Fractal Design Define XL R2 Case Review
By Gabriel Torres on February 19, 2013
Fractal Design is releasing a new version of its Define XL full-tower case, dubbed the Define XL R2, targeted to users who want to build a high-end yet quiet computer. The first version received our “Golden Award.” Let’s see what is new and if the revamped model also deserves our recommendation.
Like the previous version, the Fractal Design Define XL R2 is available in two choices of color: black pearl and titanium gray. We reviewed the titanium gray model.
The new Define XL R2 is a very heavy case; however, it is a little lighter than its previous version, at 35.5 lbs (16.2 kg) – the original Define XL weighs 39 lbs (17.6 kg). The left panel of the R2 weighs 6.5 lbs (3 kg), a reduction of half a pound (200 g) compared to the previous version.
The left panel of the Fractal Design Define XL R2 has a small mesh, allowing you to install a 120 mm or 140 mm fan. This mesh comes covered with a plastic lid that has a very thick foam sheet glued to it. The inner side of both side panels is also covered with a dampening material to reduce the noise level generated by the computer. See Figure 4.
The front panel of the Fractal Design Define XL R2 has a door with a magnetic latch. This door opens from right to left in an unchangeable configuration. One of the main concerns with cases that have a door is regarding the position of their buttons and connectors; some manufacturers place them behind the door, which is a major nuisance. On this case, the buttons and connectors are located on the top panel; however, the case has a three-speed fan controller on the top right-hand side of the front panel, and thus behind the front door.
The door comes covered with a sheet of foam to reduce the level of noise generated by the computer. See Figure 6.
The Fractal Design Define XL R2 comes with four external 5.25” bays, all using meshed covers. The previous version of this case allowed a 120 mm fan to be installed on the 5.25” bays, a feature that was removed on the R2. An adapter for installing an external 3.5” device was also removed.
As mentioned, the case comes with a single-channel, three-speed fan controller located on the upper right corner of the front panel. See Figure 7. The original Define XL had an analog fan controller (which is better than a three-speed fan controller), but it had to be installed behind the case, on a perpendicular expansion slot that was available. Being available on the front panel makes the access to the new fan controller much easier. This device can control up to three fans.
The front panel comes with a 140 mm fan installed (Fractal Design Silent Series R2, 1,000 rpm, 66 cfm, 18.5 dBA), and there is a place for installing a second 140 mm fan. There is an air filter for these fans, and you can easily remove them, as they are installed without the use of screws or tools.
The top panel of the Fractal Design Define XL R2 is meshed, supporting the installation of two 120 mm or two 140 mm fans. The openings for these fans come closed in the same fashion as the mesh available on the left panel and previously discussed. According to the manufacturer, the top panel supports 240 mm and 280 mm radiators, as long as they are up to 2.7” (68 mm) thick.
The case comes with two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and the traditional audio jacks located on the front portion of the top panel. The USB 3.0 ports use an internal connector.
The bottom panel of the Fractal Design Define XL R2 has a single air filter that covers both the power supply and the bottom fans.
The rear panel and the interior of the Fractal Design Define XL R2 are painted in black.
On the Fractal Design Define XL R2, the power supply is installed at the bottom of the case.
The product comes with a 140 mm fan installed on its rear panel (Fractal Design Silent Series R2, 1,000 rpm, 66 cfm, 18.5 dBA). This fan can be replaced with a 120 mm model, meaning that you can replace it with a 120 mm or a 140 mm radiator.
There are nine expansion slots, another improvement over the original Define XL, which had seven slots. Slot covers are meshed and painted white.
Both panels are attached to the chassis using black metallic thumbscrews. The motherboard tray has a huge cutout for you to access the backplate of the CPU coolers without having to remove the motherboard from the case, several holes with rubber covers for you to route cables behind it, and several clips for you to fasten cables using cable ties. Another highlight of the case is the presence of a 1” (26 mm) clearance between the motherboard tray and the right-side panel, allowing you to store thick cables behind the motherboard tray. As expected from a full-tower case, the Fractal Design Define XL R2 supports XL-ATX and E-ATX motherboards.
In Figure 16, we get another overall look inside the case. Notice how there is dampening material on the top panel. Expansion cards are fastened using black metallic thumbscrews. As already explained, the top panel supports the installation of radiators up to 280 mm long, if they are up to 2.7” (68 mm) thick. The Fractal Design Define XL R2 supports video cards up to 13” (330 mm) long on its default configuration or up to 18.9” (480 mm) if the top hard drive cage is removed. You can install CPU coolers up to 6.7” (170 mm) tall if no fans are installed on the left panel.
The power supply is installed at the bottom of the case. It can be installed with either its bottom fan facing up or facing down, so you can decide if you want the fan of your power supply pulling air from inside the case or from outside of it. As shown before, there is an air filter for the power supply fan.
The case comes with another 140 mm fan installed on its bottom panel (Fractal Design Silent Series R2, 1,000 rpm, 66 cfm, 18.5 dBA), a feature not available on the original Define XL. As previously shown, the bottom air filter also covers this fan.
On the case’s default configuration, you can install power supplies up to 7.5” (190 mm) deep. If the bottom fan is removed, you can install power supplies up to 13.6” (345 mm) deep.
The Fractal Design Define XL R2 has four external 5.25” bays and eight internal 3.5”/2.5” bays in two cages. The case doesn’t have tool-less installation mechanisms for storage devices.
The Define XL R2 provides a very flexible configuration for its hard drive cages. You can remove the top cage to allow the installation of video cards longer than 13” (330 mm) or you can rotate it 90°.
The bottom cage can also be removed or moved to the side if the bottom fan is removed. This allows you to install a radiator up to 240 mm on the front panel.
Each 3.5”/2.5” bay is actually a small drawer that comes with rubber rings to reduce the vibration and noise produced by 3.5” hard disk drives.
The main specifications for the Fractal Design Define XL R2 include:
The Fractal Design Define XL R2 is even better than the original Define XL and it is an exceptional choice for users building a high-end PC who are worried about the noise level generated by the computer. Not only does the R2 provide more and better options than the original Define XL; it is cheaper, too. With a suggested price of USD 130, we think this case provides an outstanding cost/benefit ratio for what it has to offer.