The Define R4
The mid-tower chassis is what I would consider to be one of the most versatile chassis types in the computing world. Since our computer components are getting larger the role of the mid tower chassis has taken on an entirely new meaning, it not only has to be able to keep our components cool, these types of chassis’ have to be handle a large variety of computer components; while also, retaining a small enough form factor so that it can be easily moved from one place to another.
Over here at Legit Reviews we're going to be looking at one of many mid tower chassis’ that are currently being offered, that chassis being the Define R4 mid tower from Fractal Design. Does this mid-tower have what it takes to be considered a great chassis, or does it just fall short? The only way to find out is for us to dive right in and see what the Define R4 chassis is fully capable of.
Fractal Design Define R4 Specifications:
- ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX motherboard compatibility
- 7 + 1 expansion slots
- 2 - 5.25" bays
- 8 - 3.5" HDD trays - all compatible with SSDs, 2 - 2.5" extra SSD positions
- 3 - ModuVent™ plates - two in the top and one in the side
- 7 - fan positions (2 Silent Series R2 fans included)
- Filtered fan slots in the front and bottom
- CPU coolers up to 170mm tall (when no fan is installed in the side panel)
- ATX PSUs up to 170mm deep when using the bottom fan location, when not using this fan location longer PSUs (up to 270mm deep) can be used
- Graphics cards up to 295mm in length with the top HDD cage installed
- With the top cage removed, graphics cards up to 430mm in length may be installed
- 26mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
- Thick rubber grommets on all holes on the motherboard plate
- Colors available: Black Pearl, Titanium Grey, Arctic White
- Case dimensions (WxHxD): 232 x 464 x 523mm
- Package dimensions (WxHxD): 320 x 535 x 610mm
- Net weight: 12.3 kg
Giving the Define R4’s specifications a quick look through and touching on the key features that I feel are the most important; Fractal Design gives this chassis the capability of handling motherboards from a Mini ITX, mATX, and finally the full sized ATX. Fractal Design also gives us the option of being able to choose from three distinctive color varations, we have the option of choosing an all-Black Pearl chassis (This is the chassis that is being reviewed over here at Legit Reviews), an all-Titanium Grey colored chassis, and finally we have the option of choosing an Arctic White chassis. And, by looking at the dimensions of this chassis we get an the idea that the Define R4 chassis is a bit larger then the typical mid-tower chassis.
The Fractal Design Define R4 PC case comes in at the price of $104.99 USD with free shipping and handling. This chassis carries a 1 year parts and labor warranty, just something to consider as you read this review of the Define R4 chassis from Fractal Design.
Unboxing the Define R4
Fractal Design keeps the overall appearance of the Define R4 chassis quite simple and plain.
Rotating the box 90° to the right brings us to a general list of specifications of this chassis.
On the back side of the box, Fractal Design gives us an exploded view of the Define R4 chassis.
On the final side Fractal Design gives us information on what color the current is (The Define r4 comes in 3 different color variations, the one reviewed here is the all black version).
Upon opening the box up we can see that this chassis pretty much follows the standard packing arrangement we have seen on multiple other chassis. And that this chassis did not get harmed during shipping, despite that the box looks a bit ragged.
I removed the included accessories from inside of the chassis, what we get as far as included accessories are:
- The user Manual
- An information flyer
- Wire Ties
- Various chassis screws
The Define R4 chassis removed from the confines of the box. The first thing that came to my mind once I was able to get a good look at this chassis, is that it is a very clean modern day looking chassis.
Define R4 Exterior Thoughts
Instead of exposing the entire front of the chassis, Fractal Design places a brushed aluminum door to maintain the clean modern day look to this chassis.
Opening up the front door of this chassis, Fractal Design installs a foam rubber insert onto the inner front door; to keep sounds coming from this chassis to a minimum. We can also get a good look at how Fractal Design designed the front of the Define R4 chassis; Fractal Design only includes two 5.25” drive bays, and the entire lower portion of the front bezel has vents cut into it; this has got me a bit baffled, that this chassis uses a door that covers the entire front of the chassis, making getting fresh from here next to impossible.
This is new, instead of having the front 5.25” drive bay covers snap into the front bezel; Fractal Design makes these front drive bay covers utilize a simple locking mechanism.
Fractal Design places the included fan controller on the inside of the front bezel and to the right of the 5.25” bays. This is a simple fan controller switch, we have three options on how we want our fans to be ran at; we can choose to operate our fans up to full speed (12 Volts), medium speed (7 Volts), or low speed (5Volts). This fan controller can only handle up to two fans.
Turning our attention to the left side panel of the Define R4 chassis; the only thing that grabs our immediate attention is the single fan mount. This fan mount can use either a 120mm or a 140mm fan.
Time for me to give the backside of the Define R4 chassis a quick look through; Fractal Design uses a traditional ATX layout on this particular chassis.
Fractal Design places vents directly above the 140mm rear exhaust fan, and the motherboard rear IO ports so that this chassis will have better ventilation.
The Define R4 chassis like many other mid-tower chassis can only utilize standard sized ATX or mATX motherboards. Now the one area that has me scratching my head with is the vertical PCI expansion port that is just to the right of the standard PCI expansion ports. The manual does not say what this is used for, nor does Fractal Design’s website.
Directly below the PCI expansion ports is where the PSU mount is located, this PCU mounting area can accommodate a variety of PSU configurations.
Turning the Define R4 chassis to the right hand side.
Since the Define R4 chassis uses a front door that will block most of the front fans airflow, Fractal Design included small side vents on both sides of the front bezel to ensure that these front fans maintain their flow rates.
Time to lay the chassis onto its side and examine the top.
Starting from the bottom of the chassis and working our way up, Fractal Design includes 2 USB 2 ports, followed by 2 USB 3 ports. Right dead center of the chassis is the on/off power button, then a smaller reset button, and then we finally get to the front chassis head phone/mic 3.5mm jacks.
Towards the rear of the top of the chassis is where we can mount either two 140mm or two 120mm exhaust fans. These are currently blocked off by a sound deadening material, this can be removed if you wish to install the two fans up here.
To finish up the exterior portion of this chassis it is time for me to look at how Fractal Design did the bottom.
Fractal Design includes a rather large removable fan filter that covers both the bottom optional 120mm , and the PSU fan to keep dirt and dust to a minimum.
The feet of the Define R4 chassis utilize a soft rubber bottom to ensure that our surfaces does not get scratched up when we are using this chassis.
So far my overall impressions of the Define R4 chassis have been positive, with a few exceptions. The Define R4 is very solidly built, and Fractal Design does not have any one thing that grabs our attention that detracts from the entirety of the chassis itself.
Define R4 Interior Thoughts
On both the of inner side of each side panel, Fractal Design uses a sound deadening material. And on each of the non-used fan mounts also contains a removable sound deadening material. This does add quite a bit more to the overall weight of not only the chassis but also to the side panels themselves. You may want to make sure you have a firm hold on these side panels when removing them or replacing them on the chassis; as I almost dropped one because I was not expecting them to be so heavy.
Time for me to give the interior of the Define chassis a good look through; we can see why Fractal Design only uses two 5.25” device bays, that is because this chassis can utilize up to eight 3.5/2.5” HDDs/SSDs.
Typical mounting style for the 5.25” device bays.
Looking at the two removable HDD cages.
The HDD/SSD carriers, these carriers can install either a 3.5” HDD or the smaller 2.5” HDD/SSDs. But only the 3.5” HDD will have use of the rubber mounts that will help on keeping these drives quite. These HDD carriers use a multiple 3.5” HDD mounting system.
This bundle of wires is pretty simple, we get a USB 3 header, a USB 2 header, an front audio header, and the on/off/reset header, and the HDD/Power indicator LEDs header.
Looking at the front side of the PCI expansion ports; Fractal Design uses removable PCI covers that are also vented to help improve air circulation inside of this chassis.
The rear included 140mm exhaust fan.
It appears that Fractal Design has a rather large CPU cut out on the Define R4 chassis.
Fractal Design, designed the top HDD cage to be able to be removable; to remove this HDD cage we will need to remove the two thumb screws that secure this HDD cages to the chassis.
The upper HDD cage uses eight round plastic sliders (four on top and four on the bottom)so it can be rotated 90°. I will show you this on the next page of this review.
On the lower part of the 5.25” device bays is a set of channels, and the lower HDD cage has two more channels on the top of it.
Fractal Design includes a single front 120mm fan. In order for us to install a second front fan or replace/remove the current 120mm front fan we have to remove the front bezel.
The front 120mm fan(s) are encased in a front fan mount cage that uses a fan filter to help keep dust to a minimum. The removal of the front bezel is pretty simple and did not require a lot of effort, just required me to grab below the front front bezel and gently pull away from the chassis.
To remove this front fan cage all we need to do is locate the small clip on the top of this cage and gently press down and remove the cage from the chassis.
If you are planning on using both of the HDD cages in the Define R4 chassis, you will be limited to roughly twelve inches of room.
A quick measurement of the area behind the motherboard tray, as we can tell there is roughly an inch of room back here to hide our PSU wires.
As I mention earlier that both side panels incorporate a sound deadening material on the inside.
A quick look at the back side of the motherboard tray.
Now Fractal Design includes two more 2.5" HDD/SSD mounts onto the Define R4's motherboard tray. These mounting holes are located to the lower rear portion of the motherboard tray itself (I marked these holes with green arrows). The location of these mounting holes will make installing/replacing the 2.5" HDD/SSDs here a complete pain in the butt and impossible once the motherboard and PSU is installed into this chassis. I did not hold this oversight by Fractal Design against the Define R4 chassis, for the reason that the included HDD carriers can handle both a 2.5" HDD/SSD, and the larger 3.5"HDD and that with both of the HDD cages installed we can use up to eight of these drives with this chassis.
I re-measured the area behind the motherboard tray to make sure I saw what I saw when I measured the area behind the motherboard tray the first time. This measurement confirms that I do have almost one inch of room behind the motherboard tray.
Fractal Design does make all of the corners of this chassis rounded so that it will minimize cuts and bruises to a minimum.
Define R4 Hardware Installation
The Define R4 chassis can handle a standard sized ATX motherboard quite easily.
A quick close up of the upper HDD cage rotated 90°, I wonder if the HDD/SSD carriers will become a major obstacle while they are in a 90° orientation. Only one way to find out and that’s to continue installation
Talk about close, the quick release that is on each of the HDD/SSD carriers barely gives me enough room to use a standard sized high end video card. There is only roughly about one quarter of an inch of room between the HDD/SSD carriers and the video card.
Rotate the HDD cage to its normal orientation gives us plenty of room between the video card and the HDD cage.
To install 3.5” HDDs onto the individual HDD carriers we will need to use these flat topped screws to secure the HDD to the carrier.
What a 3.5” HDD looks like once it has been installed onto the HDD carrier.
To install a 2.5” HDD/SSD onto the HDD carriers we will be using the inner four mounting holes. Align these mounting holes to the 2.5” HDD/SSD and locate the appropriate screws then secure these drives to the carriers. Lap top HDDs and SSDs both have similar mounting holes.
If you use a moderately sized PSU in with this chassis you will be able to mount a lower 140/120mm fan into the Define R4 chassis.
What the backside of the motherboard tray looks like once all of the computer hardware has been installed.
Just as I suspected, the CPU cutout is large enough to handle a wide variety of motherboards, so that we are able to remove the CPU cooler, or install one, without having to remove the motherboard.
Now that is what I call a clean installation. Finally there is a chassis that has the ability of hiding all of my PSU wires behind the motherboard tray, and make installing the side panel easy after hiding all of our PSU wires.
What the Define R4 chassis looks like once everything is installed and all buttoned up. No different from when I pulled the define R4 chassis from the confines of the box.
Define R4 Final Thoughts
The Fractal Design Define R4 chassis is what I consider to be the pinnacle of how a mid-tower chassis is supposed to be like. The Define R4 chassis was fully capable of being able to install all of computer components into this chassis, and this chassis was more than capable of being able to hide all of my PSU wires; therefore, making the interior of this chassis pretty much wire free.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of areas that I feel where Fractal Design can improve upon with the Define R4 chassis. Keep in mind these are only suggestions and may or may not coincide with your own personal thoughts. The main area I feel that Fractal could improve on are the side panels, Fractal could have used a side panel that swings open versus then having them utilizing the slide locking design. This would make closing up this chassis a lot easier, and less of a head ache when trying to button up this chassis during the night with little to no light.
The Fractal Design Define R4 chassis can be purchased online for $104.99 with free S/H, and carries a one year parts and labor warranty. Which, makes the Define R4 chassis a bit on the steep side considering this is still classified as a mid-tower, also it makes this chassis pretty much out of reach for the typical average consumer. The price wouldn’t bother me so much if Fractal Design included all of the optional fans in with this chassis. But I also need to consider that this mid-tower chassis is the only one that I have used that could easily hide all of my PSU wires, and is fully capable of handling all of my computer components with ease while also looking stylish.
Legit Bottom Line:
The Fractal Design Define R4 is an ultra-modern day looking mid-tower chassis that can accommodate just about anyone’s computing needs effortlessly, I would like to add that Fractal Design expands on the Define R4 chassis by offering 3 color choices of Black Pearl, Titanium Grey, and Arctic White.