With the Pop series, Fractal Design aims at the entry-level segment and diversifies the product range very widely with three variants and three versions. The choice is not only between Silent and Air, but also between hot and cold.
Elevated entrance with numerous spurs
The newly introduced Pop series coexists with the Core and Focus 2 product lines, which are also in the entry-level segment. With eleven offshoots and some bright color choices, Fractal Design serves up more opulence in the Pop series.
The manufacturer divides the portfolio into a mini, a standard and an XL variant in terms of case size. Silent, Air and Air RGB outlets are available in every size category, each with and without glass side element.
The differences between Pop Air and Pop Silent
With so many offshoots, the question of the differences also arises – especially in terms of temperature. In particular, to find out the latter, this case test is dedicated to the outlets Pop Air (Solid) and Pop Silent (Solid). Although both models are based on the same body, they differ significantly in terms of ventilation. The other respective differences must be applied analogously to the other house extensions.
The external differences between the two cases are immediately obvious. While the Silent variant relies on a closed front, the Air spreader comes with a large perforated grid in a honeycomb pattern, which does without a dust filter for a better supply of fresh air. The Pop Air also has an air intake in the lid, whereas fresh air is only supplied to the Silent model via a narrow strip on the right side of the case. On the other hand, Pop Silent comes with sound insulation in the front element, in the lid and on the two side parts.
The case in detail
The treatment quality is impeccable across the board, so the budget orientation of the series does not lead to errors here. There are no sharp edges or noticeable gaps on any of the test subjects. However, due to cost, the materials used are limited to fairly thin steel sheets and plastic. Nevertheless, the cases Pop Air and Pop Silent have an extremely good torsional stiffness. The body relies on many rivet points for this, all of which are well made. The side panels are double-shoeed, which increases rigidity. This is further enhanced by the insulating mats with the silent spur.
The border of the mesh grid on the front element is also simple but effectively implemented. If there were occasional sharp edges with other cases from other manufacturers, Fractal Design encloses the grid tabs in plastic cutouts so they don’t stick out. Also on or behind the front cover is the Pop series’ only point of criticism regarding the processing quality: The holding plates for the front fans are extremely unstable. When the front fans are mounted, the sheet metal bends noticeably. More stability would be desirable here.
The very straightforward design has a special function on the outside that has only rarely been seen for a long time. We are talking about two external 5.25″ bays to accommodate drives. The bays are hidden under the front panel behind a plastic cover that is held in place magnetically.
When using the drive bays, however, you must remember that the hard drive tray behind must be removed. The two slides can be easily removed from their holders using a knurled screw. The slides each hold a 3.5″ and 2.5″ drive. Coupling rings are included in the scope of delivery. In addition to the mounting location in the lower power supply chamber, there is also the option of attaching a sled to the motherboard holder. If the 5.25″ bays were omitted, it would be possible to install a total of three hard drive trays.
Save on accessories
However, only two of these sleds are included in the scope of delivery. A third had to be bought as an accessory at a price of around 5 euros. The same goes for another SSD mount. In addition to the one that is attached to the back panel of the motherboard and can accommodate two 2.5″ hard drives, another bracket can be installed in the front hardware compartment.
The savings course is crowned with the I/O panel. As with other cases from the manufacturer, a USB-C port (USB 3.2 Gen 2) is noted here, but there is only a plastic cover in the corresponding place. If you want to use the quick interface on the front of the lid, you pay extra. The price of around 13 euros is not the only thing that annoys, because users are already openly complaining about the poor accessibility of the cable. If the saved drive mounts are still halfway understandable, the USB port should be considered the current standard despite the desired orientation in the entry-level segment – especially since the outlets are almost all around 100 euros.
Inside, the Pop series does not come with any special features and even manages without some essential features. First of all, there are the cable outlets, which are bare and have no protective rubber caps. Vertical mounting of expansion slots is also not offered. The rear chamber also offers little worth mentioning, aside from two Velcro straps for cable management and rubber dampers in the power supply area.
Installation and everyday experiences
Hardware installation is mostly hassle-free with the Fractal Design Pop Air. Since the cover cannot be removed, the motherboard’s power supply should be connected before installing the motherboard. The same applies to the upper fans, where attention must also be paid to the power cables. In the test, only the front 140 mm fan could be fitted due to lack of space, while the 120 mm models should easily find space in both positions.
Another problem turned out to be the SSD bracket, which did not want to snap back into place after inserting the hard drives. The bracket seemed crooked, so the retaining screw kept engaging in the cavity. However, this phenomenon did not occur with Pop Silent, which is also available. The optional SSD mounts could also be installed without issue, so it can be assumed that this is an isolated case.
19 mm is available directly behind the motherboard for laying the cables. In the front area it is almost 32 mm. Overall, the space is adequate, but quickly used up if a lot of PCIe strings and other power cables are used.
In addition to the additional option of fitting two extra fans in the Pop Air’s cover, the ventilation options in the Pop Air and Pop Silent are also different in the front. Common to both, however, is the factory-mounted fan (Aspect 12) in 120 mm format, for which Fractal Design is also aware of the budget. The fans only use a 3-pin connection and offer no damping on the frame. Even the Pop Air RGB fans, which (as the name suggests) come with RGB fans, only offer control via a 3-pin connector.
With Pop Air, the front fans can be attached either in front of or behind the mounting plate. This is not possible with the silent branch, otherwise it would result in the fans blocking the side air supply. It is therefore important to ensure that the fans on the Pop Silent are always mounted in the direction of the hardware chamber. As a result, the maximum length of the graphics card on the Silent shrinks to 380 mm, while up to 405 mm is possible on the Air. In addition, Pop Air allows for push-pull radiator operation in the front.