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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  • magnetik - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    This might be just the case that I use for my new Sandy Bridge-E build Reply
  • sharpless78 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    They have already upgraded the Define R3 to USB3, and there's also a upgrade kit available. Reply
  • tzhu07 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Do they offer it for free to existing R3 owners or you pay a small cost? Reply
  • sharpless78 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Sorry to say, it is not for free. Reply
  • darckhart - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    typical. early adopters get the shaft while drumming up sales. Reply
  • lesbaer45 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Thus life's lesson #1034: Don't be an early adopter. You'll get the shaft.

    V3.0 owns V1.0. Every. Damn. Time.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    Well, the people who bought the case earlier and like it got to use the case and enjoy it sooner, so I wouldn't exactly call that "getting the shaft".

    If you wait to buy something until it's perfect, you'll never buy anything, and do without. Do you want it, or not? If it serves your purpose when you buy it, it's a good thing, no matter how much better the improved version is that comes along afterward.

    ;)
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, November 14, 2011 - link

    Oh no, a first world problem! I have to reach around the back to plug my USB 3 device instead of having a port at the front! OH NO! Reply
  • icebox - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I need to upgrade my home nas from an aging socket A shuttle PC. I was looking at this case for the new machine.

    Since you tested it how do you feel it will behave with all the drive bays occupied? Will it have space for intake fans if I fill all the drive bays?

    Cooling will be important for the drives and less for the motherboard / video card because it will obviously be a low power fusion / atom board.

    Thanks for the great review!
    Reply
  • slacr - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I use the R2 (previous generation) of this case for a HTPC/NAS/webserver/voicechatserver setup based on my old intel Q6600, currently stocked with 4 harddrives, an aging Seagate 250gb and 3 2TB samsungs.

    Temperatures are currently 39, 33, 33, 32

    Other components run at:
    CPU Temperature: +43.0°C (high = +60.0°C, crit = +65.0°C)
    MB Temperature: +36.0°C (high = +45.0°C, crit = +55.0°C)
    SB Temperature: +50.0°C (high = +65.0°C, crit = +95.0°C)
    NB Temperature: +55.0°C (high = +65.0°C, crit = +95.0°C)

    In my case i use 2 of fractals fans in the front, one hanging askew over RAM/CPU/NB/GPU and one in the back all running at 5V for a really quiet setup.

    I won't hesitate to add more drives when i need them, the only issue is the older 7200 rpm 250gb drive that is running slightly on the hot side.
    Reply

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