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Fractal Design's Define R3 mid-tower chassis

USB 3.0-garnished good looks you can take home to mother
— 11:47 AM on August 23, 2011

When we reviewed the NZXT H2 back in June, the comment box was flooded with remarks about its doppelganger, the Fractal Design Define R3. Well, comment, and ye shall receive, for today we have a refreshed version of the Define R3 on the test bench.

While not the newest face in the enclosure world, Fractal Design's genesis is only traceable back to 2007. At least in dog years, that makes the company old enough to pick up its own bar tab. The Define R3 case was announced one year ago this month as a successor to the Define R2. Now there's a new revision that remains aesthetically unaltered but adds SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports to the mix.

Defining the R3
First impressions of the Define R3 reveal a mid-tower case that clearly respects the often bungled nuances of clean styling, quality materials, and precise workmanship. When removing the case from its shipping box, the heft and rigidity of the chassis instantly lets you know that this isn't some half-baked econobox. A stolen glance at the undressed R3 reveals a visually striking black interior set off by brilliant white drive trays, fan blades, and expansion slot covers. Even though the case lacks a window, its designers took great care to ensure that the insides look every bit as attractive as the exterior.

Like the NZXT H2, the sides and top of the Define R3 are lined with acoustic dampening material. Unlike the H2, Fractal uses for a denser (and heavier) foam that is more resistant to tearing and about half as thick. The foam is one contributor to the case's healthy 27.5-lb (12.5-kg) weight.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that despite the acoustic appliqué, there are still ventilation holes in the side and top panels. Fractal grants customers the ability to supplement airflow by removing several square foam cut-outs from behind the ventilation holes and installing 120- or 140-mm fans in their place. This feature has actually been trademarked and is proudly advertised as "ModuVent" in Fractal's product literature. Questionable marketing jargon aside, ModuVent is a pleasant departure from the all-or-nothing path that other manufactures tend to traverse.

A large plastic door covers the case's entire front face and swings open to reveal a foam-lined backside, two 5.25" external drive bays, and two easy access doors for getting at the front fans and dust filters. The door itself is quite slim, measuring about half an inch thick including the acoustic foam. It is partially inset in the front panel and held in place with a magnetic latch. A groove on the right-hand side gives prying fingers an easy access point to apply opening leverage. Unfortunately, the hinges are permanently attached on the left and cannot be flipped around to the other side of the case.