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Fractal Design – Define XL

Wazzup Dawfreaks!!!
Its time for yet another Review in the silent pc section.
The Swedish company Fractal design sent me a Define XL for my upcoming  “Build a silent daw” guide.

FDlogo

First of a little info about the concept and ideas of Fractal design

THE CONCEPT OF FRACTAL DESIGN

The concept of Fractal Design is to provide products with an extraordinary design level, without compromising the important factors of quality, functionality and pricing. The computer of today has come to play a central role in most people’s home, creating a demand for appealing design of the computer itself and its accessories. Our main product areas are computer enclosures, power supplies and related accessories

DESIGNED AND ENGINEERED IN SWEDEN

All Fractal Design products have been thoroughly designed, tested and specified in our Swedish head quarter. The well known ideas of Scandinavian design can be found through all of our products; a minimalistic but yet striking design – less is more.

VISIONS AND GOALS

Our vision is to have a constant, healthy growth together with our partners worldwide. Our goal is to be widely recognized for our designed products and to have them available in all major market regions within EU and US and Asia. We should be a good alternative to the already established retail brands of today. It’s of great importance for us that our partners understand the values of Fractal Design, therefore we are putting great effort into choosing the right partners from the start. We will work actively to maintain sales territories and profitable business for our partners.

THE WAY TO REACH OUR GOALS

In the competitive market of today, it’s not enough to just provide excellent products. Regular and well planned marketing activities in close cooperation with the channel and the available media, are key points to succeed. We are well experienced in marketing brands in the IT business, and we will use this to create efficient marketing tools – to gain a bigger market share and good earning possibilities for our channel.
Source

The Define xl Case
FD-CA-DEF-XL-BL

Key features

  • Stylish design
  • Pre-fitted with noise absorbing material
  • Configurable thermal chamber design
  • Great cooling possibilities, 3x fans included (2x 140mm, 1x 180mm)
  • 10x HDD slots
  • Unique ModuVent™ design in side panelSpecifications
    • 4x 5,25″ bays, 1x 5,25″ to 3,5″ converter included
    • Mini-itx, micro ATX, ATX and E-ATX motherboards
    • 10x HDD trays. 4x HDD trays in the HDD cage in the main chamber. This HDD cage is removable and rotatable.(Space ~330mm with HDD Cage and without ~480mm) 6x HDD trays in the lower HDD chamber. These HDD cages are fixed.
    • A total of two 140mm fans and one 180mm fan included. Front 140mm fans are mounted with removable, washable filter. A fan controller is included, for mounting in one of the rear expansion slots.
    • Pre-fitted with dense noise absorbing material in both side panels.
    • ModuVent™ feature, allowing the user to choose between an optimal low noise level, having the cover mounted or optimal airflow by removing the cover and mounting a fan for intake.
    • Maximum PSU length: Supports PSU’s with a depth of maximum circa 180mm
    • Maximum Graphic Card length: Supports graphic card lengths up to 330mm when removable HDD-Bay is in place
    • Maximum CPU cooler height: Supports CPU coolers with height of 180mm
    • Expansion slots: 7+1
    • On top of front panel: 4x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA and Audio I/O
    • Case size (WxHxD): 232x560x561.3mm
    • Net weight: 17.95kg
      Cooling system

      • 2x 140mm fans (one 140mm included, one optional) with removable and washable filters, in the front. Recommended for intake of air.
      • 1x 120mm fan optional with removable and washable filter, in the front. Recommended for intake of air.
      • 1x 180mm fan included in the top of the case. Recommended for exhaust of air.
      • 1x 140mm fan included in the rear of the case. Recommended for exhaust of air.
      • 1x 120/140mm fan optional in the side of the case. Recommended for intake of air.
        Source

First impressions
The box is huge and it´s heavy but i knew that so i was ready for some physical training Blinkar.
at a first look on the case i fell in love, iv never been a fan of design and colours.
The first impression gave the feeling that this case was well thought through,
and every part of it looked felt and smelled quality!

i wanted to ad some pictures of the Define XL box and
what came inside the box so here it goes
The box
A nice neat BIG box

DSCN1509
All screws you will ever need, Fan controller and a front bracket.

Alright so after the case was unpacked i had to take a rest Ler
This case is heavy but hey that does not mean a bad thing.
I opened the front door to se what was hidden behind it.
behind door
Need to apologize for bad image quality, still need a system cam Ledsen

Hidden behind the 5.25” brackets is a easy to remove 120mm fan holder,
The brackets are also very easy to remove just pull a lever and they are out.

This is an excellent feature giving the option to get cool air
directly over the ram and CPU.
DSCN1506
All intake fans have a nice dust filter.

on the lower section of the front there is a push door, revealing yet another
easy to remove fan holder for 2 x 140 mm fans with dust filters.
DSCN1551 

I took of the side panel to get a look inside this beast.
DSCN1502
Lots of space, a black and white finish… awesome looks Ler

DSCN1504
Wanted to show you the 140mm back fan and the 180mm angled top fan.


The side panels have a thick sound damping material that is the main reason to the weight.
The left side panel also have an optional 120/140 mm fan slot.

sound damp
Image not as clear as i wanted but here is the sound damping material used on the side panels.

Test setup
Motherboard
:Gigabyte x58a-ud3r rev.2
Cpu: Intel i7 930 @ stock 2.8ghz
Cpu cooler: noctua nh-u12p se
Ram: 12gb Corsair Dominator lately swapped to vengeance DDR 3 1600mhz
Graphic card: msi 560 ti twin frozr
Hdd´s: System disk Kingston SSDnow v+100 128 gb,
Samples disk Western digital 300gb velociraptor,
Files Disk  1TB western digital caviar black.

DSCN1516
Motherboard installed and i feel the audio cable for the front panel is a bit short.

DSCN1523
Cable management on the back, allot of space so no force is needed  to get the right sidepanel back.

DSCN1524
The complete setup.. a bit blurred image i really need a new camera.

Thoughts around the installation

The installation itself was very smooth, but i noticed some things that i wanted to point out.
The Cable position from factory was not really thought through, like the 180mm fan cable is coming out in the corner of the motherboard tray but the fan controller is if i understood everything right meant to be on the extra slot on the back of the case.. hmm then why not have the cable on the far left side instead?
Another thing, the plate between the lower chamber and the main chamber should have some way to attach the cables for better cable management in the main chamber.
Also i feel that the cables from the front panel was a bitt short, 5 more cm would have been lovely.

Testing the case cooling.

Alright so the system was setup, it is nearly the same as i had it in my Antec p183.
However I swapped out the Asus p6t se motherboard for a gigabyte x58a-ud3r rev.2
The memory slot´s whas closer to the CPU then on The P6t SE and that gave me issue´s with
my Dominator ram so i had to set the fan on my  Noctua nh-u12p se as pull.
Sadly i have already had bad luck with the heat sink on the Noctua nh-u12p se but a new is on the way.

Antec p183 temps with 4x Scythe gentle typhoon.
CPU idle, 50 load 72 with prime 95 (i will soon explain about the temps.)
motherboard peaked at 50c
The graphic card was when playing world of warcraft running at 56c (im no real gamer i make music).

Define XL with stock cooling + one 140mm 600 rpm Fractal design fan in the lower fan slot.
CPU idle, 48 load 69 with prime 95 (i will soon explain about the temps.)
motherboard peaked at 51c
and the graphic card was when playing World of warcraft running at 52c

Noise and cooling.
As i mentioned earlier the Antec had 4 Scythe gently typhoon that has a max speed of 1450rpm
And with a fan controller if i had them running at 1000rpm and it was very quiet.
But then my CPU temps would be to high when gaming or when loading a huge Cubase project so i never could have them running below 1250rpm.

The Fractal Design stock cooling is good but not as quiet as i hoped.
Compared to the p183 i could run the fans at half speed before i got the same temps on the CPU.
I
 do believe this has allot to do with the most excellent 1800mm fan on the top.
The 140mm fans still was a bit more noisy then the gentle typhoon even at half speed when used as exhaust.

For optimal cooling at low noise i swapped out the back 140mm fan for a gentle typhoon 1450rpm  and it made a  huge difference in both noise and cooling.
And since this is closer to the p183´s fan setup i must ad that the Sound damping material does make a huge difference, i have a hard time hearing my pc after changing the exhaust fan to a Gentle typhoon 1450rpm.

I must ad that the angled 180mm fan is so awesome i just connected it directly to the motherboard so it spins at max speed  and it is dead silent but i can feel the air it pushes out and that’s awesome!!

Some sidenotes
Using the Fractal design 140mm fan in the front with the fan controller to run them on the lowest speed does work great so you don’t have to swap them out completely to get a very quiet pc.

Adding a fan to the extra 120mm fan slot hidden in the 5.25” bay will give you more cooling and with the right fan like a 1450 rpm Gentle typhoon you will get no additional noise.
If you get a second fan controllers like a Fanmate 2 you will be able to adjust intake and exhaust separately, for optimal Airflow in your case and with you ambient temps.
A side not, if you plan to ad a Gentle typhoon you will however need to use washers to get some distance from the fan filter or the blades will hit the dust filter and you will have a very bad noise Blinkar.

Pros
++++ Build quality
+++++ Sound damped
++++ Airflow
+++ The size
++++ Fan options
++++ Easy to remove and clean fan holders.
++++ Nearly tool free assembly
+++++ The angled 180mm fan
++++ The price

Cons
— 140mm fans a bit to loud specially when used as exhaust.
— Cables from the front panel a bit to short
– The fan controller is a good feature but 1 knob does not give any options for air pressure.
– – Fans mounted at the factory with the cables in the wrong way..
— No space behind the door so adding a fan controller with larger knobs is out of the question.

Conclusion
The Fractal design Define XL is at this moment one of the most excellent cases iv seen.
The case is robust, its well thought through and is the perfect start point for a cool and quiet DAW.
Sadly the 140mm fans does not seam to work well when pushing the air out through the small holes in the back. This could maybe be fixed by changing the hole shape and size on the exhaust why do they always have to be so small? Why not cut out bigger sections that follow the frame of the fans?
But in the end I only needed to swap one fan out to get a nearly dead silent pc now that is most impressive.
and since the 140mm fan that came with the Fractal Design Define XL is reused as an intake fan who cares Ler.
The idea to send a fan controller with the case is absolutely great but a 1 knob fan controller does not cut it. Balance is everything if you want a quiet pc with accurate airflow, and i would have liked to se at least 2 knobs
for a better control of intake and exhaust air.
The idea of using a angle on the 180mm fan is outstanding, its silent and does a great job specially if using a tower CPU cooler like the Noctua nh-u12p.

All in all The Fractal design Define XL is outstanding, and the quality you get for the price of around
120,00 Euro tag is just outstanding.
There is not much to complain about even though there are some small things that could be changed,
and these small flaws you can easily get around without any hustle .
Fractal design Define XL is a most outstanding computer case, with great features it is standing up to the top high-end cases but with this price tag it is much more affordable.
a small side note i have to ad that the support at Fractal Design is extremely good and professional.

DSCN1550
And a last little image of The cool look of the Define XL front panal.

The verdict.
5of5
Thank you for reading and i hope to se you back soon

Oh ye i nerly forgot..


A side note about the weird cpu temps!

I managed to get a rounded base on my Noctua nh-u12p se so the temps was not as they should.
Noctua has sent me a new cooler, which should arrive soon.
And i will get back on how the results are with that cooler inside the Define XL.
I am at the moment using a Antec kühler h2o 620 and the temps is  59c in prime.
But this Cooler has a small ticking from the pump not to annoying but it tend to get picked up by my studio microphone so I’m swapping back to Noctua nh-u12p se when it arrives and i am going to set it push/pull with low spinning fans.
And the Antec kühler h2o 620 will be in my friends overclocked gaming rig Ler 

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  1. June 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks for the review, looking into getting a quieter case and was considering the Fractal, but to me it sounds like it’s not worth the money noice reduction wise. I may have to go with atec’s p280 since the 183 I hear has some problems too. Why doesn’t anyone just make really quiet cases that work? Oh well.. thx!

    • June 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      The define xl is a great case.
      Depending on your needs.
      Have you looked at the define r3?

  1. March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm
  2. July 5, 2012 at 9:44 pm
  3. August 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm

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