titleIt’s rare that we see a new case manufacture jump into the market and wow everyone. This past January at CES Fractal Design did just that to a lot of people including a member of our own staff. From then on we have been excited to get a chance to take a closer look at what Fractal has to offer. Well that moment is finally here. Today we will be taking an in depth look at the Fractal Define Mini, a Micro ATX case built to be silent, compact and stylish. Their goal is to “provide products with an extraordinary design level, without compromising the important factors of quality, functionality and pricing”. That is a high goal to set, let’s find out if they were successful.

Product Name: Fractal Design Define Mini

Review Sample Provided by: Fractal Design

Review by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

Specifications

Cooling system

Fan controller for 3 fans included

1 rear Fractal Design 120mm @ 1200rpm included

1 front Fractal Design 120mm @ 1200rpm included

1 front 120mm fan (optional)

1 top 120/140mm fan (optional)

1 bottom 120mm fan (optional)

1 side panel 120mm/140mm fan (optional)

3.5 Inch HDD

6x trays, compatible with 2.5 inch drives also

5.25 Bays

2x with 5.25 to 3.5 adapter

Top I/O Panel

2x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0

Audio I/O

Motherboard compatibility

Mini ITX and Micro ATX

Expansion slots

4 +1

Graphic card space

260mm with HDD Bay in place

400mm without HDD Bay

CPU Cooler Height

160mm

Maximum PSU depth

170mm with bottom fan

220mm without

Case size (WxHxD)

210x395x490mm

Net weight

9,50 kg 

Packaging

Fractal packed the Define Mini a simple and elegant box. On the front you have a nice photo of the Define Mini on a black background. The top section is a different color with the cases name along the bottom and the Fractal logo on the top left. Around back the logo and name are in the same location but the photo of the Define Mini is lacking its side panel, giving full view of nearly feature. Next to the photo you have a description and then a specification listing.

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Inside the box the case came wrapped in a plastic bag with foam on the corners to keep it safe and snug in the box.

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Tucked away inside the case you also get a small box with all of the accessories. On one side of the box you have the fractal logo and on the other side you have a full breakdown of everything included in the box. A nice feature. Inside you have all of the screws and standoffs needed, like normal. Also included is a PCI slot fan controller to match the white PCI slots on the Define Mini. The small wrench included is also a nice touch.

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Exterior

The exterior of the Define Mini looks very similar to the Antec 190 series of cases on first glance. You can see a door covering the front, two fans on the top and left side, and the front I/O panel at the top of the front door.  

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The front I/O panel has a power light on the front ledge that cuts into the front door centered along with the power button. On the left side of the power button you have the microphone and headphone ports. On the right side you have two USB 2.0 ports and one blight blue USB 3.0 port.

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Up top the fan cover has an interesting look. In a way it has the look of the maltese cross, or as some of you might know better, the West Coast Choppers logo.  The mesh area bulges out slightly helping give that look also. Interestingly enough you can’t see through the fan grill, thanks to their ModuVent™ technology. Their ModuVent™ technology is designed to keep the noise down while still allowing air flow. You can remove the ModuVent if you would like to install a fan in the future or if you would like to open up more ventalation. 

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Around on the side panel you don’t have a window to see in, but you do have another fan grill.

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The other fan grills are behind the front door. Each of the two grills on the front open with a push due to the include spring loaded latches. Behind the grills you will find a filter and then a white fan.

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With a door covering all of that airflow Fractal included vents along both sides of the front door. Also in this image you can see the “door handle” so to speak.

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On the inside of the door Fractal included a thick layer of sound dampening.

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Round back there is one more fan gril, this one being the only fan that you can see due to a lack of the heavy duty filters on all of the others. Above the fan you have two water cooling holes with rubber grommets

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Also on the back you can spot four normally placed PCI slots and one placed above the other is at a 90 degree angle. The PCI slots are hard to miss due to their white color, an interesting choice for an all-black case, but it does look good. In this photo you can also see that the power supply is mounted on the bottom of the case with a PSU fan filter accessible all the way at the bottom for cleaning. Also to note in this image is how both of the side panels are attached, Fractal went with thumbscrews for both sides.

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Interior

The inside of the Define Mini is coated in a heavy duty black powder coat. On the inside of both of the side panels you can see both the powder coat and a sound deadening used to keep the Define Mini silent. The side panel also shows off the use of sound deadening and a filter on the vent that is above and beyond anything we have seen on any other case before. This is their ModuVent™ technology to help keep the sound down while still letting air in and out. 

 

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Along with a whole collection of cable management along with rubber grommets the Define Mini also has a large access hole for the back of the CPU. If I didn’t know better I would think I was looking at the 800D.

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Up top you can find the same ModuVent™ filter on the top vent. This is a better shot, showing off the filter with the sound deadening attached to it. 

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I mentioned the cable management before; here you can see the two main holes. You can also see the four rubber bumpers placed under the power supply to help support it and keep vibration and noise to a minimum.

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The Define mini’s front I/O panel wiring includes an internal USB 3.0 connection. Even though we have seen this before, I am still very happy to see this. I would prefer than the entire cable be blue though. They did a good job sleaving all of the other wires to keep them in a nice consistent black color to match the interior.

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Although we could see it slightly through the back fan grill, from the inside we can get an even better look at the included rear fan. Fractal used one of their own designs with a black casing and bring white fan blade, matching the PCI slot covers.

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Speaking of the white PCI slot covers, here is a better look at them.

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Behind the front fans you have two three drive hard drive bays. The top bay is removable to open up extra room for extremely long video cards when needed. Matching the white bladed fan and PCI slots, all six of the metal hard drive trays is white and color. Each drive is built to handle both 3  ½ inch drives and 2 ½ drives.


Setup and Installation

When the Define Mini came in I was preparing for LanOC V9.0 and was not really looking forward to packing up my full sized rig to drag it to the event. I decided that this would be a good chance to put together a powerful PC in the Define Mini that could also be quiet. Here is out part listing.

Fractal Define Mini

Corsair HX620 Watt PSU

Nvidia GTX 560 Ti

Corsair H50 Water cooling

OCZ Fatality DDR3 Dual Channel RAM

Intel i7 2600 Sandy Bridge CPU

Intel DH67BL Motherboard

Western Digital Velociraptor 300Gb HD for games

Mushkin SSD for OS

To get started I pulled the hard drive trays out and installed both of our drives. With the velociraptor we mounted the drive using the included rubber mounts to keep vibration and noise down. With the SSD on the other hand, there isn’t a similar option. So it is mounted directly to the tray. Not that we have to worry about vibration from an SSD, but it would be nice for people using laptop platter drives.

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Installing the motherboard was simple. But first we had to install the motherboard standoffs and the rear I/O panel. With them installed I went ahead and secured the H50 mount loosely and installed the motherboard. Once installed, I removed the stock fan from the H50 and attached the H50 to the rear fan included with the Define Mini. Mounting the pump/heatsink of the H50 was easy with the radiator mounted. Of course before that I did drop in our i7 2600 CPU with a little thermal paste.

Before installing the video card I went ahead and started on wiring by installing the Corsair HX620 PSU. Routing all of the cables through the bottom hole was easy with the PSU’s thin cabling. I was able to hide everything behind the motherboard tray and keep everything cleaned up and free for good air flow. Sadly this is the only time it can be seen with no side panel window.

Before buttoning everything up I finished the build off by installing the Nvidia GTX560 Ti. Even though this is a powerful card, I didn’t even have to remove the second hard drive cage for extra room. Unless you plan on packing in a GTX 580 or 590 you shouldn’t have to move anything around.

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Performance

With everything up and running I spent a little time with it setup here in the office while installing Windows 7 and then installing a collection of steam games prepping for our LAN. While leaving it running here in the office I had a lot of time to listen to the case in comparison to our test benches and even my HAF X based main PC. As I expected after seeing all of the built in sound deadening the Define Mini was very quiet. Obviously any noise generated by the GPU couldn’t be quieted, but everything else was near silent. With three 120mm fans installed, this is impressive. Because of the use of all of those fans, the Define Mini also does a great job of keeping everything cool, even without having to look like all of the other high air flow cases.

Outside of noise and cooling I was also happy to have a USB 3.0 port built into the front I/O panel. At the LAN I found this very useful a few times when sharing files and it helps greatly in the office also.

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Overall and FV

Fractal has managed to design a case that is both extremely functional and stylish but at the same time they have avoided everything all of the other manufactures do. This is an almost all steel design that is designed to near silent while still having great cooling. The strong construction and heavy duty powder coating put me at ease when traveling to and from the LAN, something I haven’t been able to do a long time without worrying. Typically you get into a situation where you can only have two of the three (good price, good performance, or silence), but after finding out about the Define Mini’s sub $100 price tag I think we finally found a case that can give you all three. At less than $100 bucks you are really getting a case that should be worth almost double that. I would suggest you run out and pick one up before they come to their senses! Once you do you can game without putting your ear plugs in, finally.

fvtophonors
Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #20696 03 Nov 2011 18:53
Forgot to post here yesterday when we posted this :)
Wingless92's Avatar
Wingless92 replied the topic: #20704 03 Nov 2011 21:14
Small cases have a soft spot in my heart. Loved this case when I saw it at CES and it continues to offer great spec's for a low cost of entry.
Hasbeen's Avatar
Hasbeen replied the topic: #20718 04 Nov 2011 07:47
I have to admit it is a nice case, but I think I'd prefer its cousin the Arc Mini. It is the door that does it for me, I just don't like them. The rest of the case seems fairly similar to the arc mini so that would be my choice. Great review though and still a good case to have.

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