Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Show off your quiet rig.

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Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Post by faustus » Sun May 15, 2011 12:53 pm

I picked this case for a home server, in no small part because it was the smallest cabinet I could find that would fit ten hard drives.

I think the case is great - solid, practical, decent looking and a nice price. And did I mention that there's room for ten HDDs?

The only things I could wish differently are:
* You need a screwdriver to take off the front dust filters. Cleaning dust filters is something I do frequently enough to prefer it toolless.
* More space behind the motherboard tray for cables - it will be sufficient when there is room enough to stand a Molex connector on its side. (There's no more room in the 3-4 other cases I've used, so this wish applies to cases in general.)


Initially I used the stock fans plus a Noctua 120mm as a second front intake fan. This would cool well enough with the fans at full speed, but was too noisy for my taste.
Using the minimum setting of the Fractal fan controller made the noise acceptable, but the CPU and HDD temps became a bit too high.
(CPU 68-70 C at full load with Folding@home; HDDs 45-47 C. My target temps are CPU below 67 and HDDs below 42.)

After some experimentation I ended up adding a Noctua 140mm w/ULNA to the rear roof slot, running the remaining fans on minimum. This dropped the temps to 60 C (CPU) and 37-39 C (HDDs) with no perceptible change in noise.
Adding the bottom intake fan had no effect on temperatures, but it's not audible either. I added it in the hope of getting positive case pressure, primarily to keep the dust out.

The system is reasonably quiet, less noisy than a Playstation 3 at idle (which I used to consider fairly quiet before I grew a fancy for quiet computing ;)), but not inaudible. There's a white noise hiss - air turbulence, I suppose - that you can hear from across the room.
The noise is about the same level and character as the air intakes for the ventilation ducts in the building where I live - the ventilation fans are on the roof, so you can't hear the fans as such, but you can hear the air being sucked into the ducts.
It's not an unpleasant noise and I rarely notice during daytime hours, but it is still a bit louder than ideal. (The ideal is of course bedroom-at-night quiet. My desktop is close to that ideal, but this system isn't. I suppose I'll call it living-room-at-day quiet.)

At the speeds I run them none of the fans are audible - disabling every case+CPU fan doesn't change the overall noise level.
It turns out that the noisiest part is actually the PSU, a Corsair HX 750. I was surprised by that; a 200 W load should hardly make a 750 W PSU break a sweat, and the Corsair VX 450 I use in a desktop is well-nigh inaudible at the same load.
But sure enough, Corsair's noise-to-load diagrams actually say that that the HX 750 (~25 dBA) is more noisy than the VX 450 (~21 dBA) even at low loads.
The PSU is too new and too expensive to change anytime soon, and it's still reasonably quiet. But the next time I'll probably go for a Seasonic X or Corsair AX series, they seem to be the quietest PSUs around at the moment.

At close range there's a pink noise rumble from the hard disks as well, but this is inaudible from one meter distance - I can't hear it when standing over the computer, only when I sit down on the floor next to it.
The hard drives don't make much noise otherwise, except for a fairly loud clicking when parking or unparking the drive heads. I fixed that by disabling automatic disk sleep so head parks are rare.

* Fractal Design Define R3
* Intel i7 920 @ stock
* Asus Rampage II Gene
* RAM: 6GB (3x2GB)
* Graphics: Asus EN8400GS Silent
* SATA controllers: 2x HighPoint Rocket 620 (for 4 additional SATA ports)
* OS disk: WD Scorpio Blue 2.5" 160GB
* storage disks: 4x Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB, 3x Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB, 2x Samsung 1TB
* RAID: 2x Linux software RAID. The 6 Barracudas in RAID 10, the two Samsungs in RAID 1 and a shared hot spare.
* OS: Ubuntu 10.10

* CPU: Noctua NH-U12P and 1x Noctua 120mm w/LNA
* front intake: 2x Noctua 120mm, min. speed through Fractal fan controller
* rear exhaust: 1x Fractal Design 120mm stock fan, min. speed through Fractal fan controller.
* top exhaust: 1x Noctua 140mm w/ULNA
* bottom intake: 1x Noctua 120mm 800RPM
Last edited by faustus on Tue May 17, 2011 10:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Post by justice99 » Mon May 16, 2011 10:04 am

Very impressive computer,

About the noise, on my computer , i was planing to put a Seasonic X-Series 660W, but it wasnt avalaible so i bought the Enermax PRO87+ 600W which is at the same price (almost 150$/€) and as quiet, at idle, the fan works at 300RPM, so if you are looking for a great/silent PSU, you should buy one of them or a Seasonic Fanless.

About the HDD temperature, i have 3 WD20EARS, you can see on my picture, they are in front of the stock fan (i turn them at minimum with a fan controller), and the temperature is always under 36 degrees, so it depend of the HDD (i also fixed the head park noise yersterday).

All these fan make too much noise, you dont need that much, you just need the right HDD.

Btw, can you upload a picture with a bigger resolution?

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Re: Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Post by mkk » Mon May 16, 2011 11:41 am

Looks like it's doing fine. I'd consider blocking off the bottom vent though, as that airflow isn't helping the harddrives and the rest of the system doesn't need it either. A wee bit more air might enter through the front then. Speaking of the front, since the standard fan filter is so very spacious one can add a layer of some light fabric behind the little vent doors. Then most of the dust will stick to the fabric, making for easier cleaning.

Looking ahead into the future you might want to replace the few 7200 RPM drive with 5400 RPM ones to do away with the vibrations. Although since you describe it as pretty unproblematic perhaps the mass of 5400 RPM drives already in the cage has some beneficial effect on the resonance. :)

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Re: Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Post by justice99 » Mon May 16, 2011 1:30 pm

You can also use a hoover to clean filters... its quick and efficace.

For silence, good temp and low consumption, you should upgrade your hdd to Green 2Tb.
(i use to sell my old hdd and stuff on ebay, and upgrade with brand new hardware).

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Re: Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Post by faustus » Mon May 16, 2011 2:17 pm

Thanks for feedback. I'll add the Enermax Pro87+ to the short list next time I'm shopping power supplies. And yes, I guess hoovering is the simplest way to clean the filters.

On WD Greens: Yes, they are more quiet, but I had four of them in RAID a while back and three of them died within a year. It looks like the WD Greens don't go along with RAID, I've had no such issues with my two standalone WD Greens.
So I settled on the Barracuda LP; from what I hear they are approved for RAID. They are slightly more noisy, but not all that bad. (See the review on this site.)

mkk: Good point on blocking the bottom vent, I'll give it a try. Thanks for the tip.
The 7200 rpm drives are there just because I had them lying around, I'll go for some low-power model when they need to be replaced. But vibration seems to be a non-issue - I can feel vibrations when touching the case, but I can't hear it. I guess it's partially due to a sturdy drive cage, and partially due to the ~6 kg of hard drives that add quite a bit of weight and lowers the resonance.
(I've had this server housed in a Lian Li aluminium case where seven HDDs made the entire case rattle, but it's not a problem with the R3.)

justice99: I have a higher-resolution picture somewhere, I'll upload it when I find it.

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Re: Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Post by Pierre » Tue May 17, 2011 2:00 am

Looking very neat...I had the Define R2 but with my non-modular Corsair TX750 PSU it looked like a spaghetti dish in there...this is much easier to work with...

Seasonics are generally great for silence...I regret giving mine away (an older 600W model), but I needed the high single rail for the 12v line

Regarding noise, I'd say from my own experience that switching to LP or Green drives can have a significant effect on noise, not so much because of the individual vibrational difference between any two drives, but because of the cumulative difference if one has a lot of them, always with regard to the case and its makeup-rigitidity-hdd decoupling attributes...

The noise from my pc was driving me crazy (others barely heard it) and I must have tried out 3-4 expensive cases out there to replace my chieftec full tower case...what a waste of time and money...replacing 2 of the hdds immediately made a difference and with a couple more others replaced it is now acceptable (although I would go for that little bit more quietness, cause I read late at night)
Also, switching to a SSD for OS is very beneficial noise-wise, to avoid that periodic growl in intensive tasks...

The WD20EARS is probably the quietest and coolest 2TB hdd out there, but I have concerns over's been two out three for me till now within the first months...
Last edited by Pierre on Wed May 18, 2011 3:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Fractal Define R3 w/10 HDD

Post by faustus » Tue May 17, 2011 10:39 pm

Pierre wrote:switching to a SSD for OS is very beneficial noise-wise, to avoid that periodic growl in intensive tasks...
Agreed. And if you find SSDs too expensive, a 2.5" laptop drive is a low-cost, low-noise substitute. A laptop drive obviously has less performance as well, but for something like a file server you rarely need much performance from the OS disk anyway.

@justice99: I updated the picture in the first post to a (slightly) higher resolution. This is the highest resolution I've got; if you want more than that it will have to wait until I get a proper camera ;)

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