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Fractal Design Define R5 Silent Mid-Tower Enclosure Review

Completed Build, Noise and Temps, Final Thoughts

Completed Build

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The Define R5 has a nice, clean appearance once everything is installed. There is room for most graphics cards with the drive cages installed, or simply remove the middle cage to install longer cards. Routing cables was easy, and the included velcro straps made cleaning things up behind the motherboard tray effortless.

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You'll notice the two white metal 2.5" drive trays behind the motherboard, one of which I used to hold my SSD for this build.

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Power for up to three additional fans is provided via an included cable, which is routed in the front of the case and uses a SATA power connector. I used this to power the front 1000 RPM intake fan during testing.

Noise and Temperature Results

Test Platform
Processor Intel Pentium G3258 "Anniversary Edition"
Motherboard ASUS H97M-Plus - Micro-ATX Intel H97
Memory Samsung 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 (OEM)
Graphics Card ASUS AMD Radeon R7 260X
Storage OCZ Vertex 460 120GB SSD
Cooling Noctua NH-U9B SE2
Power Supply Corsair CX 750W Modular PSU
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit

I performed all noise testing with a digital sound pressure meter positioned 18" from the front of the case. Temperature testing was done with readings from RealTemp and GPU-Z, and results are presented as degrees delta (over ambient) with a room temperature of 18 ºC.

Noise

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This is the biggest feature of the case, and I have to say it really lived up to expectations here. With the case running at idle or load with my quiet components (Noctua CPU cooler with Low-Noise adapters installed on both fans, quiet ASUS dual-fan GPU) the results were a miniscule 1dB over ambient (actually just a hair under 1 dB at 0.9 dB as measured!). Standing a few inches away from the case you can still hear the fans inside, but once you move a few feet away the sound disappears. It's very impressive how quiet this case really is, and it can really be effectively silent with careful component selection.

Temps

The main drawback of a heavily insulated case might easily be poor thermal performance, but here again the Define R5 excelled, with no negative impact from the acoustic treatment.

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These numbers are excellent for the components chosen for this build, and the results show the effectiveness of the included 1000 RPM fans as well. The default configuration is postive pressure airflow, and it works extremely well here. The open-air D Frame mini had a slightly better showing, but that is to be expected.

Conclusion

It's refreshing to look at an enclosure that delivers great performance and value like the Define R5. The case has an understated look, but is still very nice looking with clean lines and a quality finish. There is ample room for expansion and Fractal has not foregone support for optical drives for the many who still use them, and the door panel keeps things looking clean up front.

But the big story here is how quiet and cool this enclosure is. Using modest lower-noise components enabled a final build that only added a single decible to the room, and it was effectively inaudible from a couple of feet away. Fractal Design has added a lot to the value of the Define R5 with the inclusion of hydraulic-bearing 140mm quiet fans, especially impressive considering the $109.99 MSRP.

The Define R5 presents no noted flaws. It is very well made, thoughfully designed, and performed extremely well. The pricing is on the affordable side of the premium enclosure market, and it would be very hard to beat for a silent case in this price range.

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November 24, 2014 | 12:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

May I ask why you chose to do a sound test with an anemic R7 260X which in itself doesn't make a lot of noise even at load instead of a use case scenario with a GPU which can make a lot of noise under heavy load like a 290X?

This is supposed to be a enthusiast case but you put in a kiddie GPU that will not actually push the acoustic envelope and acoustics are one of it's advertised selling points.

How does this case deserve an editor's choice when you didn't really put it through its paces acoustically?

Interesting case but a very poorly setup review that potentially skews the actual performance of what this case can or cannot do acoustically.

If I don't see an update on your review with a beefy GPU and their acoustics side by side with at least one other non-acoustic dampened case with same hardware, then this was a biased review.

November 24, 2014 | 02:34 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Of course, without any comparison you have to trust what I wrote in the review, so naturally the graphs can be updated to show the comparitive information as a reference. It's easy to call a review biased without this data, so I'll explain my rationale.

This review uses the same hardware as my last two case reviews, the only difference being the motherboard in the Fractal Core 1100 and In Win D Frame mini reviews. Testing for all three of these cases use the same CPU, CPU cooler, and GPU setup. With those cases noise was 3.8 dB over ambient with the 1100, and ranged from 1.6 - 2.8 dB over ambient with the D Frame mini. Temps were still excellent given the lower noise.

If I get a 290X to test I can update future results, but that 260X card is actually louder than my OEM GTX 770 with the TITAN cooler, which is why I used it in the last three reviews. Simply put, I chose the 260X (of the two options) because it puts more heat into the case and the dB's increase with load to a measurable extent.

November 24, 2014 | 12:23 PM - Posted by Qrash

Nice to see the bottom air filter slides out at the front of the case. I would emphasize this point in the review as it is a nice change from the usual.

December 22, 2014 | 12:04 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That was one of the 3 features of the case that stood out. The other 2 were: The less restrictive hdd cage (better air flow) and the fine mesh air filter on the front.

November 24, 2014 | 07:50 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

I have the R4. I like the fact they made the SSD trays removable .. but I wish they kept that 8th slot (sideways mount). it's very useful for keeping back slots open when you have extra serial ports or that sort of thing..

November 27, 2014 | 04:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Would the corsair h105 fit on the top of the case with a asus x99 motherboard?

November 27, 2014 | 03:30 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

There's plenty of clearance for the H105 above the motherboard, I just didn't build with it there because I wanted to keep the covers on the top fan openings.

November 28, 2014 | 09:35 PM - Posted by Laststop (not verified)

this is a nice case but I still think the NZXT h440 is a better designed silent ATX case. It completely does away with optical drives and loads the entire front of the case with 3x 120mm fans behind a sound deadening foamed door. It has space for a 120/140/240/280/360mm radiator plus space for another 120/140/240/280mm radiator plus space for another 120/140mm radiator. And room for 2x 2.5" drives and up to 11x 3.5" drives or 11x 2.5" drives and a massive amount of cable management space and room for even a mega large 220mm length psu. I just think it has a better design that allows for more airflow and more cooling options without any sacrifices to drive space or cable management space. All by completely ignoring the option of 5.25" bays it really accomplishes a lot and who needs those bays anymore really?

If you can go without an optical drive the H440 is the ultimate ATX case built for silence. And it's only 119.99 same price as this one. I would only go with this case if you must absolutely have an optical drive but if you are saying to yourself you absolutely need an optical drive maybe you should rethink that stance.

December 5, 2014 | 11:35 PM - Posted by Hummhumm (not verified)

Well, the R5 can have it's drive bays removed. Sure, you'll not have it covered entirely by the fan filter (that the NZXT doesn't have) that's in the front but it offers up a slot for up to a 420 rad in the top along with all the radiator measurements you mentioned. All of which both cases have btw.

Oh and the R5 can fit a 240 in the bottom.
And! Some push pull configs is available on the R5 as well. Both in top and front.

PSU is the only point in your post that makes any sense what so ever.

They're very similar cases and the H440 was the best silent case, until the R5 came. :)

December 12, 2014 | 11:40 PM - Posted by Lystfiskern (not verified)

Did you even read any of the reviews and tests of the R5?
I object to most of your allegations as they simply are not factual at all and plain wrong.

Even the Define R4 has the H440 beat on both sound and temperature in all comparing tests done to this day.
Now this new revision promises to even widen that gap as the Define R5 has improved on both of these vital criterias.

In fact the ONLY thing most reviewers find "better" with the H440 is the PSU cover. I agree if you were to throw in a nasty looking PSU and didnt care much for the work needed to clean the aestetics with tidy cable managment and decent looking braided cables...

The Define R5 will hold up to a 420mm radiator in the top - up to a 360mm in the front. up to a 240mm in the bottom and up to a 140mm in the back.
You have the OPTION of going for complete silence as this case comes with either closed and windowed side panel.

Out of the box the R5 will hold 8 3,5"HDDs/2,5"SSDs and two more 2,5" HDDs/SSDs on the back of the motherboard plate...That is more included storage space than the H440 offers.

Do you understand that there is somewhat of a difference receiving a silver award (h440) and an Editor`s Choice award (Define R5)?

Who is likely the better judge, fitted with comparing knowledge to actually pass a qualified judgement.... You or the professionals?

December 13, 2014 | 04:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, somethings up here as it says you used a Gigabyte motherboard but it is quite plainly an Asus H97M in the photo.

January 12, 2015 | 08:23 PM - Posted by Fergg (not verified)

What was the 3 speed fan controller set to for the sound tests? High medium or low?

February 10, 2015 | 12:34 AM - Posted by Bryan (not verified)

I really think other things should have been addressed in this review.

1. One of the most common All in One coolers: H100/100i/105..., is a freaking pain in the ass to put in this case(up top). The holes just don't match up to the top holes, this is insanity. Did fractal test this with their cooling equipment and call it a day? I'd recommend others that have one of these coolers to consider Phantecs offerings with full filters up top, with adjustable free form screw slots, to fit any rad/fan screw placement. The funny thing is the define r5 uses these free form slots for fan mounting on the bottom of the case near the psu, and the back of the case where there is a unfiltered 120-140mm fan slot. Installing the H100 up top makes it way too close to the mobo, which impedes access to the memory, and the cosair AIO cpu block itself. (Access problem only with Rad with push pull.) Without Push pull, you still have to mount the H100 way off. It doesn't mount on the corner back or anything like that. It's a good 1-2 inches off.

2. While they went nuts on the dust filters for the front and bottom. The entire top, and the back 120-140mm fan slot is unfiltered.

3.Now the top is usually going to be exhaust, so that might be fine if you have 140mm fans up there exhausting air out of your case, but most people are going to put a rad up there with 120mm fans. 120's up top will leave a lot of open venting up top, for dust to settle. Same for the back of case 120-140mm slot.

July 5, 2015 | 06:08 PM - Posted by bLu (not verified)

You must be blind as the top vents fit AIO Corsair H80i, H100i, H100i GTX, H110i GT perfectly.

The holes line up towards the left side panel side completely away from the motherboard.

February 12, 2015 | 01:51 PM - Posted by david (not verified)

im building an x99 intel chipset on this R5 case. will a reference Nvidia gtx geforce 770 2gb fit in the case?

February 16, 2015 | 09:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

More than enough. You won't have to worry about gpu clearance in your situation.