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Fractal Design Define S Window Mid-Tower Chassis Review

Fractal Design Define S Window Mid-Tower Chassis Review
Fractal Design's Define S Window mid-tower case impresses Chad for the features it packs into its smaller size and what you get for the price.
By: Chad Sebring | Mid-Tower Cases in Cases, Cooling & PSU | Posted: Jun 19, 2015 8:11 pm
TweakTown Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

 

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Not that long ago, Fractal Design released a new chassis into their Define series of cases. With their Define series, they have had great success in the Define XL R2, the R4, and of course the R5, but this time around major changes are to be had with the latest design. Of course, along with the aforementioned designs, silence in operation was the key element of these cases, and even now that same idea is not lost, but at the same time, this latest design is made to keep up with the latest trends in chassis design to help keep the Define series on par and up to date with what customers are looking for in cases today.

 

While we do find the use of the ModuVent system as we have seen previously, and we also will find a solid front panel that these cases are well known for, and of course we also run into a water cooling ready chassis, that is not all there is to be had. If you want the utmost in silence, there is a solid side panel option with sound absorbing materials used to back them and deaden most noises that emanates from the standard chassis, they have also developed a version with a very large side panel window to allow users to take advantage of the new layout inside, as well as offering a great view of everything you have put into the chassis. On top of that, there is also the fact that this chassis is ODD-less, and does not offer a standard storage configuration that we are used to from Fractal Design either.

 

We are just starting to touch base on what this new chassis design offers, but we always try to save bits for the rest of the review. As we look at the latest Define S from Fractal Design today, you will see we do indeed get everything mentioned, but there is more to this chassis than what initially meets the eye. If you are a fan of Fractal Design cases, this has a lot of what you are used to already, yet still takes a wild turn from what we have seen in the past. For those that do not care for their previous designs, or just are not hip to what they offered in the past, this very well may be the chassis that is well worth the time it takes to get to know what they are all about. While this is a departure from the "classic" Fractal Design chassis, we feel that this chassis is on the bleeding edge of chassis design and is well worth your time to have a look at what this Define S is all about.

 

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The chart provided is extensive, but we will help walk you through it all to get a good handle on what is going on in this Define S chassis. It is stated that it is capable of supporting Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, as well as ATX motherboards, and offers seven expansion slots at the back. While the 5.25" bays are completely eliminated, we do find that the storage cages are gone as well. This design instead uses three trays behind the motherboard tray that are drilled to support either 3.5" or 2.5" drives, and a pair of 2.5" specific trays that can be found under the CPU cooler access hole, again behind the tray. If you opt for the solid panel version, you will have nine fan locations, but in the Window version we received, there are only eight. Of those locations, only two are filled from the factory with a pair GP14 140mm fans, one in the front, and one in the rear of the cases.

 

We also find that this chassis will support 180mm tall CPU air coolers, and while they do mention 180mm of PSU length, if you opt not to add fans or cooling to the floor of the chassis, that length can be stretched to 300mm of PSU power. As for the video cards, we are given 425mm of room, and if the fan configuration does not have a fan at the end of the card, you can increase that room to 450mm in total. We can also see that there is 20mm behind the motherboard tray, and 40mm near the front of the chassis to hide all of the wiring, and even offers Velcro straps to help maintain and route said wiring.

 

Things move to cooling at this point, and for a mid-tower chassis, this chassis has tons of options. The front of the chassis will support a trio of 140mm or 120mm fans, and without any bays there, access to them is superb. The rear of the chassis sticks to the standard one fan location, but the top of the chassis mimics the layout of the front of this design. The bottom of the chassis will also offer room for a single 120mm or 140mm fan, but also offers an additional surprise near the front of the chassis. They were also sure to provide dust filters for both the front of the chassis as well as under it to help keep the chassis free of dust with proper cleaning of said filters.

 

Water cooling capabilities really are what inspired this layout in the Define S. Here we see that the front of the chassis will house a 360mm radiator at maximum, but any radiator smaller as well, in both 140mm and 120mm versions, and it is stated that any thickness can be accommodated as well. Moving to the top of the chassis, we find that the largest radiator supported is a triple 140mm version as well as a triple 120mm radiator, and of course will allow anything smaller to fit as well, but they do make sure to mention that 55mm of thickness is the maximum here with fans included, as not to cause issues with the motherboard or other cooling options.

 

That leaves us with the back of the chassis and the bottom, which both will allow 120mm radiators, but the floor will also allow for a single 140mm radiator. That surprise we mentioned in the floor of the chassis, is that in front of the fan location, there are pre-drilled holes there to mount many DDC and D5 pump variations. Taking things one step further, they also offer adjustable reservoir brackets that can be installed that allows tube reservoirs to hang inside where the drive bays would typically be located.

 

As we shop around for this chassis, we do see that pricing varies depending on which version you would like to have. The solid side panel version of this chassis can be found for $79.99 requiring an additional $9.99 to ship that chassis. If you wish to opt for the windowed version we are bringing forth today, again over at Newegg.com, we found the chassis listed at $89.99, but for some reason this lighter chassis will set you back an additional $12.99 in shipping fees. We did look around at other outlets for this chassis as well, but currently, and likely due to the freshness of this chassis entering the market, availability is somewhat limited as to where it can be found.

 

On paper, this chassis offers a ton of features and options that will allow anyone from the first time builder right through those with huge pans of custom water cooling enthusiasts to take this mid-tower chassis and thoroughly enjoy what the Define S has to offer at a great price point. As always though, we wait to offer up any definitive statements about what is to be had until the end of the review, after we have tried out the options and seen what this chassis really brings to the table. We will say this however, the Define S is a departure from what most are used to, but we also feel that this is a great step forward in chassis design from Fractal Design, and well worth the time it takes to cruise through our images and see where they are going now.

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