Fractal Design Define S

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1. Introduction

Fractal Design is a Swedish company known for their minimalist design of their products. The color scheme present in F.D products is black and white, scheme present in cases, power supplies and fans.  The concept of Fractal Design is to provide products with an extraordinary level of design, without compromising the important factors of quality, functionality and pricing.

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Official product link:

http://www.fractal-design.com/home/product/cases/define-series/define-s

2. Packaging and accessories

The case is packaged in a simple cardboard box. On the front side there is printed an overview image of the case, the name & logo of the manufacturer. On the upper part there is printed the name of the product while on the lower side there is printed the website of the manufacturer and the case variant.

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The sides of the packaging present the specifications of the case and its cooling system.

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On the backside we have the case presented using a diagram. On the upper side there are listed the features of the product.

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Accessories

The product comes with the following accessories:
–    1x Manual
–    8x Motherboard standoffs
–    4x Power Supply screws
–    1x Standoff tool
–    12x Motherboard screws
–    12x Screws for 3.5”
–    20x Screws for 2.5”
–    2x Reservoir brackets
–    6x Zip ties

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3. Specifications

Name: Fractal Design Define S
Model: Define S
Colors available: Black
Materials: Steel & Plastic
Motherboard Support: ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Weight: 8.5 kg (windowed) / 9.1 kg (non-windowed)
Dimensions WxHxD: 233 x 451 x 520mm
Expansion & Drive Bays:
–    7 expansion slots
–    2x – 2.5″ dedicated SSD/HDD unit positions
–    3x – 3.5″ HDD positions (can also accommodate 2.5″ units);
Front I/O:
–    2x USB 3.0
–    Audio in/out
–    Power button with LED (blue)
–    HDD activity LED (blue)
–    Reset button
Cooling System:
–    Front: 3x – 120/140 mm fans (included is 1x Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fan, 1200 RPM speed)
–    Rear: 1x – 120/140 mm fan (included is 1x Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fan, 1200 RPM speed)
–    Top: 3x – 120/140 mm fan (not included) or 1x 180 mm fan with 165mm hole spacing (optional)
–    Bottom: 1x – 120/140 mm fan (not included)
–    Side: 1 – 120/140 mm fan (not included) (optional, non-windowed only)
–    Dust filters: Bottom and front intakes
Water cooling compatibility:
–    Front – 360, 280, 240, 140 and 120 mm radiators of all thicknesses
–    Top – 420, 360, 280, 240, 140 and 120 mm radiators. (A thickness limitation of 55mm for both radiator + fan applies on 420, 280 and 140 mm radiators)
–    Bottom – 120 mm radiator (Use of radiators in the bottom position limits the PSU length to 165 mm)
–    Rear – 120 or 140 mm radiator
–    Pump – Pre-drilled holes on the bottom panel, supports many DDC and D5 variants
Clearance:
–    CPU coolers up to 180mm in height
–    ATX PSUs up to 180/170 mm with a bottom 120/140mm fan installed; When not using any bottom fan location longer PSUs up to 300mm can be used.
–    Graphics cards up to 425 mm in length with front fans installed, without compromising HDD capacity; Graphics cards up to 450mm in length without front fans installed directly in line with the GPU.
–    20 – 40 mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate.
–    Velcro straps included for easy cable management

Features:

–    Optimally designed for silent computing, while not compromising on airflow and cooling capabilities
–    Innovative internal layout, providing a perfectly straight airflow path to the CPU heatsink for air cooling set ups or extensive radiator mounting possibilities for water cooling set ups
–    Extensive water cooling support for a case of this size; housing radiators up to 420mm in the top and 360mm in the front
–    Including smart reservoir brackets; featuring drill-free reservoir mounting on the front of the motherboard tray and pre-drilled pump mounting holes on the bottom panel
–    Equipped with ModuVent™ fan slot covers providing the option of additional cooling or maximum sound absorption
–    Including two Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 140mm fans developed for superlative airflow while still maintaining low noise levels
–    Maintaining a dust-free interior with dust filters that cover the front and bottom air intakes
–    Introducing newly designed hard drive trays placed vertically behind the front partition of the motherboard tray; Three sturdy steel trays with vibration-dampening grommets allowing for installation of one 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive on each tray, without disrupting the airflow or interfering with the radiator mounting possibilities
–    An additional 2 dedicated steel SSD trays cleanly placed behind the motherboard tray

 

4. Visual inspection

The design of the Define S model is similar with the design of the Define R5. The main differences between the Define S and Define R5 are the lack of a frontal door and a few changes in the structure and format of the interior. The Define series is optimized to offer countless options for both air and water cooling solutions.

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The front side of the case is made out of plastic, with a simple design, having a brushed metal texture, it is being held in place with the help of some plastic clips. The air flow is done through the spaces on the sides of this panel.

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The front dust filter is removable, to access it the front side of the case needs to be removed, behind the filter we find a included 140mm fan with the option of adding another two 140mm fans next to it.
Also the front dust filter is magnetic being mounted with the help of two magnets.

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Just like the Define R5 model, on the back side of the case we have one 140mm fan included, below we have the 7 expansion slots and on the bottom there is the space for the PSU.

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The side panels are simple and solid; the main side panel features a large Plexiglas window. Also this panel uses a system which holds the thumb screws from falling.

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The inferior side of the case features a long dust filter which can be removed at the back of the case, this filter covers the Power Supply area and the front of it, the chassis itself sits on four solid rubber & plastic feet.

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The top side of the case is metallic, the three detachable panels have sound-absorbing foam on them, these are also made out of plastic. These panels are called ModuVent and can be used individually depending on the cooling method used.

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In the front we find the I/O panel and the activity LED of the case. The I/O panel is composed of the following:
–    2x Audio Jacks
–    1x Reset Button
–    1x Power Button
–    2x USB 3.0 Ports
–    1x Activity LED

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The Define S chassis has a roomy interior optimized for water cooling and wire management. The main difference between the Define S and Define R5 is the lack of the 5.25” bays and the different storage unit bays.
Below we have a chart that explains the R5’s water cooling options.

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The case can accommodate CPU coolers that are up to 180 mm tall and graphics cards up to 425mm in length with fans installed at the front of the case, without fans the chassis accepts GPUs with a maximum length of 450mm.
Also the wire management holes are covered with rubber grommets.

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In the space meant for the power supply there is a soft foam, which sits between the power supply and the back of the case.

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The motherboard tray is bent towards the back in order to enlarge the available space for Tower CPU coolers. The bend is right in the middle of the Wire Management holes & rubber grommets.

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The cables of the chassis connectors are all black for an easier match with the rest of the cables.

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On the back of the motherboard tray we find two white 2.5″ mounting plates that are fixed using thumb screws.

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At the front there are mounted three plates for 3.5” storage devices, these can also hold 2.5” storage units. These plates are held in place with the help of Thumb screws.

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The wire management process is easy due to the included Velcro straps that hold in place the I/O cables.

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The wire management space at the back of the chassis is approximately 26mm while the space at the front next to the HDD bays is approximately 40mm.

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5. Testing

The following system was used to test the chassis:
–    CPU: Intel i5 Haswel 4690K
–    Motherboard: MSI Z97 Gaming 9 ACK
–    RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix Tactical
    GPU: MSI GeForce GTX 970 Armor 2X
–    SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB
    HDD: Samsung SpinPoint F3 500GB
–    PSU: Antec High Current Pro Platinum 850W
–    CPU Cooler: SilverStone Tundra TD02

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The space between the motherboard and the top side of the case is approximately 45mm, being enough for most AIO type coolers.

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Installing the storage devices into the HDD metallic brackets is done with ease, using metallic screws and rubber washers to mount and reduce the amount of vibration.

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Installing a SSD into the chassis is easy due to the two dedicated brackets mounted on the back of the motherboard tray.

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The noise level for the two 140mm fans included with the chassis using the included fan controller was measured at three different distances from the fans (10cm, 20cm, 30cm.) the noise was measured with a margin of error of ± 5 db.

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6. Final thoughts

The Define S model is the result of the growing demand for a case optimized for custom water cooling systems, the bays for storage devices have been moved to the back of the case behind the motherboard tray. Thus Fractal Design obtaining a roomy interior ideal for mounting a complex water cooling system. Also the radiator compatibility has been increased considerably.
The ModuVent modular system of the top part of the case is a welcomed option, being a balance between design and functionality.
In conclusion, the Define S model is an excellent case with a very good price, in relation to the Define R5 model, being a simplified version of it.
The used materials in its construction are excellent and the accessory bundle is rich, including two reservoir brackets. The installation process is done with ease and the inclusion of the two 140mm Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 fans adds more value to the case.

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