With mass storage being available at reasonable prices, the desire to build home servers, NAS boxes and so forth has never been stronger. Some might choose the pre-built NAS route, but for those pro-DIY, Fractal Design has its Array R2. Interested in a mini-ITX chassis that can support up to 6 hard drives and 1 SSD? Read on.
It’s been an entire year since we published our review of the Fractal Design R3. While the R3 has enjoyed almost universal praise from the review community, it’s not the only offering from Fractal Design. In the time since that review, another CES has come and gone and Techgage has posted over 100 additional reviews and editorials.
One project that I have personally been working on for much of that time has been my FreeNAS build. Since we last posted about the open source, do-it-yourself NAS, I have shelved the platform and patiently waited for 8.2 to release (now released and downloadable). While I waited, I began to work with another offering from Fractal Design, the Array R2, as a home for Windows Home Server 2011.
Designed and marketed as a home NAS or server chassis, the Array R2 was built to house mini-ITX motherboards. Built entirely out of aluminum and rivaling Lian Li for quality and style, the Array R2 can house an astounding 7 hard drives (6x 3.5″ drives and 1x 2.5″ HDD or SSD) and ships with a Fractal Design-branded 300W SFX power supply. With the option to house that much storage, I’m interested in seeing how well the chassis allows work within the case.
The Array R2 is an entirely aluminum, all black enclosure with no distinguishing feature aside from a silver power button centered on the lower front of its face. Measuring 7.8″ x 9.8″ x 13.7″, the Array R2 is certainly of a diminutive stature. Designed without room for an optical drive, Fractal Design has built what it hopes is the perfect home server / NAS-specific chassis.
The sides of the R2 are riveted in place and cannot be removed. This is because the sides and back of the chassis are made of one continuous piece of aluminum. This keeps the overall appearance of the case clean but I immediately questioned whether or not this would impact the ease of building once it comes time to install the hardware. At the front of the chassis, running the entire height of it, are oblong ventilation holes. They are positioned to allow air intake for the huge 140m fan sitting between the front of the case and the hard drives. Stationed at the bottom of both sides are twelve rows of ventilation holes. These run almost the entire depth of the mini-ITX motherboard area inside the case and should supply an adequate amount of airflow once the machine is powered on.
Following its minimalistic design, the back of the Array R2 has an opening for the motherboard I/O shield, ventilation holes above it and an area to mount the included SFX PSU. Running vertically along the right side of the back are a pair of expansion slots that allow a double-height GPU to be installed if your build requires it.
The top of the Array R2 is comprised of one single sheet of aluminum, held in place by six small screws. This is the only way into the chassis and given the intended purpose behind the Array’s design, this should be a case rarely opened.
Opening the R2 up, the most notable feature about the case is the large aluminum drive housing. Allowing for the installation of an impressive six hard drives, the cage even allows the installation of an SSD or notebook hard drive on its underbelly. With rubber grommets to cut down on vibration, the hard drive cage itself sits on rubber strips. These strips are slightly sticky so you need to take care when pulling the hard drive cage out of the case.
As mentioned before, a 140mm fan that sits between the front of the case handles cooling and the hard drives. Pulling cooler air in from the side vents and forcing it across the installed drives, it is rated at 9dBA, spins at 600 RPMs and is capable of pushing 39 CFMs.
With the cage removed, we see more than enough room to get the mini-ITX motherboard into place. There won’t be much in the way of cable management so the only installation step I can offer is to install the CPU heat sink onto the motherboard before placing it in the Array R2. The interior of the Array R2 does provide ample space to install the power, reset and activity LED headers that run from the front of the case.
Fractal Design brands the power supply with its logo but I am unsure if it manufactures the unit itself. I am inclined to think it’s a rebadge, but I can’t state it with certainty. The PSU is custom however. With shortened cables, the cable management should take little effort. Keeping the unit cool is an 80mm fan that exhausts warm air from the inside of the chassis.
Onto the installation.