Fractal Design Define S Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Physical Look - Inside

Consistent with its exterior, the interior of the Fractal Design Define S is also well furnished with all surfaces painted matte black. To further accentuate its color scheme, the back expansion slot covers and hard drive trays were painted white, as shown in our photo above. If you are familiar with the Define R5, the interior is very similar in essence, with the exception of all the drive bays normally located on the right deleted. The conventional layout has the power supply mounted at the bottom, lots of room allocated for the motherboard, and the space where the drive racks are used to be left empty maximum airflow. Generally speaking, it is mostly traditional as far as ATX computer cases are concerned.

The Define S is able to accommodate mITX, mATX, and ATX motherboards. The riser mounting holes are labeled for users who are not familiar with building their own computers. One 140mm pre-installed rear exhaust fan is situated around the CPU socket area of a standard ATX motherboard. The stock fan is a 1000 rpm Dynamic GP14 from Fractal Design, and features a 3-pin motherboard header. Three more fans, sized up to 140mm, can be installed at the top of the case. It can also accommodate 420, 360, 280, 240, 140, or 120mm radiators with a maximum thickness of 55 mm. As mentioned on the previous page, all upper vents are sealed off by default by what Fractal Design calls the ModuVent. Normally, putting noise insulating foam here may cause undesirably high temperatures. Fortunately, according to our tests, the soundproofing material has little detrimental effect to the case's cooling performance. Additionally, because the covers are completely flat, it makes a lot of aerodynamic sense -- low airflow impedance. My only complaint, as already discussed, is the openings here are way too large.

As shown in our photo above, we can also spot a large rectangular opening on the motherboard tray for easy aftermarket heatsink backplate installation without removing the motherboard itself from the chassis. The opening is actually large enough to accommodate pretty much anything. I mean, with something this big, unless you have some wacko motherboard, it is hard not to get it right. The perimeter of the opening is not lined with rubber, but the edges are well rounded off, so you do not need to worry about your cables being stripped accidentally.

Because the Fractal Design Define S features a bottom mounted power supply bay, the chassis platform is raised about a centimeter off the ground to accommodate units with fans at the bottom. Inside the Define S, metal bumps with foam toppings at the top elevates the power supply up a further half centimeter, just to ensure enough air is made available to your PSU. A thin layer of foam further dampens any vibrations caused by your power supply against your chassis back panel. The honeycomb grille has an externally removable dust filter pre-installed, so you will not need to worry about nasty stuff clogging your fans down the road. A large opening for routing your PSU cables is appropriately placed adjacent to the expected location of your power supply, as shown in our photo above. As always, a rubber grommet is present to keep everything looking neat and tidy.

One bottom 120mm or 140mm fan can be installed into the Define S. Should you need more, you can remove the bottom 3.5" drive rack to accommodate one more 120mm or 140mm fan. With no bottom fans installed, Fractal Design claims the Define S can take power supplies up to 300mm long. Of course, this is just a trivial fact, because I do not believe something of such a size exists in the world, haha.

As I have mentioned earlier, the Fractal Design Define S features no drive racks in this area; it is left completely blank to maximize airflow. This means if you want to install an optical drive, you are out of luck, but realizing it is 2015, I am not complaining. That said, the Define S can still take two 2.5" drives plus three 2.5"/3.5" drives, which you will see in the next photo. The back panel is ventilated, so some airflow will make it to your storage devices, but it is not going to be a whole lot. Up to three 140mm fans can be installed in this location to draw cool air into the system from the front. The chassis can also accommodate 360, 280, 240, 140, or 120mm radiators of any thickness. Out of the box, one Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fan is installed in the middle position. The longest video card you can fit in the Define S is 16.7". Obviously, no graphics card is that long, but if you are hardcore enough, you can even remove the front fan to accommodate a theoretical 17.7" card. I have yet to see anyone make an expansion card that is nearly half a meter long though, haha.

Other than being able to accommodate radiators of pretty much any size, the Fractal Design Define S features pre-drilled holes for pump mounting at the bottom, and tool-free reservoir brackets on the side, making it probably one of the best cases I have seen for water cooling. The sheer amount of room in this location is also extremely convenient for working with your tubing.

Here is a look at other side, where most people do not usually pay attention to. In the Fractal Design Define S, this area is of critical importance, because here is where you will install all your SSDs and/or HDDs. As we have first seen in the Define R5, there is room here for two SSD installations behind the motherboard tray. The company has also cleverly designed three additional brackets to accommodate up to three 2.5" or 3.5" drives sideways behind where the drive rack traditionally is located. I personally think five drive bays are more than enough for most people, and it is quite impressive how Fractal Design managed to design a case that can accommodate so many storage devices without an actual rack.

The back of the motherboard tray is also quite fundamental to good cabling. This is especially held true with the Fractal Design Define S, since it is normal practice to cables through this section. With the latest iteration, the company kept gap wide; the amount of room between the side panel and motherboard tray is a generous 20mm to 40mm. Users will not experience problems if you own a power supply with very thick cables. Like the Define R5, there is an integrated cabling guide; three Velcro straps allow for easy organization in this area. New to the Define S is a fourth Velcro strap, which can be found at the lower right hand corner. Lots of openings can be found so you can fish your cables through, and they are large and wide to carry everything you need. Rubber grommets are found at all openings, which is a very nice touch. I have actually had cases in the past where cables started rattling against the metal panels, and trust me -- that could be annoying. The rubber grommets are clipped on pretty well, but if you rip your cables through these holes during your build, they may become loose, although it is not a significant problem.

Before we close off this section, there are just two more things I want to talk about. As you can kind of see in some of our photos above, a big layer of fabric coated sound insulation material is placed over both side panels for improved acoustic properties. The same goes for the one on the reciprocal side. Because they are so thin, it occupies little physical space; and knowing they are generally flat, it will not affect airflow inside the case. Unfortunately, the Define S' I/O connector cables no longer bundled into nice black cables, as we have come to expect from the company in the past with the Define series. They are not quite colorful wires that looked like it came straight from an electronics lab, but all you will get are thin black wires, just like most mainstream cases. With all this in mind, it is clear why the Fractal Design Define S tips the scales at just over 20 lbs. Dust filters in every opening. Sound proofing material on every panel. It is about five pounds lighter than the Define R5, because the entire drive rack and corresponding trays were removed.

Overall, the Fractal Design Define S is a very good quality case, but some corners were cut compared to the exceptional amount of detail and refinement we traditionally see from the company.

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