It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two and a half years since Fractal Design’s Define R2 first landed in our labs, impressing with its minimalist (aka, looking like a mini-fridge) styling, build quality and focus on sound-deadening extras. Long a feature of our hardware buyers guides, it’s since seen an update in the form of the Define R3, as well as faced increasingly stiff competition from the likes of Corsair’s Obsidian 550D. Today Fractal Design takes the wraps off the latest iteration of its flagship chassis, with the Define R4 offering a larger, more feature equipped case, without driving up the price.
Click to enlarge - The Define R4's minimalist design will appeal to many
Aesthetically we were pleased to find that little’s changed, with the R4 still offering minimalist rather that militarist looks. Side and roof panels are bare save for the mandatory fan mounts and a brushed aluminium-finish front door maintains the R4 as a case that’s a little more refined in its styling. Of course, this also means that it can be called plain and there’s certainly little to catch the eye if you want to show off your build.
While the styling hasn’t changed, the sizing has, albeit slightly. At 232mm x 464mm x 523mm (W x H x D) the Define R4 is taller (by 22mm) and noticeably wider (by 25mmm) than the R3, so it mightn’t fit into the tightest of cubby holes anymore. It’s still far from a super-size chassis though, and the extra volume allows the case to accommodate taller CPU coolers and roof-mounted radiators.
Click to enlarge - The case's front door hide a 3-speed fan controller
Elsewhere on its exterior we find the welcome return of plastic fan-mount blanking plates, dubbed ModuVent by Fractal. These plates, backed by sound-deadening foam, fill three of the case’s exterior fan mounts, preventing dust from entering and noise from escaping. Elsewhere on the dust-fighting front is a huge removable dust filter along the case’s floor, and a combined dust filter and fan-mount cage hidden behind a push-button hatch at the front of the case. This means that, out of the box, every fan mount in the case (bar the rear exhaust) can either be blanked off or dust filtered, making it easy to keep your PC’s guts clean and grime free.
The R4’s front panel is neatly arrayed along the top of the case’s plastic front fascia, and now sports a pair of USB 3 ports in addition to a pair of USB 2 ports, microphone and headphone jacks and both power and reset buttons. The front plastic fascia itself is perforated with vents up both sides to allow effective airflow to the intake fan fitted behind, and the whole fascia can be popped off with a firm tug at the base to reveal the fan mounts and drive bays behind.
Click to enlarge - ModuVent blanking plates block off un-used fan mounts
Fractal has retained the decision to fit the R4 with just a pair of external 5.25in drive bays, with the front door backed in foam to again, reduce noise. A major new addition secreted behind the front door though is that of an integrated three-speed fan controller. A simple toggle switch with positions for 12V, 7V and 5V supports up to three 3-pin fans via an array of internal connectors. We’re not sure of its use out-of-the-box considering the R4’s pair of bundled 140mm cooling fans only spin at an inoffensive 1,000rpm, but for those adding in their own cooling it’s a welcome extra.
Click to enlarge - A dust filter covers a large section of the case's floor, while a filter equipped fan mount is fitted into the front of the case
Looking to the case’s rear you’ll find that once again, Fractal has chosen to equip the R4 with a vertically orientated expansion slot, alongside the seven standard expansion slots. This extra slot has, in the past, been used for mounting Fractal’s bundled fan controllers, but is similarly useful for mounting extra connection ports or lighting controls. Interestingly, the R4 doesn’t offer rear water-cooling grommets, a decision we can’t complain about due to their increasingly rare use now all-in-one liquid coolers and internal USB 3 connectors are wide-spread.
Dimensions (mm) 232 x 523 x 464mm (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available colours Pearl Black (reviewed), Arctic White, Titanium Grey
Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB, stereo, microphone,
Drive bays 2 x external 5.25in drive bays, 8 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 2 x 2.5in drive bays.
Form factor(s) ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
Cooling 2 x 120/140mm front mounts (1 x fan supplied), 1x 140mm rear fan mount (fan supplied), 2 x 120/140mm roof fan mounts, 1 x 140mm side fan mount, 1 x 120/140mm floor fan mount
CPU cooler clearance 170mm
Maximum graphics card length 295mm with HDD cage, 430 without