In and Around the Fractal Design Define XL R2

If you're familiar with Fractal Design's aesthetic for the Define series, the Define XL R2 isn't going to bring any surprises. Fractal Design continues to offer their cases in black and gunmetal finishes, and I continue to be pleased with the gunmetal; it's a gray that doesn't clash with computer hardware, but keeps the box from looking too bland. We're really in an age where we've replaced the beige box with the black box.

The front of the XL R2 features a padded door which opens to the left and conceals four 5.25" drive bays with ventilated snap-in/snap-out shields. The entire front fascia is ventilated on the sides just like the other Define cases, allowing plenty of cool air to enter the case without letting noise escape. Next to the drive bays is a three-step switch for the fan controller; you can run fans connected to the controller at 5V, 7V, and 12V. Below the bays are two intake fan mounts; Fractal Design includes a 140mm fan in one, but you have to add your own fan to the second. These fans are hidden behind a fan filter and are easily removed and replaced.

When we move to the top of the XL R2, we find the power button and reset button along with the I/O all placed on the front edge of the case. The remainder of the external shell of the XL R2 is flat, matte black, though there are 120mm/140mm fan mounts on the top and side of the case (two on the top, one on the side panel). In true Fractal Design fashion, these mounts are blocked off with removable acoustic padding.

Someone at Fractal Design must have been paying attention to my recent complaining (I'd like to think they were though it probably isn't true), because the side panels are hinged instead of notched. Per usual, two thumbscrews hold them into place, but they're very easy to put on and take off.

The interior of the Define XL R2 is nothing new; this is very much just a larger Define R4. The two drive cages are both modular, and can be removed or rotated to suit your airflow needs. Alternatively, you can mount a single cage where the bottom intake fan is and install a radiator in the front of the enclosure. Fractal Design continues to employ their tried and true white steel drive sleds, and I'm not complaining. I've seen enough vendors nail every other part of the design and then screw these up fantastically that I appreciate when someone has them down about as good as they'll get.

The remainder of the XL R2's interior isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still a hair behind the times. We do get a 140mm intake fan on the bottom of the case and the case itself stands up high enough that only the shaggiest of carpet will block it off, and Fractal Design actually includes additional clearance above the motherboard tray expressly for mounting 240mm/280mm slim radiators. Where they fall behind is the lack of an extruded channel around the tray for cable management (as well as helping the case slim down a touch) and no preinstalled motherboard standoffs or alignment studs.

It's tough to complain too much, though. This is effectively the same ATX interior cooling design Nanoxia and everyone else enjoys, it's just bigger. I do think it's unusual that Fractal Design opted to go for a bottom intake instead of using that third fan in the open front mount, but "unusual" doesn't necessarily mean "bad." As I mentioned, the XL R2 does actually stand far enough off of the ground to make this intake a useful one. A bottom intake's noise can be easily muffled by its direction and proximity to the ground.

Introducing the Fractal Design Define XL R2 Assembling the Fractal Design Define XL R2
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I'm working on putting together an SLI configuration for this testbed, but you guys really don't understand just how small an organization AT is. It's not like I can snap my fingers and just make hardware magically appear, and I handle a *lot* of reviews.

    Could I get a trio of GTX 285s? Probably. But then people would complain that I'm using outdated hardware, or that the cards being scrunched together doesn't somehow demonstrate how the case might handle cards that are properly separated by a slot or two slots.

    Of course I could just be frustrated because I've spent two nights now trying to get the testbed motherboard to actually recognize two cards in SLI with no success, trying to somehow appease an audience that is oftentimes unhappy no matter what I do, or will make irrational requests without thinking about whether or not there's any practical difference in what they ask for.
  • haplo602 - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    I don't think you are getting the point. We don't need FPS benchmarks on a working setup. We need accoustic,thermal and space/build checked.

    So you don't need tripple SLI o what not. Just scrape in 3 cards and load all of them (bitcoin comes to mind). You can even make bitcoin run on the cpu, so you have a realy HOT setup in the case. You need to generat head and fan noise, not pretty FPS numbers.

    Get ANY large mobo that will fit (you can get old dual opteron setups for peanuts on ebay) and mount it. Are there cable routing problems when the case is fully packed ? This kind of thing is critical for a big case. An mATX board will not help checking this out.
  • SVoyager - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - link

    ^ This!

    Dustin, the review you did was great and even after seeing the picture of the case with your board mounted (a bit of a facepalm there when I saw it), most of the data of the review was quite useful.

    Still, in the quest of making things better, what haplo602 said above is spot on. Full towers are meant to be filled with things. Say, if I get both the drive cages full of drives, does this case fare better than another one with similar setups. Will the drive noise leak out from the front or will the door dampen the noise enough? Will the cage design affect airflow in a way to make things more efficient or will the air be blocked so much that the whole system temps take a huge hit? Will fully populated drive cages create cable management issues? etc.

    Keep up the good work, no need to be frustrated on this, the review is nice and the suggestions here can only make future reviews even better!

    Now fill that tower up! :-)

  • Hrel - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - link

    You lose the ability to guage how well it fits. How much room there is to work with, from the pictures. How well do the cables reach. So on and so forth.
  • Hrel - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Probably gonna be my next case. Unless they can pull off a smaller one (mid tower) with the same acoustics, or better. Sexy as fuck, this is how a case should look. Fractal Design doing it right.

    Curious though, why do you make such a big deal about fan controllers? Do you never buy fans that automatically adjust their speed based on temp? Antec has some really good ones. I highly recommend them. Makes a dedicated fan controller silly and pointless.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    1. Buying fans that would automatically adjust their speed based on temperature would mean having to replace what comes with the case.

    2. I personally prefer a constant, low volume to fans ramping up and down depending on load.
  • Hrel - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    But... if you're just going to keep them at the lowest possible speed, or medium or whatever, then why so you need a fan controller? The fans in most cases never change speed, they just run. Scythe has some very nice low RPM high CFM fans for cases. That's what I normally use as intake fans. I prefer to buy cases with as few fans as possible already in them though; then put in what I want. I guess in this price range you expect to not have to do that. Based on your acoustic testing though I'd say the fans in this are well balanced.
  • kmmatney - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I prefer just buying cheap fans, and inserting a resistor cable. I recently bought a set of 5 resistor cables for something like $4 shipped to my door. Then I can buy any cheap $3 fan, and make it silent. I have a large Antec P182 case, and it's completely silent with an overclocked i3570K and HD6800.

    Every time a see these reviews I think about upgrading, but I really can't complain about my existing case - it's big and silent. That's the nioce thing about a case - it can last a long time, through several upgrades. I'm on my 4th motherboard since I bought my case.
  • NeoReaper - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    is it me or this just an old antec p180? how is this different?
  • The0ne - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    It is extremely similar. I've built so many with the P180's for others that it came to mind immediately just looking at the front :) I wouldn't be surprise if the design was just slightly changed from the P180. Love the P180 and thus this performs and functions identical. In fact, my nephews' P180s are so quiet sometimes they turn off the computer thinking it was off hahaha

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