Fractal Design is one of the most well respected names in computer cases and for good reason. Their award winning designs have provided for the needs of countless PC builders. Their Define series has lead the industry in “quiet case” design. We recently updated our benchmarking system and built from the ground up in the newly released Define R6 Tempered Glass Edition. As newcomers to Fractal, we’re here to answer the question: does the Define R6 live up to the hype?
- MSRP: $149.99
- 3.5"/2.5" Universal drive brackets: 6
- Dedicated 2.5" drive brackets: 2
- Dedicated 5.25" drive brackets: 1 (removable)
- Expansion slots: 7 + 2 vertical
- Motherboard compatibility: eATX (up to 285mm wide), ATX, mATX, ITX
- Power supply type: ATX
- Front ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
- Total fan mounts: 9
- Front fan: 3 x 120 mm or 2 x 140 mm (2 x Dynamic X2 GP-14 included)
- Top fan: Standard layout: 3 x 120 or 2 x 140, Open layout: 3 x 120/140 mm
- Rear fan: 1 x 120/140 mm (1 x Dynamic X2 GP-14 included)
- Bottom fan: 2 x 120/140 mm
- Dust filters: Bottom fan + PSU Front fans Top panel
- Front radiator: 120/240/360 mm, 140/280 mm
- Standard layout: 120/240/360 mm (max 35 mm motherboard component height)
- Open layout: 120/240/360 mm - 140/280/420 mm (max 35 mm motherboard component height)
- Rear radiator: 120 mm
- Bottom radiator: 120/240 mm 140/280 mm
- PSU max length: 300 mm
- GPU max length: Max 440mm with front fan mounted
- Standard layout: Maximum width 155 mm (including power connectors) for graphics cards longer than 300mm.
- CPU cooler max height: 185 mm
- Cable routing space: 23 mm
- Cable routing grommets: Yes
- Fixed velcro straps: Yes
- Tool-less push-to-lock: Both side panels
- Captive thumbscrews: HDD brackets, SSD brackets
Left side panel:
- Black/Blackout/Gunmetal versions: 33% tinted tempered glass
- White version: Clear transparent tempered glass
- Right side panel: Industrial sound-dampened steel
- Case dimensions (LxWxH): 543 x 233 x 465 mm
- Net weight: 12.4lbs
Coming to the Fractal Define R6, I had an idea of what I was getting into. When I built my rig last year, I teetered on the fence to buying the prior Define R5 before finally settling on a Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 for it’s extra modularity. Coming to the Define series with the R6, I knew I’d be getting something similar - a modular case with sound dampening, but one that can actually breathe and not overheat. What I didn’t expect was to feel like my last case was so cheap as a result. And let’s be clear, that Nanoxia was a good case. The Fractal Design Define R6 is just so much better.
Versatility, Your Name is the Define R6
One of the biggest benefits of the Define R6 is how versatile it is. Out of the box, it can accommodate anything from eATX to iTX, two to six 3.5” HDDs, two to ten 2.5” SSDs (four if you take out the removable bays). It can be arranged with only the motherboard exposed or reconfigured to make it completely open and give yourself tons of air. It can be a quiet case, near completely sealed off or opened up for a still quiet case with excellent airflow thanks to the ModuVent system. When it comes to cooling, you’ll find flexible mounting for radiators up to 360mm on the front and top, 280mm on the bottom, and 120mm on the rear or up to nine fans for excellent air cooling. You can do a ton between the Standard and Open layouts.
When I set about building our benchmarking rig, the first thing that struck me is how well-made and heavy-duty the different parts were. Fractal paid attention to so many of the “small things” that really make a product stand out. For example, when everything is taken apart, it doesn’t feel like it will bend if you push on the frame too hard. When mounting fans on the bottom of my Nanoxia case, it would flex so much I was immediately worried it would break. Here, there’s minimal flex and that’s only when you’re really bearing down on it, and only on the bottom of the case too. Other touches, like the aluminum, side-swappable door, sound-silencing removable top, or the easily removable (and fairly heavy!) hard drive trays all added to the impression of quality.
For fan and radiator mounting, I was really pleased to see that Fractal used slideable cutouts instead of single mounting holes. This lets you easily adjust their position for the best fit. The case also comes with three high quality Dynamic X2 GP-14 140mm fans pre-installed, two on the front and one on the rear. They run cool and quiet and their white blades match the white black theme of the case’s interior.
Ease of Building
Ease is the name of the game when it comes to building in the Define R6. Both the tempered glass and right side panels are held on with rear thumb screws and pop right off. This is a great change on the tempered glass front where many cases still feature screws drilled into the panel itself and require awkward angling to remove. The power supply features a similarly easy solution. There, a face plate is screwed onto the PSU outside the case, then it’s slid into place behind the PSU shroud and tightened with a pair of thumb screws. The hard drive trays have a similar solution where, in the Standard Layout, they slot into place and are secured with, you guessed it, thumb screws. Don’t misunderstand, you will still need a screwdriver but those final securing touches are largely toolless.
Installing the components was straightforward and allowed for easy cable management. Fractal has included cutouts in all of the key areas where you’ll be routing wires and closed those openings with high quality rubber grommets. On my Nanoxia, the grommets popped out of place easily, especially when they began filling up. Here, they stayed in place even when having to remove individual PSU lines when I rebuilt for the Open Layout.
Right Side Tray and Cable Management
On the right side of the case, there are clear channels for cable routing, identified by velcro straps and the many steel eyes to secure cable ties. There’s also a channel around the edge of the case to tuck wires out of sight (even though it’s hidden behind the panel anyhow). At the top of the center routing channel is the fan hub, capable of running a whopping nine fans with a single motherboard PWM header. I found this extremely convenient, running a circuit of four 140mm and three 120mm fans. You do lose individualized control when using the hub but since it’s still capable of being regulated by the motherboard, I didn’t find this much of a loss.
The rear is also where you’ll find your two vertical SSD trays, underneath the motherboard cutout. There’s a good amount of open area here and I used this for my Corsair LED hub, routing all of the wires back into the main channel. Underneath the trays is the PSU basement, which is great for tucking extra wires out of sight behind the PSU shroud.
Speaking of that motherboard cutout, I was relieved to find that it was actually large enough to mount my CPU cooler after the motherboard was already installed. I run a Noctua DH-14, which is quite large (and competitive with many AIOs) and has a two-piece bracket that tends to be millimeters too big for the cutout. I had a hunch I could install it after the board in this build and was right. Kudos to Fractal for making this space large enough for even the beefiest of CPU coolers.
Swapping to the “Open Layout” and Challenges
I did have a couple challenges along the way. Converting from the Standard to Open Layout required almost a full teardown of the case. I also managed to strip one of the screws holding the faceplate that hides the HDD trays, which was extremely difficult to remove afterward. The faceplate is also fitted tightly enough that shifting it back to the rear mounting position was very tight indeed.
Swapping to the Open Layout also cuts your available 3.5” hard drive mounts down to a single vertically mounted pair and eliminates the ability to run an optical drive. If you’re running multiple platters or need an internal optical drive, you’re better suited with the out-of-the-box Standard. In that use case, the faceplate does a great job of hiding your disk drives and makes for a clean build. I definitely prefer the Open Layout, however, as it removes everything from the way of your front panel fans and makes it easier to work with longer graphics cards.
The other challenge was with the Moduvent system. By default, the top of the case is sealed off with a thick, sound dampened panel. Using a button on the back, the panel can be removed for access to radiators and fans. For users willing to trade sound dampening for better ventilation, the aluminum face of the vent can be removed, exposing a dust-filtered vent underneath. The panel was so tight, however, that I had to use a knife to pry it off.
As it turns out, I needn’t have bothered. I ran my Nanoxia with a similar fan setup and often kept it open on the top for ventilation. Even with the top vent closed off, I’m running an average of 3-6 degrees cooler at idle and 5-8 degrees cooler under load. These aren’t hard measurements as I did swap one 120mm out for a 140mm, and am now using Corsair’s Light Loop Fans instead of their Static Pressure series; however, the change has resulted in a net loss of airflow, not gain. Lower temperatures with less airflow and less ventilation is an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
With the build behind me, I can’t be anything other than impressed with how well done the Define R6 is. It is a well-built and well considered case that’s accommodating to air and water coolers alike. I love easy it was to build in and that the most common areas you’ll want to remove are all secured with thumb screws. I’ve also never built in a case that was quite so easy to cable manage as this one. The Fractal Define R6 is also one of the few “quiet cases” that doesn’t sacrifice cooling for sound reduction, making it a great choice for gamers who share their space but don’t want their gear thermal throttling or dying early due to heat.
In a nutshell, the hype is real, my friends. The Fractal Define R6 is a great case for any prospective builder.
- Very versatile and modular
- Looks great in both Standard and Open Layouts
- Easy to build in and access commonly swapped components
- Quiet, even with the ModuVent open
- Included fan hub is extremely convenient
- Cable management made easy
- Durable, doesn’t feel flimsy even when completely torn dorn
- ModuVent is tight out of the box
- Converting to the Open Layout is challenging
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.