Introducing the Fractal Design Define R4

Around November of last year we had a chance to take a look at one of the most popular enclosures from up-and-comer Fractal Design, the Define R3. Impressions were good if not absolutely amazing, but it was easy to see how the case had gotten so popular. A competitive price tag, solid acoustics, understated aesthetics, and fairly flexible design all conspired to produce a case that could conceivably be a silver bullet for a lot of users.

Today Fractal Design is launching their next revision of the Define, the R4. It's easy to mistake it for its predecessor, but as is often the case, the devil is in the details. Fractal Design hasn't radically tweaked the formula, but they've rounded some of the edges and added more value to their design without making very many sacrifices in the process. They've done a lot to improve the Define in the R4, but have they done enough?

Incremental evolution isn't altogether unheard of in the enclosure business, but I'm used to seeing vendors release outright new models or heavily revamp existing ones instead of steadily iterating like Fractal Design has done with the Define. I can see users being a bit underwhelmed by the changes Fractal Design has made to the Define with the R4, and I myself am a bit underwhelmed, but let's see if we can't unpack things and get to the heart of what they've done and haven't done.

Fractal Design Define R4 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25”
Internal 8x 2.5"/3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 140mm intake fan, 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
Rear 1x 140mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
Side 1x 140mm fan mount
Bottom 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 7+1
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm
PSU 170mm with bottom fan, 270mm without
GPU 11.6"/295mm with drive cage, 430mm without
Dimensions 9.13" x 18.27" x 20.59"
232mm x 464mm x 523mm
Weight 27.12 lbs. / 12.3kg
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal headers
Removable drive cages
Integrated three-step fan controller
Support for 240mm radiator in top of enclosure
Price $109

The Define R4 is ever so slightly larger than the R3 and features essentially everything you already liked about the R3, making it a pretty direct replacement of its predecessor in much the same way as Antec's P182 obsoleted the P180. Fractal Design parted ways with eSATA in the I/O cluster in favor of a pair of USB 2.0 and a pair of USB 3.0 ports and it's a good transition. eSATA never seemed to quite catch fire; USB 3.0 offers most of the bandwidth with much easier connectivity and fewer hiccups. Meanwhile, I still don't think we're at the point where we can completely deprecate USB 2.0 in favor of 3.0, so having them both represented on the front of the case is appreciated.

In and Around the Fractal Design Define R4
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  • mtoma - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I doubt that such a fan cover exists. But I wonder, only the 2 top vents on the P280 are responsible for the weaker acoustical performance comparing to the Define R4? If not, on what ground Dustin Sklavos said that the acoustical performance in Define R4 is better that P280? I know he changed the testing methodology, but... how can we compare our favorites?
  • surt - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    It looks deep enough, but I take it lacks the mounts for EATX?
  • Grok42 - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    I'm curious, what are your reasons for using an EATX motherboard? Is it memory capacity? Followup is why you want to put it in a mid-tower case. I'm not judging, criticizing, complaining or anything, just wanting to know.
  • gamerdad - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I got an R3 last year on the strength of its reviews on this site and elsewhere. Love the rig in general, but I do have one complaint. The power button is big, round, friendly, accessible and has a pretty light around it that just calls out its seductive siren song. "Push me," it cries.

    Which my toddler loves to do.

    So now I have a garish taped-down cardboard flap over the power button. Next time, I'm getting a case with the buttons behind the front door.
  • makken - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Why not just set the power button to "do nothing" under power settings?
  • gamerdad - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    You can do that? (looks it up...) Sure enough, you can do that! Thanks.
  • Flying Goat - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Another option is to turn off the light on the power button. This is what I do, since it's too bright for my tastes, though I do kinda miss having an indicator that my PC is on.
  • UNHchabo - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    I have an R3, and I hooked up the LED to the HDD LED leads; the LED is too bright for me too when it's constant-on, but I think it works great as an HDD light.
  • chrislue - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    R4 does not have a HDD led?
  • danjw - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    You don't mention the distance between the top of the case and the motherboard, it would be useful in evaluating if a radiator there is actually feasible.

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