Fractal Design’s known for producing solidly made PC cases that a very quiet, and it’s new Define XL ticks both of those boxes with understated style and definite panache. It’s also just about the heaviest case we’ve ever had to lug around the labs, and if you’re at all interested in being able to handily move about your rig, then we’re gonna say up front this is not the case for you.
However, if you want a sleek, roomy and above all quiet build option, there are few better choices.
Externally, the Define XL is heavy duty, but sleek nonetheless, thanks to a door panel that keeps the important bits of the machine hidden away behind glossy black plastic. Above this shiny fingerprint magnet are the usual IO options and power buttons, though the lack of USB3 is noticed. It’s not a deal breaker, but most other mid-to-high-end cases are coming with that option these days.
There’s a vacant grill on the side-panel where you can mount an extra fan (more on this later), and the other panels are pretty much business as usual. With the door open, though, there’s a mess of coolness. The ODD bays feature handy clip-out brackets, and behind here is a two-bay tall filter panel that can be easily popped out if you want to install more than one 5.25in device. There’s a second, smaller door below the ODD bays, and opening this reveals another filter, this time protecting one 140mm fan, and a mount for a second. It’s all a very tidy arrangement, and the main door also features light foam for extra sound-proofing. And that’s just the start of the noise-fighting additions Fractal Design has added to the Define XL.
Removing the sidepanel shows off the rest. In fact, you really start to see why the case is so heavy – even this one panel seems to weigh a tonne. The reason is the insulation Fractal Design uses; a bitumen-based material that absorbs and dampens any noise your PC may make. It really works a treat, and the pay-off in weight is totally worth it if you’re a fan of ultra-quiet computing. There’s even a removable cut-out of this bitumen stuff if you want to mount a side-panel fan. Your machine will make more noise, but run cooler – your call.
The rest of the interior is divided into three distinct ‘thermal zones’. You’ve got your main bay, with mobo plate and two fans exhausting hot air up and out, your ODD bays, and then at the bottom of the case a huge amount of HDD bays, featuring tool-less caddies and rubber grommets for quietness, and a neat PSU mount with heavy rubber feet to isolate vibration and boost airflow.
It’s not a cheap case, but given the cooling options and incredibly efficient noise control, it’s just about the last word if you want a powerful but quiet rig. The impressive HDD count is also great if you want to make some kind of storage hungry mastering box. Regardless, this is a great case that you will love, but that your back might hate.