Page 4 - Installation and Conclusion
Knowing the Fractal Design Define XL is an eATX chassis, it probably does not come as a surprise to you that the case is very easy to work with. Combined with a plethora amount of room, the dual chamber design allows the user to install components in any order they prefer. Personally, I like to install the CPU and motherboard first, followed by the power supply, then components that connect directly to the motherboard, with hard drives last. I modified my schedule slightly and connected my power supply after installing all the main components instead, but otherwise, my approach is quite similar. To start off, I installed my Gigabyte X48T-DQ6, along with an Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 on stock cooling. I carefully hid the fan cables, as you will see in the next picture. This is done either by rotating the rear fan; or in the case of the top fan, creatively hid it along the heatpipes.
I used a non-modular FSP AURUM Gold 600W ATX power supply, in which I will be taking a look at in the next few weeks. I chose this unit because it is a low wattage Gold certified PSU; and maximum efficiency is important for a server that will be running 24/7. (Power supplies are most efficient at around 50% load.) The power supply bracket can be removed and turned around, so the user can install their power supply in their preferred orientation. The default setting forces standard PSUs in upside-down, so I had to give it a quick adjustment before continuing on to the next stage.
As you can see in my photo above, I have cleaned up the cables along the rear fans, which is connected directly to my motherboard. For users who don't like motherboard controlled fans, Fractal Design includes a fan controller out of the box. Meanwhile, routing the wires around the Define XL is a piece of cake. Simply send them through an opening next to the power supply in the bottom chamber, and pull them through behind the motherboard tray. It was simple enough to get the ATX 24-pin connector in and out, but as discussed earlier, the ATX 4-pin/EPS 8-pin connector will require an extension cable for all power supplies if you want it through the opening at the top. Fortunately, I have one lying around since 2007. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Therefore, I think Fractal Design should either change the location of this opening, or provide an extension cable, since most people will need it. Just a word of warning though, if this cable is sort of loose, it will interfere with the angled upper fan. After finishing off my build, it didn't take long for me to see this problem, so I ended up zip-tying it to one of the pins on the Intel stock cooler to prevent interference.
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 four openings adjacent to the motherboard delivers excellent accessibility to anything that requires a connection to my X48T-DQ6. 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. Slide it back into the rack, make the proper connections on the opposite side, and you are good to go.
With the exception of thumbscrews here and there, installation of most components is not tool-free -- so do keep your screwdriver handy. 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.
My server 'Anthem' deployed, built with the Fractal Design Define XL. Good dust filters are very important here.
After plugging in everything, our system configured inside the Fractal Design Define XL 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 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 XL 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, one of my old Western Digital 80GB hard drives exhibits a loud motor whine when in use, and the Fractal Design Define XL rendered this high pitched noise nearly inaudible with the doors closed. That is quite impressive.
Fractal Design may not be one of the big boys when it comes to the supersaturated chassis market, but products like the Define XL is nothing to be ashamed of when parked next to the big boys. In fact, it is probably better than what the big boys have been pushing out to the market in the last little while. All I can say is, their amazing attention to detail and quality is so blatantly obvious, it simply cannot be ignored. From the beautifully constructed exterior, to the extremely refined interior, Fractal Design has pretty much got their formula right. I simply cannot see any location where the company has attempted to cut corners in the Define XL. And the thing is, even if they have designed it for quiet computing, they have not skimped on its cooling abilities either. For the most part, the Fractal Design Define XL is designed with the enthusiast user in mind. An enthusiast user who desire quality and clean looks above all else. 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. Change the opening for the ATX 4-pin/EPS 8-pin connector to a more optimal location. Increase the gap between the motherboard tray and right panel. Make small openings for routing cables in the partition that divides the two chambers. Include a case speaker and HDD LED. Add a window option for those who are willing to sacrifice a bit of noise insulation for better looks. Other than that? All I can say is, this is one amazing case you just do not want to miss out. Seriously, after playing with the Fractal Design Define XL for the last few weeks, I can still scarcely believe it is only $150 at press time. This, my friend, is what I call a pure bargain. This is no April Fools' joke. If they decide to sell it for $250 tomorrow, I'd still line up with my cash!
Fractal Design provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH:Renewal Award | APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.8/10
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.
Quality Quality Quality Quality Quality. This is what the Fractal Design Define XL is all about. For $150? What the heck are you waiting for?
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1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion