Tower PC case: Fractal Design Define R4 review

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Fractal-Design-Define-R4-frontIntroduction:

Computer Takeaway has a reviewed a number of top end PC enclosures and cases over the last few years, and it's alway nice to review a case with a new take on how they should be designed. The new tower case from Fractal Design, the Define R4, has many design tweaks in comparison to the average computer case that, although not immediately obvious, make system builds and associated cable management a lot easier and more manageable.

Specifications:

Technical specifications

◾ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
◾7 + 1 expansion slots ◾2 - 5.25" bays
◾8 - 3.5" HDD trays - all compatible with SSDs, 2 - 2.5" extra SSD positions
◾3 - ModuVent™ plates - two in the top and one in the side
◾7 - fan positions (2 Silent Series R2 fans included)
◾Filtered fan slots in the front and bottom
◾CPU coolers up to 170mm tall (when no fan is installed in the side panel)
◾ATX PSUs up to 170mm deep when using the bottom fan location, when not using this fan location longer PSUs (up to 270mm deep) can be used
◾Graphics cards up to 295mm in length with the top HDD cage installed
◾With the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 430mm in length may be installed
Fractal-Design-Define-R4-rear◾26mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
◾Thick rubber grommets on all holes on the motherboard plate
◾Colours available: Black Pearl, Titanium Grey, Arctic White
◾Case dimensions (WxHxD): 232 x 464 x 523mm
◾Package dimensions (WxHxD): 320 x 535 x 610mm
◾Net weight: 12,3 kg

Cooling / ventilation

◾ 1 - Front hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed (included)
◾1 - Front 120/140mm fan
◾1 - Rear hydraulic bearing 140mm Silent Series R2 fan, 1000 RPM speed (included)
◾2 - Top 120/140mm fans - positions also support some models of 240 radiators, depending on configuration
◾1 - Bottom 120/140mm fan
◾1 - Side 140mm fan
◾1 - Integrated fan controller for up to 3 fans (included)

Front interface

◾2 - USB 3.0, 2 - USB 2.0
◾Audio I/O
◾Power button with LED (blue)
◾Reset button
◾Fan controller (behind door)

Review:

When the delivery guy came and delivered the Fractal Design Define R4 he commented on the weight of the package, and he was right! The case weighs in fairly heavy, reflecting the solid build quality and sound proofing. We reviewed the Black Pearl version of the Define R4 which is finished in a black satin finish that gives the case a business-like and professional feel.The front panel is located on the front top edge of the case, and houses four USB ports (2 X USB 2.0 and 2 X USB 3.0, if your motherboard supports them or you have an add-in card), a large LED-lit power button, a smaller rest button and audio jacks for headphone and microphone connection.

On opening the case, you can start to see where the Fractal Design team have really put thought into the overall design process, with heavy, high-density foam lined panels (held in place by thumbscrews) which really aid in noise reduction. The motherboard plate itself has clearly labelled motherboard mounting points for the different sizes that can be installed, and has a number of large, rubber-lined cable cutouts for cable management. The PSU is mounted at the rear of the case at the bottom closest to base, immediately above a large ventilation area (on which further fans can be installed), which has a removable mesh air filter that protects internal components from any dust sucked up from the underlying floor covering. 

Fractal Design R4

The HDD stack is located at the front of the case, with parts of it removable for larger graphic cards. Interestingly it is designed in such a way that it is rotated by 90 degrees to the standard setup, with the rear of the drives pointing to the sidepanel of the case, which makes drive installation or removal incredibly simple. Each drive is mounted on an individual drive tray using a screw and rubber gromit to reduce any vibrations from the drive and both 2.5" and 3.5" drives are supported. Additionally there are two further mounting points for SSDs on the rear of the motherboard plate and also the normal arrangement for installation of optical drives at the front (top) of the case.

As far as cooling goes, there are two fans pre-installed at the front (to blow air over the installed HDDs) and an exhaust at the rear of the case, with additional points to mount fans on the floor, side and roof of the case.

We installed a standard ATX board, with a large tower CPU cooler, a fairly average size GTX570 card (which didn't require removing HDDs bays) and a number of HDDs including an SSD. For our PSU we were kindly provided with a Fractal Design Newton R3 smart modular PSU (more on this in a later review). Throughout the build there was loads of room to work, with more than adequate cable management options. The cabling for the friont interface is easy to find and install, and the excellently designed HDD racking system makes drive installation really, really easy. The only slight downside we could find with the case was the positioning of the SSD alternative mounting points on the rear of the motherboard tray (call us pessimistic or lazy, but the idea of having to disassemble the whole system every time a drive goes down didn't really appeal!).

The Define R4 is really designed to be a unobtrusive, quiet case and it lives up to the brief, with the two internal fans hardly audible in a quiet room. The cooling solutions seem to work really well (when benchmarked using system monitoring tools) and certainly performed as well as other far noisier gaming cases aimed at overclockers. All of the connections and mountings are easily provided and identified in the included manual making the whole process worry-free.

Price:

£95 available from Amazon: Fractal Design Define R4 Black Pearl

Verdict:

 4.5/5 - The Fractal Design Define R4 is a superb case, providing plenty of room for builds, above average cable management options, an excellent HDD solution (although we're still not too sure about the SSD mounting points on the rear of the motherboard tray) and above all a quieter computing experience. We would highly recommend it!