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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  • piroroadkill - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    Completely disgree on the door - I have a Fractal Design Define R3, and closing the (foam padded) door makes a HUGE difference to the noise you perceive from the front of the case. Using my phone and a ghetto app, we're talking a few decibels different.
  • piroroadkill - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    Just in case I wasn't clear, I mean I absolutely DO want the door. Cleans up the look, massively reduces noise.
  • Grok42 - Sunday, August 12, 2012 - link

    My current case has a door and it too reduces noise a lot. There isn't anything magically about putting a hinge on a solid panel that stops noise, it's the fact that it's a solid panel and no noise doesn't leak through the small openings around the bay ports.
  • dj44 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    After reading I may have missed this, but is there any mention of dust filters under the PSU and on the fan mount just in front of it? I can't remember if the R3 had these either. :P

    Regarding the top fan mounts, I must be one of the 5%ers as I love 'em - I currently have the CM Centurion 590, and use both top 140mm mounts at the top, theoretically, with good fans it should help with overclocking on air - heat will always rise more easily than go sideways.
  • dj44 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Apologies, I just went back through the pics and saw that a filter covers both.

    Another question though, would anyone be able to please tell me what the total wattage the fan controller can handle?
  • vanwazltoff - Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - link

    no reviews emphasize that the bottom hard drive cage can be moved back to accommodate a 240mm rad in the front and that bottom cage can be moved anywhere in the case because it has the same bolt pattern as a 120mm fan. that is a substantial difference between the r3 and r4.

    I actually sent fractal a long email about how they can improve apon the r3 and they used 90% of the ideas I gave them, its nice to sea that a company that listens to its customers. one of the many ideas I sent was an option between windowed and non windows versions and a window upgrade kit for the r3
  • chloroprocaine - Sunday, August 5, 2012 - link

    Great article, Dustin. Really helpful as I've been waiting for the R4 for quite some time now.

    Quick question, in your closing statement, you say:

    "...while the Corsair 550D is a generally better performer, it also has more trouble spots that give me some pause in regards to its longevity"

    Could you elaborate on this point? 550D seems like a great, albeit more expensive, alternative to the R4, but it would be horrible if it wasn't as nicely built.
  • chrislue - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    Does it have a HDD led?
  • tigersty1e - Thursday, October 4, 2012 - link

    going forward, it would help to keep the cpu and gpu fan constant. that way, we can compare the temps and decibal ratings with apples to apples.

    some cases give great cooling to cpu, but are poor for gpu cooling. and a few percentage points for the gpu fan can really throw the db ratings much higher.
  • ifdefmoose - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - link

    The lack of a hard drive activity indicator makes this case a non-starter for me, which is really unfortunate. Other than that, it looks like a great design.

    Does anyone else feel that this is a critical omission?

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