In and Around the Fractal Design Define Mini

If you're used to seeing the other Fractal Design Define enclosures, looking at the Mini may actually hurt your brain a little bit. The Define XL, Define R4, and Define Mini all look fundamentally the same in terms of style and aesthetic, but each one goes a little funhouse mirror in the process. Without examining its dimensions or putting it next to another enclosure, it might be hard to appreciate the slightly smaller form factor of the Define Mini.

The front of the Define Mini sports a padded door that swings open to the left along with ventilation on both sides of it to allow air to flow into the intake fans (and thus into the case) without letting the noise from the intakes escape. There's the familiar LED notch and ring just above it, along with the power button and I/O cluster, all right on the front edge just like the other Defines. Fractal Design hides the reset button behind the door, next to the pair of 5.25" bays. Below those bays are the two intake fans, with doors of their own that swing open to allow you to both change out the fans but also remove their filters for cleaning.

Examining the top, sides, and back of the Define Mini reveals few surprises. The left side includes the traditional ModuVent removable panel to allow the end user to install a 120mm or 140mm side intake fan, while the right side is blank. Meanwhile the top of the case has another 120mm/140mm ModuVent. I'm never really unhappy to see this feature in a case, especially as it's proliferated. Something like this adds flexibility to the case design. Finally, the only hiccup in the back is the fifth expansion slot aligned vertically, presumably for mounting the included fan controller.

Fractal Design uses a pair of thumbscrews to hold each side panel in place, and unfortunately the side panels are notched instead of hinged. I'm never happy to see this, but the Define Mini is at least small enough to prevent the panels from being too difficult to replace.

The motherboard tray is business as usual, with fairly smartly laid out routing holes for cabling. Unfortunately we're only looking at about 160mm of clearance above the motherboard, which makes installing any radiator in there a tight fit; the 120mm exhaust fan also means you'll have to orient any radiator carefully with the hoses above or below the mount.

Everything else inside the Define Mini is Fractal Design par for the course. Of the two drive cages, the top one is removable, but inexplicably, the bottom one is not. Fractal Design opted to use rivets instead of screws to mount the bottom cage, but there's no real reason not to make this something the end user could remove. Thankfully they continue to use their metal drive trays, which are among the best and most secure I've seen.

While the Define Mini is really surprise free for anyone familiar with Fractal Design's cases (and thus knowing what to expect), there's one tremendously goofy wrinkle: only one USB 3.0 port. It uses the full internal motherboard header, but every time I see something like this it seems like such a waste, especially when there's obviously space in the fascia to include a second. Outside of this, though, the Define Mini is at least superficially what you expected and were hoping for.

Introducing the Fractal Design Define Mini Assembling the Fractal Design Define Mini
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  • antef - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Agreed, dimensions are the first thing I check for any MicroATX case now, if it's no smaller than most ATX cases then why would I even consider it? I hope manufacturers are reading this. Many of us don't have that many components and don't require these dimensions. Reply
  • takeship - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I can vouch for this. It's FAR too large a case for what it offers. I've built twice with this case, once for myself and once for a friend - in retrospect the thermals vs noise don't justify this over a full Define R4, or one of the recent NZXT Phantoms. Mostly high quality, though the motherboard cut out is the wrong size for virtually any backplate, and the included fan controller was junk, and well, I replaced every fan anyways. Further, there is *barely* enough space to fit a Crossfire/Sli dual slot setup in the case with the tight clearance above the PSU standoff. I only have a single card, so it's less of an issue, but there is very little airflow from the front case fans through the non-removable lower HDD bay into the GFX card space. Living with it for now, and the heft makes it feel secure, but I wouldn't recommend it for a real enthusiast. Reply
  • dave_the_nerd - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Quote: "It's a weird situation when the micro-ATX form factor seems to be ideal for the majority of end users."

    Umm... what?

    The majority of PC end users buy laptops. (Laptops outsell desktops by about 2:1.) Most of those desktops are sold to businesses, and it's literally been years since I saw an ATX or mATX minitower in use in somebody's home. (Mostly SFF desktop designs and iMacs.)

    Today, mATX is the answer to a question anybody asked. The BYO "enthusiast" crowd will continue buying ATX towers with room for all their cooling hardware, and the BYO "best fit for my needs" crowd will continue snatching up SFF.
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Hi Dustin! you say you have a terrible time to manage cables on every case you test, but how do you feel about cabling a custom-case made by hp?

    I'm living with it because it is mATX and is much smaller than the average cases on stores. I don't have the exact dimensions now, but I managed to change all internals, add one SSD, a scythe Ninja Mini cooler, and even a Radeon 5770 in there. with all fans being PWM this thing is pretty quiet, at iddle you can hear it but it's not annoying. at load however the GPU fan makes a bunch of noise :(

    here are some images from a similar case from the HP site.

    outside: bit.ly/ZE9Bge
    inside: bit.ly/ZEaQMr

    how would you feel about doing cabling this one? lol
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    short url corrected:

    http://goo.gl/QCjpd
    http://goo.gl/PhBJZ
    Reply
  • ZoeAnderson24 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    If you think Ronald`s story is surprising..., a month back my cousins best friend basically recieved a check for $8905 working a 40 hours month at home and they're friend's mother-in-law`s neighbour has been doing this for 7-months and made over $8905 in there spare time on there labtop. follow the instructions from this web-site. All29.comCHECK IT OUT Reply
  • jrs77 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Testing cases is really a hard thing to do I'm afraid.

    I've got the Define Mini on my desk behind my screen, where it hides itself due to it's little height.

    Anyways... for the watercooling. A 240mm rad in the front is possible without modding. Just remove the two drivebays and install your 3.5" HDD + 2.5" SSD in one of the 5.1/4" bays. Another 120mm rad is possible in the back, so you have one 240mm rad for the GPU and one 120mm rad for the CPU, and voilá... even lower temps and the same low level of noise. Install a Scythe S-Flex @ 800RPM in the bottom behind the PSU and one in the top for that little additional ventilation and you can even use powerful components.

    I'm running a GTX660 and an i5-3450 in my Define Mini, and temps are no issue at all, and the case is still dead-silent there behind my screen. The one thing I did tho was to cutout the grill covering the fan in the back, as these hex-grills produce a very annoying noise when air is pushed through.

    A TJ08-E with a 200mm rad in the front and a 120mm in the back is deadsilent aswell, but a little bit trickier to assemble and crammed.
    Reply
  • bsix - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Dustin,

    You seem down on the Define cases except for the Xl r2. What separated that case was a bottom fan. I feel this design really needs that airflow with low impedance to help even out flows, otherwise there is a bit of a dead zone in the bottom half of the case.

    Also have we seen a comparison of an air cooled vs water cooled case at Anandtech? I'm not sure I have seen one with some of the later packaged water coolers..
    Reply
  • barry spock - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    It must've been out for more than a year because I got this in Sept(?) of '11. I used it in my first real build for more than 10 years and all up I like it, although I don't know how it compares to others.
    The aim for me was to build a silent PC. I went for a Noctua fan as well (as someone else in the comments mentioned). It's pretty quiet but in hindsight I think what I should've done is make a no-fan HTPC.
    Reply
  • rvdbos - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    $99 for an empty box? wtf, is it year 1995? nowadays I could get TWO bluray players with remote, ethernet, buildin wifi and DLNA for this much dough. why even bother bringing such a ripoff to the market? Reply

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