Introducing the Fractal Design Define R3

One of the perks of this job is getting to see some up-and-comers get championed by our readership and then turn around and find out what the fuss is all about. Such is the "case" (pun wholly intended) with Fractal Design's Define R3 enclosure. This is a case that has shown up fairly regularly in comments practically since we started doing these reviews again at the beginning of the year, and now we finally have the Define R3 in house for testing. It carries the weight of the community behind it and to its credit, it's certainly an interesting piece of kit at first glance. Does it live up to the word of mouth?

Something that's been bugging me since I started doing these reviews is a stunning lack of enclosures that are engineered with silent running in mind. Very few seem to make provisions towards keeping noise in check, and as a result the competition in that arena can be slim. Yet what Fractal Design has done with the Define R3 suggests that the end user need not choose to build a silent machine or a cooling optimized one. Not just that, but they've driven south the price of acoustically optimized cases into a realm previously only really occupied by NZXT's H2.

Keep in mind that this is a $99-$109 case, though. In my experience there's been an unofficial rule in the enclosure industry: south of $200 you can get silence or great cooling, but not both. For that, you'll need to spend up on something like the SilverStone FT02 or Thermaltake Level 10 GT. The question then is whether the Define R3 can challenge that notion.

Fractal Design Define R3 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25" (one 5.25" to 3.5" converter panel included)
Internal 8x 3.5"/2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan, 1x 120mm fan mount
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120/140mm fan mounts
Side 1x 120/140mm fan mount
Bottom 1x 120/140mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 7
Front I/O Port -
Top I/O Port Mic and headphone jacks, 2x USB 2.0, eSATA
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearance 11.5" (Expansion Cards), 170mm (CPU HSF), 180mm (PSU)
Weight 27.56 lbs. (12.5 kg)
Dimensions 20.85" x 8.17" x 17.4" (529.5mm x 207.5mm x 442mm)
Price $109

The Fractal Design R3 may come with a bunch of fan mounts, but it also includes acoustic pads that are mounted inside the case to cover up the unused mounts. As a result, any turbulence inside the case is kept inside the case; use the fan mounts you want without worrying that the ones you don't want are going to be letting noise leak out. While there are plenty of fan mounts, the Define R3 comes equipped with two 120mm fans.

In and Around the Fractal Design Define R3
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  • MakingMonkeys - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    Its on sale on newegg right now for 80$
  • coffeeman12 - Monday, December 26, 2011 - link

    Holy smoke the Drive bays are in one cage! how stupid is that???????

    you kidding me, how could the designers be so stupid and make a 8 drive bay one cage!
    there should be 4 bays of 2, or at least 2 of 4.
    one cage is retarded. if I buy a graphics card which is to long I can't remove one cage!
    the case is nice.. but I think they need to rework with the inside.
  • Narhinik - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    I bought my R3 couple of days back (USB 3.0 version) and I have to say I'm really happy with it.

    I didn't have any problems with the interior design/cable management that would have been caused my the case. Some of the power cables from my PSU just were too short.

    This is actually one of the cheapest cases available in Finland and I would recommend it to anyone who is going to build a new PC.

    P.S. My Asus GTX 580 DCII fits like a glove in this case whereas there are lots of cases it doesn't fit. (PC component markets are quite small here so it's wise to order parts abroad)

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