A Closer Look - Outside
Fractal Design has been updating their Define line on a regular basis, and this is their 5th generation chassis. Right out of the box, it does become quite apparent that the changes in this latest iteration are greater than in those before it. The chassis seems to have gotten wider, and while the front door still has a nice texture to it, the surface has changed vastly over those of previous generations.
The Define R5's front comes across as quite edgy, with straight lines and sharp corners since Fractal Design kept the use of soft curves to a minimum. There is no branding on the outside, but open the door and a Fractal Design logo on the air vent will be revealed. The door's design is excellent even though it is made of plastic. While it swings open to the left by default, you may switch it around by moving two screws to the other side. It also comes covered in sound-dampening material, and the frame of the front comes with air vents, which allows the cooling fans there to draw fresh air into the chassis.
Look at the rear and just how wide the unit is becomes apparent as there is plenty of space to the left and right of the PSU bay in the bottom. Interestingly enough, there are no holes to route water-cooling tubes out the back, but considering what the chassis is capable of in terms of radiator compatibility, there is no real need for such a feature.
Both side panels are completely solid, which is no surprise since the R5 is to be a silent chassis. Fractal placed an opening on the main panel, but it comes with a cover you can take off to install a 120/140 mm fan there should you see a need to do so.
The redesigned dust filter in the bottom of the front stands in stark contrast to the rest of the chassis. You may remove it without much effort as no screws hold it in place. While this is great, some may worry that its loose fit could cause vibrations, which was definitely not the case with our review sample. Behind the dust filter is a 140 mm fan, with the possibility to install another such unit below. There are also mounting holes for 120 mm variants, which gives you a certain amount of flexibility. The top bit is for external 5.25" drive bays and features covers you may easily remove thanks to an embedded locking mechanism. Fractal redesigned this part to make it much sturdier. You will also find a 3-stage fan controller above these bays. It can control up to three fans.
The PSU bay in the bottom of the rear comes with two sets of mounting holes, so you may pick the direction the fan faces. Above the bay are the seven motherboard expansion slots, each with its own white cover - just as we have come to expect from Fractal Design. Look closely and you will notice the spring-loaded lock for the main side panel. Fractal Design employed both thumbscrews and this lock, so you may pick between either. One makes for a more readily accessible interior while the other is a better security measure. A second 140 mm fan has been pre-installed into the very top. It utilizes elongated mounting holes, so you may adjust its vertical placement to line it up with a tower cooler, for instance. Both the fans within are of retail quality and can also be purchased on their own.
On top, right at the edge, are the Power and a tiny Reset button, here to the left. There are also two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports and the usual audio I/O, which makes for a good set of connectivity. Part of the frame, the entire top panel is made of metal, while the three solid panels are out of plastic. You may remove one or more of these plastic covers if you need an air vent for a liquid-cooling setup or fans there. However, doing so will greatly reduce the R5's noise-encapsulating traits and will allow for dust to enter freely.
Tipping the chassis over, there is a dust filter along its entire bottom. It is easily removed by opening the door, as you can pull it out through the front. This setup is a step above the norm as most allow for the same removal method, but through the rear.