the thumbscrews for a tool-free installation. This is much preferred in comparison to having to get your screwdriver out, and even better than the permanent snap-off covers found in low-end cases. Underneath the white brackets is the power supply opening. On the sides you can see the two overhanging handles to aid in removing the side panels.
Flipping the Fractal Design Core 3300 on its side, and we can see the bottom of the case. Normally, we would love to see four rubberized feet to hold the tower above the ground. Rubber is a good absorber for vibrations, and can reduce the noise produced from the case. Unfortunately, these feet are just plastic, and they are rather stubby, too. In between the back two feet is another vent, which is the only vent covered by a removable dust filter. This tray easily slides in and out for quick cleaning, and actually stays in its place. Unlike the SilverStone Precision PS10, I did not have any troubles with inserting the dust filter. The filter is also quite a bit larger, as it spans over two vent areas, but it is still sturdy enough to keep its shape. Now it is time to pop open the side panels, and see what we have on the inside.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion