Page 4 - Installation and Conclusion
The installation process is extremely straightforward with the Fractal Design Define R3. For the most part, it is very easy to work with as far as a standard mid-tower is concerned. Out of preference, I installed the power supply first, followed by my ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution motherboard. However, it doesn't matter what you install first, since they will all work out just as well in the end. Actually, as you can see in my photo above, I have a Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W installed. I switched back to the NZXT HALE90 750W a day later, because I found the Toughpower Grand 1200W to be simply too loud for my likings. Usually, exchanging a PSU is a straightforward but tedious process, but it really wasn't a big issue with the Define R3.
Executing a good cabling job is also very easy on the Fractal Design Define R3. There are three openings adjacent to the motherboard on the right, two at the bottom, and one at the top, allowing the user to easy run everything behind the motherboard tray. They are all appropriately placed for routing cables through, whether they are from your power supply or your hard drive (Actually, the openings are placed so closed together, they really can't go wrong here, haha), with rubber grommets for both looks and vibration dampening. As I have mentioned on the previous page, the rubber grommets are only clipped onto place, therefore they can really easily become loose during installation. Sometimes, getting them back in place can be a bit hard, especially for the one at the top. Other than that, a full height gap is situated between the motherboard tray and drive rack, just in case the integrated openings are not sufficient for whatever reason.
The rest of the installation process came and went just as smoothly, as I continued to install the rest of my components. Unless you count thumbscrews as tool-free, installation of most components will require you to keep your screwdriver handy. This includes all add-on cards, as well as your optical drives. I don't have much beef against this though, since it is usually much more secure, and it is not like I will take my computer apart occasionally anyway. As you can see in our photo above, I have a Gigabyte GeForce GTX 570 1280MB SOC installed, and the Define R3 can keep it running adequately cool, too.
Because Fractal Design bundled all the case I/O wires into one cable, hooking the stuff up to my motherboard is not only easier, but also a lot cleaner looking. The same goes with all the other cables. Pushing them through the bottom one of three openings adjacent to the motherboard delivers excellent accessibility to anything that requires a connection to my P8P67-WS Revolution. Meanwhile, hard disk installation is extremely simple as well; simply align it with the proper holes at the bottom of each drive tray, and attach four screws. The trays can accommodate both 2.5" and 3.5" drives, as discussed earlier in this review. After all the necessary screws are attached, slide it back into the rack, make the proper connections on the opposite side, and you are good to go.
After plugging in everything, our system configured inside the Fractal Design Define R3 is ready to roll. I hit the large power button at the top, and my computer came to life. Your finished system should resemble what I have above, since there is nothing much you can change here anyway, haha. Notably missing is the HDD LED.
On a scale from 0.0 to 10.0 where 0.0 is silent and 10.0 is the loudest, the stock fans would come in at 3.5 subjective sound rating at full blast. That's pretty darn good. Slowing them down will keep it at around 1.0 in my personal opinion. I am quite sensitive to perceived sound volume, and as a quiet PC enthusiast, the Fractal Design Define R3 certainly does not disappoint. The fans have a smooth running motor with no annoying noise during operation; combine that with thick insulation material simply keeps the noise in, and the heat out. I am also quite impressed at its ability to eliminate certain types of noise. While it doesn't magically cancel out noise made by very fast moving fans, the Fractal Design Define R3 does a fine job and keeping my already very quiet parts even quieter than before. 'Shocking' and 'impressive' are the only terms I can come up with to describe the Define R3. This is truly the case to choose for quiet PC enthusiasts who makes no compromise in power and performance.
I have always insisted on having a windowed chassis in my main computer. No exceptions. But when the Fractal Design Define R3 arrived on my doorstep, the sheer brilliance of this case with so many outstanding features simply forced me to rethink my priorities. For one thing, I love its looks. It is clean, simple, and elegant. Its understated beauty is hard to come across nowadays. Secondly, it is silent. Silent without compromise. Even if you have the latest performance hardware under the hood, the Define R3 will have no trouble keeping up in the thermal management department. Thirdly, it is as close to maintenance-free as possible. There are dust filters at every intake, and vents are sealed off by default when not in use. That further keeps the noise in, and the dust out. When we package this combination of impressive attention to detail, and a whole different level of quality and refinement into one single product, the end result is everything the Fractal Design Define R3 is. Of course, it is by no means perfect; but all the shortcomings can be laid out in, well, a short list. Make the way the door swings configurable. Increase the gap between the motherboard tray and right panel. Include a case speaker and HDD LED. Provide USB 3.0 support out of the box. But these are just minor details for the most part. I will be honest with you -- do I still miss having a case window? Let's put it this way: Imagine a Fractal Design Define R3 with a large, rectangular, unobstructed, side window with a 50% tint using an acoustically optimized acrylic panel. In my opinion, this would be the best thing since sliced bread. Won't you agree?
Update: Here is our article on the Fractal Design USB 3.0 Upgrade Kit for Define R3.
Fractal Design provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Recommended Award | APH Review Focus Summary:
9/10 means Excellent product with very minor drawbacks that does not affect the overall product.
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 8.2/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The Fractal Design Define R3 is truly one of the best cases money can buy. With that 'money' only being $110 at press time, don't even think twice -- this is a no-brainer!
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1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion