Today we got another computer case of the Swedish manufacturer Fractal Design. This model is part of the Define product range and has the full name Fractal Design Define C. Earlier we already got acquainted with the reduced copy of this case called Define Mini C, which was designed to install a motherboard no larger than microATX.
This model body is made in a characteristic for Fractal Design restrained style. Only the black version is provided, but the left side wall can be chosen from both plexiglass and metal with an additional layer of noise-absorbing material. We got the second option. Fractal Design Define C provides for the installation of ATX, microATX and Mini-ITX; up to 7 expansion cards with a length of less than 315 mm each and up to 5 disk drives: 2 full-size HDD and 3 more disk drives of a notebook format.
The case is supplied in a conventional cardboard box. On the side faces for more convenient transportation cutouts are provided. In addition to the case and cooling system components, the package includes instructions, a set of fixing screws and several disposable screeds. The instruction is made in the form of a compact booklet in which there are almost no words, only explanatory schematic drawings. With this booklet, it’s easy to perform the basic operations of assembling the case. But when it comes to rearranging the disc basket and disassembling the inner steel frame, I would like to see a more detailed and clear description.
Fractal Design Define – price. Where is the best place to buy?
The recommended retail price of the Fractal Design Define in the US is $ 129. At this cost, you can order it on Amazon. I would not recommend ordering anywhere else except on Amazon. Since you are less likely to find cheaper, and if you do not take into account the fact that Amazon is probably the most reliable online store, it still very often provides free shipping.
Fractal Design Define C has a completely traditional layout for Midi-Tower solutions in 2017. The power supply is located in the lower part of the case, next to it in the front part there is a basket for two full-size HDDs. Both these elements are covered with a steel casing, dividing the inner space into two volumes. It is necessary to recognize that for a case without a transparent side wall this solution is less useful, because no one else, except the assembler, will see the cables from the power supply and hard drives.
The entire upper front part is empty, so as not to interfere with the placement of long graphics cards and bulky liquid cooling systems, if you plan to install them in this case. An additional place for placing 2.5 “disks is a small steel plate on the back of the substrate under the motherboard. Manufacturers of computer cases are increasingly using such solutions, although the ease of use and quality cooling components are significantly inferior to conventional drive cage slides.
The Fractal Design Define C can be classified as Midi-Tower solutions. Its dimensions are 399 × 210 × 440 mm (H × W × H), and the weight without the power supply is 7.4 kg. The thickness of the steel used in the body is about 0.7 mm, almost all external elements are reinforced with a thick layer of a sound-absorbing material resembling a fabric. All this together makes the body sturdy and rigid.
The front decorative panel of the case is made of plastic, but the correctly chosen method of painting makes it as much as possible similar to steel or even aluminum – definitely a successful design solution. All ports and controls are removed to the front edge of the top wall, where they will be quite convenient to use both for desktop and for floor placement of PCs.
The available ports include two USB 3.0 ports spaced about 1 cm apart from each other, standard plugs for connecting the microphone and headphones, a small reset button, and a round start button with a blue backlight in the center. Both buttons have a deep stroke and are pressed with a nice mechanical click. The main Power LED is located directly below the button. Its moderately bright glow is noticeable both through a small slit in the front panel, and directly in the transparent stroke of the power button. However, the HDD LED is placed very close to the first LED. It also has a blue color, and as a result, its indication is almost impossible to see even in the absence of room lighting.
Both side walls in this version of the case are completely blank, without any ventilation holes and decorative elements. By default, the upper panel of the case is also blank, but most of its central part is occupied by a plastic insert with the same sound absorption material as on the side walls. If you want to install air coolers or a radiator of the water cooling system on the top wall, then this plug can be dismantled, underneath is a perforated area. To protect the formed “gaps” from getting dust in the supply set, there is a flexible filter in the magnetic frame – a very correct solution.
The rear wall is not very interesting – a traditional one-fan seat, perforation and white plugs for expansion slots. The body is mounted on round plastic feet with rubber inserts. Fractal Design Define C stands solid, doesn’t fall on its side and doesn’t slip on the floor.
In total, this case has seven seats for fans:
- 3 on the front wall supporting the installation of 3 120 mm fans or 2 fans at 140 mm
- 2 on the top wall, universal for 120/140 mm fans
- 1 on the back of the fan for a 120 mm fan
- 1 on the bottom wall below the basket for 120 mm fan drives
There are only 2 fans in the package with a size of 120 mm, they are installed on the front and back sides of the case. It should be noted that the places for the fans are not fixed clearly, they can be shifted by 3-5 cm vertically, in order to adjust to the features of the cooling system CPU and GPU. If you spend enough time and effort, then a fan size 120 or 140 mm can be installed directly in front of the basket for full-size HDD, which solves the problem with the potential heating of fast drives.
Also, everything is fine with the support of components for building liquid cooling systems. On the front wall, you can fix the radiator height up to 360 mm, together with a radiator up to 240 mm in length at the top wall. If necessary, you can install an additional 120 mm radiator on the rear wall.
With regard to protection from dust, the manufacturer has eliminated this task with all seriousness. To the front fans, air gets only through the slots on the ends of the decorative panel, but before it hits directly into the body it passes through a filter of a fine synthetic mesh. To remove and install this filter, you must first dismantle the front panel by grasping the cutout at the bottom of the case. The procedure is simple and fast, the risk of breaking the fasteners is minimal.
A similar filter is made on the bottom wall of the housing. It is enclosed in a plastic frame and leaves on the rails towards the front wall. It is not difficult to get into the guide rails, and the body does not need to be lifted or put on its side.
The filter for the top wall (which is installed optionally) is most conveniently removed and put in place thanks to the magnetic fringing. However, it is made of a sufficiently large plastic mesh, and therefore most of the small dust particles will leak through it into the case.
But in any case, the manufacturer has thought out the cooling system perfectly in this model. All the elements are made convenient for those who want to simply assemble the configuration in the “out of the box” version, and at the same time it is functional enough for those enthusiasts who want to do everything in their own way. The maximum height of the processor cooler in this case is 168 mm.
Assembling the system unit
Both side walls are fixed with two screws. The motherboard is installed on standard hollow hexahedrons, which you have to install yourself – the manufacturer somehow decided to stint on this.
Full-size hard drives are installed through a white steel slider in a double basket designed for them. The disk is attached to them using four screws using soft silicone shock absorbers, which help to slightly reduce the vibration transmitted to the case. The skids are fixed with a simple snap-in, the fixing reliability is quite high, but if you want it you can additionally strengthen it with a single screw under the Phillips screwdriver.
The main place for installing hard drives of a notebook format is a steel plate fixed on the back of the motherboard substrate. It is fixed on the case with the help of small grooves in the right part and one screw with a rolling head in the left (screw, also fixed). Each of the disks should be screwed to the plate with four screws under the crosshead screwdriver.
A little to torment all who want to install a front fan directly in front of the basket with 3.5 “disks. For this, it is necessary to disassemble the part of the steel wall separating the main and lower compartments, reduce the strength of the basket fastening with screws on the bottom wall, move it closer to the power supply and only then install the fan.
To install the power supply unit, first remove the steel frame from the rear wall of the housing. The power supply is screwed to this frame with four screws, inserted into the case, after which the frame is screwed back using two thumbscrews. To place unused or unnecessarily long cables there is a large enough stock in the bottom of the case just before the basket for 3.5 “drives.
All plugs for expansion cards are removable, fixed with 1 knurled screw. Ports USB 3.0 from the front panel are connected by a monolithic 20-pin pad. Audio connectors are also connected with a monolithic HDA connector without backward compatibility with AC’97. A set of wires for connecting buttons and indicators is presented in a traditional loose form.
The system of hidden laying of wires in Fractal Design Define C makes it possible to easily lay the main cables of the motherboard and graphics accelerator as secretly and accurately as possible. Also, there are no problems with the main HDD basket, the main thing is to not try to completely clog it with wires, because the heating discs definitely will not like it .
Significantly worse is the situation with the laying of supply cables to the plate with 2.5 “disks. To connect three drives at once, you will most likely have to use two “tails” with SATA connectors, because the manufacturers of power supplies usually produce their products with the expectation of placing disks in a “stack”, but not in the same plane, and even very close (or vice versa – far away) from each other. Unused SATA connectors from the lines connected to disks will begin to interfere with closing of the side wall, with proper perseverance and bad luck, they can even be broken.
Measurement of noise level
The noise level is measured using a sound level meter in a soundproof room with a standard noise level of 20 dBA. During the measurement, all electrical appliances in the room are disconnected.
To control the supply voltage of the fans, an autonomous controlled converter was used.
The performance of the cooling system of the case varies within not too wide limits depending on the supply voltage of the fans. Subjectively, this parameter allows to estimate the noise level, which is in the range from 20 to 33.5 dBA with the panels removed and the supply voltage from 5 to 12 V.
|Mode||Desktop placement||Floor layout|
|12V||30.5 dBA||23.5 dBA|
|5 V||19 dBA||18.6 dBA|
In the assembled casing, the noise level of the cooling system varies from 19 to 30.5 dBA when the microphone is located side by side. In a typical voltage regulation range of 7-11 V, the noise varies from a minimally noticeable (21.3 dBA) to a low (27.7 dBA) level relative to typical values for residential premises in the daytime.
With a larger distance from the user and placing it, for example, on the floor under the table, the noise can be characterized as minimally noticeable when the fans operate at minimum RPM, and when operating at maximum, it can be characterized as low for living in the daytime.
There are no special complaints about the quality of the fans. No knock, whistle or other annoying sounds were heard from the fans of this Fractal Design Define C instance.
The case showed a very low noise level, but the negative side of this advantage is the relatively low performance of the cooling system of the enclosure. This case in the “out of the box” option is not bad for not the most powerful components with relatively quiet cooling systems.
With the availability of the Define Mini C model, you can recommend the full-size Define C only if you require a 360 mm liquid cooling radiator or the use of an ATX system board (for example, you plan to use more than 4 slots for expansion cards ).
Otherwise, these models are very similar, and there is no particular reason to overpay for additional volume. The Define C casing, like most of Fractal Design products, is made in the most concise design, which will fit well into almost any home or office interior. The chassis of the body provides for the installation of almost any top components, which means that this model can be successfully used to create a gaming PC, a powerful workstation or a general purpose PC.
Of the controversial points, I can only highlight not the most successful organization of the storage system. If in a compact case the presence of only two seats for full-size HDD could be explained by the lack of free space, then using conventional ATX-components such a solution looks at least strange.
However, if the option from one drive or an already almost standard pair of SSD + HDD is enough for you (in some cases you can completely manage a disk in M.2 format, completely abandoning traditional solutions, then the chassis will most likely not disappoint and even please its neat appearance, effective cooling, dust protection and quiet operation.