Fractal Design Define XL Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Physical Look - Inside

Sliding open the side panels reveal the Fractal Design Define XL's internal dual chamber design. It is not the first time we've seen a dual chamber implementation; it is actually quite popular for high end computer cases. This is especially true for eATX products. The reason for this is for improved cooling by effectively separating heat zones, as well as making cable management a little easier inside. Consistent with its exterior, the interior is also well furnished with all surfaces painted matte black. Meanwhile, the back expansion slot covers and hard drive trays are painted white for maximum color contrast. Measuring in at 560mm in height, 232mm in width, and 561.3mm in length, it is actually not that big considering it is an Extended ATX case. On the other hand, it tips the scales at 39.49 lbs, which is actually quite heavy.

The Define XL is able to accommodate pretty much any motherboard -- this includes mITX, mATX, ATX, and eATX. The riser mounting holes are not labeled, however. Two exhaust fans are situated around the CPU socket area. At the back, we have one 140mm fan; whereas a larger 180mm fan is preinstalled at an angle at the top. Both fans have 3-pin motherboard headers with sleeved cables. Both fans do not have a fan filter, which is not necessary here anyway. The top fan is angled off to send exhaust heat out the back rather than the top. As I have said in the previous page, this is a fusion of the best of both worlds -- top fan exhaust, with no worries about dust from easily entering the system at the top.

We can find 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. My only complaint is the top opening for routing cables is shifted off too far to the right, rendering most ATX 4-pin/EPS 8-pin connectors from standard power supplies incapable of reaching the motherboard from behind the tray. I will talk about this again in the installation section on the next page.

A glimpse of the floor that separates the two chambers inside the Fractal Design Define XL. The panel dividing the two has a large opening in between; with a door closing it off. Unfortunately, you cannot route cables through this opening without removing the door entirely, as it cannot be partially closed. Other than this and routing cables behind the motherboard tray, there are no other methods you can use to connect devices between the upper and lower chamber. Therefore, in order for your ATX 4-pin/EPS 8-pin connector on your power supply to reach the motherboard connector without an extension cable, neat cabling will be a challenge for most people.

Four rubber risers pushes the power supply up an additional 2.5 cm over the bottom panel of the Define XL; used as vibration dampeners as well as further enhancing airflow to PSUs with bottom mounted fans. A honeycomb grille above the power supply bay provides some passive ventilation into the lower chamber (A 140mm fan can be installed in front to actively draw air into this section). The power supply bracket is detachable to allow the user to install the power supply in their preferred orientation. A layer of foam is placed on the inside of the bracket for more vibration dampening once your PSU is installed. Meanwhile, a fan filter can be found at the bottom, as discussed on the previous page, to ensure cool outside air drawn in by the power supply comes with minimal amounts of dust.

Two non-removable hard drive racks are placed next to each other in the remaining space. Each rack can accommodate three 2.5" or 3.5" drives for a total of six drives. Each tray orients the hard drive perpendicular to the chassis and is painted white; with rubber vibration dampeners pre-installed to reduce vibration caused by installed components. The rubber vibration dampeners must be removed when installing 2.5" drives like SSDs, but that is alright -- SSDs do not vibrate during operation anyway.

Four additional hard drives can be installed in the main chamber. For those who are too lazy to add, this means the Fractal Design Define XL can have up to ten hard drives installed at any given time. Perfect for a server. While the main chamber uses identical hard drive trays as the ones found in the lower chamber earlier, the quad drive rack is actually removable this time around -- all you need to do is take out a couple of thumbscrews, and slide the whole thing out. Meanwhile, we can see the four 5.25" drive bays right above. A 5.25" to 3.5" converter is already pre-installed for you out of the box.

For those who are wondering, the maximum video card length is, well, very long. This is an Extended ATX case, so I don't think there is any graphics card in the market today that will give you any headaches. But just for measurement's sake, I whipped out a ruler and the result came out to be around 32 cm.

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 XL, 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.

The large heatsink backplate opening actually comes with a black plastic door that you can close once you are done. It is quite a nice touch, but it would be nice if it is closed by a latch or other self-locking mechanism rather than a screw at the top. It is also kind of hard to mount at first; fortunately once you got it in, it does not come off easily.

Before we close off this section, there are just two more things I want to point out. Firstly, the case 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 sound insulation material is placed over this side panel for improved acoustic properties. The same goes for the one on the reciprocal side. With all this in mind, it is clear why the Fractal Design Define XL tips the scales at almost 40 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 this is no April Fools' joke!

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