I would like to thank Fractal Design for providing the review sample.
Most of you may not know Fractal Design, but the company has been making a splash with their unique enclosures at a competitive price. The company also sells power supplies, case fans, and a few accessories on top of that.
Not much else to say really, but this is their official vision:
Our vision is to have a constant, healthy growth together with our partners worldwide. Our goal is to be widely recognized for our designed products and to have them available in all major market regions within EU and US. We should be a good alternative to the already established retail brands of today. It's of great importance for us that our partners understand the values of Fractal Design, therefore we are putting great effort into choosing the right partners from the start. We will work actively to maintain sales territories and profitable business for our partners.
We are taking a look at the Define R2 today, which is available in three different colors. Fractal Design sent us the all black variant for review.
|Net / Gross Weight
||12.50 / 14.50 kg
||207.4 x440 x 521.2 mm
||Fan controller for 3 fans included (10w Max)
1 rear Fractal Design 120mm Silent Series 15dB fan (included)
1 front Fractal Design 120mm Silent Series 15dB fan (included)
1 front 120mm fan (optional)
1 bottom 120mm/140mm fan (optional)
1 side panel 120mm/140mm fan (optional)
2 top 120mm/140mm fan (optional)
||Black exterior and interior
||Mini ITX, Micro ATX and ATX
||Standard ATX PSU of up to 200 - 220 mm
||USB2.0 x 2, MIC & Speaker (support ACí97 & HD Audio), eSATA x 1
The package of the Define R2 is quite sturdy and features a full color logo of the company. In front you will find an image of the chassis, while the rear goes into greater detail about the enclosures feature's. The sides do not hold a lot of information, only which color you will find within the package. What is missing is a list of specifications, I would consider that a vital piece of data and the space is there to print it on the box.
Fractal Design secures the Define R2 with foam spacers and a plastic bag. The spacers are rather compact which means you do not want to drop this case, even when it is packed up as doing so may have the result seen below.
Let me jump ahead a bit, as I stumbled across a few issues. First off, the foam spacers do not seem to be thick enough for the dimension and weight of the chassis. While there was no obvious damage to the outer packaging as you can see in the images above, one of the rear upper corners is bent out of shape. The Define R2 was probably dropped on this spot, resulting in the bent metal. The next issue was the sound dampening material, which has come loose. I have no idea where this piece is usually placed, but since the only right location as far as dimension go was the bottom air intake, I placed it there. Turns out, the unit is actually intended to cover the 5.25 inch bays, but since I did not have a manual the first obvious possibility is the one I took for this review.
I was surprised by a few things included with the chassis. First off, the good stuff: A fan controller to dial down up to three fans. This can be installed in an unused expansion bay on the very bottom. You also receive a pair of Velcro strips to tie cables together. These are much better than normal zip ties or none at all. Now to the less pleasant part: It seems like Fractal Design has a very obscured definition of a "user manual". The one included just has a few paragraphs about the company and holds the specifications of the chassis. No manual, no assembly pictures, no help with how to fill the Define R2. That is by no means a manual in my books. A small bag filled to the rim with black screws rounds up what you will get with the chassis.
A Closer Look - Outside
The front of the Define R2 is lined with a thin plastic film to protect it from scratches during packaging, making sure that you get a case without any blemishes. The unit makes a very good impression with a very smooth paint job, very edgy and straight looks.
While the door does employ aluminum it made of plastic. The metal sheet is placed unto the door itself to achieve the look. This is also the process through which Fractal Design is able to offer the Define R2 in three different color options, which only differ in this one plate. Fractal Design has chosen to make the door swing open from left to right and there is no way to switch things around. I consider this the incorrect way for a case as one would place the chassis to the right of one's workspace. Doing so would mean that the door gets in the way every time you want to access the drives. Turning the Define R2 over, we have an all black paint job. This extends to the interior of the case as well. As you can see, the PSU bay has to be mounted on the bottom of the chassis.
The main side panel has an opening for a 120 / 140 mm fan. This vent ships covered by a solid plastic part, which helps to encapsulate the noise emitted from the internal parts and does not allow for dust to enter. The downside of this may be a lack of fresh air and as a result thereof, higher internal temperatures. The other side is solid with no vents or openings of any sort.
Let us move our focus to the front of the chassis. Two thirds of the front are filled by two plastic doors, while the very top holds two 5.25 inch expansion bays. Fractal has included a 3.5 inch adapter so you can easily install a card reader or even a floppy drive if you wish to do so. Opening the two small doors gives you access to the front intake fans. One is included in the bottom one. All intake areas are covered by dust filters so you should not have to worry about buildup of the sorts within the case itself.
As mentioned before the PSU has to be mounted on the bottom. Above that are seven expansion bays. Fractal Design has closed them with white covers. This looks excellent and seeing these will let anyone know that this is a fractal chassis. There are two openings to route water cooling through beside the bottom two expansion bays. You will find a white bladed 120 mm exhaust fan in the very top in addition to two further holes for water cooling.
Fractal Design has placed a large power button on the top edge of the chassis. You will find the usual audio connectivity, a pair of USB 2.0 connectors and a single eSATA port to the left and right of the button. In the rear are two 120 / 140 mm openings for a water cooling setup or two additional fans. Fractal has provided covers for these as well, further sealing the case off. A filter has also been placed under the intake opening of the power supply, protecting the PSU from dust as well.
A Closer Look - Inside
Another nice surprise awaits on the interior of the case itself. Fractal has lined both side panels with a thin sound insulating material. While just a few milimeters thick, it weighs quite a lot. The opening for a potential side fan has been separately covered - a nice touch.
As mentioned before, the entire interior is black - well almost. The black and white contrast continues with the eight hard drive bays. Fractal Design has opted for such a large number of internal bays at the cost of external ones. Considering the fact that most of us never fill more than two 5.25 inch bays, this case is perfect for those wanting to pack it full with hard drives. Turning the case over we have a well designed mainboard tray, with multiple openings to route cable through. A large opening under the CPU area of the mainboard should give you easy access to any backplates of large coolers. Upon closer inspection I found some sort of powder covering the soft plastic protective strip. While I applaud Fractal Design for including such a strip, it is completely unnecessary, as the edges beneath it are folded and thus pose no thread to the user.
The two drive external drive bays do not feature a screw-less system and it is good to see someone not going with the flow instead of offering some half-assed plastic locking mechanism - just for marketing purposes. The eight hard drive bays have individual trays. They come pre-applied with rubber rings to kill any vibration of drives and also allow you to install 2.5 inch units in each one of them. This is perfect for those wanting to put in some SSD instead of the traditional 3.5 inch units.
Turning our focus to the rear of the case, starting at the bottom, the PSU bay is lined with foam to fight any vibrations here as well. Above are the seven expansion slots, with each cover held in place with thumb screws. In the very top you will find the 120 mm exhaust fan. This makes for a total of two cooling units which ship with the Define R2. Both feature mainboard headers, so that you can connect it straight to the included fan controller or plug them into the mainboard.
The bottom fan intake is where I placed the loose sound dampening material, as this is the only area in which it will fit perfectly. As you can see, the same material has been applied to the two openings in the ceiling.
You have to remove the front panel to gain access to the drive bay covers. Fractal Design has covered every cable in black shrink tubing, even the power and LED cables - a nice touch, which goes well with the rest of the design.
Placing the mainboard within the Define R2 is done with the use of the included spacers and black screws. During the process I noticed that the mainboard plate had a bit of play. Turns out one of the three rivets holding it in place has been obliterated somehow. I searched the entire case and I was not able to find any parts of it, thus this must have happened during the manufacturing process. While the case frame itself is held in place by larger rivets, the plate is secured with smaller once which seem of bad quality. I actually dug up some rivets of different sizes and all of them were larger in comparison to the ones used and all of them would easily fit in the hole of the missing one. This means that larger ones could have been used instead, without having to redesign anything on the frame itself.
Peparing the hard drives for installation is an easy task. Just secure the unit with four special screws in the frame and then slide it into place. The drives sit on rubber rings so you should not have any problems with vibrations. Sliding the filled tray back into until it snaps into place concludes the installation process. We have seen the system in various other cases and it is an excellent one.
Putting the optical drive into place requires quite a bit of force until it slides into place far enough. It seems very tight enough so you won't need to use any screws, but this could just be our sample. There are no measures against vibration in this area of the Define R2.
The power supply itself is installed with the traditional means of screws. A thin layer of foam reduces the chance of any vibration passing from the power supply to the case itself. There is plenty of space for a standard power supply, but if you happen to use a larger one, you will be forced to remove the bottom mounted fan frame.
Once everything is installed, I used a single velcro strip and the features of the chassis itself to route and group the cables. I have not used a single zip tie and the result is very good. Fractal Design has done a great job within the Define R2 to route and hide cables.
Once everything was put back together and turned on, the first notable thing is the good encapsulation of the sound generated by the internal components. The two included fans are very quiet and can be turned down even more with the included controller.
None of the fans have an LEDs so any lighting you see is from the CPU fan used. Everything is easily accessible and as you can see the fan controller has been placed in the very last slot.
Value and Conclusion
- The Fractal Design Define R2 sells for around 85-90€ in various eShops.
- Unique set of features
- Sound dampening installed everywhere
- Space for eight hard drives
- Excellent cable routing possibilities
- Plenty of areas to hide cables
- Ready for 2.5" hard drives
- Fan controller for three fans included
- Black interior
- Water cooling ready
- White accents look excellent
- Bottom mounted PSU bay
- Thumb screws for the expansion slots
- Dust filter for all intake fans
- Two fans included
- Very smooth paint job
- Some quality issues
- Graphic cards beyond 29 - 30 cm may not fit
- Packaging seems too compact for safe transportation
- No eSATA connectivity
- Rather heavy
The Fractal Design Define R2 is a great case with a few unusual issues. Luckily, while I still have to mention them, most of these are probably just present in my sample. This goes for the loose mainboard tray and the bent case. Besides these issues, the guys have managed to fill the case with plenty of very useful features, while steering clear of useless marketing gimmicks like plastic locks. The sound dampening material along with the sealed off air intakes which are unused and the fan controller all make for a great feature set. Fractal Design seems to have a thing for offering cases which can hold a lot of hard drives, as the Define R2 can hold a eight disks, which is even above average for enclosures much larger than this one. This comes at a price, as the unit can only accept graphics cards with 29 - 30 cm length - and there are larger ones out there. If Fractal Designs makes an eATX version of this case, makes sure that the quality is top notch and keeps the price below 100 Euros they would have a perfect case of that price point. That said, the Define R2 is an excellent contender for the mid-range case market and we look forward what else comes from Fractal Design in the future.