After checking the Define R4 out it was finally time to dig in and install our test rig. Dropping in our motherboard went smoothly, the Define R4 has plenty of room to work around in, especially for our Micro-ATX motherboard. Dropping in our power supply it was nice to see the rubber mounts under the power supply to keep the vibration down. Our GTX 580 fit in the Define R4 without having to remove the hard drive cage, we even had another inch of clearance. If you do happen to need more room you can pull the main hard drive cage out and make extra room. Installing our hard drive was simple, each of the 8 hard drive trays have rubber mounts for 3.5 inch hard drives and each installs with four screws from the bottom.
With everything installed I’m sure you are curious about how the Define R4 performed as far as cooling and noise. First, without a doubt this is an extremely quiet case. Fractal went over the top making sure the side panels were covered in sound deadening material, to the point where each side panel was EXTREMELY heavy. The power supply is kept quiet with rubber mounts to keep any vibration from moving into the case as well. They even made a point to cover up three of the unused fan grills on the case with what they call ModuVent, basically a thick sound barrier. The front door also plays its part in keeping the sound down with a built in insulation and a design that pulls from the sides of the front rather than the front of the case where noise can be heard easier. All of it together makes for the quietest case we have ever seen or tested.Wiring up the Define R4 wasn’t too bad, Fractal left enough room back behind the case to fit our wiring and most importantly they included holes in all the right places in the motherboard tray for proper wiring. Each hole had a grommet in it making for a clean look when its all said and done as well. All of the internal wiring was blacked out adding to that clean look. The only wiring that was more complicated than normal was the built in fan controller, but even that wasn’t too bad.
From our experience, quiet cases normally aren’t the best at cooling. The Define R4 only has two active fans in its stock configuration. This is enough to get the job done, but in the case of a gaming PC that puts out more heat you will most likely want to add a little more cooling to keep things down to a more comfortable level. Fractal did allow for an additional fan to be mounted on the bottom and front of the case but if you want to go beyond that you are left removing the ModuVent’s and potentially increasing the cases noise output as well. Its obviously a fine balance, but in the end this is still going to be a quieter case than most, even if you pack it full of fans. The plus side to that being you could use the built in fan controller and run the fans on low and still have the ability to bump it up more on hot days.
Beyond the cooling and noise, I was very happy with the Define R4. I love the power button being centered on the top and the blue LED that lights up with it looks great. I kind of wish that the built in fan controller was a little easier to get to but Fractal is all about keeping the design clean, part of that is hiding things like the fan controller that you might not use day to day. On top of that with both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports up top I was extremely happy with the number of USB ports that you have access to on the front/top of the case.
Really the only issue that you might run into with the case is its weight. At just over 27 pounds it isn’t light at all. Adding a high end PC inside, especially water cooling, you are going to have a case that you are going to dread picking up. For most people this won’t be an issue, but I do want to make sure to point it out for those of you who might hit a few LAN parties a year or just someone who likes to rearrange their office from time to time. Of course this is the downside to an all steel design that also has sound dampening. I for one will deal with the back pain from time to time to keep the noise in my office down everyday.