FRACTAL DESIGN DEFINE R5 – Test and Review

In a world where performance is always a must, sometimes there is a price to be paid – noise. What is the purpose of this Define R5 case? Fractal Design try to improve the cases they produce and keep them simple, elegant and a performance/noise output ratio that many companies struggle to keep up with.

Scandinavian design. This is the best explanation that comes to my mind when I think of a Fractal Design case. What I like about all of their cases is the simplicity of their design, yet they don’t really compromise much on features and performance.

Today I’m going to test and review their latest addition to the Define series – Define R5 Black. Let’s get it going…

The case was sent to me in the standard packaging that you’d find in the store – recycled paper box with black text all around. Being a medium tower the box, it is not much on the light side, there is definitely some heft to it. The physical dimensions of the package are: (W x H x D): 327 x 615 x 540mm and 12.8 kg.

One of the sides was printed with a silhouette of the chassis at an angle, other one with an interior shot. The other, smaller sides contained the very important technical specifications. At first sight there was no damage to the box itself, so hopefully the case shares the same faith. All in all, there is absolutely nothing fancy about the box itself, it is plain and simple, containing the most relevant information one might need.

After a couple of minutes of looking around the box to check out the technical details written all over it was about time I opened it.

Define R5 box Other side of the box
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Cutting the duct tape is always my favorite part, along with the smell of a newly opened box…and inside was a case that I’ve wanted to review for many months before actually getting a chance to do it. On top of that there was not enough spare time to do the review properly, but that time has finally come. Beneath the carton shell there was the almost standard nylon cover all over the case as well as (in this case) hard styrofoam that is thick enough to protect the chassis during its delivery.

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Yep, the foam was quite thick and there was no damage to the case done whatsoever, always a good thing to see a review unit that arrived intact. In the box there was a small transparent nylon bag that contained User Guide for the Define R5 and a brochure with some of the company’s cases that need showing. Handy additions to the whole package as not everyone buying a Fractal Design case might be fully familiar with their work and products.

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After removing all of the protective materials I spent several minutes just observing the exterior of the case and took some photos to share them with you all.

 

FRACTAL DESIGN DEFINE R5 EXTERIOR

I’ve got to say that the case is really, really clean looking, but let’s take a closer look at the photos so you can see for yourselves and evaluate the case without my opinion affecting your judgement.

Define R5 front
Define R5 left side panel
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It’s a squarish case I have to say, maybe, just maybe it might look like previous Fractal Design cases. No, it definitely looks like previous cases from the company, but hey, that’s how they do it and I believe this design language has served well as this is still one of the leading companies when speaking of chassis manufacturing.

Without further ado, let’s continue with the case’s dimensions and they are: (WxHxD): 232 x 451 x 521mm. Yet again, it is more on the short side with increased width to provide better support for cable management and water cooling. As I’ve already mentioned, the exterior is quite flat, sleek and simple looking. On the side of the front panel there are grills that serve the purpose of letting air into the front fans and also the closed front panel is responsible for lower noise output by covering the front fans.

Define R5 rear
Right side panel
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Going to the rear of the case there are many punctured holes for ventilation and the right side panel is flat, no extrusions are added to both side panels, thus the flatness of the case. More or less case manufacturers nowadays put extruded panels on their cases as it increases the space inside and may add up to the overall looks of the case. All of the PCI-e slots are painted in white, like most Fractal Design cases as this is part of their black/white contrasty interior schemes. The slots are 7, with punctured holes so some air can pass through, nothing out of the ordinary here.

Define R5 bottom
Define R5 top
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The case sits slightly elevated on chrome-like feet that include very grippy rubber so it doesn’t move around at all. Also, they look beautiful and give the case a more luxurious finish overall. What we can see from this view is a dust filter that goes from the front all the way to the rear bottom. The top side of Define R5 looks like it is modular and you’re partially right. But more on that later in the review.

On the top you’ll find a centered, large power button (very tactile), two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0 ports, HD audio jacks and a reset button, which is not-so-easy to press.

Side panel latch
Left panel removed
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Securing the left panel into place are two thumbscrews and a latch, quite a handy latch. Of course, the panel could be closed only with the latch, providing ease of use if you move components often. It feels very sturdy and rigid, although it is not the most complicated design in the world, sometimes keeping it simple and efficient is the way to go.

 

Fractal Design Define R5 INTERIOR

By removing the side panel the interior was revealed to me and a small white box, attached to one of the HDD rails. Of course, I immediately checked the content and found out that all of the included screws, bolts and tools are black. White is the color of the small tool used to install into place the stand off for the motherboard. Several non-reusable zip ties were present, more than enough for 1 build.

The small white box
Included accessories
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Define R5 features a sound dampening material, applied to certain areas. All of the inner part of the left side panel is covered in this hard, black textured sound dampening material. As there is space for a fan to be mounted, it is also covered in this material. In terms of quality I can say that I would definitely prefer this hard material, rather than a soft foam, usually used to absorb the generated noise. It gives more weight to the chassis, but it doesn’t get damaged so easily. Right side panel is also provided with the sound absorbing material.

The interior layout is also entirely black painted, exceptions are the PCI slots, HDD rails and the fan propeller, which are all white and contrast with the rest of the case paint.

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In order to fully check the case out I will disassemble it to the very chassis, trying to remove all parts and later putting them back together. That way a good idea of the whole construction of the case is presented to all of the readers, as well as explanation to each and every removed part. Build quality is important to us, as consumers and reviewers.

In previous test samples I have witnessed very solid build quality from Fractal Design, so I hope this time the legacy is properly continued and even improved.

Define R5 bare chassis
All parts removed
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The case was actually quite easy to “dismember” and didn’t take much time either. Now that I have a closer look at the internals I will explain my impressions. Very solid build, solid paint job as well. It is clearly visible that the huge CPU cutout is very useful, due to the size, but sometimes such large openings can cause the case to be unstable or have issues when both side panels are removed as there is lack of “material” keeping the construction nice and sturdy. In Define R5’s case there is no such thing and the case remained really solid, even with all parts removed.

Define R5 front
Define R5 bottom
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With all parts removed one could easily see how much space there is inside this case. Although I don’t have any radiators just laying around, it’s quite easy to see or imagine where quite a few water cooling radiators might fit into, due to the spacious interior of the case.

One thing I noticed while removing some parts was the top mesh grill’s flexibility. I wouldn’t say it’s neglected in terms of quality, but rather its design is responsible for that. I’ve got to say that overall the internal design and execution of this case are quite good.

Now that I’ve removed all parts, it’s time to arrange them for a photo:

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So, after stripping the case down I had to get it back up and running as I get closer to the testing part of this article. Now I will be explaining in detail how the parts are held to each other and pictures will be posted here as well. Here is a list of all the parts that I was able to remove from the case:

  • Fractal Design Define R5 chassis
  • Right side panel
  • Left side panel
  • Moduvent cover
  • Front dust filter
  • Bottom dust filter
  • Front door
  • Front panel
  • Top Moduvents
  • 2 x 140mm Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fans
  • 1 x ODD bay
  • 2 HDD cages
  • 2 SSD hidden bays

It was about time I assembled the case back together and proceeded further. First thing that went into place and I was really keen on checking out were the HDD cages along with the ODD bay that can mount up to two 5.25″ drives.

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Furthermore, modification to both HDD cages is possible, so water cooling is positively affected by those re-locations. A total of 8 x 3.5″ drives can be mounted (backwards compatible with 2.5″ drives) and there are also 2 SSD bays, hidden behind the motherboard tray. Typical for Fractal Design, all of the drive mounts are painted in glossy white paint. The ones compatible with both 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives are able to be equipped with rubber mounts, included in the accessories package, so less vibrations are passed onto the metal case. All of that is made for the sake of silence.

As I mentioned the HDD cage is modular, thus several positions are available in the case where they can be mounted. Below I will describe them, along with their respective benefits or drawbacks, if any.

One cage mounted only
Both cages on bottom
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This is the time to say that all cages, including the ODD bay are held by thumbscrews, as well as standard screws (used for the bottom HDD cage installation to the bottom part of the chassis).

One of the options is to mount only one of the cages, containing 5 drive bays, which are totally enough for most modern builds. This will allow for less restriction of the front fans (if two fan configuration is used) and as this option doesn’t require the ODD bay to be mounted, room for larger than 240mm radiator is opened at the top panel.

The second version of the HDD cages installation is for both of them to be mounted on the bottom of the chassis, utilizing all of the drive bays, but that will leave less room for PSU. Usually, if no fan is installed in the bottom the PSU can be up to 300mm long. If a bottom fan is mounted, the PSU length allowed is 190/170mm, depending on the fan mounted (120mm/140mm).

The third option will be to leave only the smaller cage (with 3 drive bays) mounted on the bottom for thicker water cooling radiator or push/pull configuration in the front panel.

Top cage + bottom cage
Cages mounted on the top
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Another option is to use both cages mounted on the top side of the chassis, allowing for a water cooling radiator on the bottom to be installed, or one cage at the bottom and one at the top so less airflow is restricted from the front fan. Of course, in order to make some of the changes the plastic feet of the drive cage need to be removed, which is quite a simple operation if a screwdriver is used.

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Yet another option comes to mind and it is to rotate the drive cage in a way that it will not be blocking some of the airflow arriving from the fans at the front. The drawback here is the position of the HDD/SSD connections (power and SATA) as they are not optimal, but still it is good to have many options to play around with the HDD cages. Overall it is one of the main features of this case and an excellent feature it is. Being able to move around and modify the internal layout of the case is a nice thing, allowing for various configurations and mods. All in all, great job from Fractal Design on this one.

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Moving forward with the case assembly I checked the back of the case, or the motherboard tray so to say. Behind it there is plenty of space (20 – 35 mm) for cable management and here are the two hidden SSD bays in Define R5. Held by thumbscrews to the chassis, they are well positioned so less space is used in the HDD cage or if there is only SSD available in the system, the HDD cages become obsolete and more space for cooling configurations is utilized.

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Next step in the “put all parts back together” story were the fans included with the case straight out of the factory. Here we have a decent setup with two included fans, both 140mm, featuring frame size of 140 x 140 x 25mm and maximum RPM of 1000. Bearing used is Hydraulic and airflow generated is 68.4 CFM. The fans remain silent at 18.9 dbA when operating at maximum voltage of 12V. Seven blade propeller is present, featuring notches for improved performance and Fractal Design claimed that the design is inspired from aviation.

Two 140mm Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fans
Fan propeller
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One fan is positioned at the front as an intake and the other one serves as an exhaust for the hot air at the rear. Installing them is pretty straightforward, just like any other fan installation in a case. Define R5 is optimized both for air cooling and water cooling as well. The rear fan can be adjusted in height so the user can fight restriction if a top radiator is mounted and interference is present.
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This chassis can actually accommodate a total of 9 fans, 120mm or 140mm which is impressive by all means, considering the form factor and the dimensions of the case. Because of that Fractal Design included a dedicated fan controller (three step) with a switch at the front panel. Sad thing is that only 3 fans are supported by it.

Here is the list of all possible fan positions.

  • Front: 2 x 120/140 mm fans (included)
  • Rear: 1 x 120/140 mm fan (included)
  • Top: 3 x 120/140 mm fan (not included)
  • Bottom: 2 x 120/140 mm fan (not included)
  • Side: 1 x 120/140 mm fan (not included)

Where the case stands out is the water cooling part and the radiator support. It is really the part where the men are separated from the boys and Define R5 really shines here. Keep in mind that you may not be able to achieve some of the configurations and if you stumble upon any problems, here is a chart that explains how and what can be mounted properly and in what order:

Define R5: Radiator Compatibility Chart

Below is a more common explanation of the supported water cooling radiators and possible setups:

  • 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

Continuing onwards with the case assembly I mounted the front panel, containing the I/O ports, as well as the I/O cables and some other parts of the case. Cables go through a small opening in the right corner of the case and are strapped behind the motherboard tray. Front panel is made of plastic and snaps into place with no hassle whatsoever.

Attached to it is the door, utilizing a nice brushed aluminum design, but is also made of plastic. The door can be mounted on the left or right hinges, depending on your preference. Process is done by undoing several screws and moving the hinges to the other side – pretty easy job.

Front door + panel
I/O cables
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Of course with all of that cooling, dust may be a problem so the case features two large dust filters that I can admit are high quality ones. The front filter has the Fractal Design logo on it and grill design. Removing it is a bit difficult as the clip that holds it into place is made of thick plastic and is hard to press.

The bottom filter is a large one, easily accessible from the front and it goes all the way to the back of the case, right under the PSU. Good thinking there.

Dust filters
5.25″ bays and fan controller switch
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One of the last things to put back into place were the side panels. The left one contains another fan slot, however it was covered with a sound isolated piece of plastic called Moduvent. Moduvent is the name given to those plastic parts that cover the side panel fan position and the entire top panel. Their main job is to isolate the noise and serve as modules that can be removed if you plan to use a larger radiator or more fans, for example.

A total of four covers are present in the case, one on the side panel and three at the top. On the inner side they have soft sound dampening material and an engraved inscription Moduvent.

Side Moduvent
Top Moduvents
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Well that pretty much wraps things up for the case examination, now comes the time where I install my test system inside it and run all the tests so we may have a better idea of how the chassis performs both in terms of noise isolation and cooling.

 

Fractal Design Define R5 TESTS

For the testing I will use an Intel based system with Z97 chipset motherboard.

Intel Z97 Test system

  • CPU: Intel i5-4670K
  1. At standard frequency 3.400 MHz (Voltage set to Auto when not OC-ing)
  2. At low overclock frequency of 3.900 MHz  (at 1.24V)
  3. At medium overclock frequency of 4.300 MHz (at 1.25V)
  • Motherboard: ASUS Maximus VII HERO Z97
  • Video card: MSI AMD R9 280X GAMING 3G
  • Memory: A-Data XPG 8 GB Dual channel, 1600 MHz
  • Solid State Drive: Intel 530 Series, 120 GB
  • Hard drive: Western Digital 640 GB Black Series
  • Case: Fractal Design Define R5
  • Power supply:  Corsair RM750 W
  • Cooler: NZXT Kraken X41
  • Thermal paste: Noctua NT-H1

The test was conducted in a closed system with:

  • 1 x 140mm Fractal Desing fan, rotating at maximum RPM of 1000 at 12 volts, serving as an intake.
  • 1 x 140mm Fractal Desing fan, rotating at maximum RPM of 1000 at 12 volts, serving as an exhaust.
  • Room temperature of about 28~29 degrees Celsius. (Quite a hot day today!)

And here I want to describe my testing method.

I will install my test rig inside the case and do CPU and VGA stress tests using AIDA64 and Prime95 stability test for about 10 minutes with these settings:

  • CPU: Intel i5-4670K – running at stock voltage and frequency.
  • MSI AMD R9 280X GAMING 3G – running at stock voltage and auto speed control of the fans.

For the CPU load I will be using Prime95 with custom settings of minimum FFT size (in K of 128), max FFT size (in K of 128) and Run FFTs in place at standard frequency of 3.400 MHz on the CPU, at low overclock of 3.900 MHz and at medium overclock frequency of 4.300 MHz.

Of course, before going any further I had to assemble my system in the case. I have to say that for the most part the process was quite easy and straightforward. The only issue I had was to get the 8-pin CPU power cable through the small hole (which is equipped with a nice rubber grommet), good thing was that the power connected could be split in half for easier routing. All the way through I had no issues installing components in the case. While building inside it I was able to closely observe the process and really Fractal Design did an excellent job optimizing the case for water cooling radiators with all the small, but handy features.

The white HDD cages are not equipped with rubber stand offs out of the box, you will need to manually install them and there are 2 positions, depending on whether you like the HDD being closer to the right side panel or sticking out a bit more of the cage for clearance. Right side panel closed with ease due to the well-thought-out cable management space behind the motherboard tray.

HDD installation
Quite a solid fit
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With the included Velcro straps the process of managing all the cables is made easier and the final build is neat and tidy. Enough space is left for the SSD Sata and Power connections to go without connectors bending. No zip-ties were harmed during the build process.

Useful information about the tech guys who plan to measure everything before putting it inside the case:

  • GPU Clearance With HDD Cage: 310mm
  • GPU Clearance Without HDD Cage: 440mm
  • CPU Cooler: 180mm
  • Cable Management: Lowest Point – 20mm ; Highest Point – 35mm

Here is the end result with the build and what an assembled PC looks like in Fractal Design Define R5:

Cable management
Finished build
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Here are the results from the stress tests I conducted:

Define R5 @ 3.4 GHz, Idle
Define R5 @ 3.4 GHz, Load
R5 Idle R5 3.4 GHz Load

 

And after overclocking the CPU:

Define R5 @ 3.9 GHz, Load
Define R5 @ 4.3 GHz, Load
R5 3.9 GHz Load R5 4.3 GHz Load

 

Fractal Design define r5 CONCLUSIONS

After I spent several hours disassembling, assembling, reviewing and later testing the case, I believe it is time to express my thoughts on the product.

1. Define R5 performance – Build quality is solid, the chassis is properly designed and there were no flaws with the case whatsoever. Building the system inside Define R5 was a pleasure and what a neat job it was in the end! Temperatures are high, yes, but keep in mind that here in DVTests we don’t present delta temperatures or offsets from the room temperature at the moment of testing…at least for now. Room temperatures were quite high, so are the hardware temperatures.

I used the factory positions of both fans and installed NZXT Kraken X41 in the top position, where both Moduvents had to be removed due to restriction issues of the radiator and matching mounting holes with the Moduvents.

2. Define R5 appearance – Clean Scandinavian design. Brushed front panel looks and squarish shape make the case look outstanding. Windowed version will put your hardware on display so you can admire it from first sight. Power light and HDD activity light will not blind you, which is quite a feat. Many cases lack even properly placed LEDs.

2. Define R5 noise level – Behold the silence Define R5 provides. Two 140mm fans, one 140mm AIO CPU water cooler and I had a hard time realizing my system was turned on. The sound dampening materials used are one of the best I’ve seen in a case and they do a perfect job. Outstanding performance.

What an excellent job you have done, Fractal Design!

I believe Fractal Design Define R5 deserves the following reward:

Best-Visual-silence

Official price (MSRP): Fractal Design Define R5 $109.99 ($119.99 with window)

Warranty: 24 months

Special thanks to Fractal Design for providing us with a test sample.

Kelvin_500x100_RU

FRACTAL DESIGN DEFINE R5 – Test and Review
9.1 Total Score
Outstanding noise dampening, combined with good cooling out of the box. Water cooling is a must in this excellent case!

Design
10
Build Quality
10
Performance
10
Noise dampening
10
User Rating: 4.09 (5 votes)

Nikola Milanov is reviewer and newsman at DVTests and has more than 6 years of experience in telecommunications. I'm really enthusiastic about the website and its development by sharing a user's point of view and experience with the products we test. We are honest and objective in all of the articles, the products get tested and reviewed thoroughly with no exception! Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section or use the emails in About us page!
6 Comments
  1. Reply Pepi X 23.07.2015 at 10:52

    I loved the noise level conclusion you made.. sounds like a terrific case for everyone with no (or just mild) over-clocking intentions..

    • Reply Nikola Milanov 23.07.2015 at 19:57

      Even with not that mild OC intentions if proper cooling is set up in this chassis it will be a really silent beast of a machine, hands down. And yes, the noise dampening is actually working and doing the job it is intended to do. Loved the case!

  2. Reply Dimcho 23.07.2015 at 10:52

    FD never disappoints. I enjoy an older one – Define R2 and it sure is awesome (like this upgraded version) – silent fans, so much space, cable management and so on.

    • Reply Nikola Milanov 23.07.2015 at 11:27

      Definitely FD rarely makes mistakes. Although the cases might look similar they’re always listening to the feedback and improve them accordingly.

  3. Reply RenlarZ 23.07.2015 at 10:50

    Man, wish it had a stock side panel window, the case itself is godlike.

    • Reply Nikola Milanov 23.07.2015 at 11:29

      Yep, there is a version with a side panel window, which looks awesome!

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