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Written by Doug Dallam   
Sunday, 22 January 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case
Closer Look: Exterior
Detailed Exterior Features
Detailed Interior Features
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Define XL Final Thoughts

There 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.

FractalDesign_DefineXL_016.jpg

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.

Overview:
This case is an obviously serious offering. It's a large case, all one color, without dancing lights or viewing windows, or other woo woo and foo foo. However, it's a sleek and good looking case because of its spartan design, giving way to a low visual profile. There are also many options for cooling, noise reduction, and cable routing, with plenty of room everywhere.

Construction:
Construction is not an issue. The Define XL is one of the best built and thick cases I've seen, or tried to lift. The side panels alone weigh in at 7.0 lbs each. All of the panels and screws lined up perfectly, and the interior has nicely rolled edges and is nicely painted inside and out. I didn't see any skimping on build quality. The Define XL's build quality is simply superb.

Functionality:
Functionality is good, but not excellent. First, the Define XL only comes with three fans, but to make use of it's hardware options, you need at least one more fan. If you're willing to buy three more 140mm fans, then all of your cooling options become available. Space wise, you have enough room for everything you'd want, with the possibility of ten mechanical drives and four external drives, or a total of fourteen mechanical drives. The way the case is designed, however, you may need power cable extensions; alternately, you may alleviate the use of extensions by removing the partition between the motherboard and PSU unit compartments, and running cables directly into the motherboard area. Speaking of cables, behind motherboard cable routing space is a full 1.0”. There is almost 8.0” of cooling tower space, and either 13.5” of video card space, or, with the top drive bay removed, virtually unlimited video card space. Plus, you get the option of water holes and an included rear fan controller.

Value:
If you need a really big, well built, quality case with the option of ten mechanical drives, or more using the external bays (up to fourteen), and you're willing to buy an additional two fans, then for $149.99 (NewEgg) this is a good value. Huge internal space, build quality second to none, and the possibility of decent cooling options mean that this case is right on target value-wise.

Summary:
With a couple of smaller concerns resolved, such as the PSU cable routing hole being moved toward the front an inch or so, the redesign of the front fan/filter intake assembly (as described above), the addition of a 230mm top fan option, and the inclusion of at least one more 140mm fan, the Define XL would no doubt be Gold. As it is, I'm giving it a recommendation and waiting on version two. As always, your comments are appreciated.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Seal of Approval

+ Extremely well built
+ Sound insulated
+ Tons of space
+ Ten plus hard drives
+ Unique compartmentalization
+ Nice looking
+ Good value
+ Excellent mechanical tolerance
+ Lots of options

Cons:

- Front fan filter release tab location akward
- Only three included fans
- PSU cable hole needs relocating
- Horizontal divider can limit cable routing
- Could use side and top 230mm fan options
- Front inner door/filter needs reworking

Ratings:

  • Presentation: 8.50
  • Appearance: 8.50
  • Construction: 10.00
  • Functionality: 8.00
  • Value: 8.00

Final Score: 8.6 out of 10.

Benchmark Reviews invites you to leave constructive feedback below, or ask questions in our Discussion Forum.


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Comments 

 
# RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewDoug Dallam 2012-01-22 15:16
Sub-ing and here's to "your message isn't long enough."
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# RE: RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewBill Egge 2012-02-02 07:56
Looks like a giant black binder.
tinyurl.com/7a5zo2a
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# RE: RE: RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewDoug Dallam 2012-02-02 13:56
LOLz. Thanks Bill for the laugh on the link. And yes it does, a very, very heavy one.
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# RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewDavid Ramsey 2012-01-22 16:12
Interesting design features in this case...when the front door is closed, where do the front fans get their air intake? It looks as if there might be some airflow in from the sides...
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# RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewDoug Dallam 2012-01-22 17:30
David,

That is correct, with the addition of the bottom of the bezel that has a pull hole too.
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# Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewPaleRider 2012-02-01 21:06
You say that we've "a market awash in full tower cases." Exactly how do you arrive at that conclusion?
I just searched NewEgg for "Computer Cases." No specified size. Just "Computer Cases."
NewEgg has 548 "Computer Cases" listed for sale. Looking over at the left side, where this entire section is broken down by numbers of different sized cases, ther are 87 "Full-Tower" cases listed. There are also 8 "Super-Tower" cases listed.
That 95 out of 548 cases that are larger than "Mid-Towers" and smaller cases.
How do you come to the conclusion that we're "awash in Full-Tower cases"?
Why are you reviewing them? There's no way I'd ever trust a single word you print about these larger cases.
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# RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewAcid Rain 2012-02-02 13:54
If 95 choices of what you put computer parts in isn't a market rich with choices, what is?
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# I still rememberBruce Bruce 2012-02-02 14:01
Does anyone remember when the ONLY cases you could buy were knock-offs of an IBM design? 95 different vendors - ONE design.
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# RE: RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer Case ReviewDoug Dallam 2012-02-02 14:15
I wssn't going to say anything because it sounds like a troll. But yeah, and not only that, it's around 100 on all sites, including Amazon, and each of those vendors continues to update their full tower offerings at a regular pace.
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# duhMergatroid 2012-02-02 21:18
95 out of 548 cases is "awash" in my books. Anything over 10 would qualify, which means we're pretty much "awash" in all case types. That's pretty true, there's a ton of all sorts of cases available. In fact, I'm surprised there's a big enough market to support them all.

I have to ask, why shouldn't he review them? I enjoy reading about all sorts of cases, and I'm sure others do too. Why should he not review them just because, for some reason, they don't make you happy?

Your message doesn't make any sense to me.
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# RE: duhDoug Dallam 2012-02-02 22:48
Thank Megatroid, but you know the rule: Don't feed the trolls.

LoLz
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# Computer Case ModderEnigma8750 2012-02-01 21:23
I love the Fractal Design case. As was said in the Review. The case is built like a Volvo. That means it is built to last. Also it is such a great clean Slate for Modder to Work with. Great Case. Awesome work FD.
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# RE: Fractal Design Define XL Computer CaseAthlonite 2012-02-02 16:01
I would have given it a nine out of ten as the top front panel USB and eSATA look #ty and poor positioning of the WC grommets right above the first slot covers oh yeah thats gonna be terrific when it comes time to upgrade that graphics card
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# Would like to see images...whynotv2 2012-02-16 03:42
...with components installed. It's a personal thing, but I prefer seeing a few images with the motherboard, hard drives, etc. installed. Images of the cables actually routed and an "opinion" as to how quiet the case actually is. Good images and physical details (weight of panels with scale, etc.).

Very nice case and has me actually thinking about replacing my Lian-Li case. Now, if this case only came in windowed... :)
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