Fractal Design Define R3 Review (Page 1 of 4)

By: Jonathan Kwan
September 30, 2011

Have you ever been annoyed by people who have distorted tastes with regards to desirable versus undesirable noise? When a Ferrari 458 Italia whizzes by you on the highway, the sound of that fire pumping, heart thumping 562hp 4.5L V8 is simply music to your ears. Who cares if it uses a lot of fuel -- this is all about engineering brilliance that takes mechanical and aural perfection to a completely different level of what we call "awesome". On the other hand, when a diesel powered Ram 2500 that makes more noise than speed weaves in and out of traffic like an idiot on a municipal road, sometimes you wonder whether or not there is any hope left in humanity. But while there is a fine line between mechanical brilliance that people want to hear, and disgusting noises only a redneck could love, in the computer world, there are no distinguishable elements between what is desirable and undesirable component noise. Have you heard about anyone describing how amazing their GTX 570 sounds? Unless they are referring to its lack thereof, I haven't; and being a silent computer enthusiast and all, this is where all the points are collected. Here at APH Networks, we have covered all the recent major chassis entries for quiet computing, including the NZXT H2, Cooler Master Silencio 550, and the Fractal Design Define XL. But what is missing on the list is the 'regular' ATX version of the Define XL, and that is the Define R3. So for those who want a case designed for quiet computing, but don't have the space for an eATX case, how well does the Define R3 fit the bill? With one sitting on my desk next to me, let's just say you will not be disappointed.

Our review unit of the Fractal Design Define R3 came in its retail box from Texas, USA (Yeehaw!) using FedEx Ground to us here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Also: Yeehaw!). Unfortunately, while the parcel itself arrived in excellent condition, I was disappointed to see the case inside suffered from a bent frame. As a result of having a bent frame, panels were forcibly installed, and were also deformed. The way I see it, this could not have been a result of shipping and handling, leaving it only to defects in manufacturing and quality control. However, knowing how much attention to detail Fractal Design puts in both design and manufacturing of their cases in the past, I firmly believed this is only an one-off issue. A few weeks later, a brand new unit arrived on our doorstep from online retailer NCIX at Vancouver, BC via Purolator Ground. Our second Define R3 arrived in absolutely pristine condition, with the level of excellent assembly quality we have come to expect from Fractal Design.

Like its bigger brother, the Define XL, Fractal Design takes on a relatively cool approach when designing the retail box for the Define R3. When I say 'cool', I am saying it as a reference to its color temperature -- although this does not exclude the assertion of implying the packaging is also reasonably attractive. Consisting of a primarily black and gray background in conjunction with white and ice blue text, Fractal Design's logo can be found at the upper left hand corner; while the its model name is situated on the same line to its right. A photo of the Define R3 case itself is placed directly under. The company does not fail to include a nice list of feature highlights adjacent to it either. All in all, it doesn't breathe any fresh air into computer chassis packaging design, but we are not going to pretend it is a big deal. If you see this at your local computer store, the Fractal Design Define R3 makes no mistakes.

Cracking open the box reveals the Fractal Design Define R3 ATX computer chassis clipped between two large cardboard wrapped foam brackets. Interestingly, our second case does not implement this so-called eco-packaging; the two brackets were purely Styrofoam. We specifically wanted our Define R3 in Black Pearl, but Fractal Design also sells the case in Arctic White, Silver Arrow, and Titanium Grey. Like its bigger brother, my first impression of this case is that it looks like a mini refrigerator -- if we backtrack a bit, I probably won't be surprised to see similar packaging for a designer fridge at Home Depot, haha. We will discuss its external design on its subsequent page. My second impression of this case is if you put the Define XL in a photocopier, hit the 80% button, and boom -- you get the Define R3. Meanwhile, we can see the entire chassis is wrapped in a large plastic bag to protect its panels during transit. For those surfaces that may be more prone to being scratched, additional layers of protective plastic tape is present for the end user to peel off. It is clear to us Fractal Design has taken great care in ensuring their product arrives to the hands of the end user in pristine condition.

Before we move on, let's take a look at the specifications of the Fractal Design Define R3, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:

Key features
- Stunning front panel design
- Patent pending ModuVentâ„¢ design, allowing the user to either have optimal silence or optimal airflow
- Pre-fitted with dense, noise absorbing material
- 8(!) white painted HDD-trays, with silicone mounting
- A total of 7 fan slots (2x120mm in front, 2x 120/140mm in top, 1x120mm in back, 1x 120/140mm in side panel, 1x 120/140mm in bottom)
- 2x 120mm Fractal Design 120mm fans included
- Fan controller for 3 fans included
- Easily removable front fan filters with clip-on holders for 120mm fans
- Supports graphic card lengths up to circa 290mm and CPU coolers with height of maximum circa 165mm
- Supports PSU's with a depth of maximum circa 170mm, when using bottom 120/140mm fan location. When not using the bottom 120/140mm fan location, the case supports also longer PSU's, typically 200-220mm.

Cooling system
- Fan controller for 3 fans included
- 1 rear Fractal Design 120mm @ 1350rpm included
- 1 front Fractal Design 120mm @ 1350rpm 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)

- 8x 3,5 inch HDD trays, compatible with SSD!
- 2x 5,25 inch bays, with 1x 5,25>3,5 inch converter included
- On top of front panel: 2x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA and Audio I/O
- No PSU included (removable filter below PSU)
- M/B compatibility: Mini ITX, Micro ATX and ATX
- 7x expansion slots with sleek white painted brackets
- Supports graphic card lengths up to ~290mm
- Supports CPU coolers with height of ~165mm
- Supports PSU's with a depth of maximum circa 170mm, when using bottom 120/140mm fan location. When not using the bottom 120/140mm fan location, the case supports also longer PSU's, typically 200-220mm.
- Case size (WxHxD): 207.40x442x521.2mm
- Net weight: 12.50kg

Additional information
- EAN/GTIN-13: 7350041080442
- Product code: FD-CA-DEF-R3-BL
- Also available for System Integrators

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion