Fractal Design Define S2 Review

October 3, 2018 | 15:00

Tags: #atx #case #chassis #e-atx #mid-tower #water-cooling

Companies: #fractal-design


While the side panels arrive secured with thumbscrews, these are only necessary when transporting the case for added peace of mind, as the panels actually lock into place at the back after slotting into a rounded hinge mechanism at the front – it’s super easy to work with. Note that the steel side panel, front panel, and roof panel are all lined with Bitumen for sound dampening purposes – long a hallmark of the Define family.

Inside, we have a classic PSU shroud tower layout divided into three key areas: the massive main chamber, the secondary lower chamber, and the area behind the motherboard tray, which here extends the full length of the chassis to maximise the clean look. In the main area we find pre-installed standoffs to make motherboard mounting that little bit easier, as well as expansion brackets permitting the installation of graphics cards (no bigger than 2.5 slots) in a vertical orientation, although you will need to purchase the Flex VRC-25 riser kit separately (currently about £40).

In the lower chamber, the power supply uses a simple bracket to slide in from the back – nice and simple.

Two metal brackets for SSD mounting are secured to the rear of the motherboard tray using one thumbscrew each; these can either remain here or one or both can be moved to sit on top of the perforated PSU shroud, assuming a vertical GPU isn’t in the way.

In the same area but at the front of the case, Fractal has a trio of metal drive cages, each one supporting one 3.5” or 2.5” drive. The former are installed with grommets to quell vibrations, but you do have to fit these yourself. This area will also have effectively zero airflow, so you’re better off only using HDDs here for bulk storage rather than frequent or intensive usage. Again these bays are secured using a single thumbscrew, but the proximity of them to each other can make it hard to access with your actual thumb.

A fan hub is a good way to help keep busy systems tidy. Fractal’s here offers a combination of three PWM headers for four-pin fans, which will draw their control signal from a single PWM fan header on your motherboard (e.g. CPU fan) and thus respond to changes in CPU temperature, and six regular three-pin headers which will default to full speed/12V. This is fine for the 1,000 RPM models included here, but worth remembering if you fit your own higher airflow models. Power is received via a SATA plug, meaning total current cannot exceed 4.5A. It’s a little irritating that Fractal doesn’t ship the case with the included fans pre-connected, but it’s not exactly a cumbersome task. One neat addition in the accessory pack, though, is the braided SATA splitter cable; its three plugs are very easy to fit flat against the motherboard tray, which makes them useful for the SSDs you might have here – sometimes regular PSU cables have to be awkwardly wedged in.

Rubber-grommeted holes are cut into the motherboard tray above and to the side of where the board rests, and there’s also one serving the bottom I/O zone in the PSU shroud as well as a smaller one (no grommet) which is useful for the audio front panel cable, for example. There’s up to 23mm of space behind the tray for stashing cables as well as the area beneath the PSU shroud. You also get lots of anchor points for zip ties and two nifty Velcro ties as well. We also like that the I/O cables are not stupidly long, and Fractal has even neatly braided the bunch of power/reset/LED cables into a single thicker cable that’s neater and easier to manage.

The Define S2 pleases when it comes to custom water-cooling support. Starting with the roof, offset mounts mean that 360mm and 420mm radiators are both supported, although the latter (and any other 140mm-based rads) will be limited by any components on your motherboard that extend beyond 35mm height. The roof bracket can also be removed so it can be worked on externally, and it even has an integrated cutout for fitting a fill port – a lovely touch.

Meanwhile, 360mm and 280mm (no wider than 147mm) radiators are supported up front with pretty much no thickness limitations other than your own hardware. The front of the PSU shroud can be removed, and since this measures about 180mm deep, you really can go crazy here. That said, you may well be using the front area to mount pump/res combinations, as there are pre-cut mounting struts in the front section of the motherboard tray. Even this section is completely removable, so there’s a lot of flexibility, and it’s good to see nods towards users with true custom water-cooling rather than just token AIO support. Lastly, the bottom of the case supports 280mm and 240mm radiators, so powerful loops are certainly feasible.

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