Fractal Design Define XL Full Tower Case Review - Installation and Testing



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We found cable management to be an utter breeze in the Define XL.  What you see before you was done without any planning and we wanted to do it as hastily as possible to see what it would turn out like.  From the front, everything is still quite clean, and with even a little extra effort, the Define XL really allows for uber-tidy routing with minimal planning and time involved.  Overall, the build was easy, but it wasn't especially quick.  The design does not have many all-tool-less features, so you spend a bit more time on assembly than tool-less designs, but there was nothing problematic during installation.  We'd rather have a simple installation method which requires securing components with screws than a poorly-executed or complicated tool-less method.

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We mentioned before about adding more fans to the front panel, and it's very easy.  The image on the left shows the factory-installed upper mount for a third front fan which is easily removed, and the right shows the bottom fan mount.  Fans mount effortlessly by sliding them into the tray and tabs on the sides snap into place, holding your fans securely.  The door swings open easily so adding fans is a breeze (pun intended).

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Fractal Design has also included a rear fan controller which allows you to control up to three other fans and mounts into the rear expansion slots.  It's white with a black knob, so it matches the overall color scheme perfectly.  It's certainly a nice inclusion to see, especially if you don't have a different fan controller on hand.

This segways us to one of our few gripes with the Define XL.  The front door allows very minimal clearance between it and the front drive bays, so when we wanted to install our fan controller with protruding knobs, the door simply wouldn't shut.  Luckily we had a lower-profile fan controller to use, but for those who have fan controllers with protruding knobs, you may be hindered a bit with the Define XL.  You may be able to get away with a bit more if you trim away the sound-dampening foam, but that will only gain you a little bit.



The fans included with the Define XL have very efficient aerodynamic design with a large number of blades and a sweeping elliptical geometry.  They are very quiet, and the upper 180mm fan removes alot of air at low RPMs, which leads to very quiet operation.  The blade geometry is swept in such a way that it mitigates the noise-producing vortices around the ends of the blades, which contributes to most of the noise heard from a fan.

The noise-dampening foam around the entire exterior makes the case incredibly quiet, which really earns its "ultra-quiet" name.  When placed underneath a desk, you'll likely barely hear it, unless you put some very high RPM fans in it, that is.  The blue halo around the power button adds a subtle bit of flash to the case which doesn't take away from its overall simplicity, and compliments the overall design nicely.

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