Fractal Design Define R2 ATX Tower Case

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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product at various states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.


Given the Define R2's similarity to the Antec Performance One line, the P183 is the obvious choice for a direct comparison. The R2 is a smaller case overall, about 3 inches shorter as there is less space between the ceiling and the top of the motherboard tray (just enough room for 25 mm thick fans), and there is no compartment separating the power supply from the rest of the case. The latter is nothing noteworthy as the chamber design is pretty much obsolete given the multitude of quiet, cool power supplies today as well as the as-effective approach of having the PSU fan draw its air from below the case. However, one of the very quietest high-end power supply we've tested is the Antec CP-850, and the P183 is one of the few cases that supports it. The overall build quality of the R2 is not as strong, particularly the side panels which are much thinner and hefty only because of the bitumen pads; we wouldn't call it weak though as it's stronger than most $100 cases. The R2 also lacks removable drive cages, relying on side-mounting dampened hard drive trays, which incidentally were also pioneered by Antec.

In some ways, the R2 is more refined. Its front door is of quality construction and the magnetic seal gives it a sturdy feel. Cable management is also very good and access to the CPU backplate is useful for enthusiasts who insist on high end aftermarket CPU cooling. Perhaps the best thing about the R2 is the additional fan placements at the bottom, side and top of the case which gives it a broader appeal. Those less picky about noise can add a couple of fans and reap the benefits of improved cooling. The side panel fan is particularly useful for video card cooling, even though a fan mounted there increases the noise dramatically, particularly if hard-mounted. Unlike their retail box fans, the case doesn't ship with rubber fan isolators.

Users more interested in silence will be happy to know that the extra fan mounts on the top and side of the case are blocked off by default with thick bitumen mats, so they don't represent a an acoustic liability like most gaming style cases with similar cooling options. The case includes a manual fan speed controller, but it's a bit of a waste given the ultra low noise level of the stock 120mm fans — running them below 12V is pointless. We feel a little silly complaining that they're too quiet, but faster, louder fans, in the 16~18 dBA range would be more practical as long as there is some fan control available. Another concern regards the hard drive trays — they do not snap in as tightly as Antec's and our sample rubber grommets are very stiff; we doubt they effect much improvement on hard drive vibration.

It is rare to see a rookie manufacturer come out of nowhere with a well-thought out design right off the bat. Luckily for Fractal Design, much of the trail was already blazed by Antec: The Define R2 is a kind of homage to the P180. Fractal Design engineers kept true to its core design, added a few simple improvements, and cut corners in areas they believed were not fundamental to thermal performance and noise reduction. The result is an affordable, versatile, minimalist case that is suitable for housing a simple quiet PC, a well-cooled gaming machine, and anything in-between. It may not have the highest build standards, but it's good value.

While the case is already available in Europe, NCIX in Canada is apparently the only company in North America currently offering the Define R2. It can be pre-ordered for CAD$110 with an ETA of May/June. Their US site has the R2 listed for just under US$100, but it is not yet available for order for consumers south of the border.

Fractal Design Define R2

* Sturdy, dampened door
* Insulated side panels, ceiling, fan placements
* Many fan options
* Very quiet stock fans
* Fan controller included
* Effective cable management
* Price

* Hard drive trays need improvement
* Stock fans too weak
* No fan isolators included

Fractal Design Define R2

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