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Diving in
Getting inside the Define C is as simple as it gets—the side panels both use a swing-away latch instead of the increasingly primitive-feeling tab-and-slot mechanism common on many other cases. Taking off the panels reveals one new feature for a Fractal Design case that I'm not too hot on: a non-removable power-supply-and-storage cover. These shrouds are getting more and more common in today's cases, and companies seem to have settled on two basic approaches: a removable plastic shroud or a riveted-in metal cover. I prefer removable shrouds for their convenience during the build process, but others might prefer the inherent rigidity of a permanent solution.

Since the Define C is so stubby, its main chamber makes no provisions for storage devices at all. That area is given over entirely to a deeply inset motherboard tray ringed by a set of rubber grommets. Sadly, the power supply cover has no dedicated holes in its surface for PCIe power connectors, as we get in the 400C or Cooler Master MasterBox 5. That decision does make for a cleaner-looking interior, but it might make cable routing a challenge down the line. The Define C does have a pair of large grommets at the forward edge of its motherboard tray, at least.

Flipping the Define C around reveals a bottom chamber design similar to the one we took issue with in Zalman's Z9 Neo. From the power-supply mount to the edge of its 3.5" drive cage, the Define C has 9" of space on the dot. Standard ATX power supplies measure about 5.9" long, so there's only about 3" of space available in front of the PSU for cable storage. Folks looking to add or remove cables from their modular PSUs will probably need to slide the unit out of the case using the thumbscrew-secured mounting bracket to make room for their hands.

The Define C also has only three-quarters of an inch or so of cable-routing space behind its motherboard tray at its tightest point. Fractal Design seems to be nudging builders toward routing as many of their cables as possible through the roughly 1.5"-deep channel at the front of the case. Considering that power and data cables for the SSD mount and the four- or eight-pin EPS connector have to go directly behind the motherboard regardless, we'd have liked to see a slightly roomier area back there.

For builds that do without 3.5" storage devices entirely, the dual-drive 3.5" cage can be removed with a quartet of screws underneath the case. Once the drive tray is out, builders also have the option to remove a metal cover that sits above the cage for extra radiator or cable-routing space using a pair of screws behind the front panel. Fractal's attention to detail shows with this cover: even though most people will never see its underside, all of its edges are nicely rounded offand it fits into its cut-out without the slightest gap.

Personal preferences about removable power-supply covers aside, the Define C's interior largely appears to uphold Fractal's reputation for well-designed, easy-to-use cases. Let's see if those impressions hold up in practice.

The build

If you've read any of our other reviews of Fractal Design mid-towers, you already know what's coming in this section. Getting our motherboard, CPU cooler, and graphics card into the Define C's main chamber was an effortless process. We didn't run into a single hitch, and our finished build looks quite slick thanks to the power-supply shroud and cable grommets ringing the motherboard tray.

Running cables to each of those components proved a little tricky, though. Since the Define C has so little space in front of its power supply, we had to carefully stuff any unused cable lengths into that tiny gap. The hook-and-loop straps in the C's main cable-routing channel helped keep most of the potential cable-routing disorder in check, though. While we did find enough space to stow cables in the end, I feel like it would have been nice to have another half-inch or so of room behind the Define C's motherboard tray. As it stands, this relatively cramped area is the only minor blemish on an otherwise smooth build.