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Fractal Design Define R5 Review

Fractal Design Define R5 Review

Manufacturer: Fractal Design
UK price (as reviewed):
MSRP £82.99 (£89.99 with window)
US price (as reviewed): MSRP $109.99 ($119.99 with window)

Comments in the vein of, “just another big black box” have been aimed at a number of recent cases, and perhaps rightly so. There's certainly a sense of stagnation and lack of flair in the ATX chassis market at the moment, but that's not to say there's nothing worth buying (if anything, there's more worth modding!). However, “big black box” has applied to the Fractal Design Define series since its inception. When it first appeared, we were just as wowed as many of you by the ultra minimalist aesthetic and dedication to low noise. Since then, it's been replicated many times over, with Fractal itself releasing multiple revisions of the understandably successful original. The Define R4, for example, is a fine chassis, but it was launched almost two and half years ago. Now, the Swedes have returned with a fifth edition, which is once again super minimalist and understated in design. We have to admit that, for us, the excitement surrounding this approach has faded somewhat, but you'll be the ultimate judge of whether the aesthetic is too tired.

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Up front we have a single plastic door that covers the entire fascia, but unfortunately it does have some flex to it. It would be good to see Fractal make the move to sturdier aluminium for this section of the case, but at a fair bit under £100 you can't have it all. Nevertheless, the design now allows the door to be remounted such that it opens in either direction. As usual, it is also backed by sound-deadening foam.

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Opening the door reveals a triple speed fan controller – slide it to the right to increase speed from 5V to 7V and 12V. Also, two plastic shields guards the ODD drive mounts and are easy to clip in and out. Finally, below this is a plastic dust filter for the two front fan mounts, and the angle of the vents here should help direct airflow up towards the GPU and CPU. This filter is simple to remove – pinch the clip up top and pull it down. Behind it, both fan mounts are easily accessible, negating the need to remove the front panel. The top mount is already filled by a 140mm fan. Airflow to this fan will be limited because of the solid door, but vents down the sides of the front panel provide the intake zones.

The I/O panel is easily accessible too, especially if you have your PC below you, which we think will appeal to low noise enthusiasts in particular. There's lots of connectivity here but nothing special or unique. In fact, the connections are the same as they were in 2012 in the Define R4 – there's nothing wrong with this, but we can't help but feel it demonstrates a lack of progression in the case market in general.

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The two steel side panels are very rigid, and thankfully the R5 as a whole hasn't lost any of the high build quality from the previous generation. Once again, the left panel has a single fan mount that's blocked by a ModuVent blanking plate while the right panel is featureless. Meanwhile, the roof now has three instead of two fan mounts, with all of these again backed by ModuVent blanking plates as standard.

Round the back we find the standard seven ATX expansion slots, but Fractal has now removed the single, additional vertical expansion slot found on the Define R4. Personally, we don't think this is a big loss. One thing that has been added is a set of rails for the 140/120mm exhaust fan mount here, which allow you to properly align your rear exhaust fan with the airflow of your CPU's tower cooler.

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The case feet give the Define R5 a fair amount of clearance, and are also rubber soled, meaning the case also has good grip on any surface. There's a single big dust filter on the bottom too, which covers both fan mounts and the PSU. Unlike before, this filter can now be slid out from the front. You'll need to open the door to remove it, but once you've cleaned it it's also easy to replace without having to lift or tilt the case.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 232 x 521 x 451 (W x D x H)
  • Material Plastic, steel
  • Available colours Black, Black with titanium, white
  • Weight 10.2kg
  • Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 2 x external 5.25in, 8 x internal 3.5in, 2 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITX
  • Cooling 2 x 140/120mm front fan mounts (1 x 140mm fan included), 1 x 140/120mm rear fan mount (140mm fan included), 3 x 140/120mm roof fan mounts, 1 x 140/120mm side fan mount, 2 x 140/120mm bottom fan mounts (fans not included)
  • CPU cooler clearance 180mm
  • Maximum graphics card length 310mm (440mm without HDD cage)
  • Extras Removable dust filters, ModuVent blanking plates, noise dampening material, three speed fan control