Despite its modest cable management capabilities, the Define R3 has been one of the best enclosures I've ever worked with. The R3's strength lies in the underlying simplicity of its design. Rather than expending energy on extra features like funky design cues, hot-swappable drive docks, and tool-less gadgets, Fractal Design appears to have focused its attention on refining proven methods and making a high-quality product above all else. This is the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) principle in living black and white.
The USB 3.0-equipped Define R3 we looked at today may not be available in North America until November. However, the case is otherwise identical to the USB 2.0 version that's selling at Newegg for $110. A USB 3.0 upgrade kit for that model is due out in a couple of weeks and will cost just $10, according to Fractal Design. The kit is identical to the SuperSpeed hardware in the case we reviewed, so you'll be able to build your own facsimile for about $120. At that price, the combo is easy to recommend.
That said, there are a couple caveats buyers need to consider. If a ship-shape interior is a must, be sure to plan your build around a decent modular power supply, and make sure your creative juices are flowing when it comes time to route the auxiliary 12V motherboard power connector. The lack of cutouts along the top of the motherboard tray for this important connector is perhaps my biggest quibble with the case's design.
Also, be aware that the USB 3.0 connector for the front ports is not backward-compatible with the USB 2.0 headers found on most motherboards. This is true for both the upgrade kit and the native USB 3.0 version of the case. Most new motherboards feature the necessary internal header, so this shouldn't be an issue in the long term. Fractal Design could've offered front-panel USB 2.0 ports in addition to the 3.0 ones, though.
If you're in the market for a rock-solid case with elegant looks, the Define R3 warrants an extremely close look. It's not silent, but it's quiet and can accommodate all but the largest dual-GPU graphics cards on the market. The Define's cooling performance with the stock fans is very good, and there are plenty of mounting points if you want to add more.
The fact that Fractal Design can produce a case of this caliber while being a relative newcomer to the enclosure industry is an encouraging signal of things to come. We look forward to seeing what Fractal comes up with next.
39 comments — Last by kamikaziechameleon at 11:37 AM on 09/08/11
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