We found a lot to like when we looked at Fractal Design's Define XL chassis over two years ago, but it ultimately proved a bit too expensive and less focussed compared to its smaller sibling at the time, the Define R3. Fractal are back to give the larger case market another shot, however, with the Define XL R2, which at under £100 is more aggressively priced than before. Large chassis optimised for quietness aren't something we come across often here (although we'll shortly be looking at the E-ATX compatible Nanoxia Deep Silence 2), but the XL R2's price puts in competition with cases like In-Win's GRone and Cooler Master's HAF XM.
Click to enlarge - The Define XL R2 sports Fractal's classic aesthetic
As tends to be the case with a Fractal chassis, initial impressions are very positive. Fractal has stuck with its tried and tested minimalist aesthetic, which continues to prove popular. Our sample sports the classic black and white colour scheme, although a few others are available. Thankfully, the case not only looks good, it feels it too, as the build quality on the outside is excellent. The case itself is reassuringly heavy, and the side and front panels are attached firmly. Applying pressure to various parts of the chassis results in no flex or creaking either.
The front of the Define XL R2 takes its cues from the Define R4, as everything is hidden behind a sleek black door with a brushed aluminium finish. The entirety of the door's inside section is lined with tightly affixed foam padding to suppress noise, and the door itself closes shut with magnets to ensure longevity. As before, the case sports four external 5.25-inch drive bays up top, and the plastic meshed covers for these clip in and out of place with ease. Like the R4, the XL R2 now features fan control switch with 12V, 7V and 5V settings. Fan control is always a helpful addition to a case, but it's a shame that the one included here can only power up to three fans, and it's position behind the door might prove irritating in the long run too.
Click to enlarge - The front fan mounts are dead simple to access
Below the optical drives are the front fan mounts, of which there are two. Both mounts support 120mm and 140mm fans, with larger models held in place with clips and the smaller ones requiring screws, and Fractal includes a single 140mm fan in the upper mount. The meshed cover simply pops open, revealing the dual fan caddy which itself can be fully removed for tool free installation and maintenance. Dust filtering material is provided, but as before it's permanently attached to the caddy. All in all it's easy to use but not as impressive as it was the first time around, especially now that we've seen Nanoxia's Deep Silence 1, which has separate doors and slide out dust filters for both fans.
Click to enlarge - The front panel is fairly basic but not missing anything crucial
Just above the door lie the front panel connections. There's no eSATA this time around, but two of the USB 2 ports have thankfully been replaced with USB 3 ones. Moving back along the roof, you'll find a pair of 140mm fan mounts (120mm fans are also supported), which we were pleased to see given the total absence of roof ventilation in the previous iteration.
The flat side panels are both empty of features bar a single fan mount on the left. As with the two roof fan mounts, this one is blocked out by one of Fractal's ModuVent blanking plates, which are backed by sound dampening foam. While they also have the benefit of keeping dust out when the mounts aren't in use, sadly no dust filters are supplied for if you want to take advantage of these unused mounts. The rear of the case is also a very standard affair, and Fractal has lowered the amount of meshing here as well as the external water-cooling holes. The rear fan mount is also filled by another 140mm fan.
Click to enlarge - The rear of the case and its lower slide out dust filter
The rubber lined case feet are excellent as they provide plenty of clearance and loads of grip too. The slide out dust filter covers most of the lower section of the case, including the bottom fan mount which is filled by another Silent Series R2 140mm intake fan. It's unusual to see this fan position used by default, so it'll be interesting to see its effect on temperatures, but its inclusion makes the clearance provided by the case feet all the more important.
Dimensions (mm) 232 x 560 x 559 (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available coloursBlack Pearl (reviewed), Titanium Grey
Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone
Drive bays 4 x external 5.25in, 8 x internal 3.5in/2.5in
Form factor(s) E-ATX, XL-ATX, ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITX
Cooling 2 x 140mm/120mm front fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm rear fan mount (140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm bottom fan mount (140mm fan included), 1 x 140mm/120mm side fan mount, 2 x 140mm/120mm roof fan mounts (fans not included)
CPU cooler clearance 170mm
Maximum graphics card length 330mm (with top HDD cage)/480mm (without HDD cage)
Extras Removable front fan caddy with dust filter, removable bottom dust filter, ModuVent blanking plates, triple speed fan controller