Fractal Design Define R4 Case Review: Evolution, Not Revolutionby Dustin Sklavos on July 20, 2012 6:00 AM EST
Introducing the Fractal Design Define R4
Around November of last year we had a chance to take a look at one of the most popular enclosures from up-and-comer Fractal Design, the Define R3. Impressions were good if not absolutely amazing, but it was easy to see how the case had gotten so popular. A competitive price tag, solid acoustics, understated aesthetics, and fairly flexible design all conspired to produce a case that could conceivably be a silver bullet for a lot of users.
Today Fractal Design is launching their next revision of the Define, the R4. It's easy to mistake it for its predecessor, but as is often the case, the devil is in the details. Fractal Design hasn't radically tweaked the formula, but they've rounded some of the edges and added more value to their design without making very many sacrifices in the process. They've done a lot to improve the Define in the R4, but have they done enough?
Incremental evolution isn't altogether unheard of in the enclosure business, but I'm used to seeing vendors release outright new models or heavily revamp existing ones instead of steadily iterating like Fractal Design has done with the Define. I can see users being a bit underwhelmed by the changes Fractal Design has made to the Define with the R4, and I myself am a bit underwhelmed, but let's see if we can't unpack things and get to the heart of what they've done and haven't done.
|Fractal Design Define R4 Specifications
|Motherboard Form Factor
|Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX
|8x 2.5"/3.5", 2x 2.5"
|1x 140mm intake fan, 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
|1x 140mm exhaust fan
|2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
|1x 140mm fan mount
|1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
|2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
|Power Supply Size
|170mm with bottom fan, 270mm without
|11.6"/295mm with drive cage, 430mm without
9.13" x 18.27" x 20.59"
232mm x 464mm x 523mm
|27.12 lbs. / 12.3kg
USB 3.0 connectivity via internal headers
Removable drive cages
Integrated three-step fan controller
Support for 240mm radiator in top of enclosure
The Define R4 is ever so slightly larger than the R3 and features essentially everything you already liked about the R3, making it a pretty direct replacement of its predecessor in much the same way as Antec's P182 obsoleted the P180. Fractal Design parted ways with eSATA in the I/O cluster in favor of a pair of USB 2.0 and a pair of USB 3.0 ports and it's a good transition. eSATA never seemed to quite catch fire; USB 3.0 offers most of the bandwidth with much easier connectivity and fewer hiccups. Meanwhile, I still don't think we're at the point where we can completely deprecate USB 2.0 in favor of 3.0, so having them both represented on the front of the case is appreciated.