Conclusion: Almost Everything You Need

My title for this review stems from the feeling that I've finally tested an enthusiast-class quiet case that is capable of producing excellent acoustics and performance competitive with cases that don't share its acoustic allowances. The Fractal Design Define XL R2 is a beastly piece of engineering, but it's also a very pleasant surprise. If you eyeball large enthusiast cases but wish they had at least some padding to keep the noise down, Fractal Design may actually have you covered.

Fractal Design continues to carve out an aesthetic that's unique to them without being ostentatious. This is the look that got them attention on American shores in the first place and had you, the readership, clamoring for a review of the Define R3. Sometimes a look just works; Fractal Design had no real reason to redesign here, so they didn't. Meanwhile, though the interior design is a little dated, it's still functional and it gets the job done. This is conservative, but the thermals and acoustics really are among the best in class.

Yet for how fantastically the XL R2 performs, this isn't a clean sweep. While I would definitely argue that the $129 price tag is competitive at worst, and the XL R2 is ultimately a slightly better performer than Nanoxia's Deep Silence 1, by its very nature, the XL R2 does not eclipse Nanoxia's offering. The DS1 is cheaper and smaller, and the result is that the XL R2 winds up serving an ever so slightly different user base. Fractal Design needs to take some of the lessons learned by the XL R2's design as well as some of the lessons learned by their competitors and drill down to a basic Define R5.

There's also the fact that the XL R2 can be, at times, needlessly difficult to assemble. Fractal Design misses minor conveniences that are fast becoming standard in the market, and I think they could stand to add another fan controller though it's not strictly necessary. These are kinks that can be ironed out in another revision but they do merit mentioning. Despite my gripes about the motherboard and power supply installation, though, I have to at least thank them for using hinged panels instead of notched ones. Doing so makes the case much, much friendlier to end users who like to tinker.

Of course, for the reasonable $129 price tag, it gets a bit easier to put up with the Fractal Design Define XL R2's quirks. Truth be told, as far as acoustics in an enthusiast-grade case go, you're really going to have a rough time beating what Fractal Design has accomplished here. Other cases will cool better, sure, but the XL R2 still cools well, and it's able to snuff out a lot of noise in the process. The price is right, the performance is there, and it's exceptionally easy to recommend the XL R2 for a power user that still wants a quiet system. I think the design could use one more revision to bring it completely up to date with the state of the competition, but until we see an XL R3, the Fractal Design Define XL R2 is going to be as good as it gets.

Noise and Thermal Testing
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  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.

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