Fractal Design Define Mini MicroATX Tower

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AUDIO RECORDINGS

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Compared to the Define R2/R3, the Define Mini is two inches shorter, sheds two hard drive bays, three expansion slots, and one optional fan placement on the ceiling. The smaller dimensions makes it seem sturdier even though the build quality is about the same. It's also a bit more versatile thanks to the removable (and rotatable) hard drive cage that allows for long graphics cards, though the motherboard must have its PCI-E 16x slot in the top position to take advantage of the extra length. Cable management is slightly improved and the fragile metallic rear case feet from the R2 are gone.

The Define Mini performed fairly well against previously reviewed microATX cases, but the SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E is the only competitor we've tested that has as much broad appeal. The TJ08-E has an edge in CPU and hard drive cooling thanks to its strategically placed 18 cm intake fan. The larger Mini is a better all-rounder that gives lower GPU temperatures (important, as the GPU fan is often the biggest noise generator in a quiet PC), a more spacious interior, more HDD and fan support, dampened side panels and covers for unused fan vents. The stock fans are fairly quiet especially when dialed down using the included controller. It's a valuable extra that handles up to three 3-pin fans and can be placed unobtrusively in the extra expansion slot.

Fractal Design didn't reinvent the wheel with the Define Mini, sticking closely to the formula for Define R2/R3, with a few alterations for the microATX form factor. It doesn't blow us away, but with the absence of competition in the microATX market, the Mini stands out. The Mini puts all the elements of brand name ATX towers, support for six easy-to-access hard drives, six large fans, large CPU heatsinks, long graphics cards, cable management holes, etc. in a more compact package along with some silencing features. As microATX cases go, the Mini is a premium product yet it it can currently be purchased for a very reasonable US$100.

Our thanks to Fractal Design for the Define Mini case sample.

Recommended by SPCR
The Fractal Design Define Mini is Recommended by SPCR.

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Articles of Related Interest
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Antec Solo II: The Legacy Lives On
SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E: MicroATX Evolved
SilverStone Fortress FT03 mATX Tower: Redux
SilverStone Fortress FT03 microATX Tower
Lian Li PC-V354 MicroATX Mini Tower Case

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