Fractal Design Define R4 Review – Black Gold
This stunning Scandinavian case is put through its paces to find out if it can handle the server room as well as the office
Motherboards – ATX, Micro ATX and Mini ITX
Dimensions – 232 x 464 x 523mm
Weight – 12.3kg
Colours – Black, White, Grey
Expansion slots – 7x normal, 1x vetical
HDD slots – 8x standard, 2x SSD only
Fractal Design is well known for the quality and craftsmanship of its computer cases, with the previous Define R3 being a fantastic all-round box. The new Define R4 sounds like an overall update to the R3 on paper, with an extra built- in USB 3.0 slot, the ability to mount SSD cards behind the motherboard, and a few more surprises up its sleeve on top of that.
First of all, yet again the case is beautifully designed. The matt black of the Pearl Black case is stealthy and non- reflective, and the minimalist front panel is very efficient and in line with the rest of the case. This front panel includes the power switch and reset, both with a satisfying click so you know you’ve pressed it, two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, and audio ports for your headset and microphone. The extra USB 3.0 port is very useful, although the case does not come with a converter in case your motherboard does not have 3.0 compatibility.
The legs enable the Define R4 to stand slightly higher at the front, and the door to the front of the case is held in place magnetically so that there are no extra push clips or buttons required to open it. Both sides are held in place by two screws designed for hand tightening, which hold in the panels in firmly enough yet allow for a screwdriver to get them clamped in if necessary. The only issue we have with these screws is that they aren’t overall connected to the panels – a nice touch that we’ve seen in other cases so that you don’t lose them.
The insides belie the simplicity of the exterior with thick soundproof padding lining every side surface and myriad tidy cables to power the front panels and fans. Of particular note is the audio cable, which is pre-assembled and not like the fiddly pins of other cases. You can hide a lot of the cables away once the insides are mounted, thanks to space behind the motherboard – accessible via insulated holes in the case – and screw placements on this side allow the mounting of two SSDs. This space-saving feature can help you create a low- power system with maximum storage over eight HDD bays.
Design considerations don’t stop there – the top five HDD bays can be rotated 90 degrees, making extra room for some SATA cables, and easy front access to the bays if you remove the front fan slot altogether. This allows for quick changes and upgrades if you need to do this, especially in home or office server situations. The front fans being removable is part of another decision to allow easy cleaning of intake fans, with dust guards protecting the front fans and the PSU, both easily removable by sliding them out for cleaning. We particularly like these features in modern cases, especially with some of the weird and wonderful locations we find ourselves putting computers in these days.
Otherwise it allows for full ATX motherboards in the case, and includes six horizontal PCI slots for graphics, network and sound cards, depending on the application you have in mind. There’s even a vertical slot for USB-style expansion slots, allowing you to save a PCI slot for something more important while still adding a few extra I/O ports.
Frankly, we really like this case. While there are a couple of features elsewhere we’d like to see, generally it’s one of the most design-conscious cases we’ve ever used. With plenty of usage options from storage server all the way to gaming PC, the best part is that it easily fits all these roles without any sacrifices being made.
Nitpicking aside, this is one of the best cases we’ve come across in some time. It’s as useful as it is good-looking, with plenty of space and options to customise the interior and the way it holds components to cover most server and office or home PC roles.