Introducing the Fractal Design Define R4

Around November of last year we had a chance to take a look at one of the most popular enclosures from up-and-comer Fractal Design, the Define R3. Impressions were good if not absolutely amazing, but it was easy to see how the case had gotten so popular. A competitive price tag, solid acoustics, understated aesthetics, and fairly flexible design all conspired to produce a case that could conceivably be a silver bullet for a lot of users.

Today Fractal Design is launching their next revision of the Define, the R4. It's easy to mistake it for its predecessor, but as is often the case, the devil is in the details. Fractal Design hasn't radically tweaked the formula, but they've rounded some of the edges and added more value to their design without making very many sacrifices in the process. They've done a lot to improve the Define in the R4, but have they done enough?

Incremental evolution isn't altogether unheard of in the enclosure business, but I'm used to seeing vendors release outright new models or heavily revamp existing ones instead of steadily iterating like Fractal Design has done with the Define. I can see users being a bit underwhelmed by the changes Fractal Design has made to the Define with the R4, and I myself am a bit underwhelmed, but let's see if we can't unpack things and get to the heart of what they've done and haven't done.

Fractal Design Define R4 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25”
Internal 8x 2.5"/3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 140mm intake fan, 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
Rear 1x 140mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
Side 1x 140mm fan mount
Bottom 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 7+1
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm
PSU 170mm with bottom fan, 270mm without
GPU 11.6"/295mm with drive cage, 430mm without
Dimensions 9.13" x 18.27" x 20.59"
232mm x 464mm x 523mm
Weight 27.12 lbs. / 12.3kg
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal headers
Removable drive cages
Integrated three-step fan controller
Support for 240mm radiator in top of enclosure
Price $109

The Define R4 is ever so slightly larger than the R3 and features essentially everything you already liked about the R3, making it a pretty direct replacement of its predecessor in much the same way as Antec's P182 obsoleted the P180. Fractal Design parted ways with eSATA in the I/O cluster in favor of a pair of USB 2.0 and a pair of USB 3.0 ports and it's a good transition. eSATA never seemed to quite catch fire; USB 3.0 offers most of the bandwidth with much easier connectivity and fewer hiccups. Meanwhile, I still don't think we're at the point where we can completely deprecate USB 2.0 in favor of 3.0, so having them both represented on the front of the case is appreciated.

In and Around the Fractal Design Define R4
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  • Freeform - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link


    "What's worth pointing out is that the R4 does not feature an IDE indicator LED despite having space for one. The LEDs surrounding the power button and breaking the center of the front door are power indicators only. This is an unusual omission that doesn't affect the usability of the case too much (many notebooks these days don't include IDE indicators either), but it's worth mentioning."

    This is incorrect.

    The power LED connection from the front panel harness can just as easily be plugged into the HD activity stand-offs on your board as to the regular spot indicating power on. This is a huge misconception that I've seen paragraphs dedicated to in all of the Define reviews.

    There's nothing stopping you from having a really annoyingly bright blue LED HD indicator on this case! It's working on mine right now.
  • Lonerski - Sunday, March 31, 2013 - link

    I would like to compare that case with the Lian-Li P-90, but as you see it is impossible as there is no tested case in common ( So is there a way to make any comparison ? Is the Lian-Li louder at low and high performance ? I would like to use an O/C i3570K and a 560Ti within. My current case is an Antec 1080 Plus.
  • Lonerski - Sunday, March 31, 2013 - link

    note : would probably use a rheobus for reguling fan speeds.
  • dwbarron - Friday, January 3, 2014 - link

    I just bought this case and have not yet done my (first) build, but re: the 'power' light: it clearly states on page 4 of the manual, "Define R4 features a power LED; by switching the connectors on the motherboard, the power LED can function as an HDD activity LED."

    Another option, and probably the one I will take. My PC is usually left on anyway, so a power light is less useful to me. (Not that I look at the HDD light too often, but sometimes I do if the machine appears to be hung, to see if it's access the HDD.)

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