20 - 01 - 2018
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Fractal Design Define XL R2 Computer Case Review

Article Index

INTRODUCTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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   Time and again we have pointed out the difficulty consumers may have when trying to choose the ideal Midi tower to house their new system especially if they happen to enter a store with countless models around. However the same issue doesn’t' really apply with Full towers since nowadays most hardware manufacturers focus their efforts in reducing the size of components and so it goes without saying that PC case manufacturers also follow the same path. Now as you all know we are not much into small PC cases since the entire process of adding and removing hardware requires as much space as possible (others for example choose open rigs/test benches) thus we are always on the lookout to get our hands on every Full tower model we can. Fractal Design has been around for quite some time with sole aim to cater the needs of even the most demanding consumers out there in search for high quality PC cases offering noise insulation right from the box. Today with us we have their latest Full tower the Define XL R2.

 

   Without a doubt, computers are more than just technology - they have become an integral part of our lives. Computers do more than make living easier, they often define the functionality and design of our homes, our offices and ourselves. The products we choose represent how we want to describe the world around us and how we want others to perceive us. Many of us are drawn to designs from Scandinavia, which are organized, clean and functional while remaining stylish, sleek and elegant. We like these designs because they harmonize with our surroundings and become nearly transparent. Brands like Georg Jensen, Bang Olufsen, Skagen Watches and Ikea are just a few that represent this Scandinavian style and efficiency. In the world of computer components, there is only one name you should know, Fractal Design.

 

   Since the Define XL R2 Full Tower is the successor to the highly regarded Define XL i had the chance to review over 2 years ago i was quite eager to get my hands on it to see what Fractal Design had improved/changed. So this time over the Define XL R2 supports up to XL-ATX mainboards (the old had support up to E-ATX ones), comes with 9 PCI expansion slots (the previous had 7 plus 1 for the bundled fan controller) has more fan mounts available (one at the bottom and two top 120/140mm ones compared to the single 180mm one placed diagonally in the Define XL), offers USB 3.0 connectivity (instead of an eSATA one featured in the original), has room for up to 8 HDDs inside two drive cages (its predecessor had room for 10 in 3 drive cages), a build-in fan controller at the front (the Define XL came with a separate one you could mount at the rear) and finally for unknown reasons the new Define XL R2 lacks the two rear rubber grommets for water cooling tubes featured in the Define XL. Leaving out these differences chances are that if you see both towers placed next to each other from the front you will not be able to tell them apart this is also why we took the time to point out their differences. The time has come however for us to dig even deeper so let's see what Fractal Design has done with the latest Define XL R2.

 


 

SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PACKAGING AND CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The product arrived inside a large cardboard box with the company logo at the front and a drawing of the case itself.

 

 

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Moving on the left side we see the product specifications lists.

 

 

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A drawing of the interior along with the current color selection (the Define XL R2 is available in Titanium Gray and Black Pearl Colors) are placed on the right side.

 

 

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At the rear we see a drawing of the entire case dismantled.

 

 

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The case is placed inside a plastic bag and between two very thick foam spacers so you shouldn't have any problems during transport.

 

 

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Both the user's manual and warranty information are placed on the case while inside a small box placed in the case you will find 6 cable ties and 8 small plastic bags with all the necessary screws for installation.

 


 

THE DEFINE XL R2 EXTERIOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Design-wise the Define XL R2 is almost identical to its predecessor with the front plastic door standing out once again thanks to the brushed aluminum appearance (that's also why it's covered during transport).

 

 

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The left side panel has space for a single 120/140mm intake fan but by default it's covered with Fractal Designs ModuVent noise-dampening material.

 

 

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There are several tiny vents on both sides of the front fascia which provide air for the front intake fans.

 

 

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The front door looks very nice and is one of the things other manufacturers have been using as well ever since Fractal Design did with their first PC Cases.

 

 

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On the other side of the door Fractal Design has placed foam padding to reduce noise coming from the case.

 

 

 

 

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The Define XL R2 features four 5.25" drive bays which can be easily removed via a clip placed on the right.

 

 

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Fractal Design has also equipped the Define XL R2 with a 3-way fan controller which can regulate the speed of the fans by reducing/increasing the voltage (12V/7V/5V).

 

 

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Two fan mounts are placed behind the perforated section right beneath the drive bays.

 

 

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There's one 140mm intake fan present already and you can also add a second one.

 

 

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You also have the ability to use two 120mm fans but unlike the 140mm which are held in place with plastic clips you will need to secure them with screws.

 

 

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The on/off power LED is placed at the top of the front fascia and is visible even with the door closed.

 

 

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Right above the power LED we see the top I/O which consists from the power on/off button, reset button, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports and the typical headphones and microphone 3.5" ports.

 

 

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Two more 120/140mm fan mounts are placed at the rear top of the case and just like the left side panel by default they are covered with ModuVent.

 

 

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Moving at the rear of the case we see the usual fan mount, 9 PCI expansion slots and the PSU area.

 

 

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Fractal Design has used a single 140mm exhaust fan at the rear which can be replaced with a 120/140mm fan.

 

 

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The Define XL R2 sits ontop of 4 round rubber feet while a slide-out removable dust filter covers most of the bottom (here we also see the bottom 140mm fan).

 

 

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I was surprised to see that Fractal Design used regular thumbscrews to keep both panels in place (rubber coated thumbscrews are a lot more ideal with such heavy panels).

 


 

THE DEFINE XL R2 INTERIOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Both side panels are not only very thick but also feature the same dampening material as the empty fan spots.

 

 

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By skipping out on the 3rd drive cage and removing the aluminum plate that seperated the mainboard and PSU areas the new Define XL R2 has quite a bit of space more compared to its predecessor.

 
 

 

 

 

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Unfortunately once again the four 5.25" drive bays lack a tool-less lock mechanism.

 

 

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There are 4 drive trays on each of the two drive cages.

 

 

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As expected the top drive cage can be removed to make space for the longest graphics cards.

 

 

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The drive trays are quite sturdy and are compatible with 2.5/3.5" drives.

 

 

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The mainboard tray has 7 rubber grommets for cable management and a very large opening beneath the CPU area.

 
 

 

 

 

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All 9 PCI expansion slots are locked in place with regular thumbscrews (again i'd like to see rubber coated ones).

 

 

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There are two tall feet at the PSU area and one 140mm intake fan right next to it.

 

 

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Taking a look from the interior it's evident that you can also mount a 240mm/280mm radiator at the top.

 

 

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I was expecting a bit more space behind the mainboard tray but even this is sufficient for cable management especially for a full tower.

 


 

BUILDING THE SYSTEM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always this section of our review is not ment to build a working system but just to show everyone what you can expect from the PC Case at hand in terms of interior space.

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Since the Define XL R2 is capable of holding up to XL-ATX sized mainboards naturally our standard ATX one is dwarfed by it. However as you can see a larger mainboard will cover one of the rubber grommets.

 

 

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Plenty of space for even the largest CPU Coolers (or an dual radiator if you choose at the top) no surprises here.

 

 

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Even with the top drive cage installed you will be able to fit 99% of the graphics cards out there without issue.

 

 

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If you choose to keep the bottom 140mm intake fan then you can only use standard sized power supplies so in order to use longer ones you will have to remove that fan.

 


 

NOISE LEVEL TEST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After giving it much thought we decided on performing noise tests with each PC Case we receive by placing our ExTech HD600 vertically ontop of each case to measure the noise levels emanating from the pre-installed fans at both 50% and 100% with the help of a fan controller (if the case doesn't have one we use our own).

 


 

CONCLUSION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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   My first encounter with Fractal Design was when they first entered the market back in late 2008 and although back then their products where a lot more impressive (not many manufacturers offered the same quality and innovation 5 years ago) than they are now I’m very glad to see that they haven't made any compromises in terms of build quality with their solutions (at least not still). That being said the new Define XL R2 is a clear winner when compared to its predecessor the original Define XL but it's far from being the perfect successor. Sure it offers compatibility with up to XL-ATX sized mainboards (9 PCI expansion slots), has space to mount a dual 240/280mm radiator at the top and features a front fan controller but in the process Fractal Design reduced the drive space from 10 to 8 and although 8 should cover even the most demanding of users still it is something its predecessor did better. I'm sure Fractal Design will further improve this specific model (perhaps introduce R3/R4 versions) but for now the Define XL R2 is certainly one of the best Full towers I’ve seen especially in terms of build quality and noise suppression.

 

   Although the original Define XL Computer Case was quite expensive at launch Fractal Design has managed to launch the Define XL R2 with a very aggressive price tag which is currently set at USD111.62 inside the USA (Amazon.com) and at 125Euros inside the EU (Amazon.co.uk). The only competition Fractal Design has at around the same price range is by Nanoxia and their latest Deep Silence 5/6 cases which are actually quite similar to the Define XL R2. In the end however there aren't many PC Cases to rival the Define XL R2 at least not at around the same price range (even the DS5/6 models are extremely hard to come by now) and that's why we are happy to award it with our Golden Award.

goldPROS

- High Build Quality
- Design
- Spacious Interior (XL-ATX Compatible)
- 3 Pre-Installed Fans (140mm Front/140mm Rear/140mm Bottom)
- Room For A Total Of 7 Fans (120/140mm)
- Removable Top Drive Cage
- Top Radiator Space (240mm/280mm)
- Low Noise Levels (Almost Inaudible)
- 3-Channel Fan Controller
- Price (For Some)

 

 

 

CONS

- Less Drive Trays Compared To Its Predecessor
- PSU Clearance Issues with the Bottom Pre-Installed Fan