At first blush, there’s not a lot to separate previous Define cases from this newest, R4 iteration (gallery here). We’ve always liked Fractal Design’s work, especially when it comes to building quiet cases, but it’s always felt like other factors, such as cooling, have suffered in the design process.
No longer, though, as the R4 packs a pretty respectable cooling punch, while adding a host of evolutionary changes that make this a real contender for anyone who values silence and style over garish performance.
Elegant, but clever
The Define R4 – we have the black Black Pearl edition, but there are grey and white options – is supremely understated. A smooth front panel is in fact a swinging door, which hinges aside to reveal a well-designed fan cover, below two 5.25in drive bays. This slotted panel presses in and out with a click, to itself hinge downward revealing two fan bays, the top one of which is occupied. This panel itself is hinged, giving you easy access to the slide-out filter protecting the fans, and the tool-less fan mounts themselves.
It’s all a little Russian Doll-like, but very well put together, and very handy for anyone who values cleanliness. The drive bay covers feature a handy lever that pops them out, another nice touch, and next to these is a fan controller, capable of controlling the two included fans and one more should you go that distance.
The top of the case has two areas of mesh for internal fan-mounts, but out of the box these, like the similar fan mount on the side-panel, are blocked. The rear panel is pretty standard, though the white expansion brackets offer a lovely contrast.
We’ve thought previous Define models were a little... underwhelming in the cooling department, but the R4’s two fans (one forward, one rear) are silent 140mm jobbies that are a vast improvement. When you open the case up, too, you can see what’s blocking the other mounts; Fractal Design calls this its ModuVent system, which is really just a fancy name for panels with a foam backmount that keep the case quiet if you’re not utilising those mounts; you will compromise the case’s ability to dampen noise by removing them, but the option to add more fans is essential in any enthusiast case.
The noise dampening itself comes from a very dense, bitumen-related material on the side panels. There’s simple foam elsewhere, but this heavy stuff really does cut down on case noise. Of course, it must be pointed out that very noisy components are likely to also be hot ones, so you still might need to balance performance with sound, but the elegant exterior and quiet interior make this a great case for the loungeroom.
As much as this case is designed for a more... mature market than some gaming builds, there’s a lot of room for grunt in the Define R4. The chassis has been widened, allowing more room behind the mobo plate for cables to be hidden away out of sight, and the cable cutouts themselves are all rubber grommeted and well-placed.
The real kicker is the HDD cages. There’s two of these, making room for up to eight drives, and the removable white caddies can all fit either 3.5in or 2.5in drives, in whatever combination you want. And even if you do really want eight standard HDDs in your build, there’s an additional two dedicated SSD mounts.
This cage does limit the length of your video card to only 295mm, but the top five drives slots sit in their own cage, and this can either be rotated to point into the case, or even out the other side, or removed altogether. That still leaves you with room for multiple drives, and additional room for giant video cards up to 430mm in length.
The build quality of this case is great too, and Fractal’s finishing continues to impress. Many of the metal edges are rolled to prevent injury and cable-wear, and the white highlights from the drive caddies (which are all rubber grommeted too) and expansion slots is a very attractive.
The Define R4 probably has enough cooling out of the box for any moderate build, though large video cards might require more fans, and thus make the case a bit louder. But what would really work well in the new Define is a watercooling setup, and there’s room for a 240mm radiator along the top panel.
For the ultimate in quiet computing and understated stale, it’s hard to find anything to quite match.