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

  • slacr - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    The main differences are:

    Paint, a bit less shiny and more rugged.
    Sound dampening material, R2 has only bitumen where the R3 uses a mix of foam and bitumen.
    Softer grommet material for cabling
    Larger rear cutout

    No big deal imo, I use the R2 and build a computer for my father in an R3
    Reply
  • Juddog - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    It seems almost like they had a NAS usage in mind when they designed the case. It would make a perfect NAS box on the cheap. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    Nah, for that, get yourself the Define Mini and use a microATX board.
    Has 6 3.5" and 2x 5.25" in the exact same, elegant design.

    Would be nice and compact.
    Reply
  • zero2dash - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Glad to see that you finally have one to review. :)

    -On mine, I did some fan re-configuration. I'm sure for review purposes, you have to review the case with the stock setup....in any event, in my white R3, I took out the FD fans and put 2 S-Flex SFF21E's in the front, 1 SFF21E at the bottom mount position next to the psu, and 1 SFF21E in the rear of the case. I left the ModuVent covers on the side intake and the 2 top exhausts. I'm running a 2600K oc'd to 4.6 GHz @ 1.35 Vcc using a TRUE in push/pull with SFF21E's and my load temps stay around 60C.

    The point being - if you set up the R3 like most of the enthusiast 'open air' cases out nowadays, it can definitely hold it's own and compete with them. When I bought the case, I was looking for Antec 300 performance with silence....IMHO, I've achieved that goal.

    -Also on mine, I didn't have the issue you mentioned with the standoffs not lining up....mine lined up just fine.

    -If I have to list a gripe about the case, it's that the front dust filters are more of a PITA than I'd like to clean. The Antec 300 is a perfect example of dust filters done completely right; it takes 2 minutes to remove, rinse, dry, and reinstall a 300 dust filter. The R3 is quite different. I don't like having to grab a screwdriver to uninstall the fan/filter "sandwich" and then pry the filter off. Luckily with the door and the vents, the front doesn't get too dusty.

    -One other minor gripe is I wish the case had a HDD activity light. Some people hook the power LED light up to the HDD header on the board, which does work obviously....I just wish it had a small LED at the top for HDD activity. Nevertheless, it's certainly not a deal breaker.
    Reply
  • barry spock - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    now do the Define Mini! That's what I have, and I really like it. Reply
  • derickso - Sunday, November 13, 2011 - link

    agree, please review this box! Reply
  • earle36 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I'm also an owner of this case and absolutely love it! Spec wise I have a Core i5 2500 k running stock, a 6950, and an Asus P8P67. I keep my computer on my desk close to my head, and my previous computer was obnoxiously loud - especially when playing games. When I set out to build a new computer at the beginning of this year, I had a few criteria for choosing the case. Looks, Sound, and Cooling Performance.

    I love the way this case looks - it's not very outlandish or super geeky looking. And considering that it sits on my desk in the living room of my tiny apartment in plain view - that's a big deal to me. I don't want to my case to have several LEDs and an eccentric shape / design that sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Sound-wise I couldn't be happier. The design here is very thoughtful - love that you can open / close the vents, and that they have the sound dampening material on them too. I've left the side and top vents closed, and I bought some Nexus case fans that I put on the front, CPU, and back of the case. These seemed a bit quieter than the stock fans. I used my motherboards' software to control the speed of the fans so that they're inaudible while the system is idle (somewhere around 1100 - 1200rpm). I bought a Seasonic Power Supply that doesn't use the fan while idle. When I play a game, the fans crank up, though they're completely overshadowed by the fan on the graphics card. Still, It's by far the quietest case I've had and VERY quiet.

    Cooling wise I've made a small sacrifice in performance so I could have a silent case. Idle it sits between 80's and 90's Fahrenheit, I haven' t seen it go over 120 under load.

    Overall couldn't be happier with this case!
    Reply
  • londiste - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I was literally buying the case when I noticed that it can barely fit 5870 with stock cooling and no way it's going to fit it with the Arctic Accelero Xtreme I have on the thing.

    I hate this, especially as practically every other Fractal Design case has removable drive bays - arcs, define r3 mini, but not the define r3.
    Reply
  • zero2dash - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Barely fit a 5870?
    Considering a 5870 is 11" and I had plenty of room to fit a 6950 which is also 11", plus mine has a beefed up cooler on it....yeah there's no problem fitting an 11" gpu in the R3.
    pics for ref: http://s249.photobucket.com/albums/gg212/zero2dash...
    Reply
  • zero2dash - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Well mine's actually shorter than that but there's still a good 2" of clearance there, I don't think you'll have any problems fitting an 11" card. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now