REVIEW Fractal Design's Define R5 Titanium

Discussion in 'Overclocking & Hardware' started by headin2001, Jan 2, 2015.

  1. headin2001

    headin2001 Member

    Apr 17, 2007
    Sunshine Coast
    Hello OCAU Community.
    Today I am sharing a review of the new Fractal Design Define R5 Case.

    The case will be the basis for a refresh build to retire an aged Antec 900.
    This opportunity was provided by Lihan at Fractal, legend!

    To start off, some specifications from Fractal themselves.


    • ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
    • 7 expansion slots
    • 2 - 5.25" bays (removable)
    • 8 - 3.5" HDD positions (can also accommodate 2.5" units); 2 - 2.5" dedicated SSD unit positions
    • 4 - ModuVent™ plates - three in the top and one in the side
    • 9 - fan positions (2 Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 140mm fans included)
    • Filtered fan slots in the front and bottom
    • CPU coolers up to 180mm in height
    • ATX PSUs up to 190/170 mm with a bottom 120/140mm fan installed; when not using any bottom fan location longer PSUs up to 300mm can be used
    • Graphics cards up to 310 mm in length with the top HDD cage installed; with the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 440 mm in length may be installed
    • 20 - 35 mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
    • Velcro straps included for easy cable management
    • Front door can switch opening direction via dual mounting system
    • Left side panel features Quick Release System for easy access and provides a secure closure of side panel
    • Right side panel features smart captive thumbscrews so no thumbscrews are lost
    • Colours available: Black, Titanium (black case, titanium front panel), White
    • Case dimensions (WxHxD): 232 x 451 x 521mm
    • Case dimensions - with feet/screws/protrusions: 232 x 462 x 531mm
    • Net weight: 11.2 kg
    • Package dimensions (WxHxD): 327 x 615 x 540mm
    • Package weight: 12.8 kg

    Cooling system
    • Front: 2 – 120/140 mm fans (included is 1 Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
    • Rear: 1 – 120/140 mm fan (included is 1 Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fan, 1000 RPM speed)
    • Top: 3 - 120/140 mm fan (not included)
    • Bottom: 2 – 120/140 mm fan (not included)
    • Side: 1 – 120/140 mm fan (not included)
    • Fan controller: 3 step fan controller for up to 3 fans
    • Dust filters: Bottom and front intakes

    Water cooling compatibility
    • Front – 360, 280, 240, 140 and 120 mm radiators of all thicknesses (requires removal of drive bays)
    • Top – 420, 360, 280, 240, 140 and 120 mm radiators. (A thickness limitation of 55mm for both radiator + fan applies on 420, 280 and 140 mm radiators) (420 and 360 mm radiators require removal of the ODD bay)
    • Bottom – 120 or 240 mm radiator (Use of radiators in the bottom position limits the PSU length to 165 mm)
    • Rear – 120 or 140 mm radiator

    Front interface
    • 2 USB 3.0 + 2 USB 2.0
    • Audio in/out
    • Power button with LED (blue)
    • HDD activity LED (blue)
    • Reset button

    Package contents
    • Define R5 computer case
    • User manual
    • Accessory box


    As you can see, the case has a lot to offer, with every part showing some thorough thought.
    Now, for the Unboxing. (Obligatory cardboard photos)




    As you can see, it comes in a box. Most specifications and an exploded diagram tell the story. Grab handles are strong. According to the markings on the box, we have the Titanium Version for review today.

    Moving forward, upon opening the box, the accessories and manual are conveniently located at the top of the box. No fumbling through to find anything here. Sturdy Polystyrene blocks to each end and the case itself nicely wrapped in plastic to keep the new smell in. As this is the Titanium version, the front door also has a layer of film to keep it protected. Here she is!



    Not too bad from the front pose. How about the rear?


    Nice. First impressions are a solid feel, with little flex. Texture feels nice, not too smooth, and the white of the fans and slot covers bring what’s traditionally “just another black box” to life.

    Ok, once we remove the protective plastic from the door, we are impressed with the brushed metal appearance. Oooooh, shiny!


    The photos don’t do it justice here. The mix between the black of the main carcase, with the Brushed Stainless panel and the same On/Off button, topped off with some trick Stainless feet, all working together to give this case a good bit of wow factor. Top of the front bezel includes a large On/Off button, with LED, a smaller reset which you could never press unintendedly, the obligatory Microphone and Headphone jacks, two USB2.0 and two USB3.0 ports.


    Onto the top panel, we find 3 covers, which Fractal in their wisdom have named Moduvent™ fan slot covers. Nice touch, to give the owner the ability to cover any vents which aren’t necessary to prevent excess dust entry, or open right up for maximum cooling potential. These also have a layer of sound padding on the underside to keep noise transfer to a minimum.


    On the rear, there is a quick release lever to clip/unclip the side panels, as well as appropriately sized thumb screws for final fixing. I find this to be a nice feature, because, if you are anything like me, the side panel tends to come on and off a lot, so this would save undoing screws, finding the holes again to re-fix. Just a good feature.


    On the other side, just a standard blank panel. Although instead of normal thumb screws, Fractal have decided to install the fixed in place style. So, no more looking for where you put the screws when you remove the panel, it’s still on the panel. I am a little confused as to why it has only been included on the back side though. I would have liked it to be on both panels myself, but I guess with the inclusion of the quick release lever, they felt the inclusion of them unnecessary.

    Underneath, we find a dust filter which spans the length of the case. Has a sturdy clip to hold it in place, and slide nicely out the front for convenient cleaning, unlike a lot of other cases out there that only include a filter to the rear for the PSU which you need to pull your whole case out of position to remove and clean. Good addition Fractal.


    Inside the front panel, we find the air vents for the front fan, as well as clip in 5.25” drive bay covers, and clip in air filter covering room for 2 140mm fans (one supplied Fractal GP14 fan installed).


    The door itself has hinges which can be swapped so the door can swing either to the left or right to suit the users’ desk orientation. Just a matter of unscrewing the 2 clips on the hinge and moving to the other side. Also included to the door is more sound padding, Fractal really going all out to keep this case a quiet one. Also behind the door we find a 3 stage fans speed switch.


    That’s about it for outside. Really wish it was the windowed version, would really set off the case to be able to see inside as well. But for the noise conscious, the extra sound padding that has been included throughout the case is more valuable than what you won’t see if the case is installed under the desk.


    This is where the fun begins.

    Here she is, in all her glory.


    Everything is securely packaged from the factory, drive cages installed in the fixed position, cables tied in using Velcro straps (nice touch), all with the exemption the accessory box with a large assortment of screws and grommets all individually packaged for ease of sorting.

    At the top, we have two 5.25” drive bays. These are held in place with 4 screws for the top bracket, and a further 4 thumb screws to the sides. Very easily removed for the fitment of a 360 or 420 radiator for the top if you are that way inclined.


    The lower 8 HDD cages are split into 2, with 5 in the upper cage, and 3 in the lower. Completely modular in design, so you have the ability to just have the 3 cages, all 8, or 5 only, as well as being able to have them either bottom fixed to the case, or top fixed to the ODD with the lower part free. So many drive options.




    Unfortunately though, there is no tool-less option for the drive fitment. You need to install the included rubber grommets to the base of the tray, then screw to fix. I must say, Fractal needs to look at either Corsair or Thermaltake’s solution, so much easier without the need for screwdrivers, just click and install. A minor thing, but if you are putting more than one drive in, you’ll be cursing them (I was after one).

    Moving on, plenty of standoffs provided, with a fixed locating pin for the centre mainboard locating hole. There is a plastic tool provided for the fitment of the standoffs, again, being honest here, would have liked for it to be metal, as screwing in the standoffs was difficult to tell if they were secure enough without stripping the inside of the tool.

    Nice big hole in the rear of the cpu socket area. A nice inclusion, especially for the enthusiast that is constantly changing their coolers for maintenance, or for larger mounting brackets that protrude where the Tray sits. A thoughtful inclusion.


    Onto the top, we have the Moduvent™ fan slot covers. I found these quite difficult to remove at first. Had to grab a torch and get in for a good look for how the clips were orientated. It wasn't a simple case of give them a pull and they pop out, you really need to push the little tabs in the right direction and lever them out to avoid breaking the clips out. Just a heads up to the get in and pop it out people, they’ll never fit properly again after. As mentioned earlier, these have a layer of sound deadening material to keep noise to a minimum and are up to the user for whether they want to leave them installed or removed for air-flow. There is also an extra cover on the side panel for a GPU fan to be installed. Also best to remove before installing any of the pc components, as some of them are quite fiddly to reach if you have larger digits.



    On the back tray, there is no less than 5 cable management holes. 2 at the top for ATX power and pan header connection, 2 at the side of the motherboard area for HDD cabling and ATX power connection and another larger hole at the base for PSU cable routing. The rear of the tray has ample loops for cable clips/zip ties to keep it all tidy. There is approximately 20mm clear at the rear of the tray for cabling, plenty for most people to fit it all out of sight in a tidy manner.


    There is also two 2.5” tool-less SSD. Just one thumb screw to hold the try in, but again, missing a totally tool-less mount for the drives as you still need to fix the drives with 4 screws. Not a biggy, but enough to be an issue for me.


    On the base, there appears to be plenty of space for 2 fans to be positioned in front of the PSU with the Drive bays removed. A quick trial fit of a 240 radiator with the PSU on place shows there isn’t quite enough space to fit. Maybe with a little creative cabling, it could be possible, or with the fans positioned on the chassis with the radiator above may provide the clearance necessary. With the larger PSU available today though, there just wouldn’t be enough length available to fit.


    Water Cooling Options

    So, that’s a lot of the usual stuff out of the way. Now onto radiator fitment.

    Fractal have put a lot of thought into this aspect. With All-In-One coolers now becoming the norm in most builds, Fractal have made sure there is no shortage of radiator mount options.




    Inside the very in-depth manual Fractal provide with the case, we can see the multitude of options available. I only have a couple of different size Radiators available, so I will endeavor to show some placements.


    As in the previous section, we have an option for the 240mm radiator to the base of the chassis. Not really the most ideal due to the tight confines in length, but if a bottom to top/top to bottom flow is you cup of tea, it is achievable.





    The front allows for a 240/280 radiator to be mounted with the ODD Bay in place, or a 360mm Radiator with the ODD bay removed. The 240/280 mount would be the best option here, as fan mounts are already in place allowing for a push/pull setup with ease. The 360 would only allow a push/pull for the lower fans, and most likely pull only for the top fan. Also a con to the 360 is the fan filter to the front would only apply to the lower fans, leaving the top fan pulling dirty air through the radiator. Not a good choice. Plus side, Thick Rad, Thin Rad, it’s up to you here, only limit would be hard drive mounting or pump mounting.



    On to the top, with the Moduvent™ fan slot covers removed, we again have a few options. For thicker radiators, you can fit either a 240 or 360 radiator to any thickness you like, Ram heat spreaders and CPU Block height dependant of course. This is helped by an offset mount allowing the radiator to be mounted away from the motherboard.

    The other option is a thinner 280 or 420 Radiator, Fractal claiming a maximum height of radiator and fan to 55mm, pretty much limiting the radiator to a 30mm thickness. Still not a bad amount of cooling though. The 360 and 420 radiators need the ports positioned to the front of the case, so keep this in mind for any loop designs.

    Also, with the radiator connections to the rear, the rear fan will need to be removed in order to fit the fittings and hose.

    EX360 Radiator to top. Offset to allow you access cables and ram slot clips

    Picture through top to show clearance between the EX360 and G.Skill Pi and Trident Heatspreaders.

    Picture from underside to show clearance between the EX360 and G.Skill Pi and Trident Heatspreaders.

    EX360 showing rear Fittings clearance to Fan.

    Swiftech 240 Radiator mounted in top with DVD Drive in place.

    Case Build

    So, moving on to installing the hardware to the case. For this, I have moved all of the hardware from my wife’s (the beautiful women she is) pc to this. Her previous case being a rather now aged Antec 900. Great case for its day with incredible airflow potential.

    Parts included:
    Intel i7 2600k (oc’d to 4.4), Coolermaster 212x Cooler
    2x4gb Corsair Vengeance 1600C8 Ram
    Asus P8Z68-V Pro
    Corsair HX620 Modular PSU
    Samsung 120gb SSD
    Western Digital 250gb HDD
    Assorted Corsair, Fractal and Coolermaster Fans.
    Asus DVD-RW Drive
    HD6770 and HD6450 Graphics cards (don’t ask)

    A very simple system, with plenty of poke when needed. For the build, I found it incredibly easy to fit all parts needed. PSU was a simple fit, with the cable grommets in a very convenient location. Running the power cords behind the try was quite simple, and the Velcro ties made it all the more simple.


    Internally, we decided to remove all of the drive bays as they were not required. Instead opting to position the 250gb mechanical drive into the ODD bay under the DVD drive. I do have a small complaint about the drive bay clips though, as they do not seem to hold strongly the drive in position, and is also a bit off putting with the position the clips are left in. Not saying this is bad, as they do the job they are designed to do, they just seem a bit odd in their operation to me.

    Motherboard and IO Shield fit without a problem and interference and all cables supplied in the case were of adequate length to suit all round.
    Other than the usual fitment, everything went together without a hitch.



    Case Temperatures

    Lastly, I had a few concerns about the air flow of the case. Due to the small vents in the side of the door, coupled with the dust filters, I felt there would be some restriction on the internal flow.

    Due to this, I installed an extra 140mm fan to the front, as well as some other assorted 140mm fans, with 1 to the base as an intake, and 2 to the top of the case as exhaust to increase the flow in hope to match the old Antec 900 as this is only an Air Cooled System.

    So, temperature on the previous case, running Prime 95 and GPU-Z Render test as follows. Both were done during the middle of a 30 degree QLD day, within 1 hour of each other. So we can assume a 30 degree ambient. All done with 1.4v vcore @ 4.4 ghz.

    Define R5 – Standard Coolermaster fan to cooler. 3 x 140mm fan as intake (all fractal on highest speed setting), 3 x 140m as exhaust (standard PWM 60% profile)

    Antec 900 – 1 x 120mm Intake Antec Fan, Medium Setting, 1 x 120mm Rear Exhaust Antec Fan, Medium Setting, 1 Top 200mm Fan, Medium Setting.

    Antec 900 – Idle Temp
    CPU – 33-32-33-33
    GPU – 35/41

    Fractal R5 – Idle Temp
    CPU – 35-34-36-36
    GPU – 37/42

    Antec 900 – Load Temp
    CPU – 82-91-90-88
    GPU – 58/46

    Fractal R5 - Load Temp
    CPU – 89-97-97-93
    GPU – 64/53

    As you can see, the R5 is definitely not as air cooler friendly as the Antec 900 was. I have now played with the core voltages to drop it down to a more appropriate level, as thermal throttling had well and truly kicked in after the transplant.

    I have also taken the liberty to add an extra fan to the cooler so it is now push/pull to bring the temperatures back to a more acceptable level. Now maxing out at 90°c like it was in the old Antec 900.

    Final Thoughts

    Well, I love it. From the clean contemporary lines, to the incredible water cooling support. It’s a pearler!

    On opening the box, I could tell from the first touch it is a case of quality. Everything just felt strong, and it oozed quality. If it weren’t for the fact I have my Corsair 750D just the way I wanted it now, I’d be in a battle for the case with my wife.

    The watercooling options are aplenty, with room for all the radiators you could need in a compact system. Some position are a bit tight, and could use an extra 5mm for good measure, but overall, you couldn’t ask for more in this size.

    Cable management is excellent. So much room in the back, and the ties and positions make it simple to have all the cables neatly tucked out of view.

    Filters everywhere, what quality case these days can go without them. Sure, you can grab a set of DEMCi filters if you are paranoid, but the filters in this are so easily accessible, and very fine to catch the dust. The only fault for this case is where the 5.25” bays are, as the filter only covers the air intakes. So, if you have too little case pressure, this is surely a place to check for dust to enter and gather.

    I would have loved for it to have a window, but this is an option. For those that have a noise fetish, this might not be the right option for you, as you lose all that deadening material on the inside of the panel, but it is such a clean looking case on the inside, and with a nice water cooling loop inside, who wouldn’t want to see it.

    Water cooling is where this case is at. My tests have shown with air cooling on this i7, that it really isn’t suited to higher heat applications. At the end of the day, the front door/grills do restrict a lot of flow, so air cooled cpu’s and gpu’s will suffer from the lack of cool air. If there was an option for an alternative door with vents in it, than this case would be perfect. With say a 240 radiator in the front, and a 360 radiator in the top, this would be a non-issue. Alternatively, for use as a standard file server with less cpu/gpu heat and the fans to the front cooling the drives, it’s perfect, quiet and cool enough with plenty of drive mounting options.

    Sound Deadening Material
    Near Silent in standard form
    Extensive Radiator Support
    Quality Construction
    Removable ODD bay

    Clips for the Moduvent’s, too tight/hard to remove
    Not quite enough space for a 240 radiator in the base
    Airflow constricted at the front
    PSU fan is slightly covered by the chassis

    For me, this is a 9 out of 10. Few failings let it down from a 10/10, but this is probably my closest yet.

    Feel free to leave questions/comments below. Thanks again Lihan, a terrific case.
  2. broccoli

    broccoli Member

    Feb 21, 2010
    Thanks for the detail and the good pictures. :thumbup:
  3. adamsleath

    adamsleath Member

    Oct 17, 2006
    Sunnybank Q4109
    Yeah great pics
    Love this case flexibility
  4. OP

    headin2001 Member

    Apr 17, 2007
    Sunshine Coast
    Thanks guys. It is a very flexible case. Would love to put a loop in it sometime.
  5. robbo2

    robbo2 Member

    Jun 28, 2009
    Best review yet :thumbup:
  6. gazza30

    gazza30 Member

    Aug 28, 2009
    Good job mate nice and sleek looking case :thumbup:
  7. BigDave

    BigDave Member

    Nov 12, 2007
    + 1 for the Water Cooling component :thumbup:

    Still sticking with my CM690II :lol:

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