It may sound a bit cliche to say this, but WOW. I am truly sad I missed the original, as I do wish I had more of a hand on comparison, but there was only so much you can get from a picture and a list of specifications. I really do hope that I caught all of the new additions in this chassis and have shown you just like Fractal Design has just shown me, they aren't afraid in the slightest to stay relevant and give the consumer what they desired from listening to the requests and following trends over time. The Fractal Design XL R2 is not only a huge step above the original design, this case is leaps and bounds better than most other offerings at this price.
The aesthetics are great. The feel of the chassis, even when completely stripped of what braces most other cases, you still feel like you would put a 300 pound guy on it to help you reach something high in the room. There are very few cases I can say this about, and honestly, fully assembled, I would not be shocked if Fractal Design told me this can hold 600 pounds and not crush it; it is just that solidly constructed. At full speeds, the cooling is more than adequate, even with the three ModuVent panels left in place. Even when I turned the fan speeds down to 5V and 7V, the cooling was sufficient for stock or mild overclocked rigs, but offers silence at both settings where the 12V setting is definitely audible, even at a slight distance. The box was roughly shipped by the couriers, the Styrofoam broke, but the case is perfect, and was a true pleasure to look at and work in through the whole process. There really isn't anything more you can ask for unless you just have to have a hot-swap exposed bay. While convenient, I always find mine unused and full of dust, so no loss at all with me in this design, to me it would detract too much from its awesomeness.
I'm going to split the difference in the pricing and go with a price of $125 for the purpose of this review. That puts you into the price range of the aging Phantom cases, the GRone, Thor2, I mean even the original HAF 932 is getting $139. I cannot argue one bit that Fractal Design has placed this chassis into a market at an amazing price. If anything, the Define XL R2 looks the best of them all, can fit in any room better, and can't be beat in structural strength, since the new internal layout offers what most cases today bring to the table along with a few things some don't. What I do know is that if I was digging in my wallet, there is no question in my mind that not only do I get the best of the group with Fractal Design, when I outgrow the cases, if I ever could, I could repurpose it as a jack stand for my 1978 Bonneville.
Anyone looking for a full-tower chassis needs to check this out, and for those who want sleek and clean with enough room for water cooling and a serious gaming rig, the Fractal Design Define XL R2 Black Pearl is all of that, and definitely gets my recommendation.