Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis Review

by Ryan Perry on January 18, 2013 in Cases & PSUs

Where desktops are concerned, some may consider bigger to be better, but sometimes, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a simple, classy-looking PC that you can barely hear. Helping to make that scenario a reality is Fractal Design, with its sound-dampened mid-tower Define R4. Let’s check it out.


While most people are excited about what’s happened at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, I’m sitting here pumped about today’s review, because I’m finally getting my hands on a piece of kit from a company that has impressed me since I first stumbled across it a few years back.

Sweden-based Fractal Design has been releasing cases, power supplies, fans and accessories for years and we have one of its newest products, the Define R4 mid-tower case, on the review table today. The R4 is the 4th generation Define and aims to further improve on previous models.

Many of Fractal Design’s cases might fly under the radar of some enthusiasts since they choose to go with a “less is more” approach, at least on the outside. Luckily, our radar does a pretty wide sweep, so let’s get started.

The Define R4 comes in three flavours; Titanium Grey, Arctic White and Black Pearl – the latter of which being the model that we’ve received. It’s made primarily of steel and can support mini-ITX, micro-ATX and ATX motherboards.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

As always, we’ll start at the front where the plastic foam-lined door has been textured to give it the look of brushed aluminum. It opens from the right to reveal two vented 5.25″ bay covers and the 3-channel, 3-speed fan control switch to the right. The rest of the front panel is taken up by a large removable dust filter that hides Fractal Design’s own 140mm Silent Series R2 fan with room for another 120mm/140mm fan if needed.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

Our review sample has mounting points for an optional 120mm/140mm fan on the solid left panel, but there is a windowed model available. Just in front of the side panels are additional vents that run down the plastic trim to provide extra air flow.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

Around back at the top is a vented area, the motherboard I/O opening and another 140mm fan with mounting points for a 120mm unit. Further down are the seven white PCI slot covers, a vertical PCI slot to the right and the power supply opening at the bottom.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

The right panel is completely solid so we’ll move up to the top where the I/O area is located along the front edge. From left to right are the 3.5mm microphone and headphone ports, the reset and illuminated power buttons, two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. Towards the rear of the top panel are two removable covers that can be replaced by 120mm/140mm fans or, depending on the configuration, even a 240mm radiator.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

With the case upside down we see the four rubber feet to help absorb any vibrations, the mounting points for an optional 120mm/140mm fan and a removable dust filter that covers the fan and power supply intake areas.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

Before looking at the interior, have a gander at the inside of the side panels. Each is coated in a sound-dampening material that looks like a rubber compound on the outside with a thin foam insert. Even the fan area on the left panel (as well as the two on the top panel) has an extra thick, removable foam insert to help keep sound trapped inside the case.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

With the panel off we see that the hard drive cage at the front is in two sections, so users can remove either one based on their needs. Each of the eight, white drive trays can support 3.5″ or 2.5″ drives, while 5.25″ drives can be mounted without tools in the bays above. The motherboard tray features large, grommet-lined holes across the top, bottom and down the right side and a large cut out around the CPU area.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

Included with the R4 are all of the screws needed to keep components secure, motherboard standoffs, zip ties, extra rubber washers for mounting the optional fans, a manual and a notice about returning the case to Fractal Design rather than the retailer if there are any issues.

Fractal Design Define R4 Mid-Tower Chassis

Up next we install our newly modified test system and see how Fractal Design’s latest creation performs.

Page List

1. Introduction
2. Installation & Testing
3. Final Thoughts

  • Marfig

    Fantastic case! Really with the type of look I’m a fan of. Thanks for the review.

    The only downside is this slow move we will have to necessarily experience to USB 3.0. For a while it will limit the number of available frontal USB ports. I’d love an aggressive full frontal 4x USB 3.0 port version to be added to the windowed alternative. In fact, being Fractal Design so interesting in their KISS approach to design, it’s a little disappointing that they choose to go with form instead of function by offering instead a windowed version.

    Also, what’s the reason why the Jing cooler showed up skewed? The motherboard’s or the actual cooler?

  • xOptix78

    Here’s the installation instructions for the Jing:

    The two arms that fit down over the four bolts in each corner are adjustable to allow for different sockets and when tightened they shifted ever so slightly. This wasn’t apparent until the cooler itself was secured.

    Contact is bang on as I removed the cooler to check where the thermal interface material was making contact so it became a non-issue as far as performance is concerned. Aesthetically speaking, you can be damned sure I’ll be fixing it for the next review.

  • Frank

    I once owned a case with the optical drive behind a door. Much too inconvenient. Never again. Otherwise this case would have been a winner.

    • Rob Williams

      I can see that, but for me the enhanced aesthetic is worth it. I don’t use ODDs too often, but I could see how it’d be really inconvenient if you do.

      • Frank

        Thanks for your reply.
        You’re right. Others may not see it that way! I should have wrote, “otherwise this case would have been a winner ‘for me’.”

        • Rob Williams

          Haha, I understand ;-) I have a Corsair 800D and kind of hate the exposed ODDs, just because that aesthetic is lost. It’d be helpful if all front panel ODDs and other things were styled the same, but not so, usually.