|Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by Doug Dallam|
|Sunday, 22 January 2012|
Page 5 of 5
Define XL Final ThoughtsThere is absolutely no doubt that the Define XL is a big case, a quality built case, and a case that can take pretty much any hardware you throw at it. It does a lot right, but it also misses in a couple of areas. I'm confident that with the release of version two, these concerns will be addressed.
First, the front fan/filter assembly and the internal door need reworking. As it is now, the front, inner door functions only as a beauty cover for the front fans. Moreover, the front fan filter is actually a combination fan carriage and filter assembly (see above image). In other words, if you want to remove the filter, you will need to pull the fans out with it. A better solution is to convert the front, inner door to a combination pop-off beauty and filter cover, while converting the current filter and fan carriage combo to a fan carriage only, without a filter. In other words, the front fan cover (currently the internal hinged door) could look exactly the same, the only difference being that it (1) pops off instead of using hinges and (2) the filter is contained in the pop-off assembly, and not connected to the fan carriage.
Second, the PSU cable routing hole is fine unless you use a larger PSU, such as 180mm, which is the largest recommended by Fractal Design. At 140mm, the hole is mostly unobstructed. When you move to a 180mm PSU, it covers more than half of the hole. This isn't going to stop you from using the entire hole because there is still over a half inch of space on the side of the PSU for cable routing. It just might take a little threading. If you go back and look at the images, you'll see this could have been avoided by simply moving the hole toward the front an inch. Another option is to remove the power supply to motherboard partition and run cables through it. This might come in handy for video card power cables.
Third, if you use an E-ATX or ATX motherboard, the bottom of it will bump up against the bottom compartment separator. This means you can only run cables and wires around the front and top of the motherboard, and that means some of your cables might not be long enough. So remember you may need extensions or plan on buying them as needed. Of course, as stated above, you can always remove the power supply to motherboard partition and run cables directly into the motherboard area.
Fourth, although the 180mm top fan allows rearward instead of top exhaust, thus reducing fan noise, it also limits space for building inside. This isn't going to prevent anyone from running cables to their 12 volt, or installing the tallest coolers, but it could be a little more challenging. One way around this is to simply unscrew the top fan cage and remove it while you do your install. It's four screws and the entire cage pops off.
Fifth, the Define XL ships with only three fans, but the hardware mounting options leave that fan number wanting. For instance, if you want to use the bottom drive cages, and you want a fan with them, you'll need to cannibalize it from the top drive fan area or the back exhaust. This means either no front intake or the loss of the 140mm exhaust fan. If you want drives in both the top and bottom and they're mechanical drives, then you simply need another fan. That, or you risk busy hard drives overheating.
Sixth, the Define XL isn't just a large case. It's also marketed as a sound dampened case with insulation in all doors, and even a sound insulated side fan cover. Thus, it makes more sense to offer the same airflow with a lower noise ratio, which means a 230mm top fan, and for the same reason, one could argue for a side 230mm option also. (Actually, the top would be more logical since having a 200mm hole in the side of the case would allow more sound to escape.) On the other hand, if the 140mm/180mm option moves enough air for your build, without sounding like a vacuum cleaner, then the included fan options are fine. At the very least, the inclusion of an additional 140mm fan would improve out of the box cooling options. As it is, the factory cooling options might be a little lacking, depending on your hardware.
The Fractal Design Define XL Silent PC Chassis is interesting in that there are many uses for it and many options. If you need tons of drives, then this might be your case. If you want to build an OC'ed system, and you don't need tons of drives, then you have the option to remove the top drive cage (for better air flow) and install three 140mm front fans, one at the expense of three external bays, plus the side 140mm option. That's if you're willing to buy three additional 140mm fans. Without those extra fans, cooling options for hot systems are limited, at best.
Even after all of that, if you need a very sturdy, heavy, quality built and sound insulated case, then this is definitely a case you should consider. The Define XL is a serious and an extremely high quality chassis, with deliberate attention to quality and detail throughout.
Define XL Conclusion
Although we strive for objectivity here at Benchmark Reviews, please remember that each author perceives these points differently, and our conclusions and recommendations will necessarily differ from others. Also, prices can fluctuate and designs change after publication, so that the product we review might not have the same price and specifications of a product that's available later. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested, which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary of each of the areas that we rate.
+ Extremely well built
- Front fan filter release tab location akward
Final Score: 8.6 out of 10.
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