Assembling the Fractal Design Define R4

Much as with the Define R3, Fractal Design takes a few cues from Corsair in the ease of assembly arena. Despite having been under the weather with tension headaches and a stomach bug this week, the Define R4 was still pretty easy to put together.

Fractal Design doesn't include the convenience of pre-mounted motherboard standoffs, but it has all of the necessary mounting points for Mini-ITX, ATX, and large Micro-ATX boards like the one we use in our testbed. The I/O shield snapped in easily enough, and the motherboard went in without any real trouble. Vertical clearance is a little crunched (hence my reservations about using a 240mm radiator in the R4), but this is also a relatively small case compared to some of the monsters I've tested recently. The R4 really is a mid-tower or as most users would say, "reasonably sized."

Installing drives in the R4 is relatively easy, too. Fractal Design doesn't go the toolless route anywhere, but that may be to minimize vibration. There are silicone grommets on the drive trays for mechanical drives, and 2.5" drives just screw in directly to the bottom of the trays. These trays are designed primarily for bottom-mounting drives but there are a pair of holes in the sides for the oddball device that won't mount that way (like our Corsair Link unit). The drive shields for the 5.25" bays also lock in and pop out easily; they use a small lever you can lift with your thumb as a locking mechanism.

Expansion cards and the power supply are basically the same story. The expansion slots use thumbscrews as is de rigeur, while the power supply mount has padding behind and below it. Nothing entirely notable here, although it's worth mentioning again that the eighth expansion slot is positioned laterally above the seven and intended for adding ports or whatever other accessories might fit there. Doing this saves on the height of the case, but in the process it does crunch the space between the power supply and bottom of the motherboard some.

Where things start to go a little topsy turvy is with cabling. The rubber-grommet lined holes in the motherboard tray seem a little on the small side, which can be a minor inconvenience. I was disappointed to see Fractal Design still hasn't really fixed one of my big problems with the R3, though: the AUX 12V routing hole above the motherboard. They increased the space between the back of the motherboard tray and the the right side panel, but that doesn't change the fact that the AUX 12V line routing hole is essentially parallel to the panel rails. In the R3 I just plain couldn't use the hole, while in the R4 I could shimmy the cable through with a little effort. This still feels like a big oversight that needs to be corrected somehow, though. Fractal Design may want to consider switching over to a hinged side panel mounting design for the next revision to clear this gap.

By and large, though, assembly was pretty easy and I can't complain too much outside of the cabling snafu. What's worth pointing out is that the R4 does not feature an IDE indicator LED despite having space for one. The LEDs surrounding the power button and breaking the center of the front door are power indicators only. This is an unusual omission that doesn't affect the usability of the case too much (many notebooks these days don't include IDE indicators either), but it's worth mentioning.

In and Around the Fractal Design Define R4 Testing Methodology
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I bunged the NDA time on the review and had to bounce it an hour, that's what happened. :| I've normally been great about NDAs but for some odd reason this one just confused me stupid.
  • themossie - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Thanks, it happens :-)
  • Olaf van der Spek - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    The case is huge, especially for the used motherboard. When do we get reduced depth cases? An unnecessarily big case seems bad for airflow, as the air has to travel farther.

    BTW, how's ports on top a compromise for cases on the desktop? It can't get worse than that.
  • Spivonious - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I can't be the only one here who has more than 2 drives.

    X-Fi bay
    Card Reader (3.5")

    The rest of this case looks very nice, but I won't be able to use it.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I don't have more than 2 drives:
    - slim line optical drive with 2.5" bay and 2 USB ports
    - 6x2.5" bays
    And I only have those because I hadn't anything better to put in there. If you need more, buy a different case. Most people I know don't even need those 2. :)
  • Olaf van der Spek - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Not every case has to suit every build, has it? I for one wouldn't mind seeing one less 5.25" bay.
    What do you need both a DVD-ROM and a DVD-RW for though?
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    My monitor (Dell U2410) has a card reader built in, I don't have an x-fi bay, and I infact only have one 5.25" device in my Fractal Design Define R3: An LG HD-DVD/Blu-ray drive (rare now, glad to have one).
  • Grok42 - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    I think you are unusual in your need for so many 5.25" bays. The good news is that most mid-tower cases have four 5.25" bays with the next most popular being three bay configurations. You shouldn't have trouble finding a really good case that meets your needs. Those who would prefer to have better cooling, more 3.5" bays, more 2.5" bays or smaller cases are completely out of luck. This case is very unusual only having two bays and there are almost none with only a single bay. There are exactly two cases on the market with none.

    That said, you could easily go down to two bays. Not sure what the point of two DVD drives are unless you are copying a lot of one off DVDs. The best card readers are the USB stick converter ones. Much easier to deal with because you can insert the card much more easily. The X-Fi bay is a personal thing. I prefer my sound controls in a closer and more accessible place like on a remote beside my keyboard. My computer is on the floor and using a front panel for volume and headphones there would be awkward even if it was on my desk.
  • casteve - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    ..Especially for trying out all three fan speeds. I liked the R3. Glad to see Fractal evolving the design.
  • tribbles - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I have an Antec P280 and would love to be able to (cleanly) block the top vents like Fractal has done with the R4. Does anybody make a standard 120mm fan mount cover? I've Googled it and haven't had much luck.

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