Page 2 - Physical Look - Outside
Anyone who has owned a case from Fractal Design's Define series will have a very good idea of what to expect. Our particular unit is the Dark Tempered Glass version; other variants include Light Tempered Glass, Clear Tempered Glass, and solid side panel. The Dark Tempered Glass version is only available in black. The Light Tempered Glass version can be found in black or grey, while the Clear Tempered Glass version is available in white/black or white. You can get them in any color you want if you choose the solid side panel. After a decade and many generations of what we call the "fridge inspired" design here at APH Networks, the Define 7 stays true to its predecessors. For those who swear by exemplary clean looks combined with an intrinsic attention to detail and emphasis on silence, this is your mid-tower chassis.
Measuring in at 240mm width, 475mm height, and 547mm depth, the Fractal Design Define 7's dimensions are about right for an ATX computer case. It is marginally larger than the Define R6, sort of like how every new generation of a car model almost always increases marginally in dimensions. It tips the scales at 29.65 lbs, which is heavier than the Define R6 Blackout TG at 27.33 lbs. Fractal Design's Define series were never meant to be light. The reason for the Define series' hefty weight is because quiet computer cases are built with more sound insulation materials and other miscellaneous items.
A 20% light transmission tinted full-sized tempered glass panel on the left side of the Define 7 Dark Tempered Glass provides a full, unobstructed view inside. It is quite a looker in my opinion. It is too bad the Fractal Design Define 7 Dark Tempered Glass does not have built-in RGB LEDs like the NZXT H710i. I know I run my fair share of RGB jokes here at APH Networks, but one does not buy a chassis with a tempered glass panel and not light it up. That aside, both the glass left panel and solid right panel are attached to the main frame via three ball-and-socket joints that run along the top and clips that secure each panel along the bottom. Quick release tabs located at the back enables quick removal. This is not a traditional tempered glass or solid side panel design, but this mechanism is the best I have seen and works extremely well. The panels and its mechanisms feel substantial in use. The rest of the chassis is made out of quality steel panels. Other than that, the right side panel is completely blank, which you will see in the next photo.
Opening the magnetically held shut front door reveals something practically extinct in 2020: A 5.25" optical drive bay. Like its predecessor, the direction the door swings can be changed. What is new is the magnetic attachment rather than the friction attachment of its predecessor, which feels a lot nicer. Furthermore, the hinge design has been improved for non-linear opening and closing forces, similar to your car door. The door finally swings counter-clockwise, rather than clockwise, out of the box like every preceding generation, which is great. This is because the tempered glass side panel is located on the left side, which means you are supposed to place your PC on your right. You can easily configure it to hinge the other way though. While it is true most of us rarely access optical drives anymore, flexibility in this area is always appreciated. I do not have an optical drive for years, but I cannot say no to options.
Moving on, from the top we have one 5.25" openings for an optical drive or other case accessories such as fan controllers. Of course, unless you are up to something sophisticated, it is probably not necessary, because the Define 7 already has a Nexus+ 2 fan hub built in. While I will agree one external 5.25" drive bay is not a lot, this is made for those who still want to keep one optical drive around, so it should be sufficient. Under it is a large removable dust filter that can be released by a tab at the top. Behind it are two Dynamic X2 GP-14 fans included from the factory, but you can swap it for three 120mm fans. The stock fans are black in color. Washable dust filters are placed in front of each and every included and optional intake fan, which is something I definitely appreciate. Last but not least, as shown in our photo above, a layer of sound absorbing material is installed behind the door, used to dampen the sound emitted from the front fans.
Rather than setting the front panel connectors behind the door, Fractal Design made a wise choice in putting them at the top of the Define 7, just like every model that came before it. The Define 7's layout configuration is very similar to its predecessors. With its power button placed nice and center, the designers managed to create a level of symmetry in an asymmetric fashion. On the right side of the power button, we have two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.1 Type-A ports. Both sets are clearly labeled. On the left side of the power button, there are two 3.5mm audio jacks for headphone out and microphone in, reset button, and a USB 3.1 Type-C port. I think it is better to have the reset button behind the front door, but at least it is still hard to press accidentally. Surrounding the power button is a stylish white LED ring. The power LED is also visible via a slit from the front in classic Fractal Design fashion. It no longer doubles as a drive activity light though.
Shifting our focus a little bit, there are elements that make the Fractal Design Define 7 unique. Traditionally, case designers install top mounted fans to efficiently draw heat away from the processor. This makes a lot of sense, since heat rises, so we are only adhering to the natural laws of physics. Unfortunately, this is a two-way street, as it is also very easy to get a lot of dust in the system that way when it is turned off. I am not a big fan of such a design, and I really dislike it when manufacturers force me to use that opening. Therefore, to rectify this problem, Fractal Design made a wise choice and gave the user an option to choose what they want. Want silence and no maintenance? Leave the standard top panel on. The cover is sound dampened. Want more airflow? Replace it with the included ventilated top panel by simply pulling the standard panel off, which is held down by six ball-and-socket joints, and put the new on in place.
The simple pull-off mechanism is very convenient for removing the dust filter underneath it for cleaning or if you need to access its 25.4mm water cooling fillport under the dust filter. You can install up to two 120mm or one 140mm fans with an optical drive installed or three 140mm fans with no optical drive in this location. Of course, it can accommodate a radiator of equivalent size. This is a considerable design improvement compared to the Define R6.
The back of Fractal Design's Define 7 Dark Tempered Glass is painted black to match the rest of the chassis, and is pretty much standard for a case with a bottom mounted power supply bay. We can expectantly spot an included black colored Dynamic X2 GP-14 140mm fan placed adjacent to the motherboard I/O backplate. Many cases only have a 120mm fan here, so the fatness pays off. The panel release tabs, in the form of rubber thumb grips, can be seen in our above photo. There are no radiator pipe openings, but water cooling systems with external reservoirs are practically non-existent nowadays. Both side panels are held on using a push to lock set of ball-and-socket joints as aforementioned, and pivots out from the bottom edge. There are no thumbscrews here. If you want to secure them for travel, you can pull off the front panel cover and attach one screw to each panel. This is particularly useful for those who need to remove this panel frequently. The ventilated plates enclosing the seven horizontal and two vertical expansion card slots are painted black shown in our photo above. The vertical expansion card slots can be used with a vertical GPU riser kit to show off your graphics hardware.
Four solid plastic feet with rubber pads can be seen on the Fractal Design Define 7 Dark Tempered Glass. The legs provide the chassis about 2 cm rise over the surface it resides on. For those who want more fans in their systems, the bottom panel has room for up to two 120mm or 140mm fans or a radiator of equivalent size. The front handle of the washable fan filter for all the bottom intake fans can be seen in our photo above, which can be pulled out for easy cleaning.
Overall, the Fractal Design Define 7 Dark Tempered Glass ATX case continues to be one of the most solid cases I have seen with regards to build quality. All the panels fit together extremely well with minimal panel gaps. In fact, it is pretty darn close to perfection in refinement. With that out of the way, nothing feels flimsy or cheap. Sharp edges are out of the question. The amount of attention to detail is very noticeable, and it is an evolutionary but significant improvement over all its predecessors. The Define 7 is heavier than the Define R6, making it fairly heavy but comparable to other cases of the same caliber. Quality, features, and sound insulation material comes at a price though, and you will see why in the next page.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion