Review: Black and white (no red) all over, but Fractal Design's Core 3000 suffers by comparison to cheaper designs.
There’s a lot of competition throughout the case market, but arguably it’s most fierce at the lower to mid-range of end of the market. It seems that the cheaper you want your case to be, the harder it is to differentiate your product, which makes sense when you think about it. The serious, most premium features are expensive, so therefore better suited to more expensive cases; at the lower end we commonly see case-makers resorting to odd designs and decidedly gimmicky features to steal a march on their competitors.
Fractal Design doesn’t work like that.
The Core 3000 case is only a touch over $100, and may well be at that mark or lower by the time you’re reading this. And though it is very much on the small size, it’s still a solid choice for a mid-range ATX system if you’re not looking to pack it out with a video card the size of a small country.
Externally it’s pretty plain. You’ve got a hexagonal mesh on the front fascia, similar mesh covering two fan mounts on the upper panel, and more mesh covering a 120/140mm mount on the side. The IO ports are on top edge, and, again, are pretty plain – four USB2 ports and standard audio, with the addition of a fan controller making things a little more interesting. The rear panel shows a little more flair, with white expansion brackets and the white blades of the rear exhaust fan breaking up the forbidding black.
The white highlight theme continues inside the case as well. While the bulk of the interior is solid black, the HDD caddies are white. It’s a bold look. Aesthetics aside, the case is a good example of making a cheaper (not cheap) case without cutting corners. There’s a generous cutout in the mobo tray, and some room behind the tray for cable management. It’s not overly generous, and the lack of multiple cutouts for those cables is bit of an oversight, but it’s something. Every edge is well finished, too, meaning that cut fingers should be easily avoided (unless you’ve got paper-thin skin, in which case... we got nothin’).
Being on the smaller size of a tower design, you’re not going to fit a giant video card in here at stock, as we’ve alluded, but if you really must, the Core 3000 can handle most. The HDD caddies are not only full metal models, which we approve of (this certainly beats the plastic caddies that a lot of even higher end cases rely on), but the upper HDD cage is removable. With that out of the way, you’ve got a mess of room to up-gun the graphics of whatever system you build into this case. But you’ll probably want to be very careful about the cooling, as the clearance on the CPU is only 160mm. You have been warned. Similarly, the PSU mount is a little tight if you want to add a fan to the bottom mount.
Regardless, this is a great blank slate of a case, and for the price it delivers pretty much everything you could want for a basic build. You can get the Shinobi for less from Bitfenix, but if you want just a touch more black and white class, this might be for you.