Fractal markets their products as having a “Scandinavian design”, an ideal they best summarize as “minimalistic yet striking”. The Define line of cases have been their poster child of the concept, and the XL R2 brings it to you in the largest way. Usually, this section is covers the accents and unique design of a tower, lighting, or other facial highlights. While I took a breather from wrestling the case out of the packaging, I gained an appreciation for all the subtle, almost hidden indications of the features within.
Let’s start at the front. Fractal has opted to include a full length door, though the actual front panel would still be acceptable without it, in my opinion. In addition to a cleaner look, the door serves a dual purpose of noise reduction. A high density foam material lines the inside of the door, helping to deafen the two front intake fan options. These function on a pretty cool system. Unlike the mesh plates we are used to seeing for ventilation, the XL R2 resembles more of a traditional HVAC system with thin slits (part of the reason the inner front panel still looks attractive). This piece can be depressed on the right side to swing it out revealing the fan skeleton which can, in turn, be unclipped from the top for removal.
The four external 5.25” drive bay placeholders are replaceable, and function on a latch system that prevents them from being pushed in or falling out of the case on accident. I really appreciate this in general because that’s often one of the vantage points for carrying a tower and it is extremely irritating when you push one of those in with a thumb. Again, it is a moot point since there is a door that would prevent this sort of thing, but it is another example of quality regardless. On that note, the door itself works off of magnetics and I can attest after carrying this behemoth in and out of our latest LAN party, it stayed shut. Also worth mentioning is the finish Fractal used on both the steel and the front plastic doesn’t show fingerprints, moisture from skin, etc. From pictures I was afraid the door especially was a coarse metal we’ve seen used before, and the texture holds skin residue so easily. The XL R2 is in fact smooth.
The plastic portion of the chassis overlaps to the top a couple of inches to house the front I/O panel. A large power button is center with a smaller, depressed reset button to the left. To USB 3.0 ports neighbor two USB 2.0 ports on the right-most of the panel, and the audio/mic in on the opposite. A subtle LED power indicator runs perpendicular of the power button and encompasses it.
The remainder of the top is flush save two fan placeholders. Again, Fractal has used to same noise reducing material under these vented squares. The left and right side panels are similar. The main side panel has a fan option situated in front of the PCI area of the motherboard tray as an option exhaust, while the rear side panel is a flush piece. The underside of the XL R2 has a large ventilation area for the power supply intake fan coupled with an additional factory installed fan. The entire area is masked with a removable dust filter accessible via pull tab. The tower sits on some pretty beefy feet, chrome bases with rubber grips that really give quite a bit of breathing room underneath. Though the rubber portion certainly does it job from preventing any unwanted shifting, make sure you pick the XL R2 up instead of sliding it when you do want to move it; they will leave scuffs on most surfaces.
The back of the is the most inconsistent, in a few different ways. First, of course it’s the least solid, consisting mostly of mobo/PCI access and vent areas, including the final factory installed fan. It is also the first time you’re likely to actually notice Fractal’s departure from the straight black theme before breaking into the chassis. The PCI slot placeholders are snow white, personally I’m a fan of the contrast but I can see where some may want a straight black theme.