Fractal Terra Mini
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Fractal Terra Mini

Apr 30, 2023

Posted by Kent Burgess | Jun 7, 2023 | Cases and Cooling | 6

When I was last heard from on the enclosure review front, I mentioned how much I’ve been enjoying the rising popularity of SFF enclosures. It's always interesting to see how a manufacturer is going to address the problems of fitting modern hardware into as small an enclosure as possible, and do this without compromising cooling.

I’ve also personally enjoyed the challenges that are often present when attempting to put a system into one of these small enclosures. Fractal has a history of quality SFF enclosures (see the Node 202 and the much more recent Ridge) and now they’ve released the new Terra, complete with a wood accent to connect it with some of their recent design language. Let's take a look and see if Fractal has given us a winner.

*Additional comment: Motherboard Spine is adjustable, which affects the min/ max GPU width and CPU cooler height. If GPU width is increased, CPU cooler height will decrease and vice versa. The max width of the GPU is also dependent on the height. There are two different scenarios (H<131mm, H>131-145mm). See manual for detailed info.

$179.99 USD

"Terra is a PC case designed and engineered to reshape the small form factor gaming experience. Inspired by the homes of modern gamers, Terra incorporates boutique design features such as thick panels cut from anodized aluminum, CNC-milled details and FSC-certified solid walnut. Inside, it includes a PCIe 4.0 riser cable and features a stepless slidable central wall for build flexibility, providing space for a powerful GPU up to 322 mm in length."

To start off with, at 10.4 liters the Fractal Terra is the smallest PC enclosure I’ve ever built in. When you open the cardboard box, the first thing that hits you is just how small this case is. Once I unpacked the Terra, I had a brief moment of "this is going to be a nightmare to fit a system into." Fortunately, as I’ll get into a little later, that is far from the experience you get with this enclosure.

The Terra's outer shell is anodized aluminum, save the walnut trim on the front panel. The literature I received does not show a difference in material for the removable top panel, but I did notice a very obvious color difference in the top panel from the rest of the exterior. I was unable to determine if this panel is plastic, or if there was some other reason for the color variation.

I personally didn't find it too distracting, but someone paying the MSRP of $169.95 for the Terra might be expecting a better match of the finish on all panels. This was also a review sample, so hopefully this issue will be addressed on the retail version. Once it's up for sale, the Terra will be available in three color ways; Graphite, Jade, and the Silver that I received.

Aside from the Lilliputian dimensions, and the wood trim, the Terra has one other standout feature to its appearance. Fractal stole a page right out of the Mercedes-Benz playbook and stuck a pair of gull wing doors on the case. Both side panels of the Terra flip upwards on hinges to offer quick access to the interior of the case. What makes it better is that with a simple spring latch, these panels can easily be removed or reinstalled. Fractal is really pushing for that upscale look and feel as well. They even go so far as to including a genuine leather pull tab to remove the top panel, and a Kensington lock to lock the side and top panels in place.

Aside from the color variation of the top panel, my first impressions of the Terra were extremely positive with the fit and finish being top tier. The famous three pointed star Mercedes emblem would not look out of place on this chassis. I was still a bit concerned about the difficulties of getting a full system into such a small enclosure.

Those concerns I just spoke of (difficulties of getting a full system into such a small enclosure) were completely unwarranted. My test system went right into the Terra with no issues at all.

I will point out that if you are building an ITX system, I highly recommend connecting the 8 pin EPS power connector and installing the CPU cooler prior to installing the motherboard. If you try to install the motherboard without those two already attached, you are just setting yourself up for frustration down the road, no matter what SFF enclosure you’ve chosen.

I was very impressed with how Fractal has managed the space inside the Terra. There is not only enough space to plug the 24 pin, the USB 3 and USB C front connectors into the motherboard once it's installed, but there is plenty of room allotted for cable management beneath the power supply. There was actually enough space to easily re-plug in the power button connector for the front panel after I had accidently pulled it loose at one point. Fractal even included two standoffs for the PSU bracket to give extra space between the PSU and GPU if your GPU is a "flow through" design as so many current gen cards are.

One of the most interesting design features of the Terra is the adjustable positioning of the inner chassis of the enclosure. There are there are 4 screw points (Two on the top and two on the bottom) of the frame that allow for the inner chassis to be moved more towards the CPU or GPU side, allowing for more clearance to one or the other, depending on your needs.

One of the benefits to this is that it allows some of the larger GPUs currently on the market, provided you can use a shorter cooler on the CPU. The ID-Cooling IS-55 cooler I use on this test system has a 57mm height, so I set this to position 5. With the chassis configured like this, I was easily able to fit a 4080 Founders Edition in the GPU chamber. Unfortunately some of the longest GPUs on the market right now will still encounter clearance issues as the Asus RTX 4090 Tuf Edition was simply too long to fit.

The Terra does make allowance for a 120mm fan to be installed at the bottom of the chassis, ideally as an intake, though I’m not completely convinced by the effectiveness of this location. Half of the airflow would be essentially blocked by the power supply. While the other half would flow across the GPU, you wouldn't really see any meaningful temperature differences, plus you would lose a large portion of the cable management space this case provides.

Fractal does also highlight a configuration for using a 120mm CPU liquid cooler, which utilizes a single fan, short GPU. While it's a nice inclusion, I feel that more people interested in an enclosure like this will be using the Terra with a full size GPU and one of the better, low profile CPU coolers. Of course, some might wonder if an enclosure this tiny, with no exhaust fans, if the GPU cooler and a low profile CPU will be able to keep the temps in check. Let's take a look.

Specification of Test System:

All tests conducted at a controlled ambient temperature of 23.5° C. Motherboard Fan Curve set to "Performance", Case Fans Set to 800 RPM.

I will admit that I am extremely impressed. I thought for certain that the temps in the Terra would be much worse than the other SFF enclosures I’ve reviewed recently. The wide open ventilation pattern on this case does its job well. In the CPU test, the temperatures were not the best I’ve measured in an SFF enclosure, but they were not unreasonably high and did not reach the point of Thermal throttling (100 C).

In the GPU Test, the Terra equaled the best performance temperature performance of any SFF enclosure I’ve tested. In the gaming test, both temperatures stayed well under control and the system noise was quite tolerable, even though it was sitting less than three feet from me during the test.

This is a winner…PERIOD. I have one complaint, and that is the color match of one panel. At 10.4 liters and no fans, this performs alongside a much larger chassis with two 120mm fans. It's attractive, exceedingly well built, and performs far better than a chassis this small has any right to. Editor's Choice…’nuf said.

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