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Defining the R3 — continued
The front I/O ports are located up top, making them easily accessible when the Define is placed on the floor. At the ready are your standard 3.5-mm headphone and microphone connections, two USB 3.0 ports, and an external SATA port. Rather than tying the SuperSpeed ports to a USB cable that must be routed out the back of the case and into the motherboard's rear cluster, the ports are linked to one of those newfangled internal USB 3.0 connector blocks. This setup is fantastic if your board has a compatible header, but only the latest models do. The connector block isn't compatible with internal headers for USB 2.0 ports, either. Folks with older motherboards will want to consider the original, USB 2.0 version of the Define R3 or plan on adding a SuperSpeed expansion card with an internal header.

Between the audio and USB ports sits a large power button surrounded by a ring-shaped LED power indicator light. The underlying LED also illuminates a narrow strip that just cuts into the top of the door. The lighting arrangement looks fantastic but is missing a hard drive activity indicator. Fractal could have left the ring around the power button as the power indicator and turned the vertical stripe into a hard drive activity signal. Some of us like to know when our computer is "thinking." With SSDs becoming a standard fixture in modern systems, however, the exclusion of an activity LED is understandable—if regrettable.

During daily use, I found the location of the power button to be somewhat problematic. It is very prominent and easy to depress, which can result in unwanted reboots while unplugging USB or audio devices. If this becomes an ongoing issue, the behavior of the power button can be easily altered in the Windows control panel.

The back of the case is pretty standard fare. There are seven expansion slots, a 120-mm exhaust fan, a quartet of water cooling pass-through holes with rubber grommets, and an ATX power supply mount at the bottom.

Underneath the case, the PSU air inlet features a removable dust filter that also covers the ventilation holes for the bottom fan mount, which can accommodate a 120- or 140-mm spinner. The case's feet have a chrome-look finish that's reminiscent of home theater components. The feet have cushioning to prevent vibration and scratches, but the foam did mark up the white backdrop that I used for our photo shoot. I typically prefer to see rubber soles on a case's shoes, since foam will flatten and disintegrate over time.

To accommodate the PSU ventilation grill, the back feet are much smaller than the front ones. This seemingly innocuous detail creates an unforeseen side effect for those placing their case on carpeted surfaces: the rear feet sink down into loose carpet a bit more than the ones up front, reducing airflow to the power supply. Placing a slice of corrugated cardboard or a book between the carpeting and the case is a quick-and-dirty way to defeat this issue. One could also move the case up onto a desk. At 8.1" x 17.4" x 20.5" (207 x 442 x 521 mm), the Define wouldn't look too imposing standing next to a decent-sized monitor.