Home > PC parts and Hardware, Reviews > Fractal Design–Define R3 Review

Fractal Design–Define R3 Review

Whazzup dawfreaks…
its been a while since we looked at a computer case here on Dawfreak, Building a studio PC that is cool and quiet have in the past been quiet tricky, Lately some companies have listened to the call for cases that is made to be quiet. Today we are going to look at the smaller brother of Fractal Designs Define XL that goes by the product name Define R3.

Before I go on I would like to thank Fractal Design for letting me do this review.  



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


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.



  • Mid-Tower
  • 8x 3,5 inch HDD trays, compatible with SSD
  • 2x 5,25 inch bays, with 1x 5,25>3,5 inch converter included
  • On top of front panel: 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0 and Audio I/O
  • Internal USB 3.0 header
  • No PSU included (removable filter below PSU)
  • M/B compatibility: Mini ITX, Micro ATX and ATX
  • 7x expansion slots with sleek white painted brackets
  • Supports graphic card lengths up to ~290mm
  • Supports CPU coolers with height of ~165mm
  • Supports PSU’s with a depth of maximum circa 170mm, when using bottom 120/140mm fan location. When not using the bottom 120/140mm fan location, the case supports also longer PSU’s, typically 200-220mm.
  • Case size (WxHxD): 207.40x442x521.2mm
  • Net weight: 12.50kg


The Package

Box1      box2

The Define R3 comes in a black and package that Highlights the special features of the case.
The box follows the same design as we saw in the Define XL review.
When I opened the box I found the Define R3 covered in a plastic bag and securely placed in steady Foam, so the Define R3 had been professionally packed with minimum risk of damage.

Inside the Box


The first look on the Define R3 shows it looks just like a smaller version of The Define XL, But as you soon will tell there is some differences between the R3 and XL.




Included with the Define r3 is a bag filled with the required screws, the 1 knob fan controller some cable ties and a 5.25” cover.

One thing I have not included in this picture is the small manual.






The Outside of the Define R3

case frontcase top front

The Define R3 is very clean yet stylish, the exterior design is perfect with the Power button and Front I/O connections.

case front opened

The inside of the Define R3 front Door is covered with sound damping foam.
In this image you can se that the Define r3 has two plastic doors ( one for each 120mm intake fan slot),  the fans are mounted in separate frames with dust filters that is secured to the case with four screw’s.

Note that one intake fan is included at the bottom intake slot on the Define R3.


case back

The back of the Case reveals the second included fan, note that the fans follows the black and white color scheme of the Define R3.

Above the 120mm exhaust fan we find two additional holes with rubber grommets for water cooling installation.


case back top

This Image shows the two 140/120 mm top fan slots, Fractal Design must have heard my call for a closing solution as the two 140/120mm slots can be sealed with the ModuVent solution.


Inside the Define R3

case interior

The Interior of the Define r3 is a open solution, witch means that the case is not divided in compartments like the Define XL.
In the top front we find two 5.245” slots and below that we find a rack with 8 HHD bays.
One thing to note is that the Back plate of the define R3 has a huge cutout to allow easy installation of third party CPU coolers.

Behind the PSU slot of the Define R3 you can se that Fractal Design added a third 120/140mm intake slot, this is a great solution to push cold air in and up the case.

One little downside I found have been changed in the Define R3 that I know the older version R2 had is a way to Split the Hdd rack into two parts, this is a feature I rely wish to se back in feature releases.


The Image above shows the main side panel and the Fractal Design ModuVent, The Idea to allow the user to decide if he want the side panel covered is good but I found a small issue with the ModuVent.
The cover is a Hard plastic bracket that on the inside has sound damping material, the Side panel is by itself thin so the added vent holes makes the side panel wobbly.
The issue I found is that the bracket can not be secured tight enough and as the side panel is a bit wobbly it gave me issues with vibrations, so I had to face the ModuVent sound damping material the other way around .


My Daw system
:Gigabyte x58a-ud3r rev.2
Cpu: Intel i7 930 @ stock 2.8ghz
Cpu cooler: NH-D14 SE2011
Ram: 24GB Kingston HyperX DDR 3 1600mhz
Graphic card: SAPPHIRE HD 7750 ULTIMATE
Hdd´s: System disk Plextor PX-128M3
Files Disk  2TB western digital caviar black.

finished build

Overall installing into the Define R3 was a pleasure, I had to use some cable extensions and a bunch of Cable ties to get a result I liked.
The NH-D14 SE2011 fits inside the Define R3 as se in the page above, I must say though that due to the ModuVent or if you decide to ad top fans the space is limited so installing middle 140mm NF-P14 can be tricky. The Hdd trays comes with silicon anti vibration mounting to reduce HDD noise and vibrations going out to the case.

As Dawfreak is a page with focus on Studio environment, the testing will be done from the that perspective. The Define R3 is quiet with the fans on max, but I wanted near silent so I pulled the fans down.

        System temps Define XL                                     System temps Define R3
nhd14temps    nhd14tempsnew 1 fan

OK looking at the Temps we have to remember that the XL has three fans by default and the R3 only comes with two so a +2 C increase is not bad.
So how quiet is the Define R3? with the fans below half of the max speed it is incredible quiet.
I am amazed with how well this case isolate noise and gives the user a near silent work area.

xl vs r3
On the Left you can se the Define XL and on the right is the R3, as you can tell the XL rely is what the name says….. XL!!!


Since I was very happy with The Define XL I had hopes the Define R3 would be close to it when it comes to cooling and quietness. You can imagine the surprise when I found that the define R3 only gave my system a +2 C and with less noise.
Fractal design rely have a great Case in the define R3 and the only small things I found is that the main side panel is is a bit to wobbly, and that the Hdd rack cant be divided into two parts allowing better airflow. Both Define XL and R3 comes with the one knob fan controller, It would be much better to implement one or even better two fan controllers on the front section of the case.

In the end I can not do anything but bow my head to Fractal Design, They have listened to what people wanted and crafted a very nice and extremely quiet case.
The Define R3 is a perfect case for a studio PC But the Flexible Fan placement solutions makes the case suited for everyone from office to high end gamer.


  • Quiet
  • Great flexible  cooling solutions
  • It looks very Nice
  • Great Airflow
  • ModuVent on the top fan slots
  • Did I say QUIET!!!


  • One knob Fan Controller
  • Main side panel a bit wobbly
  • HDD rack can not be divided into two for better airflow.

The Verdict


”In the end I can not do anything but bow my head to Fractal Design, They have listened to what people wanted and crafted a very nice and extremely quiet case.”

Once again I would like to Thank Fractal design for letting me do this review.

And to all my readers Thank you!!!

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  1. August 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm

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