Fractal Design Define R4 Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Physical Look - Inside

Consistent with its exterior, the interior of the Fractal Design Define R4 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 R3, the interior is almost identical. The conventional layout has the power supply 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 R4 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 Silent Series R2 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.

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. The shape has also been revised for improved compatibility. Notably missing is the rubber lining that surrounds the perimeter of this opening, which was a nice touch in the Define R3 in my opinion. Fortunately, the edges are not sharp, so it will not pose an inherent risk for anyone.

Because the Fractal Design Define R4 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 R4, 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. 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. This one is larger than last year's for better compatibility.

One bottom 120mm or 140mm fan can be installed into the Define R4. Because Fractal Design revised the filter mounting location (It is now placed on the outside rather than on the inside), this procedure is no longer tool-free. I think this is much better though, especially for easy maintenance in the future.

Challenging question: The Fractal Design Define R4 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. There are two hard drive racks, as you can see in our photo above. 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 some of the computers I have here around APH Networks have several SSDs -- how times have changed. Fortunately, Fractal Design makes sure all your bases are covered with the Define R4.

A 3-pin 140mm 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 upper position, but you can relocate it one slot down, or put an extra one in at the bottom. Obviously it is better to have the fan in the lower position, but either way works. The longest video card you can fit in the Define R4 is 17" with the hard drive rack removed. Obviously, no graphics card is that long, so with the HDD rack present, you can have components measuring in at 11.6".

Two 5.25" externally accessible drive bays are present on the Define R4. 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 this case does not come with a whole lot of expansion slots 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 R4, since the company actually expects you to run cables through this section. With the latest iteration, the company increased the amount of gap here; the amount of room between the side panel and motherboard tray is a good 26mm. Users will no longer 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 they are much larger and wider than the Define R3, too. 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.

Before we close off this section, there are just two more things I want to talk about. Firstly, the Define R4's I/O connector cables are top notch, as we have expected from the company. 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 you can kind of see in some of our photos 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 R4 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 it is even better than the Define R3.

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