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
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  • ven - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    If anybody wants ever more silent PC take a look at the CM silencio 550.Great look i was stunned by the mirror finish front panel of that case(yes of course that means more prone to scratches and finger prints).

    Only thing it lacks the R3 is by the fan count but that is not the problem for those who need a Ultimate silent PC if anybody decided there preference is silence then silencio will be a great option.And for those who has trade-of between silence and performance go for the R3.They both have same price range(95-110$)
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Good call. Looks nice, and has a removable cage too, if you want a massive card. Reply
  • ven - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Yes, that's a nice option i like the silencio especially for that.And also silhouetted holes at rear of the case for water cooling making this case a solution for small,silent gaming ring.

    Dustin, check this case immediately it's a great competitor for R3.

    For more information:

    http://www.guru3d.com/article/cooler-master-silenc...
    Reply
  • Peskarik - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    I looked at this case when I was choosing, also at Thermaltake Element S.
    Silencio does not have enough cooling expansion capacity.
    Reply
  • ven - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    sorry not front panel the front door i meant to refer. Reply
  • geniekid - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    SPCR.com gives the nod to the R3 and the H2 over the Silencio, but it does note that the Silencio is cheaper than both (about $70 vs $100).

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1210-page8.ht...

    I certainly wouldn't mind AT reviewing it though :)
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Cooler Master stuff is a bit harder to get in and honestly I wasn't impressed with the Silencio 550 when iBuyPower used it for their workstation, since it utterly failed to dampen hard drive noise. Reply
  • Peskarik - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    What about Thermaltake Element S? Especially the version with side fan? Reply
  • XiZeL - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Would a corsair H100 Fit well in this and would perform well?

    thinking about this case with a i5.2500k with reference 6950(blowing air out)
    Reply
  • slacr - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Fit, sortof.

    Fit well, no. I originally wanted to place a 2*120mm radiator in the roof of my case, but the top cutouts are 2*140 with fan mount holes for 120 in the middle of them. This results in a spacing between the two 120mm mounts being too far apart for standard radiator hole spacing. Trying to use a 2*140 radiator will place it too close to the motherboard. So in order to fit it properly in this case you have to make modifications.

    They did adress the watercooling/H100 issue with a different case, the Arc, see link here: http://www.fractal-design.com/?view=product&pr...

    I don't have any experience with that case though.
    Reply

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