Introducing the Fractal Design Core 1000

Extreme budget enclosures are interesting creatures. While the best balancing acts usually show up around the $100 price point, and going north of $150 will generally get you the best of everything, hanging out at $60 or lower means having to make a lot of sacrifices and lose a lot of niceties. For some users that's not a big deal; they just want a box to put their computer in.

Fractal Design has been making a lot of waves with their lineup of minimalistic but effective enclosures, but most of those kits have been $80 or more. Today we have their Core 1000, a fascinating-looking case that retails for just $39.99. Does it bring the same magic to this end of the market that Fractal Design has brought with their other efforts, or has too much been left on the cutting room floor?

The Core 1000 has been out for a little while, but I first had a chance to lay eyes and hands on it back at CES 2012 and I definitely came away feeling curious about it. Top-mounted power supplies may have gone out of fashion for the most part, but designs like this one that feature a single substantial intake fan in the front and blow straight through the components and out the back (such as SilverStone's Temjin TJ08-E) are capable of producing a tremendous amount of thermal and acoustic efficiency.

There's also the fact that the Core 1000 is, frankly, way smaller than it loooks in photos. This is a Micro-ATX enclosure to be sure, and you're going to see in a moment just how "micro" that really is. We'll begin as usual with the specifications overview.

Fractal Design Core 1000 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Micro ATX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25” (includes adaptor plate and cage for 3.5"-to-5.25")
Internal 2x 3.5"/2.5" OR 3x 2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake
Rear 1x 92mm fan mount
Top -
Side 1x 120mm fan mount
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 4
I/O Port 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 150 mm
PSU 180 mm
GPU 8.5" / 210mm
Weight 9 lbs.
4.1 kg
Dimensions 6.9" x 14" x 16.5"
175mm x 355mm x 420mm
Special Features Silicone grommets for drive cage
Adaptor plate and cage for mounting a 3.5" drive in a 5.25" bay
Price $39

When you're dealing with such a low price point, a lot of the trimmings have to go by the wayside. For the Core 1000, that primarily means sacrificing USB 3.0 connectivity. Where Fractal Design went a different route with the Core 1000 than most other budget enclosures was by including removable expansion slot brackets instead of just having them twist and snap out of the case, making allowances for mounting 3.5" kit in a 5.25" bay, and including silicone grommets to dampen mechanical drive noise. There were sacrifices made in the process, though, and I'm not entirely sure they were worth it.

In and Around the Fractal Design Core 1000
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  • sicofante - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    Sharkoon makes two models almost identical to the one reviewed here, the MS120 and MS140. The differences are: front ports are actually at the front, and the HDD tray is not removable. Otherwise, the manufacturer is obviously the same. The MS120 has two 120mm fans at the front. The MS140 has a single 140mm fan.

    I found them while searching for an alternative to the Fractal Design model because of the side ports. The price is virtually the same too.
  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    Haha "almost identical" - except the ports, the hard drive tray, and the fans?

    Sorry, not really picking on you but that made me laugh.

    There seems to be this thing these days about using words or phrases like "identical" and "exactly like" when those adjectives don't apply at all. It either makes me laugh, or if it's someone with a computer problem I'm trying to help, it makes me roll my eyes; It seems to me that when someone says something like "My friend Joe Bob has a computer exactly like mine, and it doesn't do that", I find out that Joe Bob's computer is only alike, most often, in that they are both computers.

  • sicofante - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    Have you even checked the links?

    The boxes are identical indeed where it matters: the architecture of the chassis. It's the finishing that changes, exactly on the places where it's needed by many (front ports or fan choice, and the tray being removal or not). So "almost identical" is exactly the right expression here.
  • valinor89 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    Well, if it has decent thermal and acoustic qualities and everything I need fits inside I don't need much more. I have allways used crappy boxes and I put them on the desk besyde me.
    I just use headphones when playing or up the volume when I'm alone.
    I prefer to spend my money on a better GPU than on a box which I open once in a wile to clean. I usually avoid changing the mobo or CPU as far as I can so ease of use is not a factor for me.
    If I had to change those every week I would tell you diferent but...
    The only problem I see is the lack of USB 3 but I can allways use the rear ports if I need to.
  • Rick83 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    You might want to be able to fit a mATX mainboard though ;)

    This, depending on the specific board, is apparently very tricky, due to the missing few millimeters of overall length.
    So, there's probably other boxes that may be slightly better, within this same price bracket.
  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    I tend to agree that if you want to save money on your build, the case is the best place to do that, because it least effects the quality when your system is up and running. The potential problems are, of course, cooling and noise, especially cooling, as a system that's too noisy for you will still run, but poor ventilation can stop you dead.

    That being said, a case lasts a long time, and can easily be used for several builds. I have an Antec that's around 10 years old that I still use, and I don't see why I couldn't use it, aesthetics aside, for another 20 - except it's too small for my main computer build. Back then, overclocking-intentional CPU coolers weren't half the size of a shoebox, and I wasn't thinking about a multiple graphics card setup, or even having more than 2 hard drives (one was enough for me at the time). The cooling design is weak, and I've heavily modified it for the build that it holds now..

    So, if I buy a case today, I want a case that will be able to handle all I can foresee doing with it, which really means a 10-slot case. I want it to be able to fit whatever PSU and cooling solution I put in it. I may actually build in that case for the rest of my computer building life. Viewed with all those points in mind, how expensive is a $200-300 case, when it lasts me at least a decade?

    Viewed that way, such an investment could be seen as the cheapest way to go, in that it gives me more proverbial bang for my buck, and it will be very unlikely that I need to replace it for hardware build reasons. Regardless, viewed as $30 a year, a case price of $300 isn't all that much, even if your income and budget make a $300 price tag a big deal for you..

  • PubFiction - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    I think most people skimp on the case and PSU, Neither has much effect on performance. The problem I see with this is that, the case is the one item you can carry through multiple builds without any problems. It also has a decent resale value, a good case is almost always good. So I prefer to buy a good case I like and then skip on one of the parts that will be replaced in a year or so anyway like the GPU.
  • Taft12 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    My cousin has this case, and I have a very different opinion than Dustin. It's absolutely perfect for any low-mid range system. Many of the complaints are about things nobody should be doing with a $40 mATX case:
    -aftermarket tower-style 120mm CPU cooler
    -higher-end video card with 2 PCIE power connectors
    -more than 2 hard drives

    For anything up to and including a Llano or i3 system with or without a no-power-connector video card, I couldn't name a better case since it fits in the budget perfectly. Even a modular PSU is not budget-appropriate, but I expect readers of this site would know to use a zip tie to bundle up all those unused connectors and stuff it into the space between the top of the case and the optical drive.

    If we move up a notch to an i5 or FX CPU plus a HD6850 or better video card, a $40 case is no longer in line with the budget, and we'll move up to something with the frills Dustin has been spoiled by that come with cases 2-5x more expensive.

    Looks great of course, much better than anything you could find at Newegg at a <$50 price point.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    I'd be willing to concede on some of those points, but I've known too many people that keep adding more hard drives, and a thermal design like this one benefits strongly from a tower style heatsink.
  • Meaker10 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    At the same time, so long as you are not in the business of replacing the cooler often, what difference does it make?

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