Fractal Design Define XL Review (Page 1 of 4)

By: Jonathan Kwan
March 31, 2011

I arrived at home like normal the other day. After a long day of doing more than humanly possible, I put my bags down, sat down in my (Now relatively flat-cushioned) mesh back computer chair, and turned on my computer. After going through my usual routine of replying to emails and other messages I have missed during my short 30-minutes-made-20 commute -- where time is inversely proportional to speed, let's just leave it at that -- I got out of my chair and began to change in my walk-in closet. I glanced at the nice little wire rack I leave my technology equipment on. You know, charging station for my laptop and cell phone, you get the idea. One of the shelves on the wire rack is probably a geek dream to many. Inside it is a box that contains the G.SKILL Ripjaws-X F3-17000CL9D-8GBXLD DDR3 RAM I have reviewed last week, as well as two unopened boxes containing one ASUS P8P67 Pro and one ASUS P8H67-I motherboard, respectively. Next to it is my Canon EOS 60D dSLR body with the usual expensive flash and lens attached. At that moment, I realized I haven't even touched any of this stuff for an entire week. If you are in the field of engineering, you will know what I am talking about. You have all the nice stuff, you know everything about it, but you just don't have the time to play with your toys. That said, it probably won't come as a surprise to you my home network is really like no other. In addition to running a QNAP TS-559 Pro+ network attached storage system with multiple hard drives running in RAID, I also have a custom built server on the side running Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard. Why? Well, just because I can, haha. Lately, I decided I could use a little more processing power. Conveniently, I got a lot of last generation Intel processors lying around. Scooping up all the components together, all I am missing is a nice chassis to put all the parts in. I wanted something big, roomy, high quality, has decent cooling capabilities, low maintenance with regards to dust, and good looking; despite the fact no one is going to be looking at it. Then I came across the Fractal Design Define XL. Pretty much the XL version -- pun intended -- of the company's renowned R3 chassis, how well does this Extended ATX case stack up in real life? Read on to find out!

Our review unit of Fractal Design's Define XL eATX computer case came in a large brown corrugated cardboard box from the company's Canadian distributor in Ontario out east. The large outer packaging was used to protect the inside box during shipping, but it was packed so well, it actually took me a while to crack it open. Now on the delivery -- when I arrived back on a Thursday afternoon, a couple packages were left at my doorstep by good ol' FedEx. I saw a delivery notification was stuck to my front door as well, indicating a package has been left at my front door. Well no kidding -- with something of this size two feet away, I can see it, right?

The company takes on a relatively cool approach when designing the retail box for the Define XL. 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 XL 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 XL makes no mistakes.

Cracking open the box reveals the Fractal Design Define XL Extended ATX computer chassis clipped between two large Styrofoam brackets. Our particular unit came in Black Pearl; it is also available in Titanium Grey. 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. 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 XL, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:

- 4x 5,25” bays, 1x 5,25” to 3,5” converter included
- Mini-itx, micro ATX, ATX and E-ATX motherboards
- 10x HDD trays. 4x HDD trays in the HDD cage in the main chamber. This HDD cage is removable and rotatable.(Space ~330mm with HDD Cage and without ~480mm) 6x HDD trays in the lower HDD chamber. These HDD cages are fixed.
- A total of two 140mm fans and one 180mm fan included. Front 140mm fans are mounted with removable, washable filter. A fan controller is included, for mounting in one of the rear expansion slots.
- Pre-fitted with dense noise absorbing material in both side panels.
- ModuVent™ feature, allowing the user to choose between an optimal low noise level, having the cover mounted or optimal airflow by removing the cover and mounting a fan for intake.
- On top of front panel: 4x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA and Audio I/O
- Case size (WxHxD): 232x560x561.3mm
- Net weight: 17.95kg

Cooling system
- 2x 140mm fans (one 140mm included, one optional) with removable and washable filters, in the front. Recommended for intake of air.
- 1x 120mm fan optional with removable and washable filter, in the front. Recommended for intake of air.
- 1x 180mm fan included in the top of the case. Recommended for exhaust of air.
- 1x 140mm fan included in the rear of the case. Recommended for exhaust of air.
- 1x 120/140mm fan optional in the side of the case. Recommended for intake of air.

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