Introducing the Fractal Design Define R3

One of the perks of this job is getting to see some up-and-comers get championed by our readership and then turn around and find out what the fuss is all about. Such is the "case" (pun wholly intended) with Fractal Design's Define R3 enclosure. This is a case that has shown up fairly regularly in comments practically since we started doing these reviews again at the beginning of the year, and now we finally have the Define R3 in house for testing. It carries the weight of the community behind it and to its credit, it's certainly an interesting piece of kit at first glance. Does it live up to the word of mouth?

Something that's been bugging me since I started doing these reviews is a stunning lack of enclosures that are engineered with silent running in mind. Very few seem to make provisions towards keeping noise in check, and as a result the competition in that arena can be slim. Yet what Fractal Design has done with the Define R3 suggests that the end user need not choose to build a silent machine or a cooling optimized one. Not just that, but they've driven south the price of acoustically optimized cases into a realm previously only really occupied by NZXT's H2.

Keep in mind that this is a $99-$109 case, though. In my experience there's been an unofficial rule in the enclosure industry: south of $200 you can get silence or great cooling, but not both. For that, you'll need to spend up on something like the SilverStone FT02 or Thermaltake Level 10 GT. The question then is whether the Define R3 can challenge that notion.

Fractal Design Define R3 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25" (one 5.25" to 3.5" converter panel included)
Internal 8x 3.5"/2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan, 1x 120mm fan mount
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120/140mm fan mounts
Side 1x 120/140mm fan mount
Bottom 1x 120/140mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 7
Front I/O Port -
Top I/O Port Mic and headphone jacks, 2x USB 2.0, eSATA
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearance 11.5" (Expansion Cards), 170mm (CPU HSF), 180mm (PSU)
Weight 27.56 lbs. (12.5 kg)
Dimensions 20.85" x 8.17" x 17.4" (529.5mm x 207.5mm x 442mm)
Price $109

The Fractal Design R3 may come with a bunch of fan mounts, but it also includes acoustic pads that are mounted inside the case to cover up the unused mounts. As a result, any turbulence inside the case is kept inside the case; use the fan mounts you want without worrying that the ones you don't want are going to be letting noise leak out. While there are plenty of fan mounts, the Define R3 comes equipped with two 120mm fans.

In and Around the Fractal Design Define R3
POST A COMMENT

84 Comments

View All Comments

  • icebox - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Thanks. I suppose the Q6600 generates quite some heat by itself? Since a fusion /atom board would be cool enough and I have wd green drives for the build it should work quite nice than.

    Thanks for the detailed info.
    Reply
  • slacr - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Yes, it runs at ~60-80W i'd assume, on slightly lower voltage than stock.

    The entire system consumes 100-120W measured at the socket. To clarify, the front fans slot in between the drive cage and the front of the case and do not affect the space for disks. It should work fine with lots WD GP-drives.
    Reply
  • Peskarik - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I have this case since 2 days.
    There is space for 2 intake fans independent of number of drives you put in. Moreover you have a hole at the bottom, a hole on the left side, two holes on the top = building well-cooled (but maybe loud) machine is no problem.
    Reply
  • j-g-faustus - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I'm using this case for a home server with ten HDD (using all eight 3.5" and both 5.25" bays) and a i7 920, it works very well.

    I had to experiment a bit with cooling, but with a few extra fans it is both cool and quiet.

    More detail here: http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php...
    Reply
  • TerdFerguson - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    "odds are you're not going to be fitting an AMD Radeon HD 6990 or ASUS Mars II in here, but if you can afford either of those, why are you buying a $100 case?"

    Are you really that out of touch with reality? A computer case, to many, is a plain metal box that sits tucked away under a desk. Being able to accommodate a slightly larger than average graphics card does not alone justify a huge price bump.

    You guys are quick to do teardowns of every Apple or Amazon branded product you can get your hands on, why don't you do some on high-end computer cases and motherboards. Please, please, please, show us where all the extra money is being converted into value. I would be very interested in hearing how profit margins scale against unit price. Until that's been done, please stop coming off as a snobby douche-bag by insinuating that a case that costs less than $100 is inappropriate for housing a high-end graphics card.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Did you not read my review?

    In my experience, the only place you're going to find both silence AND cooling performance in an enclosure is north of the $150 mark or so. I've been testing these for the better part of the last year and the fact is, depending on your priorities, you DO get what you pay for by spending up on something like SilverStone's FT02, Antec's P183, or Thermaltake's Level 10 GT.

    Or you could just insult me. You could do that, too.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the reply, Terd, but are *you* that out of touch with reality? The number of people who buy/own the 6990 and/or Mars II is so trivially small that what we're saying is the <0.01% of users who own one of those products will want a larger case and aren't interested in a $100 enclosure.

    Let's see... $700+ on the graphics card, $200+ for a PSU to run the cards, and certainly you'd want a good motherboard and CPU in there. But after all that, you seem to think people would go for a $100 "box of steel" to put it in. I've got a 5870 CrossFire setup myself, and originally had it in a Lian Li case that's similar in some ways to this; I upgraded to a Silverstone case and a different motherboard purely to make the system run cooler and better. You want to run something like that in the Fractal Design, sure, you can do it; you can even do GTX 580 SLI. But if you're after an HD 6990 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... or a crazy-extreme Mars II (like this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... I'm pretty sure this case isn't in contention for the rights of holding everything.
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    Jarred, I believe that many people have spent a lot on their essential components and not had much left over for a case. Its one area where I would personally be willing to cut corners. $100 will get me more than a suitable box. Just because I may want a fast PC (My Opteron 185 was once bleeding edge), does not mean I need to invest a lot in a case and I believe there are many sensible people who would share that sentiment.

    I have spent $400 on a graphics card before. I don't know why anyone would though, when you can simply wait a year and buy a $180 graphics card that outperforms it. Seems like that $200 could make me an extra $200 by the time I retire, and then I'd be happy to say I saved up to $400 by waiting a year and going lower-end. Computers today are "fast enough" and just because you can't play the latest titles does not mean you won't have solid, tested, cheap entertainment. I know capitalists would like to push sales, but we already live in a debt/slave society. The logical mathematics of it point to the idea that people willing to spend that much on a new system are not good stewards of their money.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    I agree completely with your first statement (I as well looked for a cheap well performing case for both myself and my dad's gaming rigs). The Antec300 in my dad's system is INCREDIBLE for the money. I believe I spent $35 after a 30 rebate or something, WITH free shipping from Newegg, and with a moderate system (core i5 not OC'd, 5850) it is virtually silent with fantastic airflow. Same with my personal gaming system which was a $50-70 sTitan case which similarly performed very well while remaining pretty quiet.

    I guess a lot of people constantly are modding their systems but for me it's pretty much build it and occasionally take it outside to air compressor clean it, but it stays like that until the next build. So I don't really care if the build itself is a bit difficult, or the case isn't fancy (sits under my desk), it just has to perform well, have good cable routing options, and be inexpensive.

    I have no clue, though, where you go off on the second paragraph tangent about our society.
    Reply
  • Calin - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    "but they've driven south the price of acoustically optimized cases"

    Is that in Mexico, Honduras, or maybe even Argentina?
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now