Installation and Performance
The Define XL R2 is one of the few cases I’ve tested with side panels that are easy remove and put back on. Fractal again achieves this through simplicity; no special rails or sliding mechanisms, just a plate that sits in position and secures with thumb screws. With it off you can see one of the best examples of the noise reducing material used, and how thick it really is. This isn’t just porous foam. Of course it is removable if you’d like to equipped a side panel fan. It really does a good job keeping builds quiet, even those not necessarily designed that way. Since Fractal has covered most of the fan vent areas with this material when empty, it really helps to cut down on the dust and debris that gets into the case as well.
Installing the motherboard went extremely smooth, no problems encountered with the threading of the holes or risers provided. Fractal has also included a cap to help tighten/loosen the hex risers. The grommets at the top were perfect for the CPU power, since there is a pair it also accommodates boards that support two 8-pins on either corner. The grommets that run the right side of the board help guarantee that no matter where your 20/4-pin power is located, you’ll be able to route and hide slack appropriately. For our build we are using Thermaltake’s Water 3.0, mounting the rear exhaust radiator was more unique to it than the XL R2. Be aware of the 170 mm height for CPU coolers if you’re using active air.
The power supply lined up well with the mount points on the cutout on the back of the case, and sits well and steady on the risers, providing some additional airflow. A modular PSU really helps, but rails can be routed directly through the grommet in front. I was a little surprised that Fractal did not include a second grommet location for the lower right quadrant of the board; many, including the mobo we used to build, have the front I/O panel connectors in this corner. These cables can be routed from either the PSU grommet or the corresponding side grommet and still look okay, but it would be nice to hide them like we were able to do with the remaining headers on the lower left side.
As mentioned before, I’m a fan of the black and white contrast theme, and the hard drive trays help to accent this as well. These are made from a steel material as well, not plastic. Drives mount on a anti-vibration ring with screws provided and simply slide into place. There is enough room on the opposite side of the cage between the back panel for straight cables; we’ve seen many towers that forget this and apply pressure on connectors unless you use right-angles.
The factory default airflow is pretty effective, and the fans Fractal include contribute to the quality. These are their SIlent Series R2 fans, rated at 15 dBA and 1200 RPM. These retail for about ten dollars depending on outlet, so it’s about a thirty dollar value. Speaking of cooling, the tool-less design on the front is really pretty handy, especially when working with a case as large a this one.
That’s a good segway into one of the downsides to Define XL R2: it is very heavy. Note that I say downside and not fault, I believe its intended. This case appealed to me because it was simply, sturdy and reliable. To compromise material to make it a little lighter doesn’t really make sense for this one. Although I did take it to our latest LAN party to show off, it isn’t designed for that, and I wouldn’t recommend it.