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Quality Control and Installation Notes

Fractal Design Define XL R2 Enclosure Review

Installing the systems was pretty normal. Motherboard tray cut outs make it very easy to get to the CPU coolers. With dual CPU coolers, I had to remove the board to ensure proper connections. Some of the standard all in one liquid cooling systems like the Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme, Corsair H90 and H110, and NZXT Kraken X40 and X60 all mount to the rear or top fan holes. Unfortunately, none of them are long enough to mount in front. The front is reserved for custom cooling systems.

Fractal Design Define XL R2 Enclosure Review

Hard drive and SSD installation is a breeze. Adding an optical drive requires screws, or in this case, thumb screws. Running wires is easy but can get jumbled up in back. Fortunately, you can’t see them. I added my own Velcro straps from Home Depot to manage things a little more easily.

Some users mentioned that the panel paint chips off the panel edges specifically near the corners. A better paint process would resolve this issue. One concern for system integrators is that the HDD cage with its round spacers is too weak for shipping, or moving because thumbscrews fasten to a brass fitting above and below which have broken off before. If you plan on filling the cages and trays with heavy 1 to 2TB drives, I recommend you use thumbscrews on the sides. Finally, the front panel USB ports are a bit loose.

Acoustics

The Define XL R2 is designed to help absorb and control sound from filling the room. I let all three systems sit idle and at full load running benchmarks for hour intervals measuring audio and monitoring temperatures. The Silent Series R2 fans are rated for and do create about 15dB noise at full speed. Average noise was calculated below with the case closed and open for comparison.

 Fractal Design Define XL R2 Enclosure Review

All of the systems were quieter for two big reasons. The sound dampening really cuts down on the noise.  Also, the enclosure’s fan placement create a good wind tunnel which forces cool air to hit the components thereby decreasing fan cooler speeds. In fact, the GIGABYTE Sniper 5 build was superbly quiet and darn near almost undetectable. As for the stock AMD system and server, both were 15-18dB quieter thanks to the wind tunnel and dampening. Yes, the admin server was no longer offensive to the ears. How does air flow effect the systems’ temps? Let’s have a look.

Thermal Management

Unfortunately, the fans can’t all reach the front 3-speed controller. Thus, the fans were connected to the motherboard and set to their rated 1200RPM which is basically max. They’re basically moving about 40CFM (cubic feet of air per minute).

 Fractal Design Define XL R2 Enclosure Review

After recording the load temps, it’s evident the wind tunnel made all the difference. Max fan speeds do well by default. While low and high fan speeds aren’t shown, there was almost no discernible difference. I also tried adding a top back and front 120mm fan but only the rear fan port set to low speed works best. If top fan is too fast, the cool air won’t hit the back components very well.

Final Thoughts

Fractal Design Define XL R2 Enclosure Review

The Define XL R2 is a very good enclosure for managing noise and even system temps. While the Bitumen, insulated fan ports, and front door cut down on noise, managing temps inside any enclosure is all about air flow inside the enclosure. By design, the enclosure’s fan placement creates a nice wind tunnel. With all that cool air flowing across the CPU and GPU, the corresponding components stay cooler, thus fan speeds stay lower. End users can easily create a superbly quiet system. And, if you just so happen to have a pro system screaming at you inside the office, it’ll benefit with a transplant to the Define XL R2.

A few small things could be polished up. It wouldn’t hurt to include only 140mm fans and Velcro straps would show Fractal is just as serious about wire management. A couple 3pin extension cables will give users full use of the 3-speed fan control. USB ports can use some tightening up as they seemed a bit loose. Even replacing the hard drive mounts and plastic guides will ensure better durability in the long run. At the same time, these suggestions won’t keep users from getting their system up and running more quietly than ever.

As it stands, Fractal Design continues offering very innovative, creative designs with solid features that benefit the end user. The Define XL R2 Titanium Grey and Black Pearl can both be found starting at $129.99 US but you can always find a lower price. If you’re tired of noisy fans or your enclosure’s tin-can hum, the Fractal Design Define XL R2 will please your ears.

Pros

  • Spacious, high quality chassis
  • Removable HDD trays and cages
  • Front and bottom fan filters
  • Very quiet fans
  • Bitumen, sound dampening materials
  • Front 3-speed fan control switch

Cons

  • Fans can’t all reach the fan controller
  • Loose front USB ports
  • Velcro straps would be nice
  • HDD cages could be improved

Overall Rating: 8.5 / 10.0

Fractal Design Define XL R2 Enclosure Review

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