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Thread: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

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    Cool Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Firstly, a very BIG THANKS to Hexus and Fractal Design for the wonderful Fractal Design Define S case and Fractal Venturi HF-14 fans that I won through their competition! I was over the moon when I first got the message that I’d won, and I think it is absolutely awesome of you guys to give away such a nice prize.


    Pre-Review Notes

    Secondly, as a side-note, I had decided to use some old parts for a quick test-build (since I’m still undecided whether to get a complete new PC in the near future, or just go with a graphics card upgrade, so don’t want to swap everything over, only to have to swap it all back again) to run a few fan tests, unfortunately, the PSU I have spare is quite ancient (from 2006!), and due to PC case designs changing in philosophy, with PSU’s now mounted on the bottom of the case, instead of the top, I found the 4Pin and 24 Pin power cables woefully short, and wouldn’t stretch quite enough. This isn’t the fault of the case, but the PSU I have, since it came out of a much smaller case. However, I’m pretty sure no-one would ever intend to put out-dated hardware into a modern case such as this (accept me of course)! When I have the money for a full upgrade (quite a way off to be honest), I’ll be sure to come back here and post an update.

    Also, I had to split the review up into separate posts, due to character and image quantity limits!

    Anyway, I shall now put forth my more ‘limited’ review, apologies!

    Introduction

    Most of us probably get comfortable with what we know, and for quite a while, I've stuck with the same make of cases, just because it was something 'familiar' that had worked alright before and often because of budget constraints, although, I do admit, I was planning on a change anyway for my next 'PC build'. One thing that a lot of us do get familiar with, though, is having the usual set of drive cages, in the usual configuration, and not really thinking much else of it; As long as there are enough, and things are easy to install, it will do. Of course, PC modders have been cutting things out of their cases for better airflow, and for increased space for graphics cards, for a long time, and a current trend that has started to emerge is the ditching of 5.25 drives altogether: who really uses their DVD drive more than half a dozen times per year anyway? Ok some of you will, but for a growing majority, it's something that is getting rarer and rarer. For me personally, I would still have some need for it, since I have large collection of old games that I'd probably like to re-play, and thus install, on a new PC in the future, and maybe make the odd back up to a data-DVD, but once all is up and running, these installations would be a one-time event, and with digital downloads being easy to acquire, and generally cheaper, any newer games or software are simply easier to get that way. In addition to that, it’s quite easy to get an external USB DVD drive, and Windows can even be bought on a USB stick, so there is no need for anyone to worry.


    The installation Guide provided plus a general Fractal Products booklet


    The box of screws and cable ties supplied


    Measuring tape for reference against the cable ties.

    The Fractal Design Define S represents a newer way of thinking, by removing the 5.25 inch bays altogether and moving the 3.5 inch drive bays to a separate area round the back of the motherboard, thus freeing up the front of the case for much better airflow, space for a radiator and fancy water-cooling systems (it even has holes pre-drilled for such), and also, if you choose, up to 450mm of space for a gigantic graphics card if you don’t use the front fans, and about 425mm of space with front fans installed. It's basically done all the hard work that PC modders may want to do, for you.


    The case boasts excellent space for an extra-large graphics card, without the hassle of modding; for reference, the tape measure stops at 42.5cm with the fans installed at the front of the case.

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    Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    General Impressions of the Case

    My first impressions upon seeing the case as I unpackaged it was that it looked pretty damn cool. I like that the lines are clean, and I personally like that there isn’t too much going on at the front; it would look nice in any living room without being over the top. I also love having a side window, since I’ve never had one on a case before, and always wanted to have one, but often stuck with cheaper cases due to budget. I can’t comment much on whether the window is scratch-proof, by-the-way, since I don’t want to risk damaging it to prove anything; I’ll leave that to official reviewers! For what is labelled as a mid-size case, it does seem huge, and it is definitely much wider than any case I’ve had before. The paint seems like a good finish, and the panelling feels quite solid, and has padding on the motherboard side, along with thumb-screws for tool-less access, although I found initially they had been done too tight for my weak hands, but they soon came undone using a conventional screwdriver. Of course, views on appearance will always come down to an individual’s personal taste, but overall I’m very, very happy with the case.


    The power/reset buttons, along with USB slots, and audio connectors


    View of the windowed side of the case with protective plastic still applied


    View of the other side of the case


    The rear of the case


    The bottom of the case has a filter for the air coming into the PSU, along with rubber feet


    A close-up of one of the thumb-screws holding the side panel in place.


    A close-up of the rear fan, it appears to be rated at 1000rpm


    A close-up of the power connector for the rear fan


    A shot of the front-panel connectors


    An inside shot of the expansion slot brackets, showing the use of thumb-screws



    Opening up the front

    I like what Fractal have done with the filter at the front of the case; since it is magnetic, it easily comes away without any annoying clips. The front bezel is also quite easy to remove, and much better than my other case. The bezel is plastic, but solid front piece has the appearance of brushed metal, and there is venting at the sides to allow air to flow in. Once the front bezel was removed, I could see that there was space for up to three 140mm fans.


    A close-up of the texture featured on the front-bezel


    The inside of the front-bezel after it is removed


    The front filter


    Another shot with it opened; one side has the magnets, the other acts as a hinge, and the whole thing can be pulled away


    A close-up of the default fan at the front of the case; it appears to be identical to the rear one

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    Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    The Venture HF-14 Fans

    At this point in my exploration of the case, I thought I’d check one of the Venturi fans Fractal also provided. These come in a nice box that opens out like a book, and come with what looks like an extension cable, 4 screws, and rubber mountings that seem to allow for installation into 120mm slots (the fans are 140mm). The standard 140mm mountings are also rubber, and these will help to dampen vibrations, making them quieter. They were a little bit tougher to get the screws into at first, but once I got used to the technique of pushing the screws in a little bit, they installed quite easily, and look quite cool.


    The box for the Venturi fan; as you can see it shows it being rated at 1200rpm


    The box opens out like a book


    The extra contents of the box


    The fan cable is braided, and also 3 pin


    The fan installed at the front of the case



    Exploring the top of the case

    At the top, there are 3 panels that can be removed, one by one, to expose venting spaces for additional fans and/or a radiator to be installed at the top of the case. Each one has padding like the side panel, and I found that to remove them, you had to push the retaining clips from the inside of the case. Each has to be removed in turn, starting with the most rearward one.


    The first panel removed


    After all three are removed



    Installing the PSU and motherboard

    I initially decided to install the PSU first, and it was it his point I realised that the power cables on it were likely going to be too short (it’s an old Antec unit from a Micro-ATX case). Defeated by my ancient test-hardware, I decided to continue regardless and install the motherboard, which was a simple task, but it also confirmed my suspicions that the cables were too short (again, not the fault of the case!). The motherboard standoff screws can be tightened using a little thumb-screw type holder that was supplied in the accessories box, and I thought that was a neat idea.


    The PSU and Micro-ATX motherboard installed; the lack of high-end hardware, and small motherboard size only help to emphasise the huge space of the main chamber. Consider also that I only had the two ATX power connectors to appear through the rubber shroud, had they been long enough, and most of that emptiness of cables is genuine.


    The thumb-screw holder for the motherboard standoffs.


    Installing the hard drive

    Next up to install was an old 3.5 inch mechanical hard drive; these drives, remember, are hidden round the motherboard side of the case. This was a very simple process; first a metal plate is removed, via a single thumb-screw. Next, the hard drive is screwed onto the plate. Each mounting hole has a rubber grommet to help dampen vibrations, adding to the ‘quiet’ credentials of the case. The plate with hard-drive then easily slots back into it’s resting place, and secured with the thumb-screw.


    Hard-drives attached to a separate metal plate first


    The other side of the plate


    The hard drive installed.



    The hidden chamber of the case

    I was at least able to check out the cable management features of this case, and I could see that in this case, though, it can all be kept cleanly out of the way, helped by not having cables going to any drives in the main chamber of the case. I was quite pleased that there was ample room for all the extra cabling, particularly as I’m definitely not the best person at cable management, and usually end up with a spaghetti-like mess. The Velcro straps were also quite nice, and seem to be placed decently enough.


    A shot showing the Velcro-straps and cut-out section of the motherboard tray; handy for installing aftermarket CPU coolers.


    Another angle with the motherboard installed


    The rubber section that allows cables to pass through between the main chamber and a separate area behind the motherboard


    The space towards the front of this ‘hidden’ area is wider



    Final Summary

    Although I wasn’t able to do as full a test as I would have liked, I did get to do a test-run of installing components in the case, and this, I can say, is a pretty easy process. The case has lots of additional space for hiding cabling and little touches to help reduce sound. I love the appearance of the case personally, and find the huge space for a high-end graphics card very helpful; no-one should have any issues installing a big card in this case. The case also has plenty of space for extra fans and radiators, with special mounting points for a reservoir, so the extreme system modders can put in their fancy water-cooling setups. Of course, people may miss the 5.25 inch bays, but if that’s an issue, you could always get an R5! Overall, I think this is a great case from Fractal Design, and I'll be sure to update it when I can eventually afford some proper components to fill it with, but that will be a few months off for now. I wasn’t able to test the Venture HF-14 fans for now, but I’ll post an update when I am able to.

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    Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Congrats on your win. Thanks for the good write up.

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    Unhappy Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Great review but now it's gonna make mine superfluous

    I'm still obligated to post one so I guess I'll have to, but it's gonna look lame next to yours goshdarnit!
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    Valar Morghulis

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    Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Thanks! Well, you could actually run some fan sound tests and give a subjective comparison between the stock and Venturi fans. Also, maybe a test of how much vibration/noise a mechanical hard drive creates in the unique config of the case. Plus seeing a full system installed would be cool too!

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    Cool Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Quote Originally Posted by =assassin= View Post
    Thanks! Well, you could actually run some fan sound tests and give a subjective comparison between the stock and Venturi fans. Also, maybe a test of how much vibration/noise a mechanical hard drive creates in the unique config of the case. Plus seeing a full system installed would be cool too!
    Haha I'm afraid that's not gonna happen (I mean the fan and NVH tests) LOL! I'd already written the bare bones of my review and I'm done with it even if it covers the same ground.

    It's a good idea though, in 'case' the other winners (not sure how many there are) want to do so.

    I have installed a working system (Steam OS) so there's that...
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    Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleiades View Post
    Haha I'm afraid that's not gonna happen (I mean the fan and NVH tests) LOL! I'd already written the bare bones of my review and I'm done with it even if it covers the same ground.

    It's a good idea though, in 'case' the other winners (not sure how many there are) want to do so.

    I have installed a working system (Steam OS) so there's that...
    how difficult was it to install steam os?

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    Thumbs up Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbtree View Post
    how difficult was it to install steam os?
    About as difficult as switching on the PC LOL.

    Just had it on a USB stick and let it do its thing, no problems, no fuss. YMMV of course...
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    Valar Morghulis

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    Re: Fractal Design Define S Case (Semi) Review [Lots of Pictures!]

    Nice review. Some amount of space inside that case.
    Better to Burn out than Fade Away

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