When choosing a case to build a PC in, there are quite a few things to consider. First and foremost is the design, for most people. Do you choose a case that is highlighted by fan shrouds, lights, moving parts, and bells and whistles? Or do you want one with a more subtle aesthetic. One that whispers “there’s a crazy PC inside” rather than screams at the top of its lungs.
If you are among the later, the Define R3 by Swedish case maker Fractal Design might be worthy of consideration.
The Define R3 is a mid-tower chassis, and as you can see is built with a classy, subtle design. To keep costs down however, it is still constructed of steel and plastic. The lack of aluminum means that you can buy this online for about $100-120, depending on colour choice.
Despite the low cost and not-the-most-expensive materials on the outside, it is solidly built, and there are quite a bit of sought-after features with this case, which we’ll see as we explore it in our in-depth review.
Perhaps the most notable feature of the Define R3 is the front panel. We have seen cases do this over the years, going all the way back to our first case reviews. Back then it was a novel concept to have a completely ‘clean’ design for a case, and today it just ‘makes sense’ to me. The door on the Define R3 is plastic, with a faux-aluminum finish. It is secured shut by a magnet, and holds firmly shut.
On the inside, it is lined with a light foam which from what I can tell is not removable for cleaning. Note that while this foam helps keep sound down, it is NOT the sound dampening material that lines most of the rest of the case – we’ll get to that later. Behind the door are two 5.25″ drive bays, and a pair of 120mm fan enclosures, one of which comes pre-installed with a Fractal Design fan rated at 1350 RPM.
The top of the case is the only place you’ll find ports and buttons. The two USB ports are supplemented by a USB 3.0 port (note that USB 3.0 has its own header type, and it is not backwards-compatible). If you don’t have a motherboard with an extra USB 3.0 controller, you will need to buy an adapter to be able to use this port. Antec addresses this issue with their cases by providing a USB 3 > USB 2 adapter for free, but I don’t think Fractal Design offers this service.
The power button area lights up (blue, of course) and it is very bright. So bright that there is quite a bit of ‘bleeding’ outside the case and even out of the USB ports. Depending on where your case is situated, you might have to cover it with something (for me, this is where my iPad sits) or not use it at all. There is no HDD activity light.
Flipping the case around, you can see that this is a bottom-mounted PSU, which keeps the power supply from being heated up by the other components. The cooler your PSU runs, the more efficient it will be, and the longer it will last, so this is an important feature. Aside from that, you can see the 120 mm exhaust fan, as well as some grommeted ports for watercooling setups.
That about does it for the outside of the case, let’s crack it open and see what it offers inside!