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David Murphy

Oct 15, 2013

Fractal Design XL R2

At A Glance

R2-D2

Built-in fan controller; ample 5.25- and 3.5-inch bays; excellent cable management; sound-dampening foam.

R5-D4

Not screwless; motherboard standoffs require installation; uncooperative PSU rubber mounts; no SSD mounts on motherboard tray.

Bigger, bulkier, and slightly better

Fractal Design is a big fan of small, subtle modifications within its various lines of computer cases, or so it seems. At first glance, you might assume we are simply blowing some dust off the ol’ Fractal Design Define R4 and giving it a re-review. And we wouldn’t blame you for thinking so—the two cases look nearly identical.

The Fractal Design XL R2 looks a lot like the Define R4 unit before it.

As the “XL” in its name implies, the Define XL R2 is a taller, slightly fatter version of Fractal’s Define R4 chassis. The “embiggening” allows the XL R2 to support E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboards, for those of you looking to stuff your system full of video cards. At just over 1.8 feet tall, the XL R2 doesn’t feel like that much of a monster underneath a typical desk. Its perfectly rectangular design helps keep its overall footprint smaller than cases with curvier panel designs.

Fractal covers nearly every bit of the XL R2’s surface with sound-dampening foam of varying thickness. It works to keep the noise down, but not as well as the system’s included three-fan controller, which we’re glad Fractal still throws into the mix. Slapping the case’s three included 14cm fans onto a medium speed setting, combined with the sound-dampening foam, does much to quiet this system to a dull hum. However, all of the fans and test system components spinning full-bore does manage to get a bit noisy.

The XL R2 distinguishes itself from the nearly identical Define R4 by supporting larger motherboards.

We’re pleased to see that Fractal has opted to double the amount of available 5.25-inch bays in the XL R2 versus the Define R4, which gives enthusiasts a bit more room to play with. We still wish that they were screwless, but we appreciate the extra space. The XL R2’s eight drive bays are split into two drive cages of four trays each, and both are moveable (or removable) to make room for bulkier front-panel radiators—or better still, unhampered airflow.

The case’s considerable cable management capabilities continue to impress us. Seven huge, rubberized holes on the motherboard tray deliver plenty of space to string cables between the tray’s rear and the case’s (heavy) side panel, which includes connections for the system’s two front-mounted USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. The cables for the system’s front-panel connectors (power light and power button only) could stand to be a bit longer.

Fractal Design XL R2 chassis

We only had two big qualms when building a system in this chassis. First, we would have much preferred to have the case’s motherboard standoffs already built into the tray (or a guide peg for helping us to align the motherboard itself). Fractal Design also does something weird with the power supply installation, in that it opts to stick two triangular pieces of rubber on the bottom of the case that the PSU should, in theory, be able to rest on.

In practice, our power supply knocked these rubber pegs completely off the case’s bottom. Even when they stayed put, we still had a bit of a fuss screwing our PSU into the chassis. We would have preferred some mechanism that keeps the PSU level on all four of its sides.

Fractal Define’s XL R2 is a wee pricier than the Define R4; you’re paying a surcharge for the slight reworking and roomier interior. Minus the omission of the Define R4’s two motherboard tray SSD mounts, the XL R2 is a pleasant (albeit minor) upgrade to Fractal Design’s smaller chassis.

$140, www.fractal-design.com

THE VERDICT

Fractal Design XL R2

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