Page 4 - Installation and Conclusion
The installation process is extremely straightforward with the Fractal Design Define XL R2. 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 my Intel Desktop Board DZ77GA-70K motherboard first, followed by the rest of my components. However, it doesn't matter what you install first, since they will all work out just as well in the end.
Executing a good cabling job is also very easy on the Fractal Design Define XL R2. There are three large openings adjacent to the motherboard on the right, so choose your third. This is down from four openings in the Define XL, but these are larger and easier to work with. They are all appropriately placed for routing cables through, whether they are from your power supply or your hard drive, with proper 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. No full height gap exists between the motherboard tray and drive rack, so putting them through these openings is your only option.
The rest of the installation process came and went just as smoothly, as I continued to install the rest of my components. Large power supplies like the Thermaltake Toughpower XT Platinum 1275W will have no problems fitting in. 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. The Define XL R2 will give you no surprises.
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 large bottom right corner opening adjacent to the motherboard and HDD rack delivers excellent accessibility to anything that requires a connection to my DZ77GA-70K. 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. You can see my OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB and SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB in the photo above. 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 XL R2 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. Can you tell which one is the Define XL R2, and which one is the original Define XL? Well, you probably can't tell -- but the one on the left is the latest model, while the chassis on the right is the original.
On a scale from 0.0 to 10.0 where 0.0 is silent and 10.0 is the loudest, the stock Silent Series R2 fans would come in at 2.5 subjective sound rating at full blast. Their maximum speed is only 1000 RPM. 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 R2 is built to impress, bar none. The hydraulic bearing 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 XL R2 does a fine job and keeping my already very quiet parts even quieter than before. The Define XL R2, like the Define R4, is matchless in this regard. This is truly the case to choose for quiet PC enthusiasts who makes no compromise in power and performance.
To answer the question we have posed in the beginning of this review, is the Fractal Design Define XL R2 full tower chassis still relevant in today's competitive market? Sure it is. Is it still a big deal? Definitely. Carrying through Fractal Design's classic formula of good design, perfect refinement, and low noise, the Define XL R2 is every bit true to its heritage in its DNA. However, I feel this is one of those products where you gain some, and lose some at the same time. It was improved in several areas, such as more space behind the motherboard tray, and an integrated fan controller. What it has lost is the uniqueness of the original Define XL. The original Define XL may look like a bigger Define R3 on the outside, but stuff like its dual chamber design on the inside definitely sets it apart from the smaller model. The Fractal Design Define XL R2, on the other hand, is quite literally just a Define R4 sized 120%. It is much more closely related to the Define R4 than the Define XL. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not, since the Define R4 is definitely one of the best cases in the market today. But for a full tower case, it is probably reasonable for me to expect more features in the Define XL R2, than just being bigger than its mid tower variant. For about $130 at press time, this full tower chassis is priced a bit lower than the original Define XL when it first came out. I did not find the first expensive for what you get, but for those who did, the Define XL R2 will offer even more bang for your buck.
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.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 8.0/10
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.
If you put the Fractal Design Define R4 in a photocopier, and hit the 120% button, you will get the Define XL R2. Is it a bad thing? Probably not; the Define R4 is still one of the best cases ever made -- and so is the Define XL R2.
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1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion