When Fractal first mentioned that they had a Define 7 coming, I was cautiously optimistic. Fractal has done so much in the past to push the Define series to new heights that, at some point, you assume the tricks will start to fade, and it will become "more of the same." However, Fractal pulled off enough unique features and improvements to leave me impressed with the Define R7, with some caveats regarding performance, which we will look at now.
During testing, we had a measured ambient of 21C with an RH of 44%.
The first configuration was with the solid panel in place, and the front door closed, which netted us a less than optimal 54.4C delta over ambient. The GPU showed a 41.6C Delta over ambient, which for anyone who has read any of my previous reviews will know that is less than impressive. I did have some concerns about the front door, so I opened it and reran the testing to find that the delta on the CPU dropped by over 5C, which tells me that the front fans are a bit starved for air with the door closed.
Another thing to note is that with the front door open, I observed less fan noise from the chassis as the chassis fans throttled less to maintain optimal system temps due to the increased airflow. The Define 7 can add many fans, and this will likely help the situation with the top airflow panel, but even with the airflow panel installed in our test configuration, it did not change the results. I assume this new Define chassis with a Meshify style front will do very well, but the door as it sits appears to choke it off.
What we like
I like the steps Fractal took to enhance the modularity of the Define chassis. I do feel that the enhancements in liquid cooling capabilities we have seen over the years is an excellent thing as it enables Fractal to service a market that just a handful of years ago was not possible. The new ability to remove the top mounting location for cooling, which integrates the frame rail, is fantastic as it opens the working space to make builds easier.
The new fan hub is helpful and will enable some users with liquid cooling builds to optimize multiple fan connections better. The easy to remove side panels are fantastic and work very well; the slotted bottom retention ensures the panel will not just fall off or down as you remove it. Everything is filtered, which is excellent and should make for a much easier to maintain and clean PC.
What do we think could be better?
I feel like front panel doors on cases are hard to pull off, as balancing silence and performance is a tough nut to crack. It would add cost in a significant way. Still, I do wish Fractal could make the front modular like the top offering an alternate front panel or even just the door plate for a mesh version, which would allow users to choose between silence and a hit to airflow, or more cooling but the potential for more noise. I also do wish that Fractal included PWM based fans for the Define 7 as that sort of smooth ramping may have helped with the noise we experienced in the front panel closed testing.
At the $169.99 price that the Define 7 demands, I think Fractal has done some things very well. The chassis is excellent, and except for the door choking off performance, it is a stellar chassis. Fractal earns a top spot for its features, and even a good position for value when compared with the competition. However, there is no looking past the drop in performance by closing the front door. And I do hope that Fractal offers this base chassis with airflow oriented front panel options such as an updated Meshify soon, as that would likely be a fantastic solution.
Overall the Define 7 is a solid, feature-rich, and capable chassis hindered by its front panel. The Define 7 will serve you well as far as fitment. Just be aware of the cost of the attempt at silence.
Shannon's Chassis Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) Z390 (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i7 8700K (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H60 (buy from Amazon)
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB CMW32GX4M4C3000C15 (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z (buy from Amazon)
- Storage: SanDisk M.2 256GB
- Power Supply: SilverStone Strider Platinum 1000W (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit (buy from Amazon)
Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:34 pm CDT
The Bottom Line
Fractal Design has made a near perfect upgrade to the Define series with the new Define 7. It is a stout package with tons of modularity, just be aware of the inherent cost to performance in the pursuit of silence.