Fractal Design Define R3 Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Physical Look - Inside

Consistent with its exterior, the interior of the Fractal Design Define R3 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. On the other hand, if you are familiar with the Fractal Design Define XL, the internal design of the Define R3 has very little that resembles that of its bigger brother, other than the selection of colors. While the Define XL has a distinct dual chamber design with an angled upper exhaust fan at the top, the Define R3 takes on a more conventional approach when it comes to the interior layout. The power supply is mounted at the bottom, eight hard drive trays are present to the right, two externally accessible 5.25" drive bay on top, with the rest of the room allocated for the motherboard. Generally speaking, everything is quite traditional as far as ATX computer cases are concerned.

The Define R3 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 120mm pre-installed rear exhaust fan is situated around the CPU socket area of a standard ATX motherboard. The stock fan is an 1350 rpm unit from Fractal Design, and features a 3-pin motherboard header. Two more fans, sized up to 140mm, can be installed at the top of the case. As mentioned on the previous page, both upper vents are sealed off by default by what Fractal Design calls the ModuVent; at first I was kind of worried that 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. The company also includes an expansion slot mounted fan controller that can accommodate up to three fans by a three-way cable splitter.

As shown in our photo above, we can also spot a large square 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 modern motherboards with shifted CPU sockets, and I am glad Fractal Design has taken that into account. Additionally, while most manufacturers leave an opening and stop there, Fractal Design went an extra step and gave it an additional touch by laying edges with a thin strip of rubber surrounding the inner perimeter. Refinement and attention to detail really goes a long way!

Because the Fractal Design Define R3 features a bottom mounted power supply bay, the chassis platform is raised about 2.5 cm off the ground to accommodate units with fans at the bottom. Inside the Define R3, 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 won't need to worry about nasty stuff clogging your fans down the road. An opening for routing your PSU cables is appropriately placed adjacent to the expected location of your power supply, as shown in our photo above.

One bottom 120mm or 140mm fan can be installed into the Define R3. 140mm fans can be clipped on directly without any tools, but 120mm fans must be attached by four screws in a traditional manner. Since the dust filter is internally mounted, the installed fan must be removed in order for it to be cleaned. The fan bracket is attached to the chassis by four screws, which can be removed from the outside.

Challenging question: The Fractal Design Define R3 features eight 3.5" drive trays. How many 3.5" drives can be installed at any given time? Eight? Correct! With that in mind, how many 2.5" drives can be installed at any given time? Good news -- it is also eight. Each removable drive tray is placed in perpendicular orientation to the chassis, with the connectors facing the back of the system. The entire hard drive rack is fixed, with a piece of dividing metal in the middle, possibly used to increase structural rigidity. Each drive tray can accommodate both 2.5" and 3.5" drives (Not simultaneously, obviously) out of the box, and that is excellent. I have seen cases where it can only take one 2.5" drive, but for those people who are baller than the rest of us with several SSDs, you will be out of luck. Fortunately, Fractal Design makes sure all your bases are covered with the Define R3.

A 3-pin 120mm fan draws cool air over the hard drives and into the system from the front. Out of the box, the fan is installed in the lower position, but you can relocate it one slot up, or put an extra one in at the top. Obviously it is better to have the fan in the lower position, so the default configuration works well in my opinion. The longest video card you can fit in the Define R3 is 11.5", which is long enough for even cards like the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590.

Two 5.25" externally accessible drive bays are present on the Define R3. A 5.25" to 3.5" converter is already pre-installed for you out of the box. As we have discussed on the previous page, I don't recall myself using more than two of these bays at a time, so despite the fact that this case really expansion in this area, it is not likely to affect a lot of users.

Here is a look at other side, where most people don't usually pay attention to. In my opinion, the back of the motherboard tray is quite fundamental to good cabling. This is especially held true with the Fractal Design Define R3, since the company actually expects you to run cables through this section. In my opinion, I think the company can increase the gap here; the amount of room between the side panel and motherboard tray is kind of slim. Users may experience problems if you own a power supply with very thick cables. Other than that, lots of openings can be found so you can fish your cables through, and other than the location of the one at the top, I really have no complaints at all. 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. My only complaint is that the rubber grommets are clipped on only, so when you rip your cables through these holes during your build, they will inevitably come loose.

Unlike the Fractal Design Define XL, the large heatsink backplate opening does not come with a black plastic door that you can close once you are done. This is rather surprising, because the hinges for such an accessory is already built into the chassis. It makes absolutely no difference in performance, but just pointing it out for your interest, haha.

Before we close off this section, there are just two more things I want to talk about. Firstly, the Define R3's I/O connector cables are top notch. While most chassis manufacturers provide a bunch of colorful wires that looks like it came straight from an electronics lab, Fractal Design took the effort to actually bundle them up into one nice black cable. Secondly, as shown in our photo above, a big layer of fabric coated sound insulation material is placed over this side panel 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. With all this in mind, it is clear why the Fractal Design Define R3 tips the scales at almost 30 pounds. Dust filters in every opening. Sound proofing material on every panel. No corners cut anywhere. There is so much that went into the build of this chassis, and I love it.

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