Fractal Design Define R3 Case review

A mid-tower PC case that balances quietness and cooling to perfection
Photo of Fractal Design Define R3 Case
£85

Fractal Design is a Swedish manufacturer specialising in low-noise computer products. The Define R3 is the company’s latest midi tower enclosure, and aims to strike a balance between low noise and cooling.

What it looks like
Aesthetically the R3 is fairly minimalist, with clean lines and a featureless aluminium door to hide unsightly optical drives. This is a look reminiscent of certain Lian Li and Antec cases, and will polarise users into two distinct camps. Some will love its fridge-inspired styling – others will crave something a little more aggressive.

Opening the door reveals two 5.25in bays; two or three fewer than most midi tower chassis. This is a design decision that frees up internal space for more hard disks, but may render the case inappropriate for some. Below the bays are two 120mm intakes, both of which can be opened to reveal removable filters.

Connectivity-wise, the R3 has two USB 2.0 ports and an eSATA connector. You also get two front-panel audio jacks. FireWire and USB 3.0 ports would have been nice additions – but these are far from ubiquitous even on cases costing much more than the Define R3. Other external features of note are the removable fan filter covering the bottom PSU intake, and four openings for external water cooling radiators.

Inside the case
Internally the case reveals no fewer than eight 3.5in slide-out caddies, each of which can hold either a conventional hard drive or a 2.5in SSD. This makes the case ideal for those who want to build a capacious media or file server without having to resort to a huge full-tower chassis.

The Fractal comes with two 120mm fans as standard, but it can accommodate four more if cooling is prioritised. In each case the extra vents are covered with a dense foam padding that serves to act as a noise-absorbing barrier. These can be easily unscrewed and replaced with fans, allowing users to add or remove cooling as their use of the case evolves.

Every other internal surface in the case is also covered with dense sound-absorbing foam. This has a significant impact on system noise, and the reduction in audible sound with and without the side panel in place is very noticeable.

Keeping cables tidy within the R3 is made simple by the capacious space behind the motherboard tray, as well as numerous cut-outs for routing. There’s also a large cut-out allowing bolt-through CPU coolers to be mounted, without the need to remove the motherboard. The extensive use of tool-free thumbscrews further eases installation.

Keeping cool
With its stock allocation of fans the Fractal performs surprisingly well, recording temperatures only four degrees warmer than the Xigmatek Midgard – a much more openly-vented chassis. The 120mm stock fans are quiet but effective, and when coupled to a motherboard fan-controller are barely audible. With the low-noise padding removed and a few extra fans fitted the R3′s cooling prowess can challenge the best cases out there, including the NZXT Phantom and the Cooler Master CM690 II. This flexibility is one of the R3′s greatest assets.

Company: Fractal Design

Contact: +1 855-446-3722

Positives
  • Excellent value for money; excellent low-noise features; highly flexible; well made.
Negative
  • Lacks FireWire; some may need more 5.25in bays.

Verdict
The Fractal Design R3 is an outstanding case for those seeking to build a quiet PC. Clever design decisions also make it just as suitable for performance users who like its clean lines and minimalistic styling.