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Thread: the 3rd Fractal Design Define S Case (Windowed Version) Review

  1. #1
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    • big_hairy_rob's system
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    the 3rd Fractal Design Define S Case (Windowed Version) Review

    This is my first attempt at a review on these forums, so any comments you have would help me enormously. On a side note can I thank the other reviewers (Pleiades and =assassin=) for their articles. I have chosen not to include any photos at this time since they have already covered this adequately.

    I'd also like to thank Hexus and Fractal for the case competition. I'm not someone who regularly upgrades their computer any more, but I am very glad to win a new case as my Cooler Master CM690 had started to develop some very annoying rattles ...

    Fractal Design Define S

    The case arrived at the third attempt packaged in a suitably chunky box yet was surprisingly light considering it's size. Opening the box I found the case had been well protected using the standard shaped polystyrene sections. Mere seconds later and the case was out for me to tinker with while my cat was quickly in, happy in it's new cardboard playhouse.

    The black and white contrast design blew me away. I'm fairly fortunate in my job that I get to handle plenty of computers, but rarely for a case in this price range has as much care gone into the build quality. No sharp edges, plenty of space and beautifully designed. Needless to say that first appearances were extremely positive.

    The pictorial instruction booklet was easy to follow and within a few minutes I had access to all areas. Starting with the cooling I decided to fit the other part of the prize, the Fractal Venturi HF-14 fans. The fans are produced with vibration dampening rubber corners making them compatible with both 140 or 120 mm slots, however the interesting design results in screws that cannot be adequately tightened, potentially causing a future rattle risk.

    The first fan fit easily, that is after first learning how to fit the screws to the rubber corners (my first attempt ended up several feet away), however the placement of the pre-installed front fan meant that it was impossible to fit a third fan at the top. The fan had been installed too high up, meaning that everything needed to be lowered. While a relatively easy job it was a little disappointing that this had not been well thought out during production.

    I decided to increase cooling by fitting the top fan which required a section of the roof (roughly equal to a third) to be removed. While designed for this and easy to perform, I was initially concerned that the additional noise insulation applied to the roof section may cause a problem.

    Next I preparing the case for the motherboard. I was delighted to find the inclusion of a riser tightening tool, something which is often overlooked. This very simple yet useful tool allowed the risers to be fitted tightly with no additional tools required. The case was clearly marked and the cavernous interior allows for easy access. Fitting the main sections of the computer was incredibly simple; in fact this was by far the easiest build I have ever had. It's rare to finish building a computer to not have a scrape of cut, but not one was received during this build.

    Next I fit my hard drives to the hidden bays which are neatly tucked into the back of the computer. This is a novel idea and certainly makes accessing them relatively easy, however I did notice that cooling does not seem to serve that section. The removable mount plates complete with rubber dampeners were easy to fix to the hard drive, but there appears to be a small design flaw with the placement of the 3.5” bays. The length of the hard drives makes it impossible to lift them into place unless they are already inside the case, negating the ability to swing using the designed hinge bracket. While far from being a deal breaker it was certainly an annoyance as this problem would not affect 2.5” drives. An additional problem was that right angled cables could not be used due to the unsuitable depth provided.

    Cabling up was a painless process as the case is well designed to utilise hidden cabling where possible keeping it clear for maximum airflow. Luckily (and unlike some of the other reviewers) I did have a PSU with suitable long cables. Velcro cables tidies and plenty of rubber slots allow for easy cable management. There was however one small gripe; for those of us still running legacy hardware who do not have a USB3.0 risers, as no adapter was provided the front mounted USB's were effectively non functional which impacts on its use.

    Finally I tested the computer over a couple of sessions. In terms of air-cooling the case is towards the top of its game. Airflow through the case is unimpeded and helps to keep the ambient temperature down as well as cool the hard drives, however this may change when significantly over-clocked. Disappointingly using a top mounting a fan did significantly increase the noise meaning that the new case is unexpectedly louder than my previous.

    Fractal have certainly developed a beautiful case which allowed by far the easiest build I've ever had, but for some reason I'm left not really being certain who it's designed for. People who already have a water-cooling system will likely look for a case to maximise that use and would probably invest in a suitable expensive/flashy case to show it off. Those interested in Air cooling could get the same performance in cheaper cases, admittedly at the expense of style, build quality and the skin on your knuckles. A lack of optical drive bays, the issues with 3.5” hard drives plus a lack of adapters impacts significantly on legacy hardware meaning that this case is not really suitable as an upgrade. Likewise the noise from the fans would prevent this being a suitable media centre. Utilising the top fans robs you of places to place external disk drives with their usually short cables especially with the front USB's possibly already being in use, so it isn't really suitable if you require any optical bay.

    What it would make is a great hybrid case for someone thinking of going into water-cooling, or someone who lacks the space for a full tower. It's a case that is designed for the future of home computing and would provide a case that someone could use for many years in many different set ups. I'm just not convinced that it's a case that's designed for right now.

    Very high build quality.
    Beautifully styled.
    Designed for entry level water-cooling.
    Massive uncluttered case.
    High Airflow.
    Easily accessible filters.

    Utilising top fans significantly increases noise.
    Utilising top fans significantly decreases placement for USB optical drive/devices.
    No USB 2.0 adapter for front USB's.
    Hard Drive location lacks cooling.
    3.5” drive bay placement impeded by case design.
    No option for optical bay.
    Plastic front.

  2. Received thanks from:

    =assassin= (27-10-2015),Pleiades (03-11-2015)

  3. #2
    Yay a custom user title! =assassin='s Avatar
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    Re: the 3rd Fractal Design Define S Case (Windowed Version) Review

    Another good review! I'm curious about your issue with the 3.5 hard drive installation: I assume you still eventually got it installed? I didn't have too much of a problem with it....once I had put the hard drive on the removable mounting plate the right way round that is!

  4. #3
    Join Date
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    Re: the 3rd Fractal Design Define S Case (Windowed Version) Review

    Thank you for this review, I'm on the look out for a new case and the Fractal Design cases had caught my eye! Appreciate the insight.

  5. #4
    Ngt is offline
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    May 2017
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    Re: the 3rd Fractal Design Define S Case (Windowed Version) Review

    How's the dust looking after a few months? I find somehow some cases are way better than others at keeping the airflow going and keeping dust out.

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