Fractal Design’s Define R5 case reviewed

Design is a big deal in technology products these days, no matter where you look. “Designed by Apple in California” is a household phrase, thanks to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. Google used a significant portion of its last I/O keynote to philosophize about its new Material Design toolkit. The box of the Dyson vacuum tells the story of its genesis in exacting detail. If a company wants to make its products stand out these days, having a Jony Ive, James Dyson, or Matías Duarte on staff seems to help.

Fractal Design’s Define R5 is the latest in the company’s Define series of enclosures. Although I’m not aware of a celebrity designer on Fractal’s payroll, the company still makes a big deal of its design chops, and the evolutionary progression of the Define series is very Apple-like. Aside from the fact that “design” is right there in the name, Fractal’s website and product literature are rich with discussions of Scandinavian design philosophy. The R5 itself has “Designed in Sweden” stamped into its sheet metal, in case you weren’t getting the message.

To paraphrase a Steve Jobs-ism, however, it’s important to remember that design isn’t just about how something looks, but also how it works. Companies can pay as much lip service as they like to the idea of good design, but the rubber has to hit the road at some point. Let’s see whether Fractal Design’s Scandinavian approach has produced an enclosure that measures up.

Overview

The Define R5 seems to follow the same design principles as the Ikea furniture in my home: clean, understated, and perhaps a little plain. If Corsair’s Graphite Series 380T is the Ferrari 458 Italia of cases, the Define R5 is the Volvo 740 wagon. The only real flourishes on the R5 are the contrasting white expansion slot covers and fans, plus four chrome feet. Even the twin USB 3.0 ports are colored black instead of the eye-catching blue most other cases use. Fractal emphasizes quiet as a major goal of the Define series, and that theme extends to the R5’s visual presence.

Those black USB 3.0 ports are up top along with the usual headphone and mic jacks, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, and a large power button flanked by a tiny, sunken reset button. If the non-standard USB 3.0 port coloration might cause confusion, at least it’s hard to reset the R5 by mistake. A combination power and disk activity LED is nestled into the center of the front panel, as well. Fractal uses a blue LED here, though it’s mercifully not the eye-searing kind of blue that’s tainted so much hardware in recent years.

I haven’t built a PC with a front door in a long time (remember Antec’s P180?), but the concept has lived on in the Define series. Not only does the door help to keep the exterior clean-looking, but it’s also the first line of defense in the Define R5’s silencing features. Opening the door reveals a foam-lined interior, similar to the Cooler Master Silencio 652S that Cyril recently reviewed. Fractal Design has lined the side and top panels of the R5 with this foam, too. While the door might look like it’s made of metal, it’s really just thick plastic with a metallic veneer.

Behind the door is an easily removable dust filter, a single Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 140-mm fan, and two 5.25″ bays. The door can be easily swapped to open from either side of the case, although it’s not a tool-free process. The switch for the Define R5’s built-in, three-speed fan controller can also be found here.

Around back, there’s another 140-mm spinner, seven expansion slots, and a mount for the power supply at the bottom of the case. No surprises there.

One other thing that caught my notice out of the box: the Define R5 is dense, likely thanks to all of the sound-deadening foam inside. Despite being a little smaller than my own Corsair Obsidian 450D, the R5 weighs almost 10 pounds more, at 24.7 lbs (11.2 kg) versus the Obsidian’s 15.4 lbs (7 kg). That’s even heavier than the massive XFX Type-01 Series Bravo Edition, which weighs in at 23 lbs (10.4 kg).

Here’s the spec sheet for the Define R5, for easy cross-referencing with our other reviews:

  Fractal Design Define R5
Dimensions (W x H x D) 9.1″ x 18.2″ x 20.9″  (232 x 462 x 531 mm)
Supported motherboards Mini-ITX, microATX, ATX
3.5″ drive bays 8
2.5″ drive bays 10 (8 2.5″ or 3.5″ combo bays, 2 dedicated)
5.25″ drive bays 2
Fan mounts 8
Included Fans 1x Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 140-mm front intake

1x Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 140-mm rear exhaust

Front panel I/O 2x USB 3.0

2x USB 2.0

Headphone

Microphone

Max. graphics card length 12.2″ (310 mm) with top 3.5″ cage installed

17.3″ (440 mm) with top 3.5″ cage removed

Max. CPU cooler height 7″ (180 mm)
Gap behind motherboard 1.5″

The Define R5’s base price is $109.99, placing it squarely in competition with our favorite mid-tower, the Corsair Obsidian 450D. I may sound like a broken record when I compare the cases I test to the 450D, but we really like Corsair’s midrange mid-tower here at TR, and as of yet, we haven’t found another enclosure that matches its solid mix of virtues.

The Define R5 I’m reviewing today has two optional features: a windowed side panel and a titanium-colored front panel. The base R5 comes in black or white finishes and lacks the windowed panel. Adding a windowed panel to the black or white R5 is a $10 extra, while the titanium-finished version is $119.99, windowed or not.

Now that we’ve seen the exterior of the Define R5, let’s see what Fractal’s design chops have wrought inside.

 

Interior

Getting inside the Define R5 is a little different than with other cases I’ve tested. The left side panel is secured with both thumbscrews and a push-to-release latch, while the right side panel sticks with a pair of thumbscrews. For both side panels, Fractal Design has fixed the one thing that I hate about the Obsidian 450D (and many other enclosures). Instead of the usual tongue-and-slot system that has to be positioned just so before sliding home properly, the Define R5’s side panels only need to clip in at the front of the case before they can be secured. Bravo, Fractal.

The Define R5’s motherboard tray is pretty conventional by modern standards, with the requisite set of rubber grommets ringing its border. Interestingly, the motherboard tray is recessed a little bit, which helps to explain the R5’s ability to swallow 180-mm-tall CPU coolers. The motherboard tray also features an enormous cutout to facilitate the installation of CPU cooler backplates.

There’s plenty of space for cable routing behind the motherboard tray, plus some thoughtful touches. Fractal includes three Velcro straps in the R5, which are used to route the front-panel cables by default. The Define R5 also has plentiful slots for zip ties in this area, if the Velcro straps aren’t enough. The three fan headers and SATA power connector for the built-in fan controller reside here, as well, along with two 2.5″ drive trays.

The metal drive trays at the front of the R5 can accept up to eight 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives. These trays feel sturdy, and they slide in and out easily. Still, the R5’s drive mounting scheme is my biggest complaint about the case. Mounting a drive to a tray requires four rubber grommets and screws, unlike the simpler snap-on plastic drive trays in almost every other modern case. What’s more, this mounting system means that owners will have to worry about keeping the Define R5’s included hardware organized and stored somewhere. Good luck.

The Define R5 makes up for its somewhat fiddly drive mounting system with its incredible modularity. Every drive cage in the case is removable.

While the drive cages are ostensibly tool-free, the thumbscrews used to secure them are super-tight out of the box, so a screwdriver is a must here, too. With all of the drive cages removed, the R5 can accept radiators up to 360 mm in length behind the front fan mounts, as well as extra fans or radiators at the bottom of the case. The Define R5’s instruction manual suggests that the bottom drive cage can be moved to the middle of the case, which is nice if you need both front radiator support and room for 3.5″ drives. For a full accounting of the various drive cage configurations that are possible with this case, check out the Define R5’s manual.

Another nifty modular feature is the trio of “ModuVent” covers at the top of the case. These foam-backed plastic panels can pop out if you want to mount fans or a radiator to the R5’s ceiling, or they can be left in place for maximum silencing power.

The panels are a neat idea, but I wish Fractal had made their retaining clips more finger-friendly. As it stands, these clips are tiny and difficult to manipulate. It also would have been really slick if Fractal had included a matching magnetic filter for each ModuVent panel, since the top vent is unfiltered when these panels are removed. Corsair includes a magnetic top filter for the Obsidian 450D in the box, so such an add-in wouldn’t be unprecedented.

The omission of a top filter is also strange considering Fractal includes a full-length filter at the bottom of the case. While some builders might put a fan or radiator down here, I think top-mounted fans or radiators are a far more common choice. For those who do wish to add bottom-mounted cooling, removing the drive cages makes room for a pair of 120- or 140-mm fans—or a radiator up to 240 mm in length. Installing fans or radiators here will limit the length of the PSU you can install, however.

The R5’s PSU emplacement is similar to that of other cases I’ve tested recently, which is a good thing. The power supply rests on four wide, rubber feet to prevent vibration from traveling into other parts of the R5’s frame.

With the 5.25″ bays removed, one can mount three 120- or 140-mm fans, or radiators up to 420 mm in length, at the top of the R5. Some radiator sizes are subject to a 55-mm height limit here, however, so be sure to check the manual for compatibility.

The side panels of the R5 are both lined with the same dense foam that we saw behind the front door. Non-windowed R5s have another ModuVent cover on the side panel, and that cover can be removed to make way for another 120- or 140-mm spinner. The windowed R5 gives up that fan mount for its transparency, however.

Overall, the Define R5’s interior is spacious and well-designed at first glance. Next, I’m going to install my Casewarmer system, along with some air and water coolers.

 

The build

As I was expecting from its bevy of user-friendly features, the Define R5 is a pleasure to build a system in.

One thing that was immediately evident was the R5’s build quality. My Corsair Obsidian 450D and the XFX Type-01 Bravo each required varying degrees of elbow grease to get the expansion card screw holes lined up with the back panel. The Define wasn’t perfect in this regard, but it required only minimal muscling to achieve the same effect. The same was true of my motherboard, which needed only a tiny bit of force to line up with the alignment pin in the center of the mobo tray. I don’t like applying undue force to delicate electronics, so this surprise was a welcome one.

The Define R5’s cable routing features are some of the best I’ve used, too. The included Velcro straps are long enough to accommodate thick cables like the 24-pin ATX power connector without issue, and the recessed motherboard tray creates a natural 1.5″-deep cable channel around its perimeter. There’s also generous room for SATA power and data cables behind the drive cages—much more than in my Obsidian 450D or the Cooler Master Silencio 652S. The spacious cable area means that the side panel slides back on effortlessly, and the panel doesn’t bow out at all, even with the added thickness of the noise-deadening foam. Once more, bravo.

My only wish is that the cable grommets at the top of the case were a bit bigger. My PSU’s EPS plug barely fit through them.

As I noted in my dissection of the Define R5’s interior, I’m not a big fan of this case’s drive mounting system. The Define’s metal sleds require four grommets and screws per 3.5″ drive, which feels archaic nowadays. That said, the rubber grommets are soft and thick, so maybe the extra effort will pay off with lower noise and vibration levels. We’ll check that in a minute.

To test the R5’s radiator compatibility, I installed Cooler Master’s Nepton 240M closed-loop cooler at the top of the case. After I removed two of the modular top panels, installing the 240M was a snap. The radiator mount is offset significantly from the motherboard, so there was plenty of room to connect the Nepton’s fans to the twin CPU headers on my Asus Crossblade Ranger mobo. Builders willing to push their luck probably have enough room to mount push-pull fans on slim radiators like the Nepton 240M’s, though doing so would obstruct the rear fan considerably. With the single layer of fans, however, I avoided blocking the rear fan by sliding it down on the R5’s adjustable rear fan mount.

Now that the Casewarmer is at home in the Define R5, it’s time to put this case to the test. Read on for our thermal and noise testing results.

 

Our testing methods

For this review, I’ll be testing both the Define R5 and the Corsair Obsidian 450D, each with liquid and air coolers. My test system is set up as follows:

Processor AMD A10-7850K
Motherboard Asus Crossblade Ranger
Memory 8GB AMD Entertainment Edition DDR3-1600
Graphics card Zotac Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition
Storage Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD

Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB HDD

Power supply Cooler Master V550
CPU cooler Cooler Master Hyper D92 (air), Cooler Master Nepton 240M (liquid)
OS Windows 8.1 Pro

A big thanks to AMD, Asus, Zotac, Kingston, Cooler Master, and Fractal Design for providing hardware to make this review possible.

I used the following applications in my testing:

Each case was subjected to 10 minutes of idling at the Windows desktop, 10 minutes running the Prime95 Small FFTs CPU torture test, 10 minutes running Prime95 and the Unigine Heaven GPU benchmark, and 10 more minutes of idle time at the Windows desktop.

To get the fullest possible picture of each case’s cooling performance, I tested the Define R5 using both its built-in fan controller and the Asus Q-fan motherboard fan control system. Since the Obsidian 450D doesn’t have a built-in fan controller, I tested it using the Q-fan system only. When I used the Q-fan system, I profiled each case’s fans using Asus’ fan tuner, and I used the Standard built-in fan profile for my tests.

Due to operator error, I don’t have data for hard drive temperatures in the Define R5 while using the built-in fan controller with the Cooler Master Nepton 240M installed. Based on the other data I’ve collected, however, I don’t expect that the temps would be much different in this configuration. My apologies for the error.

The testing methods we employ are publicly available and reproducible. If you have any questions about our methods, you can discuss them with us on our forums.

The ambient temperature during my tests was 22°C (72°F).

Cooling performance

Do you like data? Lots and lots of it? Well, good. I have a mountain of cooling test results for you.

First, here are component temperatures, plotted over time, inside the Define R5 and the Obsidian 450D with Asus’ Crossblade Ranger motherboard handling fan-control duties:


And here are the minimum and maximum temperatures from each testing phase:


I was hoping my tests would reveal a clear winner here, but they didn’t, really. The Define R5 delivers lower temperatures than the Obsidian 450D for some components, while the Obsidian keeps other parts cooler. Considering the Define R5 is down a fan against the Obsidian 450D, that’s impressive.

There is one notable disparity on the storage cooling front, though. The Define’s foam-covered side panels seem to insulate the SSD mounts on the back of the motherboard tray. While the R5’S SSD temperatures aren’t bad, the uninsulated Obsidian 450D keeps our SSD a fair bit cooler with the drive in a similar location. I doubt the R5’s higher temps are anything to worry about, but they are worth pointing out.

For those without motherboard fan control, I’ve also taken a look at how the Define R5 performs with its built-in fan controller running the show. Here are the results of those tests:


And here are the minimum and maximum temperatures for each testing phase:


With a tower-style air cooler, setting the Define R5’s fan controller on low doesn’t push peak temperatures much higher than when the motherboard is handling fan control duties. SSD temps are the only real exception, and again, they’re probably nothing to worry about.

Swap in the Nepton 240M liquid cooler, and peak CPU temperatures are a fair bit higher with the R5’s fan controller on its low setting. That’s in spite of the fact that the Nepton is set up as an intake. If you plan on using a similar cooler configuration with the Define R5, you may want to turn up the fan controller when you expect heavy system loads.

Now that we’ve seen how the Define R5 cools the Casewarmer, let’s take a look at how noisy it gets while doing so.

Noise levels

Before we discuss how loud the Define R5 gets, a couple words about my noise testing methods. I make no secret of the fact that I use an iPhone app to measure the noise levels of the hardware I test, and we’ve always warned against placing too much weight on the data collected this way. Nevertheless, some of our readers have expressed concerns about the accuracy of my results.

Since we take these concerns seriously, and in the interest of doing the best I could with the tools at hand, I sought out some scientifically rigorous studies about the accuracy of iPhone decibel meter apps.

According to this study by researchers at the University of Florida, the accuracy of these apps varies widely, with most over-reporting noise levels, and at least one under-reporting. That said, the most accurate of the apps the UF researchers tried—SoundMeter by Faber Acoustical—tracked the study’s $3825 control meter within 5 dBA across the range of frequencies tested. That’s good enough that I could justify picking up SoundMeter for $20.

While a smartphone app still isn’t as good as having a calibrated meter on hand, I can at least tell you how much of a fudge factor is inherent to my results now. Otherwise, if you’d like us to have that same Brüel & Kjær Type 2250 meter for use in future tests, our top 10 subscribers list could use a shake-up.

Let’s move on to the R5’s noise performance. Here are minimum and maximum sound levels during various system states, measured 6″ from each side of the case:


Here, we have a more clear-cut victor. With the motherboard in control of its fans, the Define R5 is anywhere from two to four dBA quieter than the 450D for the most part, both at idle and under load. This is a small but noticeable difference.

To be fair, the Obsidian 450D does have an extra 140-mm fan spinning away in its front panel, but the Corsair case also lacks the Define R5’s foam-insulated front door and top panels. As a result, more noise can escape from the Obsidian 450D, period, no matter what cooling method you choose. Thanks to all of the foam, the Define R5 seems to do a better job of muffling the worst sounds from inside the case, especially hard drive noise. The R5’s foam-insulated front door is a much better noise barrier than 450D’s open mesh panel, as evidenced by the three to six dBA gap in noise levels measured at the front of each case.

If you care about system noise, using the Define’s built-in fan controller isn’t a set-and-forget process. At the controller’s lowest setting, the R5 is quiet at idle, but the decreased airflow means that the components inside get hotter under load—and those components spin their smaller, noisier fans faster to compensate. With the fan controller on high, load noise levels are about the same, but the larger, more pleasant-sounding Fractal Design fans are doing more of the work. As a result, the noise character of the system as a whole is better. Accordingly, it pays to switch the fan controller between its high and low settings as needed. Motherboard fan control remains the best option, but it’s nice that the fan controller is there for those who need it.

Users looking to install a liquid cooler or two in the Define R5 will find that tradeoffs are in order. Removing the ModuVent panels up top allows more noise to escape from the R5, as demonstrated by the slightly higher top-of-case noise numbers at idle. Despite the lower noise numbers under load, the radiator-equipped Define R5 also seems to let more GPU whine escape from its top vent while stressed. Installing the radiator behind the front fan mounts might be a better option for keeping noise levels down, although that depends on whether you keep your PC on top of your desk or under it. For those in the former group, installing the radiator up top may still be a better option.

The Define mostly does a good job of keeping drives quiet. The Samsung Spinpoint F1 HDD that I keep around for Casewarmer duties is both noisy and vibration-prone, yet the Define’s rubber disk grommets and foam-lined interior allowed only the faintest hint of drive hum to exit the case. The drive mounting system wasn’t a perfect silencer, though: rarely, an annoying hum would take root somewhere within the Define R5. A push or tap on the case usually killed this vibration, but I wasn’t expecting this kind of annoyance from a case with silent DNA. To be fair, both the Obsidian 450D and XFX Type-01 Bravo suffer from the same sympathetic vibration problem, so the Define R5 isn’t alone in its occasional buzziness.

As for the effectiveness of the foam-lined side panels, the results are somewhat mixed. The GeForce GTX 660 Ti in the Casewarmer has small, whiny fans. The Define didn’t dampen their song completely, but it did cut down on the whine enough to make them only mildly distracting. The uninsulated 450D didn’t do anything to mitigate the GPU whine. The Define also dampened the sound of the Casewarmer’s Cooler Master Hyper D92 quite well. I noticed barely any change in system noise during the CPU load phase of my tests.

Overall, the R5 is the quietest case I’ve tested, but it’s not going to make an otherwise noisy system quiet on its own. Silent-PC enthusiasts will still need to choose parts carefully to minimize overall system noise.

 

Conclusions

When I was younger, I eagerly awaited Car and Driver’s sport sedan comparison test issue, to see whether any competitor had accomplished the rare feat of dethroning BMW’s seemingly unbeatable 3-series. As mid-towers go, Corsair’s Obsidian 450D is a lot like the 3-series: it’s such a good all-rounder that it’s very difficult to best. Based on my testing of the Define R5, however, I believe that Fractal Design’s latest is good enough to steal the 450D’s crown.

That’s not to say that the Define R5 is perfect. I wish Fractal had made the removable ModuVent panels at the top of the case a little more finger-friendly. The company could have included some corresponding magnetic filters for these top vents, too. I also wish Fractal had made the R5’s drive trays tool-free, and I was let down a little by the case’s occasional hard-drive-related buzziness.

Fractal Design Define R5

February 2015

In almost every other regard, though, living with the Define R5 is a pleasure. Building a system inside of it is practically effortless. Fractal has clearly thought about every inch of the case, from the easy-to-use side panels and spacious radiator mounts to the generous cable-routing area behind the motherboard tray. The modular insides can be easily adapted to suit different builds, and the R5 is a quiet runner, too. For such a competent case, one would expect a BMW-esque price, but the Define R5 is a great value at only $109.99-$119.99.

Perhaps most importantly (to mangle another Steve Jobs-ism), the best-designed products should delight their owners. More often than not, I was delighted by the Define R5. That rare quality, along with the R5’s many virtues and sensible price, make this case an easy pick for our coveted Editor’s Choice award.

Comments closed
    • ddarko
    • 5 years ago

    I just put together my system in the R5 after returning the Silencio 652S. My impressions pretty much track Tech Report’s reviews of both cases – the R5 is a much easier and better designed case than the 652S. The huge problem for me with the Silencio case is that it doesn’t fit an Asus GTX980 card with the top hard drive cage set in 3.5″ mode. Cooler master provides zero guidance about this – the only figure they give for the case’s supported VGA card length is with the cage removed. Not very helpful. I only discovered the GTX 980 wouldn’t fit after I finished installing every other component in the case. The R5 case, by contrast, has no problem fitting the graphics card with the 3.5″ drive cages and Fractal Design tells you exactly the card length that fits with the drive cage installed.

    The only thing I fault the R5 for is the tool that’s used to install the motherboard standoffs in the case. It’s terrible, made out of a putty-like plastic that is so soft is doesn’t provide any resistance when you try to rotate it with a screwdriver. It makes installing the standoffs a challenge. I don’t know what Fractal Design was thinking when they chose this material for the tool, it should be made out of a hard plastic or metal. The soft rubbery substance they picked is completely wrong for intended task.

    Otherwise, a great case. It seems to be selling $20 above MSP both online or retail (I picked up mine at Microcenter) but I think it’s worth the premium.

    • Shinare
    • 5 years ago

    I used to make it a rule that I would never spend more than $35 on a case. Reading reviews like this are now opening my eyes to the kinds of things that limitation has deprived me of. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that the proverbial “cheapass” case has its place in society, but I’m starting to think there are uses for a $100 case as well.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      Yeah, I understand. The R4 was my first non-cheapass case and it was a revelation. My wife/daughter got it for me for Father’s day a couple years back, and that’s the only way at the time I would have spent that much. Once it was spent, though, I’ve resolved never to go back.

    • Next9
    • 5 years ago
    • Krogoth
    • 5 years ago

    Have a Arctic White R4 Define here for over two years and I have been pleased with it.

    I don’t see any reason to upgrade to the R5 or change cases.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 5 years ago

    I see what you did there.
    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTJZEK4JP0k&t=06s[/url<]

    • anotherengineer
    • 5 years ago

    “https://techreport.com/review/27719/fractal-design-define-r5-case-reviewed/4”

    First chart, Y-axis, is that supposed to be degrees C?

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 5 years ago

      Whoops! Fixed.

    • Ryhadar
    • 5 years ago

    I wish Fractal would have released a new version of their Define Mini (mATX version) before I bought my new case. I think the Mini is is just a minified version of the Define R3, so it’s certainly due for an update. Ah well, I’m very happy with my Phanteks Evolv so no loss.

    Great review, by the way, but I do have one thing to add. I’m pretty sure the bottom filter is removable form the front which is [i<]huge[/i<] but I did not see it mentioned in the review. Just FYI for anyone curious.

      • Qrash
      • 5 years ago

      Yes, I agree: a revised version of the Define Mini would be great.

      Also, you are correct: the bottom filter is removable from the front of the case.

    • sluggo
    • 5 years ago

    I still have a pair of P180’s for the two machines in my house. Both started out as overkill, and one has become only more so as it houses only an mATX board, low-end video card and two HDDs. The other is a gaming machine, and needs room for both a vid card and a Xonar. I wanted quiet, so I bought quiet, and now I have two really quiet, really big cases where (now, 7 years later) I could probably get away with an HP Stream and an mATX case.

    The problem with downsizing the gaming machine to an mATX case is that I’m using an 1155 CPU and there are no really appealing 1155 mATX motherboards. The 3570k is still more than adequate for my purposes, so I’m reluctant to toss it at this time.

    This case looks like a very good replacement for the gaming P180. Just as quiet, with far better cable routing, good ventilation, similar modularity and expansion, similar anti-vibration and a lot lighter (hauling the P180 outside for cleaning is not fun).

    Still overkill for size, but until the 3570k is no longer tenable I guess I can deal with it.

    • Thresher
    • 5 years ago

    No front doors on cases.

    I hate front doors on cases with a passion. They always wind up breaking or getting scuffed up. They get in the way of using the optical drives (which, admittedly, is less of a factor these days). They are always a PITA when building the box.

    Nope. No front doors on cases for me.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      I’ve used both and I’ve decided that the noise canceling factor outweighs all the bad (like having to open it to use optical discs, as you mentioned). The front of the case doesn’t get any more scuffed up than a door, and I’ve never had a problem with a broken one on my R4. I did have an old NZXT case with a door that I loathed, because it was poorly constructed.

      • Ryhadar
      • 5 years ago

      It makes the front soooooo much cleaner though. I’m honestly surprised that so many case makers have chosen to remove 5.25″ bays completely before considering them.

    • Prestige Worldwide
    • 5 years ago

    It’s…… beautiful. Another fine iteration on a company whose cases are pretty much perfect already.

    • tootercomputer
    • 5 years ago

    I have the R4, got it at a very good price back in May, best case I’ve ever had. Everything obviously had been very well thought out. Fractal would be a first choice again. I found it to be the perfect balance of quality and cost.

    • anotherengineer
    • 5 years ago

    With a large majority of people being right handed and putting cases on the right hand side of the desk/floor, I still think it would make more sense if the front door was hinged on the right side, or could be opened either way.

      • DPete27
      • 5 years ago

      From page 1:
      [quote<]The door can be easily swapped to open from either side of the case[/quote<]

        • anotherengineer
        • 5 years ago

        Excellent.

        Never had time to give the full read yet. Just checked out the pics quickly.

        • Qrash
        • 5 years ago

        Yes, the door is easy to remove and switch so that it pivots on the opposite edge. There are two clips that are part of the hinge and they are each fastened to the inside of the front door by a single screw. Undo the screws, move the clips to the opposite edge, and screw the clips into place. Done.

    • StefanJanoski
    • 5 years ago

    I bought the R4 shortly before this was announced, which was annoying but unavoidable. Nice to see that they’ve worked on some of the weaker areas of the case such as the SSD mounts which require the removal of the motherboard to access.

    This would definitely be my top recommendation now for anyone looking for an understated and quiet case.

    • Metonymy
    • 5 years ago

    Funny how people like/dislike the same things: I have used Fractals for 3 cases and I do it specifically because of the metal drive sleds and the rubber grommets, as I feel that the mechanical drives are much better secured and more vibration resistant than the usual flimsy plastic drive holders.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      yeah, it’s one of the things that I really like about mine. The box of hardware slides right into a drive bay, and there are so many separate bags for different sized screws that it’s very organized. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

    • rechicero
    • 5 years ago

    For this case I’d recommend using both fans as front input (or front+bottom input, for the GPU). That’d mean positive pressure = less dust and probably less noise (as the noise is not funneled through an exhaust fan). The case has enough venting holes to let the possitive pressure vent the hot air out.

      • RdVi
      • 5 years ago

      I don’t even consider a case unless it can easily be set up to have positive pressure with the intake fans being behind a convenient and effective dust filter.

      I’m currently looking for a small gaming/htpc case, and found than the silverstone RVZ02 will be coming out soon. The size and features are perfect, but aside from my dislike for acrylic windows (it has one over the CPU and GPU) the vents in the windows make it impossible to attach proper filters. On their old (slightly larger and in every way aside from the windows, uglier) cases like the ML07 and RVZ01 and just released FTZ01, the intake slots are embedded in the metal case allowing for standard 120mm magnetic filters to be fitted.

      I have no idea how anyone can consider a case where there isn’t even an option to fit easy to remove/clean filters!

        • anotherengineer
        • 5 years ago

        If you have clean air in your house that’s a non issue. 😉

    • crystall
    • 5 years ago

    I don’t mind the screws & grommets setup for drives; in fact I tend to prefer it as the added robustness and vibration dampening are well worth the extra minute it requires to place a drive inside the case.

    As for keeping the case’s parts around, some cases provide a small plastic tray that can be attached inside the case (I’ve found it in a couple of Antec cases, but also less prestigious cases such as Yeong Yang’s). Even if it’s not there I usually wrap the spare parts in a small plastic bag and tape it inside the case, often inside a drive bay. It might not be pretty but you’re always 100% sure you’ll find what you’re looking for when your working inside the case.

    • BillyBuerger
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]The omission of a top filter is also strange considering Fractal includes a full-length filter at the bottom of the case.[/quote<] My guess is that the normal airflow pattern is intake in front and bottom and exhaust in back and top. So that makes sense that they put the filters on the front and bottom but not the top. Doesn't mean that someone might not use the top for an intake but it's not the normal behavior. So the option would be nice but it's not unexpected. And of course, if they did put filters in there and someone was using the top for an exhaust, the filters would hurt the airflow and do nothing to help with dust. Which if someone didn't notice, could leave them to believe the cooling of the case is not as good as it should be.

    • ZGradt
    • 5 years ago

    It sounds a heck of a lot like the R4 cases I have, which I love. I really like the 3.5″ bays myself. The drives are secure and insulated from vibration. What more do you need? The case I have on my main desktop have these weird little dealies that go in the drive screw holes, but don’t screw in, and the rubber rings pop out. So annoying. I think it’s supposed to be screwdriver free for ease of use, but it isn’t. Thankfully, I only have a couple of drives in that one.

    The one complaint I have about the R4 is that there is no HDD LED. I hooked up the power LED to the RAID card on my home server instead.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      Yeah, I also wax poetic about my R4, and I also hooked up the LED to HDD activity.

      As far as keeping track of the hardware, I just slid the box into one of the 3.5″ bays. It fits perfectly, and as long as you don’t fill all of them it’s not in the way.

    • trackerben
    • 5 years ago

    Window-free option, flexible fan placement, silencing mats and mounts, side-mounted drive bays, multiple cable ways, dust filters galore – ticks all my boxes. Nice looking door which allows for a bit of useful DIY, too. I’ll be looking at one when available.

      • Pbryanw
      • 5 years ago

      Makes me wonder if this would be an upgrade over my Corsair 550D?

      Also, as a side note, is that a bottom filter that pulls out through the front of the case? It’s taken case manufacturers long enough to do this. My Corsair’s one comes out the back of the case and because of this, I’ve never yet emptied the PSU fan filter.

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 5 years ago

        I’ve been thinking the same about the Corsair 550D. I’ll probably stick a while longer until I do a full system upgrade and keep this one in mind around then.

        That said, I’ve done a PSU fan filter change probably three times since I bought it. That was over a year ago.

        Who at Corsair designed that and thought, “Yeah, I’ll make them pull the filter backward toward the wall most people will have the back pointed toward. Because that makes tons of sense.”

        If only they’d tested it in a scenario where users actually used it, they’d have seen the futility of having the PSU fan filter coming out the back right away…

          • Pbryanw
          • 5 years ago

          To be fair, it’s not just Corsair cases which have this design flaw, but I don’t know why so many case manufacturers make the same mistake with the PSU fan filter. As you say, if they’d have done user testing, this would have been seen straight away.

          As far as my 550D goes, I’ll probably do the same as you. Wait a year or two for stuff like USB 3.1, NVM express for SSDs and new chips from intel to come out, then then do a full system upgrade (and maybe use this case). I’m actually quite pleased with my 550D – it’s just that the side panels scuff easily and it’s quite large for a PC case.

        • Jeff Kampman
        • 5 years ago

        The fan filter pulls out from the front of the case, yes.

    • PerfectCr
    • 5 years ago

    I built 3 systems with the Define R4 and when the R5 came out I built my current system inside it. After years of flashy PC cases, Fractal really tapped into a nice little niche; people looking for classy, quiet, and well designed cases. The R5 had some little improvements over the R4 that made it worth it for me, and I passed on my R4 cases to my kids’ systems. Thanks for the good review. I had not removed the top vents since I am using a Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo cooler. I value a quiet system so I stuck with air cooling.

    Here are the specs of the system I built in December with the R5:
    MSI Z97 GAMING 5 | Core i5-4690K | MSI GTX 980 GAMING | 16GB Patriot Viper DDR3-2400 | EVGA Supernova 750 G2 PSU

    • appaws
    • 5 years ago

    Thanks for the well written review!

    I love these Fractal cases. I don’t think the R5 can be beat in this price range. Classy looks. Quiet.

    • chuckula
    • 5 years ago

    I have an XL R2 that is a bigger brother of this case (without the window). Overall I’m a big fan and would generally recommend fractal cases.

      • anotherengineer
      • 5 years ago

      You’re a big fan???

      Axial or centrifugal??

      • Qrash
      • 5 years ago

      I own the Define R4 and now the R5. I like most of the changes in the R5, but it feels flimsier than the R4. Maybe the R4’s steel is thicker or the noise canceling material is denser.

        • modulusshift
        • 5 years ago

        Hey, is it lighter, though? I had a recent Define Mini, and that thing felt like a solid brick, it was a pain to move around when I had to.

          • Qrash
          • 5 years ago

          Well, what do you know. The new case is heavier. According to the Fractal Design website my new R5 (Titanium with window) has a net weight of 12.8 kg versus the 12.3 kg of my older R4 (Black Pearl, no window).

          Still, when I was moving parts from the R4 to the R5 (don’t ask!) I thought the old case felt stronger. Weird. Maybe it’s because the R4 started full of parts, and the R5 was empty. If so, my mistake.

      • bjgrifter
      • 5 years ago

      I got the XL R2 myself and love it. Fractal found a good thing and stuck with it, albeit in different sizes.

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