Back to Article

  • ymrtech - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I have the first version of the XL and I love it.
    Gigantic, but quiet as hell when combined with aftermarket 120mm GPU (x2) fans and a Noctua nd-h14.
    My fans never increase in speeds, even under load, and the temperatures are always low.
  • reemrevnivek - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    You wrote:
    > Unfortunately, installing a full size hard drive into the top slot
    > of the cage will result in it scraping against the bottoms of the
    > plastic pegs that allow for the rotatable cage mounts.

    I just got this case (and agree with most all of the review) but this wasn't a problem I encountered. I installed a WD Caviar Blue 1TB hard drive and had no such troubles. I slipped the drive sled out, turned the mounting screws in securely, and slid it back in. Turning down the mounting screws caused just a bit of compression on the rubber grommets, but not enough to allow the drive to interfere and break off a plastic peg. The spec sheet for your Deskstar drive says it's the same height (26.1mm/1.028") as the WD drive, which is pretty standard.

    With these two data points, I am suspicious that the pegs were somehow moved in your removal and re-installation of the drive cages, and this is one of . Could you check this? I'll make measurements of the clearances on my case when I get home tonight for comparison.
  • arthur449 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I encountered this problem recently with WD Red 3TB drives and a Fractal Design Arc Midi. Care had to be taken when inserting 3.5" drives into the cage or the screws of the drive above would scrape the top of the drive below. Reply
  • arthur449 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Apologies for the double reply, but it should be stated that I had the same issue with Samsung F4s, WD Greens, and ancient Seagate 7200.11s. I screwed the mounting screws in as tight as they would go, causing your noted compression on the rubber grommets, but it still didn't give me the clearance needed to insert a drive beneath another without manually lifting the drive in the tray above when inserting the drive beneath. Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Stupid question, but did you use the right screws? I never had that problem mounting 9 drives in my Define XL. Reply
  • arthur449 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    It's entirely possible that the Arc Midi has less space between the drive trays than the Define XL, but I'm glad to see at least someone else is having clearance issues with 3.5" drives and Fractal Design cases.

    I only mounted seven 3.5" drives in the Arc Midi, but I double and triple checked that the screw placement and grommets were properly attached to the trays and that the screws were threaded as far into the drives as they would go (however, the threads of the included wafer head screws stopped well shy of the depth available in the HDD housing.)

    Perhaps this is simply an issue with the screws provided with the case.
  • reemrevnivek - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    The threads of the wafer head screws were able to go completely into my three assorted drives. They've got 0.2" of thread and a 0.2" shank. The drives all have at least 0.25" of thread depth, and the wafer head screws seat at the shank, which slides through the bushing providing vibration isolation. Do you have threads exposed when there's a bushing on the shank? Reply
  • reemrevnivek - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    OK, the promised measurements:

    - Sled metal + paint thickness: 0.030"
    - Height of grommet + sled metal + screw head*: 0.247"
    - Delta between fingertight mount screws and torqued down hard: 0.021" (reduces above height to 0.226)

    Maximum drive thicknesses:
    - Hitachi HDT721075 SLA 360: 0.993"
    - Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 750 GB: 1.017"
    - Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALX: 1.011"

    Drive + sled thickness:
    - Hitachi HDT721075 SLA 360: 1.227"
    - Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 750 GB: 1.248"
    - Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALX: 1.233"
    *These aren't precisely 0.021 + drive height, but I didn't do a thorough statistical sampling of each corner of each's close.

    And the most important measurements:
    - Inter-sled spacing: 1.254", +/- 0.02" over all 8 drive sleds
    - Grommet to plastic spacer (top hard drive max height): 1.017"

    It looks like I was simply lucky to have a set of drives and cages that fit well. My original comment was posted from work based on recollection of yesterday's assembly. As an electrical engineer with a little bit of mechanical design experience, the tolerance levels I see here aren't sufficient for a sheet metal manufacturing process, especially when you add painting/powder-coating variance into the mix.

    Looks like this is a tiny manufacturing oversight by Fractal Design, it was manufactured to use 1" high drives (they're not all precisely 1", 26.1mm is fairly common) and 0.25" thick grommets and wafer head screws, requiring 1.25" of spacing between sleds. This really needs to include some extra spacing for manufacturing errors, clearance fitting for easy assembly, and air flow here wouldn't hurt drive temps either.

    (PS: "and this is one of ." was supposed to be "and this is one of the things I didn't do." in the previous comment. I have now installed and removed the cages, and unless the whole cage was bent in your extraction (unlikely), it seems impossible to change the thickness.)
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    That was nice review, but I'm sorry, it lacks something: What's the point of testing mediocre (in terms of noise output and required/generated airflow) system in such big case? It is valid of course, as it gives reference point, but it's not so useful without a comparison. And that would be fitting at least full ATX, or yet better EATX (to test clearances for cable management in cases that support it (it's easy to route cables if you're putting mini-ITX board in CosmosS, like I did some time ago), with a couple or trio of loud (470 or 5850? FX-5950XT :D). Old 920-equipped X58 or some AM3 130W-140W Phenom I/II with three 470s or 5850, couple of 7.2k rpm drives and stock intel/AMD cooler, as a noise dampening torture test, and then a reasonable system (what was tested here is quite good), that's what should be done with every case. Purpose: It will give idea how good the case is in range of systems (interpolation, yo!), and when choosing a case, we get wider array of features we can compare. What's the cheapest case out there? Which is the quietest case? Which one is best for effectively cooling my high-end hardware? Which has the most useful-to-me feature-rich case, or with highest build quality? And, my favorite: What's the cheapest (with acceptable aesthetics, as per taste) case that will quietly house my hardware? That's why two sets of hardware should be included in case tests. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I agree; a huge case like this isn't really for the guy who builds a standard rig, it's for the person intending to fill it with a large MB loaded with graphics cards. At least one of the cards known to be rather noisy would be a better test here.

    And, I still want to know if the case will actually hold an XL-ATX comfortably, if it claims to be able to. You don't need to run the whole test with a board you can't fit in smaller cases, just put a couple of screws in it to see if it actually fits in, and if you have to do something like move the PSU from a bottom to top mount.

    I don't want to make this sound too negative - Anandtech does a great job with case reviews! These are just suggestions for ways to improve a bit. :)
  • arthur449 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    A useful review is one that compares an item against another using metrics that are important to the readers. Without a standard set of system components used in every review for every case in the comparison, a review turns into just another "I bought it, it works, I like it" write-up that other hardware sites like to pass off as "reviews."

    A solution to this could be Anandtech developing and using heating elements configured to produce similar amounts of heat and noise in similar locations to a standard ATX / mATX system. Then these elements could be adjusted to produce standard levels of heat output (65/77/95W) enthusiast heat output (130W/150W) and overclocked (200W+).

    Multiples of these heating elements could be placed in the larger cases to simulate high heat GPUs and determine exactly how much thermal capacity a given case has for such a scenario.

    But... custom fabrication, testing, and implementation of equipment such as this would be very spendy initially and the payoff questionable and unnecessary if the products in question fall into the disposable income category for your readership.
  • tim851 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    The metrics have to be relevant, though.

    It's reasonable to assume people are not buying big towers because they need to fill their empty rooms, but because they have components that require a big case.
    And you can't tell me that one of the - if not THE - premier tech sites on the web is not able to get three different sizes of mainboards to their case reviewer and a bunch of toasty GPUs to Trip-SLI. They can go on eBay and buy an ageing Nehalem CPU and a set of GTX 285s for all I care.

    Testing this monster of a case with 3 HDDs, an mATX board and a little 560 makes no sense, because the only valid conclusion can be that it is too big.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    The problem at this point is that if I switch up to a full ATX board now, it destroys the comparative data I've accumulated over the past year. I've been working on a third, "full fat" level using this board, but ironically the board's second PCIe x16 slot isn't working and so I can't bump up testing parameters until I've sorted that out. Reply
  • Skolde - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Your case reviews are outstanding minus one thing:

    You should really consider using an ATX sized motherboard when reviewing full sized cases. I've noticed on previous reviews the habit of using small motherboards in larger cases, and it really doesn't give me a good feel for its target component size.

    ATX, Micro-ATX and mini-ITX boards should be used according to the size of the case being reviewed.
  • Hrel - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Agreed. I've said this on other case reviews. Changing the size of the mobo but keeping the same chipset shouldn't affect any of the tests. There's really no reason not to. Unless you're buying a mimi-ATX case or smaller you are probably using a Full ATX motherboard, or larger. I stay with ATX for the expansion slots. Currently still running an old Nvidia 650 SLI chipset, but it has a USB 3.0 controller and SATA 6GBPS ports because of the expansion slots available in the motherboard. That computer is nearing it's end of life but with the SSD in it the CPU is actually the slowest part. Still run everything I do great and I have no intention of upgrading until it can't. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Lots of people have been saying this over and over in every review like this at this site. I agree, it makes little sense to test the case with a small motherboard that most of us would never in a million years put in this case.

    But the reviewers are obstinate. They want you to be able to compare the reference system from a microATX case to a ATX XL case and see what the benchmarks say is the best case.

    For better or worse.
  • tim851 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I hate that methodology.

    People aren't choosing between mATX and XL-ATX.

    Car reviewers figured that out a long time ago. No sense pitting a Corvette against an Escalade and a Ford Fusion. Nobody will decide between these based on trunk size or fuel economy.

    There are fringe cases out there for sure, but the vast majority buys cases based on what they can do with them. In the case of a full towers that's stuffing it full of chips.
    If you have an mATX board, you get an mATX case. Chances are you bought it for the size or the prize.
    Either way, you ain't considering the Fractal Define XL R2...
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    The reason I made this call and stand by it:

    What do you lose by going with an mATX board over a standard ATX board?
  • haplo602 - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    It's not ATX vs mATX. This is an XL-ATX/E-ATX capable case, so some people will lose PCI-E slots and some even a CPU socket (my case) which is show stopper.

    There are plenty of cases that can fit an mATX board. It's the other end of the spectrum that's starved.
  • tim851 - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Ask yourself this: why is anybody choosing a full tower? An mATX board, single GPU and three hard disks fit into a Silverstone TJ08. Do you think there are people undecided between a TJ08 and a Define XL waiting for a comparative review? Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I'm working on putting together an SLI configuration for this testbed, but you guys really don't understand just how small an organization AT is. It's not like I can snap my fingers and just make hardware magically appear, and I handle a *lot* of reviews.

    Could I get a trio of GTX 285s? Probably. But then people would complain that I'm using outdated hardware, or that the cards being scrunched together doesn't somehow demonstrate how the case might handle cards that are properly separated by a slot or two slots.

    Of course I could just be frustrated because I've spent two nights now trying to get the testbed motherboard to actually recognize two cards in SLI with no success, trying to somehow appease an audience that is oftentimes unhappy no matter what I do, or will make irrational requests without thinking about whether or not there's any practical difference in what they ask for.
  • haplo602 - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    I don't think you are getting the point. We don't need FPS benchmarks on a working setup. We need accoustic,thermal and space/build checked.

    So you don't need tripple SLI o what not. Just scrape in 3 cards and load all of them (bitcoin comes to mind). You can even make bitcoin run on the cpu, so you have a realy HOT setup in the case. You need to generat head and fan noise, not pretty FPS numbers.

    Get ANY large mobo that will fit (you can get old dual opteron setups for peanuts on ebay) and mount it. Are there cable routing problems when the case is fully packed ? This kind of thing is critical for a big case. An mATX board will not help checking this out.
  • SVoyager - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - link

    ^ This!

    Dustin, the review you did was great and even after seeing the picture of the case with your board mounted (a bit of a facepalm there when I saw it), most of the data of the review was quite useful.

    Still, in the quest of making things better, what haplo602 said above is spot on. Full towers are meant to be filled with things. Say, if I get both the drive cages full of drives, does this case fare better than another one with similar setups. Will the drive noise leak out from the front or will the door dampen the noise enough? Will the cage design affect airflow in a way to make things more efficient or will the air be blocked so much that the whole system temps take a huge hit? Will fully populated drive cages create cable management issues? etc.

    Keep up the good work, no need to be frustrated on this, the review is nice and the suggestions here can only make future reviews even better!

    Now fill that tower up! :-)

  • Hrel - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - link

    You lose the ability to guage how well it fits. How much room there is to work with, from the pictures. How well do the cables reach. So on and so forth. Reply
  • Hrel - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Probably gonna be my next case. Unless they can pull off a smaller one (mid tower) with the same acoustics, or better. Sexy as fuck, this is how a case should look. Fractal Design doing it right.

    Curious though, why do you make such a big deal about fan controllers? Do you never buy fans that automatically adjust their speed based on temp? Antec has some really good ones. I highly recommend them. Makes a dedicated fan controller silly and pointless.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    1. Buying fans that would automatically adjust their speed based on temperature would mean having to replace what comes with the case.

    2. I personally prefer a constant, low volume to fans ramping up and down depending on load.
  • Hrel - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    But... if you're just going to keep them at the lowest possible speed, or medium or whatever, then why so you need a fan controller? The fans in most cases never change speed, they just run. Scythe has some very nice low RPM high CFM fans for cases. That's what I normally use as intake fans. I prefer to buy cases with as few fans as possible already in them though; then put in what I want. I guess in this price range you expect to not have to do that. Based on your acoustic testing though I'd say the fans in this are well balanced. Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I prefer just buying cheap fans, and inserting a resistor cable. I recently bought a set of 5 resistor cables for something like $4 shipped to my door. Then I can buy any cheap $3 fan, and make it silent. I have a large Antec P182 case, and it's completely silent with an overclocked i3570K and HD6800.

    Every time a see these reviews I think about upgrading, but I really can't complain about my existing case - it's big and silent. That's the nioce thing about a case - it can last a long time, through several upgrades. I'm on my 4th motherboard since I bought my case.
  • NeoReaper - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    is it me or this just an old antec p180? how is this different? Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    It is extremely similar. I've built so many with the P180's for others that it came to mind immediately just looking at the front :) I wouldn't be surprise if the design was just slightly changed from the P180. Love the P180 and thus this performs and functions identical. In fact, my nephews' P180s are so quiet sometimes they turn off the computer thinking it was off hahaha Reply
  • omgia - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I moved from a p180 to an Define R4 recently. The most notable difference between this and the p180 is the cable routing. There is a significant difference in the amount of space behind the motherboard for routing cables. Also, my R4 is 4-6 degrees cooler (F) than my Antec P180 was with the supposedly better thermal sections. This may be because these cases uses 140 vs 120mm fans. But also, with the ability to get all of the wires behind the motherboard, you have better airflow. Something I was personally never able to achieve with the P180. I like the build quality of this case better than the P180 as well. Support for front USB 3.0 is also nice. I was thinking about getting a P280, but after completing my build, I have no reservations that the R4 or XL-R2 are better cases. Reply
  • akhaddd - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    eep Silence cases are already pretty heavy and well built in their own right, then add another ten pounds and three inches. The Define XL R2 is made almost entirely of steel with really the bare minimum of plastic used in its Reply
  • lwatcdr - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    With the new closed loop systems from Corsair, NZXT, and Swift tech it would be nice to know which fit in the case. Yes I know you can not test with every Motherboard but they are becoming mainstream so it would be helpful to add that data even if it just "The mounting screws will fit. Reply
  • omgia - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I just purchased a Define R4 and one of the biggest problems is reaching the 12V lead up to the top-left of the case.I'm sure most would fit if routed over the top of the motherboard, but you really need a long one to route through the grommets.

    One feature of the XL-R2 and the R4's are mounting spaces for SSDs on the back of the motherboard tray. This seems like a great idea at first, but you must mount it prior to installing the motherboard (meaning you'll have to remove the motherboard to remove the drive). And the mounting positions are far enough away from the other drives, it may be difficult to share a power lead between the drive trays and the 2.5" mount points. I was able to share one with a SATA lead with 3 connectors, but not a lead with 2. The center connector on the lead with 3 became useless.

    Not sure about the XL-R2, but on the Define R4, the center drive tray is subject to vibration from mechanical drives. Even with the screws on the drive tray holder secured tightly, there were significant vibrations that could easily be heard outside the case. This was evident even using the bottom screw holes with rubber grommets. I had to torque down these screws hard to get the vibrations to stop.

    As far as noise goes, these are silent cases, not silencing cases. The foam may help a little, but it is not going to really do any sound deadening. The case on its own is whisper quiet without any components. But I can still hear hard drives chirping and my noisier cpu fan. If you are replacing an existing case, listen to your system without all of your existing case fans running. That is how it will probably sound with an XL-R2 or Define R4. Maybe a decible or two lower, but nothing significant.
  • Touche - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Is that GPU crooked? Reply
  • snakyjake - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I wanted a large case for a NAS/Multipurpose machine that will be in my home, so need something quiet. Reply
  • bsix - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    With the Define (regular size) cases the inlet airflow is stifled because of the drive cages and the more restrictive cages they use. This problem seems so be solved by using the bottom fan. This is really the only difference in these two cases from an airflow perspective.

    i bet the R4 would do much better with an additional inlet fan on the bottom and potentially some better case fans that can lower the noise floor an additional 2 db.

    This would be really appreciated - I bet the R4 would be equal to both the nanoxia and the XL R2 in acoustics with this setup.

    Take care.
  • stratosrally - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I do realize that Anandtech is known for pulling no punches (and am thankful for that!) but the article really doesn't come across positively enough. The fact that it is such a large case, comes with 3 fans & a fan controller, and performs so well for a suggested list price of only $129.99 ought to be given more emphasis in this review.

    The review seems to be almost begrudging in admitting that the XL R2 does so well across the board. For example, the amount of room for cable routing (26mm - more than an inch!) precludes the need for channels in the motherboard plate which would just add complexity and cost.

    BTW - the constant promotion of the Nanoxia can be a bit frustrating given that it still isn't available in the US. It, too has no motherboard guide post and you mentioned similar issues in installing the PSU. You also mentioned I/O panel & GPU installation issues. You actually stated you might be coming across as nitpicking in that review, yet gave it the Bronze Editor's Choice Award.

    I personally think there's a limit to how much reasonably-priced enclosures can ease assembly. I don't mind installing my own standoffs and paying attention (using both hands, etc.) when installing the PSU. Given the variety of motherboard sizes this case will accept you'd quite possibly be adding or subtracting standoffs anyway.

    If I wanted everything done for myself I'd expect to pay a more premium price. As this case is larger and performs equal to or better than the Deep Silence 1 in the tests - IMHO it deserves the Silver or even Gold Award.
  • five_seven - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    After reading so many reviews I, too, am tired of hearing about stand-offs not being installed on a motherboard. An enthusiast building their own PC is doing just that-- building their own PC. If people really feel dragged out by having to figure out how to align a motherboard with a lack of stand-offs or a center stud, they've got bigger problems.

    Rather than docking any points from your " utterly worthless, arbitrary point system" over this issue, might I suggest simply indicating if a case provides stand-offs and if the user will need to install them or not. Some objectivity in regards to this issue, however, would be nice.
  • UNhooked - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Once again no watercooling support of any kind was discussed. You really need to start incorporating this. It is now a vital part of case reviews based on mainstream watercooling has become. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    The top of the case above the mobo has plenty of space left for a rad, that was mentioned.

    But yes, it wasn't tested.
  • BlueReason - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Yeah that'll fit my two ssds nicely. Reply
  • DLeRium - Monday, February 25, 2013 - link

    So you spend 2 precious reviews on these two cases, give them gold and bronze awards, and they don't show up in any other case reviews? How am I supposed to make an informed purchasing decision? Reply
  • Texax - Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - link

    Pardon my ignorance but what does 12v, 7v and 5v mean? Power supply output? Reply
  • Nicholas Steel - Sunday, March 30, 2014 - link

    Could someone explain the difference between (7v) and (12v) on the Noise and Thermal Testing page? The page explaining the system setups doesn't explain why the case is listed twice in the benchmarks with an arbitrary designation... Reply
  • Nicholas Steel - Sunday, March 30, 2014 - link

    Oh wait, nevermind. I forgot you're testing each Case Fan Preset. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now