A Design that Shines – A Fractal Design Define R5 Case Review

July 19, 2015 at 12:04 pm by

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Everyday people sign up here at Tech Support Forum looking for advice on their latest computer build, some even ask if it’s suitable to build their own.

Building a computer can be rejoicing and a fun activity for anybody and once the hardware has been selected, it comes down to finding a suitable computer case to build in.

As with most items, there are many different manufacturers for computer cases, all of which offer different styles and build quality. In most cases, you’ll want to invest in a Mid ATX tower as their size is perfect for underneath a desk and will accept mostly all ATX motherboards.

With a touted name for water-cooling optimized cases, Fractal Design is a long term case manufacturer who has focused on many of the important aspects of PC cases; low sound, lots of room and style. At the top of their list sits the highly praised Define R5 computer case. Using a matte black finish, metal shell, and more mounting points than most Mid ATX cases, could the Define R5 be your next computer case?

Welcome to my review of the Fractal Design Define R5 computer case. Throughout this review, I will discuss the following subjects: the design, functionality, and my final thoughts. I would like to thank Fractal Design for providing me with this case.

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The Design

When the Define R5 arrived one afternoon, its large external product box was intimidating and deceiving on the R5’s actual size. Inside the box you’ll discover two hard celled foam blocks that safely transported the R5.

Found on both the surface and interior of the R5 is Fractal’s matte black paint job that looks both stunning and thick. Moreover, inside the black metal shell are white accented hard drive bays, SSD trays, fans, and rear PCI covers.

Beginning towards the front, you’ll discover the reversible door that opens up to dual slotted 5.25” bays. Also found behind the plastic door is sound damping padding and a removal front fan filter that protects two front fans (one fan included).

On the top of the PC case is your front facing I/O that contains headphone/microphone jacks, reset and power switch, two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports. When the PC is powered on, the power button glows blue as well as a front facing light bar that will blink to indicate hard drive activity. Still on the top are three removal plastic plates that reveal new fan or water cooling radiator mounts.

The R5 comes in many different models and sent to me was a non-windowed version, therefore, along the sides of the case, you’ll find a whole lot of nothing with the expectation of the left side containing one fan mount. Both side panels feature the same sound damping padding that is on the front of the case.

To finish off the tour of the exterior, on the back is the secondary included fan, seven PCI slots and additional holes to allow for better air flow. Then below are four chromed feet and a full length dust filter.

When making your way inside the case, the panels come off with just two simple case screws and the left side panel uses a sliding latch that allows it to be removed.

As mentioned, the inside of the case contains the same matte black finish with white accented pieces to create a black/white theme. The front I/O cables are pre-wired and use mostly all black cables for a very clean look.

The R5 is Fractal’s premium case, therefore, it comes standard with multiple rubber cable grommets, and more than enough cable management tie down loops; more on this later. For water cooling enthusiasts, there is a massive amount of room for radiators, reservoirs, and tubing. For additional room, both hard drive bays as well as the optical drive bays can be removed with two simple thumb screws.

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Functionality

Fractal’s accessories box contains all of the necessary screws required, black zip ties as well as helpful manuals for installation. When it came to install a PC into the R5, I choose to use a Gigabyte Intel ATX motherboard, Noctua NH-C14s CPU cooler, GTX 560 Ti graphics card, a solid state drive, one hard drive, and a non-modular power supply to test the case with.

With the power supply installed first, cable management was the intention of this build. The right side panel contains about an inch to an inch and a half of room for cables to rest behind. Fractal provides three Velcro straps that are very handy when it comes to holding things down. Since I was using a non-modular power supply, it became a challenge to hide all the extra cables. I ran the cables where needed and those cables that were not needed were concealed below the hard drive bay to stay out of sight.

When it came to run the cables to their locations, the only cable that had trouble reaching its desired location was the CPU 4-pin connector. The rubber grommet is small and it can be challenging to get the cable pushed through and run correctly. Other than that, the rest of the cables had no trouble reaching their locations.

Before the motherboard was installed, I removed the larger hard drive bay to provide better air flow from the front mounted fan to the system, as air is pulled in from the front and pushed out the rear.

Mounting of the CD tray was a painless operation, but I also wished to install a 3.5” multi card reader, but unfortunately, the R5 lacks an appropriate slot. I decided to purchase one of these here which installed flawlessly and even matched the matte black finish.

The rest of the installation was quite straight forward and was similar to any other PC build. Before installation of the motherboard, required standoffs must be installed and then the Gigabyte motherboard rested firmly in place.

Fractal went with the rear located SSD trays that rest behind the motherboard. I used a Samsung Pro SSD and the cables did not have to be bent or stretched when being connected to the SSD.

I used the larger Noctua NH-C14s CPU cooler to put the case to the test. Behind the motherboard is a very large cutout for mounting the cooler and inside the case there is more than enough room for this type of cooler.

Finally, for air flow, I left the pre-installed fans in their locations as well as the pre-installed plastic fan covers located on the top of the case. The only additional fan I installed was a fan on the left side panel. When idling, the machine stays cool around the 30°C mark while gaming ramps the system up to 50°C. This EVGA card uses a small fan and before could be quite loud when under load. While in the R5, the sound damping padding makes the system extremely quiet, so much so, you nearly cannot tell if it is running.

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My Final Thoughts

All said and done, the Define R5 is a stylish and fully functional computer case that should suit all the needs of the average computer builder. With this nearly all-metal frame, the case stands tall underneath my desk, while the door hides away the front fans and CD tray. Fractal Design offers the Define R5 with three colors and windowed options for those interested, but I found the non-windowed version to be a very clean look and allowed for cables to lie in the open. Online retailers put the Define R5 for sale around the $99.99 mark and while it’s slightly more expensive than most cases, it’s certainly worth it for the customizability and style.

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