After my time with Fractal Design's Define C, I find myself marveling at just how huge and ungainly most of the other ATX mid-towers in my house now seem. If one can fit an ATX mobo, an enormous and power-hungry graphics card, and all the trimmings into a case that's no bigger than the average microATX tower, I see no reason not to go with the best of both worlds from here on out.
One part of the C's design suggests a future imperfect. Its permanent power-supply shroud makes clean-looking builds easy, but it also poses some cable-routing and cable-storage challenges. A modular power supply is all but required for this case, and plugging extra cables into such a unit will require builders to slide out the PSU any time an adjustment is required. Once all those cables are in place, owners might also have to perform a bit of cramming and squashing to tame the cable nest underneath the shroud. These are all minor issues, to be fair, but I've never used a Fractal mid-tower that I'd call "cramped" in any way before my experience with the Define C.
Those minor quibbles aside, the Define C turned in great performance once we wrapped up our build. Fractal Design's included fans kept our Casewarmer testing system cool and quiet under load, and a bit of hard-drive noise was the only indication our system was on at all while it idled in this case. Cut 3.5" storage out of your build entirely—an increasingly attainable dream these days—and this case will treat you to near-silent operation at idle.
All told, Fractal's latest delivers every bit of the clean styling, quiet manners, modular touches, and solid performance we've come to expect from the company's other cases. For systems with one hard drive, one SSD, and one graphics card—that is to say, every Skylake-powered build in our System Guide—the Define C seems like a perfect fit. Space-conscious builders who still value expandability can rest easy with this microATX-sized ATX mid-tower, as well. That long list of virtues comes with a competitive price tag: $80 for the non-windowed Define C, or $85 for the fenestrated version we tested.
Unless you absolutely need the Define S's custom-liquid-cooling-friendly insides or the Define R5's copious 3.5" bays, the Define C seems like the way to go in Fractal's lineup for the average new system build. If this case represents the future of the ATX mid-tower, we think it's a bright one—and it's made all the brighter for Fractal Design by another gleaming TR Editor's Choice award.