Fractal Design DEFINE R5 Case Review

Inside the Define R5 Case
I guess if there is one way to describe the Fractal Design Define R5 Computer Case interior, it would be “Seriously Inconspicuous highly over engineered”. The lines and the look of this Fractal Design DEFINE R5 is almost of a typical 4U Server case, that is long, simply airy and very utilitarian.

But what you don’t get in explosive flair and outrageous colorfully outrageous design cues, you get serious well thought out benefits that are not always easy to see for the average user until they build in it or find it by accident.

For example, Can you see that three Speed Fan controller in the top left of the front of the case? Well you do now; since I told you. What about the second set of hinges on the right hand side front of the case? How about the easy drop down dust filter that is so easy to take out and clean then return back into its sleepy position in the time it takes to clean the filter in a kitchen sink and pop it back into place, and did you notice the almost vault like door that is made to keep the noise and vibration from escaping into the solitude of your killer inspired gaming, or meditative studying or just passing quiet time? Peace and tranquility can be found with the Fractal Design DEFINE R5 Mid-Tower case especially when it comes to internal computer case noises, because they design it to have none.

Front with door open

I have taken the liberty of color coding the parts here for easier understanding.

The Red at the top is the 3 speed fan controller. It is not very powerful and they only ask that you use it for only 3 fans inside the case. Usually the best configurations are the two fans powered in the front and one fan exhaust in the rear of the case. The rest of the fans and other systems are better regulated by the motherboard anyway if not all of the fans controlled by the board if you have enough pin-outs for them all is the absolute quietest solution.

The Blue colored squares are the two 5.25 bay cover releases. Great for removing the blank without dipping inside the case from the back and trying a Houdini motion to take them out.

The Purple is the movable hinge placement. Notice the single screw holding the hinge into place.

Finally the Green colored area is the Dust filter cover release, just press down and with a finger nail to grasp and pull out of the locked position. Once that is done just pick it up out of the slot and its ready to clean and replace.

Hidden latches and controls

The power of the one finger to open up the front dust trap is just what the Fractal Design DEFINE R5 is all about; ease of use and quiet running.

Filter Removal

If you just glance inside the case you might not notice anything special and just might think you are looking at some plain generic no frills case, but you would be so wrong with that assumption.

Most every part in this case can be used, removed, lifted or lowered and just plain repositioned for so many different cooling configurations it would take a review twice this long to go over them all. Every hole, space, screw and grommet has been painstakingly over-engineered for every eventuality that can be imagined and this is the reason why people love the Fractal Design cases. They are over engineered, and made for even the most obsessive enthusiast. Don’t let the price fool you; this case is made as well as any case out there now and even better; it just uses steel and other cost cutting parts to keep the price down but the quality is as high as the proverbial sky.

Front full open

Behind the Motherboard tray panel side is minimalist as well, but the area is made for some amazing wire management with extra spaces below the two white SSD mounts that house that whole bundle of unused wires you may have if you use a not so modular power supply.

The only part that I wish all the companies would change is to put the the SSD’s a little closer togeter without having to try and stretch copper wires, actually IMHO the cheapest way would be to add a Molex connector or a “Sata Y” connector to the hardware pack to allow one to connect straight into the bottom of the SSDs or have maybe pre-wired hub that powers to one Sata power connector or maybe just make the SSD holder a little deeper away from the Motherboard tray and a little closer together for optimal fit for daisy chained SATA wires.

This would be an added bonus that would go a long way for most case owners since most SATA connections have a daisy chain style wire setup and with the wires branching from both sides it can take up a good 3 or 4 mm of space under the SDD location in a place where there might be 1mm of space available. But that is just an idea. I know you are listening Fractal Design so maybe even make the SSD door be a little more distant from the motherboard tray wall, that would fix the wiring issues. “Call me we’ll talk” (ha ha). It’s just an input comment from a Fractal Friend, owner and former “Case Modder” like me.

The rear CPU access hole for getting to the back of the motherboard is very easy and the wire tie-downs are very similar to the “Phanteks” version of tie-downs which both of these parts from either company are really great and a European computer case makers’ flair.

back full open

Every module in the front can be removed in the Fractal Design Define R5. Even the top 5.25 drive bay is easily removable. If you notice the thumbscrews on the right side of the module, those are the mounting/removing mechanism for the top and bottom, slide out drive 3.5 and 2.5 drive modules easy. Each steel drawer is specially designed not to block air flowing through or over the Mechanical hard drive. This module, if not needed used and stays there still allows air to pass though to the main motherboard area without obstructions for extra cooling and less noise and more room for that 2 foot long ultra card you may have had to sell that kidney for to fit this little cubby. Don’t worry; It will fit, no problem and after all … You only needed one of those kidneys anyway, right?

new hdd drawers

The 140mm exhaust fan is easily dropped down to make room over head for water cooling setups or you can change it like we did with a quiet 120mm exhaust fan and move it down for even more radiator fitting room.

The back of the case is approximately 70 to 75% ventilated, so heat cannot hide in your case no matter how hot your video card or CPU gets with over clocking or high resolution gaming.

The PCI blank covers are steel and well refined with vent holes in each one and the power supply can be fitted fan up or fan down depending on how you like your build to breath. Maybe you might be wondering what that hole is right next to the bottom PCI covers. That hole is made especially for the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, the front audio pin out or control wires to route through to make the wires look tidier in the end of the build.

The Standoffs are smartly marked and embossed into the metal to make sure you get the standoffs in the correct position for your board. (Remember, not all motherboards use every standoff provided by the case manufacturer, so study your motherboard mounting holes first to make sure you don’t have too many standoffs in the wrong place.) “Just sayin…”

PCI Blanks 7

From this angle you can see just how much room the top 5.25 bay takes up. It is easily removable by thumbscrew as well for those who need the space for a 360 x 120mm or a 280 x 140mm radiator setup. This angle also allows you to see the recessed RESET Button and the Contacts of the USB 3.0 receptacle and the plain hook up for the USB 2.0. The ring around the Power button adds a simple elegance to a very straight forward utilitarian design.

Controls Explained

The steel white type HDD drawers do not snap off by squeezing them or get brittle with age. They can get bent out of shape though so keep an eye on them and bend them back out if need be. The hard drive drawers will not crumble over time like most plastic versions can. They also can help to transfer heat out off the drive because steel is a great conductor heat and the forward fans cool them down.

Lastly the mechanical hard drives are attached to the drawer from the bottom instead of the sides. This configuration makes the hard drive more secure and quieter due to the transference of vibration being conducted directly down to the bottom where there is more stable mass than the sides and with more mass there is less of a chance for vibration to resonate through to the steel enclosure.

Top modular hdd bay

To the center of the motherboard tray and right below the extra large motherboard access hole is the MAP or the (Motherboard Alignment Pin). When first installing the motherboard into place this MAP pin can be a life saver by holding the motherboard secure and in perfect alignment while you get the standoff screws securely tied down.

Motherboard area

Overall this case has no problem with breathing and can handle a custom water cooling loop, most PHAT radiators, reservoirs and pumps. That is not say that you have to go all “full MONTE” on the custom cooling to own this niftyFractal Design DEFINE R5. Using an all-in-one water cooling system or a simple air cooling system would be a great way to make this case do what it is supposed to do. Hold it all in place, look good and finally be cool and quiet all at the same time.

Top front shot

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