Fractal Design Pop Air RGB Review

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB Review

Fractal Design’s new Pop series is a complete range of lively looks PC case at moderate prices. Comes in black or white base versions and with addressable RGB (ARGB) or non-RGB fans, the case is also available with an optional “pop” of orange, cyan, magenta or green highlights on the black version. Our tester, $ 89.99 Pop Air RGB, is an old-fashioned large tower with a nice color in the back pocket, even if it was just an average performance in our thermal and acoustic tests. Still, if you like the look, it’s a solid new post in the big tower that will take a really big motherboard for a HEDT or workstation building. And has a retro surprise behind part of the front panel: the option for 5.25-inch compartments!


The Design: A Throwback to Old-School Bays?

We got the “orange core” version with ARGB fans, two of which shine through an unfiltered 3D mesh face panel. Fractal Design says the net is the filter, which will make it easier for users to see when their filters need to be cleaned. Seen from this angle is also a drawbar on the removable part of the front panel and a side panel of painted sheet steel.

PCMag logo

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Pop Air’s combination of steel, glass and plastic panels weighs about 16.5 pounds. A quick look around the box shows that it is designed to satisfy the usual segment of the gaming PC case market. Seven doors and valves all over the back are standard prices, as are the 120 mm exhaust fan, the two-pattern power supply bracket and the pull-out dust filter for the power supply.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The Pop Air front panel supports standard 120 mm (RGB) or optional 140 mm fans and has space at the top and bottom to fit the end caps of a so-called “280 mm” radiator (technically up to 330 mm total length).

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The upper panel has a mesh panel with magnetic tape on its periphery that covers a double fan bracket which, just like the front panel, supports two fans with the sizes 120 mm or 140 mm. Because the space is very narrow around the top panel’s 140 mm fan brackets, Fractal Design recommends that you do not use anything larger than a double-120 mm (aka 240 mm) radiator here.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (Case Top)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

A closer look at the front of the top panel shows that the Type-C connector hole is filled with an empty lid; this standard pricing model has only type A ports. It also has separate microphone and headphone jacks, a power button and a small mode button for its built-in ARGB control.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Molly Flores)

In a move that looks like a nod to the reintroduction of compartment panel units, Pop Air RGB hides dual 5.25-inch external unit compartments behind a magnetically attached mini-panel, as shown below …

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (Face)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

While a look back at previous components reveals that manufacturers have placed everything from fan controls to backplanes with multiple units in places like these, Fractal Design is adding a screwdriver to one of its 5.25-inch compartments. You can keep it or replace it with a device that you like more.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

Note for DVD drive fans: To access the full depth of 5.25-inch compartments, a builder must remove the factory-fitted 3.5-inch / 2.5-inch drive compartments, which sit in a detachable cage approximately 248 mm from the current. supply bracket. Fractal Design still estimates that Pop Air RGB supports a power supply depth of only 170 mm, which seems conservative given our much more generous 240 mm.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Molly Flores)

A separate drive bay on the back of the system board supports an additional pair of 2.5-inch drives. Users are free to move this part to the top of the power tunnel if desired, and Fractal Design says it will make spare parts available for those who want to equip their cases with additional devices.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Each of the three RGB fans includes ARGB inputs and outputs, plus three-pin fan inputs and outputs. All outputs are designed only to enable serial connection of these devices, with the original connection leading to a motherboard head.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB fans

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

Builders who would rather use the bag’s RGB controls will find an ARGB header on the bottom of the switch panel …

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (aRGB)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

Cable access holes above and in front of the motherboard have curled edges, as does the cooling plate access hole behind the CPU area. An entry space in the front access hole allows for easier cable passage, but limits the depth of the motherboard to about 11 inches.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (open page)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (left interior)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

In addition to fan cables, the Pop Air RGB includes a SATA-like power input and header cables for a power button on the motherboard, HD Audio and first-generation USB 3. The SATA cable powers both the Pop Air RGB ARGB controllers and its power indicator light. (As for the USB 3 cable, most case manufacturers call these “USB 3.0” despite USB-IF’s “USB 3.2 Gen 1” nomenclature.)

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (cables)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

The Pop Air hardware kit includes a package of M3 drive screws, a package of # 6-32 motherboard screws, a package of eight shaft screws for mounting 3.5-inch units on rubber bushings, nine rubber bushings (eight plus a spare), four cable ties and four offset radiator mounts.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (kit)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

The reason why Fractal Design decided to include its “Extended” radiator mounts is that Pop Air RGB only has about 40 mm clearance between a 120 mm / 240 mm radiator and a motherboard. The extra mounts provide 12.5 mm extra motherboard spacing horizontally. They were actually absolutely necessary to clean our test building’s G.Skill TridentZ RGB modules, which you can see in our performed test building …

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (Installed Mobo)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB (finished construction)

(Photo: Thomas Söderström)

Since the Pop Air manual only mentions the front mounting option, the “extended radiator mounts” that facilitate top mounting were probably an afterthought. But all fans placed in a case’s top panel bracket will improve the voltage regulator’s temperatures, and top-mounted radiator placement is a great way to encourage builders to install fans there.


Tests Pop Air RGB: Mid-Road Performance

First of all, here is a look at our test configuration components …

We will map the results against some recently tested large ATX cases, some of which have at least a minimum of EATX card support. Among them are Cooler Master’s HAF 500Corsairs iCUE 5000T RGBLian Li’s O11 Dynamic EVOand In Win’s N515.

One of the nicer things we can say about the CPU temperatures we measured (after mounting our platform in Pop Air RGB) is that they are only a few degrees worse than average. In fact, they are right next to the premium market O11 Dynamic EVO from Lian Li.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

We are very pleased to see Pop Air RGB reach mid-pack voltage regulator temperatures, but realize that the only case to reach significantly worse temperatures was designed to prevent fans are installed directly above the voltage regulator. So this is at best a neutral view.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

Graphics card temperatures are a peculiarity of Pop Air RGB, as they start normally cool and gradually scale past everyone else in this test set. This probably means that the housing collects heat in our tested configuration, but a quick test with a piece of paper showed that all the fans flowed correctly.

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

The sound levels are also mid-range, so those who buy this case should probably base that decision on factors such as features and price, rather than pure acoustic performance …

Fractal Design Pop Air RGB

In conclusion, all this is not an argument for poor performance, in any way, but rather that the casing does not excel at doing particularly well on our thermal and acoustic experiments.


Verdict: Colors and compartments (not performance) are top of this pop

Pop Air RGB is a nice case with its orange accents, but it hardly differs in our formal test diagrams. Because it lacks as much as a Type-C port to get our attention, the outstanding feature of this standard design is one that hardly anyone mentions anymore: a pair of hidden 5.25-inch compartments.

They can be quite practical for builders who know how to use them: We would be tempted to equip ours with an actively cooled backplane with eight 2.5-inch drives. For those with less exotic plans, we would look for a color scheme that matches your taste, and consider the bays a nice old-fashioned return in case you come across a device (or DVD burner) that you want to install down the road.

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