Fractal Design Define R5 Case

For many people who build their own PCs, the choice of casing is an important consideration. It’s not just a case. You may have seen those really fanciful gamer PC casings. Those aren’t for me. I like something completely functional, useable, and easily manageable, while yet exuding a simple, nondescript, and pleasant design. Meet the Fractal Design Define R5.

For comparison, my last choice of PC case was the Cooler Master Silencio 550. I was so pleased with it I had to mention it a second time. There was just one problem with it. The SATA cables coming out from the hard disk drives are rather crammed against the side panels of the case. More space would be nice. The Fractal Design Define R5 has plenty more space allowance.

The Fractal Design Define R5 is well-received by many other reviewers, such as on TechReport and TechPowerUp. It’s been around since around late 2014. The Define R5 is available in two colours, black or white, and with or without side windows. I went with the sans-window black one.

The Define R5 is Fractal Design’s fifth generation of their widely-popular Define series of cases. This case accommodates full-sized ATX, micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards. The highlight, at least for me, is its hard drive expansibility, despite it being a mid-sized desktop tower. The case is also highly configurable to meet needs of different users.

For starters, the Define R5 accommodates eight 3.5-inch hard disk drives, and additionally two 2.5-inch hard disk drives. Separately, there are two more 5.25-inch externally accessible drive bays. The two dedicated 2.5-inch hard drives are fixed behind the motherboard, but all the others are contained in three cages that can be removed or moved to different positions to support varying needs.

The two 5.25-inch drive bays are in a cage at the top. They can’t be moved elsewhere since they need to be accessible from the front. You can, however, remove them entirely. The next cage has five 3.5-inch drive bays which you can move all the way to the top, or move all the way down when the bottommost cage which has three 3.5-inch drive bays is removed. You can also choose to position the cage with three 3.5-inch drive bays at the bottom more toward the rear, i.e. nearer the PSU, leaving the front free to mount a liquid-cooling radiator.

The drive cage flexibility may be particularly useful for gamers or others who install high-end graphics cards. One cage can be removed to make space for extra long graphics cards up to 17.3-inch long. Different sizes of liquid-cooling radiators can be installed at the top by removing the top-side panels, and for really long radiators, the top-most cage for the 5.25-inch drive bays can be removed.

Alternatively, the liquid-cooling radiator can also be mounted on the front, or at the bottom, but moving the drive cages around. There’s indeed a lot of flexibility.

Two 120 mm fans are included, with a total of eight fan mount positions throughout the case. All filters are washable and very easily removed, including a full-length filter covering the entire bottom of the case.

The front and side panels are also covered in sound-dampening material. The noise containment is not as good as the Cooler Master Silencio 550 though.

The front door, incidentally, can be setup to open from either left or right side to suit your preference.

Cable management inside the Define R5 is really easy. Fractal Design has provided numerous cable holes with rubber grommet around the motherboard, so it’s easy to run cables from the front to back of the motherboard or vice versa. So for example, I can connect the ATX 12V power connector (ATX12V1) from the PSU at the bottom of the case, around the back of the motherboard, to the top and back to front, because that connector on my motherboard is right at the top.

Fractal Design has paid attention to little details too, like providing velcro straps to keep the cables tidy. They also use modular connectors for the chassis fans, for connecting to the chassis fan controller which, incidentally, can handle up to three fans.

There’s some 1.5-inch of space behind the motherboard, so it’s easy to tuck cables behind in order to not to obstruct airflow in the front of the motherboard. This is particularly helpful if you need to maximise airflow when you have multiple high-end graphics cards. As mentioned earlier, the two fixed 2.5-inch drive bays are fixed behind the motherboard. The Define R5 accommodates CPU cooler heights up to 7-inch.

The eight 3.5-inch drive bays are oriented sideways, and they are provided with trays so you can slot hard disk drives in and out easily. Unfortunately, these trays are not tool-less. Fractal Design provides rubber gaskets to absorb vibrations, and screws, but you will require a screwdriver to install hard disk drives into this tray. Having been spoilt by my last Cooler Master Silencio 550, which uses tool-less clip-on plastic rails, I’m finding the Define R5’s trays somewhat inconvenient to use, particularly if you need to frequently swap drives around.

Of course, this is still far better than having to drive in screws directly with the hard disk drive in the cage.

At the top of the casing, the Define R5 provides two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, headphone port. microphone port, a large power button and a recessed reset button.

The Define R5 accommodates seven expansion slots. The covers, interestingly, are white in colour, as are the two 140 mm fans included, which sort of contrasts starkly with the overall black colour of the case.

Fortunately, the front fan is hidden by the front panel cover, and all the other whites are on the back, so it’s not like this contrast is even going to be seen.

The Define R5 is well built. Metal is used wherever appropriate to give the case strength. As a result, this case isn’t light, weighing in at 11.2 kg. The overall size is 232 x 462 x 531 mm isn’t compact, even by mid-tower standards.

This Fractal Design Define R5 (black without windows) retails for S$149.

Conclusion

The Fractal Design Define R5 case is well-designed for maximum hard drive expansibility and internal configurability.

Pros:

  • Large number of hard drive bays
  • Spacious interior, good cable management
  • Drive cages can be removed or swapped around
  • Different liquid-cooling radiator support
  • Sound dampening
  • Great build quality

Cons:

  • 3.5-inch drive trays are not tool-less type

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