Right up front: the R2 Black Pearl is not a case that's going to be a great LAN gamer's choice. It's heavy, it's plain... and it's also pretty awesome.
The exterior is enough to make you think that Fractal Design's been stealing blueprints off Antec - it's practically a Sonata knock-off, but don't for one minute let yourself believe that that means it's a cheap imitation. If anything, the R2 Black Pearl is a proud descendant of the Sonata, and an even greater proponent of quiet computing.
From the exterior, a front hinged fascia hides the Black Pearl's drive bays and front intake fan. It's a solid panel, with foam sound dampening material and feels good and heavy. There's only one front fan, but there's a mount for another, and both feature mesh covers and further hinged doors. Above front panel are the IO ports, and a very sound feeling power button. There's no easy reset button; it can be argued that that's far less important these days, but we still find them very handy.
From the exterior you'll also notice there's something blocking the case's side and upper fan mounts, and white expansion slot blanking plates at the rear of the case. Taking the side panel off reveals the secrets of both: one, there's a bitumen-based sound-dampening material pasted on both side-panel and upper panel, and the interior is stylishly coloured in black and white.
Yes, bitumen. Not quite the hot sticky stuff that coats road surfaces, but something related to it. This is where the case's weight comes from, but it's also a superb sound dampener. We've seen this case in a build before, and it really is an awesome choice for anyone who wants a quiet solution. The bitumen also adds a lot of structural strength, and best thing is that the panels over the fan intakes can be removed in case you do want to add more cooling. It seems a bit beside the point to us, but it's nice to have the option.
The interior itself is seriously just about the most stylish thing we've seen in a PC case. With white blanking plates, white fans and white HDD cages, all on a black interior, it's... well, pimpin'. It's also packed with clever touches. There are plastic and rubber grommeted cable runs all over the mobo plate, sound dampening all over the place (especially on the PSU mount), more rubber grommets on the HDD cages, plastic lining on the CPU cutout on the mobo-plate... it's pretty tricked out. On top of that, the case is very sturdy, with almost no flex in the chassis.
As it stands, this may not be the ideal case for some serious overclocking, but for quiet - and stylish - computing there are few cases better.