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Fractal Design Define XL R2 Review

Rating: 8.5.

Today we are going to take a look at the Fractal Design Define XL R2 case which is the successor to the highly regarded Define XL.  This is a full tower case which is designed to house some of the largest and most powerful components on the market.  It’s part of Fractal Design’s Define series which is created with acoustic performance as the main focus.

We were very impressed with the original Fractal Design Define XL when we reviewed it back in 2011 as it offers good cooling performance and excellent acoustics.  We are excited to see how Fractal Design have improved upon the original design and how this revised version performs.

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Features

  • High density noise-reducing material for an optimal silent case
  • Patented ModuVent™ design allowing the user to choose between optimal silence or maximum airflow.
  • With a new internal layout and additional PCI expansion slots, it can harbor the most powerful enthusiast systems.
  • Both HDD cages can be removed or repositioned – Top HDD cage can be removed or repositioned for increased airflow whereas bottom HDD cage can be repositioned further into the case to allow for front radiator mount.
  • The case can fit water cooling equipment in the front, top, rear and bottom without major modifications.
  • Three-speed fan controller is strategically integrated in the front panel and supports up to 3 fans
  • Three Silent Series R2 fans are included, featuring hydraulic bearings which contribute to a longer life expectancy – Silent Series R2 retail fans now come standard in all cases
  • New tool-less front fan holder makes switching front fans a breeze

Specifications

  • ATX, Micro ATX, mini-ITX, E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboard compatibility
  • 4 – 5.25″ bays
  • 8 – 3.5″ HDD trays – all compatible with SSDs
  • A total of 9 expansion slots
  • 3 – ModuVent™ plates – two in the top and one in the side
  • 7 – Fan positions (3 fans included)
  • Filtered fan slots in front and bottom
  • CPU coolers up to 170 mm tall (when no fan is installed in the side panel)
  • PSU compatibility: ATX PSUs up to 190 mm deep when using the bottom fan location; when not using this fan location longer PSUs (up to 345 mm deep) can be used
  • Graphics card compatibility: Graphics cards up to 330mm in length with the top HDD cage installed – With the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 480mm in length may be installed
  • 26 mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
  • Thick rubber grommets on all holes on the motherboard plate
  • Colors available: Black Pearl, Titanium Grey
  • Case dimensions (WxHxD): 232 x 559 x 560mm
  • Net weight: 16.4kg
  • Package dimensions (WxHxD): 322 x 637 x 655mm
  • Package weight: 19kg

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The Define XL R2 is supplied in a sizable brown cardboard box which reflects the large size of the case within.  The front of the box features a large black image of the case which gives you an idea of the design before opening.

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Turning the box around reveals more images alongside a list of the key features of the case.  Inside the box, the case is sandwiched between two slabs of polystyrene for protection.  Our sample of the case was supplied inside an additional box for protection during transit but we imagine that this will only be the case with certain retailers.

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The accessories are supplied in a black cardboard box which is tucked into one of the drive bays inside the case.  These consist predominantly of screws for installation.

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The exterior of the Define XL R2 is very similar to the original Define XL case and consists of a substantial steel chassis with a plastic and brushed aluminium effect front panel.

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The front panel is minimalist in design and consists of a large panel which covers the four external drive bays and the dual front facing fan vents.

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There are vents spanning the sides of the front panel which provide airflow for the front fans.  There is a single 140 mm Fractal Design branded fan installed in the front of the case.

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We find the front panel connections along the top edge of the chassis alongside the power and reset buttons.  They consist of two USB2.0 ports, two USB3.0 ports and headphone and microphone jacks.  There is also an inbuilt fan controller which is located just behind the front door.

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We also find a pair of fan vents in the roof of the case which support both 120 mm and 140 mm fans, as well as 240 mm and 280 mm radiators.  This, combined with the large amount of headroom between the motherboard and roof of the case makes it ideal for water cooling.  Both of these vents are covered with sound proofing pads which must be removed to install fans.

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Moving round to the rear of the case we can see a fairly standard design, comprising of a 140 mm exhaust fan and PSU mounting points at the bottom of the case.  There are a larger number of expansion slots than usual though, with nine in total.  The rear vent is populated with a Fractal Design branded fan.


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Fractal Design have chosen to forgo a side window in the case in favour of a large mass of sound-proofing material on the inside.  There is a 120 mm fan vent in the side panel but this is also covered by a thick (removable) pad of sound proofing material.

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There is loads of room to work with inside the Define XL R2 as it is a full tower case with room for E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboard in addition to the more common form factors.  The inside of the case is predominantly painted black but there are white highlights here and their like the expansion slot covers, fans and the drive bays.

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In total there are eight drive bays which are split into two modules of four.  These modules can be removed to boost airflow or can be turned around so the drive bays face towards the front of the case.  The individual caddies can either house a 2.5″ or 3.5″.

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There are eight hard drive bays in total on the right hand side of the case, six of which can be removed to make room for a radiator in the front of the case if required.  Removing these should also improve airflow if you don’t require more than two hard drive bays.  Each bay features a caddy which has mounting points for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives which must be installed using the provided screws.

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Installing a motherboard into the case isn’t as straightforward as it could be as we are first required to attach all of the motherboard stand-offs.  This case supports a wider range of motherboard sizes than most cases, though.

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There is a very large cut-out section in the motherboard tray to facilitate the installation of CPU cooler backplates.

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Installing the power supply is very simple and requires four screws through the rear of the chassis.

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There are a large array of grommets in the motherboard tray for routing cables, in addition to a generous amount of room behind the motherboard tray.

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Expansion devices are secured in place using thumbscrews and there is room for cards up to 480 mm in length.  This means there is room for every graphics card currently on the market.

For our tests we will be using a Noctua NH-D14  to cool the Intel Core i7-3930K CPU in the Fractal Design Define XL R2. Our test system also features an AMD Radeon HD 7950 graphics card.

We manually overclocked the i7-3930K to 4.7 GHz by increasing the multiplier to 47x, leaving the baseclock set at 100 MHz. We set Load Line Calibration to ‘High’, and increased the CPU Current Capability to 120% with a minor voltage increase. Speed stepping was disabled for both stock and overclocked tests.

Test System:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3930K
  • Motherboard: Asus P9X79
  • Cooler: Phanteks Noctua NH-D14
  • Thermal Paste: Arctic Cooling MX-2.
  • Memory: 16GB (4x 4GB) Mushkin Blackline 1600 MHz
  • Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 7950.
  • Power Supply: Seasonic Platinum 1000W
  • System Drive: Corsair Force GT 120 GB
  • Monitor: Viewsonic VX2260WM.

Software:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).
  • CPUID Hardware Monitor.
  • Prime95 64-bit.
  • Furmark V1.10.6

To test the thermal performance of the Fractal Design Define XL R2 we loaded our test system for 15 minutes using Prime95 and Furmark and recorded the maximum temperatures reached using CPUID Hardware Monitor. We then restarted the system and left it for 15 minutes before recording idle temperatures.

Room temperature was maintained at 18 degrees C for the duration of our tests.

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The temperatures are about what we would expect from this case considering the specific focus on acoustics rather than airflow.

To conduct our noise level tests, we replaced the graphics card in our system with a AMD Radeon HD 5550 Silence which was passively cooled. We also momentarily disconnected the fans on the CPU cooler so we were only taking into account the noise generated by the fans in the case.

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These results are very impressive and really showcase the stellar acoustic performance of this case.

Overall we are very impressed with what the Fractal Design Define XL R2 has to offer.  It’s clear that Fractal Design are targeting a fairly small market with this case as it competes directly with their own Define R4 which is slightly smaller and cheaper and is therefore better suited to those who don’t require the extra space.

We are particularly impressed with the acoustic performance of this case as it is extremely quiet under any situation, only registering above 30 dBA at the maximum fan setting.  The thermal performance is also commendable, although not as good as a handful of other cases in the same price sector which place a higher importance on airflow rather than acoustics.

The aesthetic design of the Define XL R2 is very minimalistic and is sure to fit in within most environments.  We imagine the only users that may be let down by the appearance are those who like cases with a visual impact that lets them show off to other users, whether it be at LAN parties or on the forums.

The Define XL R2 is priced at £105 from Ebuyer which makes it quite good value for money for those looking to house a large motherboard.  We would still opt for the R4 for most users though as it is around £30 cheaper and boasts an almost identical design and feature set.

Pros:

  • Minimalist design.
  • Impressive build quality.
  • Near silent.

Cons:

  • Define R4 offers better value for most users.

KitGuru says: Another impressive case from Fractal Design.

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