The Fractal Design Define series of PC cases might be some of the best to grace the market right now – offering unrivaled build quality, endless compatibility, and true ease of building. So, when Fractal Design decided to send us their latest flagship Define 7 XL case, it’s safe to say we were more than excited to see what this successor to the XL R2 had to offer!
The version we received came with the “light tempered glass” side panel which is a nice change over the standard tinted glass you usually see these days. Having said that, if you’re a fan of the aforementioned tinted glass, don’t worry, Fractal Design offers a tinted version alongside a sound dampened version as well.
The Fractal Design Define 7 XL was released alongside a mid-tower alternative (the Define 7) and is already creating quite the buzz amongst PC enthusiasts. The 7 XL supports SSI-EEB motherboards, multi-GPU configurations, and a tonne of storage devices as well – including 2 x 5.25″ optical drives. It also comes with a huge accessory box that offers additional mounting trays, interchangeable panels for extra ventilation and airflow, and an interesting convertible piece that lets you use unused fan positions for numerous other alternatives.
The following article will be taking a closer look at this mammoth case from Fractal Design to see how it stacks up in build quality, features, ease of building, and overall value for money.
So, let’s waste no further time, and dive straight into it.
- Superb build quality
- Supports the largest of motherboard form factors
- Excellent noise dampening ModuVent panels
- Tool-free panels
- Robust and easy to clean dust filters
- 2 x 5.25″ optical drive support
- Fantastic cable management support
- 18 HDD/SSD mounts
- Interchangeable grommets
- High-end of the price spectrum
- Airflow is compromised by the front panel
- Internal temps can be high
|Case Type||Full Tower|
|Dimensions (mm)||604 x 240 x 566 (L x W x H)|
|Materials||Steel, Tempered Glass, Plastic|
|Available Colours||Black, dark tinted, light tinted
|Front I/O panel||1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, Audio I/O, Power button, Reset button|
|Expansion Slots||9 + 3|
|Drive Bays||18 x 3.5"/2.5" + 7 x 2.5" positions
2 x 5.25" optical drive bays
|Motherboard support||Mini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX, E-ATX, SSI-EEB|
|Cooling (Front/Top/Rear)||Front - 4 x 120mm or 3 x 140mm (2 x Dynamic X2 GP-14 included)
Top - 4 x 120mm or 3 x 140mm
Rear - 1 x 120/140 mm, (1 x Dynamic X2 GP-14 included)
Bottom - 2 x 120/140 mm
|Maximum GPU length||Storage layout: 359 mm - Open layout: 549 mm (524 mm w/ front fan)|
- Fully Modular
- Tempered Glass
- Quiet Operation that can be altered for airflow
- Nexus+2 Fan Hub
- USB Type-C
Inside the Box:
- Fractal Design Define 7 XL PC Case
- Accessory Box
- Starter Guide
My first impression upon unboxing the Fractal Design Define 7 XL was just how big it was – I mean, this thing is right up there with the likes of Thermaltake’s View 71 in terms of sheer bulk. It absolutely dwarfs the smaller Define 7, making it a great upgrade for those who like the design of the smaller iteration but need more capacity for storage, water cooling, and component support.
On the flip side, and like most Fractal design cases, this one offers a fairly basic, uncharacteristic design that could be conceived as boring from the outside – depending on how you look at case designs. However, once we delve inside, things become a whole lot more exciting.
At the front, we find a stylish faux brushed aluminum front panel which, thankfully, has now been equipped with a hinged door – we’ll discuss why this is essential later. The front doesn’t offer a great deal in terms of design features, however, it does have a small slit at the top of the case which houses a small LED light – I know, crazy. The front panel feels robust and well-made, now making use of metal door hinges unlike the plastic we found on the old XL R2. Having said that, I can still envisage scenarios in which this might be an area of failure down the road.
Behind the door, users have access to the dust filter and fans for cleaning and replacement purposes. The dust filter is split into two sections, meaning if you do plan on using the available 2 x 5.25″ optical drive bays, you still have a large dust filter sat underneath. The filters are quite difficult to remove and require a decent amount of force to pry away from the case – not ideal when you consider how small the grip on the dust filters is.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the door impacts airflow and internal temperatures dramatically. If you plan on buying this for your next build then just be aware, if you want to utilize this case for a silent build then it might be worth investing in water cooling to keep internals at respectable levels. Opening the door will see a decent drop in internal CPU temps, however, you then have to consider the noise implications of your build. We’ll go over this in more detail shortly.
While we’re discussing airflow, underneath the dust filter, Fractal Design have pre-installed two of their Dynamic X2 GP14-140mm fans right-out-the-box – with enough room for a third 140mm fan if you want to bolster your cooling setup. Alternatively, you can replace the 140mm fans with four x 120mm fans or a radiator up to 480mm.
Underneath the front panel, you will find the dust filter that sits under the PSU shroud. Thankfully, Fractal has designed the dust filter to pull out from the front meaning users won’t have to turn their PC around every time they plan on cleaning it – take note PC manufacturers…
The dust filter is easy to remove and clean; however, it was difficult to get back in place. It felt as if the dust filter had been slightly bent at some point and wouldn’t sit in its bay properly (once removed). After some tampering, it was clear the corner had been bent, so a quick modification soon solved that problem.
Moving to the rear of the case, users are greeted with a ton of expansion slots and features. Starting at the top, you will find the newly improved opening mechanism for both side panels. Fractal has equipped the Define 7 XL with two sliders that help aid in popping the side panel out of its housing at the top. To fully remove the side panel, simply tilt the panel back slightly and lift it out of the recess it sits in.
Underneath we find the I/O shield cutout, alongside a pre-installed 140mm fan – the very same we find in the front. You can swap this fan out for a 120mm fan if you wish and have access to adjust the height of the fan by about 30mm.
Below this, we find the 9+3 expansion slots. Each of the nine horizontal expansion slots are protected with re-usable covers which can be replaced while swapping out hardware. Users will be able to vertically mount a GPU in this case with up to three slots available for even the largest of graphics cards. A locking mechanism is used here which feels well-made and durable.
The PSU housing is found below this. It has been designed with an easy-install bracket that allows you to quickly install or remove the PSU without having to use a screwdriver. Never been a big fan of this personally – once your PSU is in there, it usually stays put for a good while anyway. It doesn’t take anything away from the case though, so why not.
The top is fairly uncharacteristic in terms of design, but there are a lot of features to play with – especially when you swap out the ModuVent sound dampening top panel for the ventilated one. The top panel can easily be removed by popping the sides out near the I/O ports – after which you can simply lift the roof off. Underneath you have access to the dust filter and the mounting area to install additional fans or a radiator – depending on your preferred setup.
The dust filter offers a new design that clips into place towards the back of the 7 XL that clips into place with ease. It’s extremely easy to remove and has been designed to clear any screws that are used when mounting cooling configurations – something we’ve struggled with in the past using cases of similar ilk.
The fan mounting area has been offset so that almost any radiator/fan setup will clear your CPU cooler, RAM, and motherboard VRMs. The 7 XL offers up support for 4 x 120mm fans, 3 x 140mm fans, or 1 x 480mm radiator in the roof of the case. Behind this, you can see various cutouts for additional water-cooling loops and cable management options.
Swapping the roof panel for the ventilated alternative that you receive in the accessory box will help increase airflow dramatically. It doesn’t offer nearly as much noise dampening, but it does reduce temps quite a lot. It also offers a little bit more in terms of aesthetics thanks to the mish-mash air vent style Fractal has gone for.
Towards the front, the I/O ports can also be found on the roof of the case. The Define 7 XL comes equipped with power and reset buttons, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, and audio inputs as well. That’s a ton of inputs for almost every scenario. Oh, it’s also worth mentioning that the power button feels extremely tactile too.
To access the interior of this case, simply remove the side panel by using the popping mechanism found towards the back of the case. While I prefer the hinged doors you find on both Thermaltake’s View 71 and the Phanteks Enthoo 719, Fractal’s side panel design is still right up there with the very best. You don’t run the risk of breaking the glass as the side panel sits in a little recess at the bottom, as mentioned above.
Removing the side panel unveils the monster interior that looks extremely clean, offering a ton of storage and cable management options to boot. Towards the front you see the pre-installed fans that have been positioned in the middle of the case for optimal airflow. As mentioned above, you do have the option to equip the case with a third 140mm fan or swap them out for a radiator up to 480mm, depending on your preference. For the purposes of this review, however, we’ve left them in stock configuration.
Looking at the roof of the case you can clearly see all the mounting possibilities this case supports. If you do plan on bolstering the cooling configuration of this build, you will have to swap out the roof panel to do so (unless you plan on setting up a custom loop). Replacing the roof panel is extremely easy and requires little to no effort. Once removed, you can easily access the mounting area from above and below – thanks to the size of the interior. Unlike smaller cases, the full tower 7 XL is built so that even the most elaborate radiator fan configurations aren’t going to interfere with internal components. As mentioned above, users have the option to fit 4 x 120mm fans, 3 x 140mm, or a radiator up to 480mm in the roof – so plenty of versatility here.
Moving to the bottom of the case you’ll see the full-length PSU shroud which runs from front to back. The shroud comes with airflow vents which – if I’m being honest – don’t really add anything in terms of airflow. However, they double as fan mounting holes – with support for 2 x 120mm/140mm fans respectively. Two grommeted cable cutouts are found beside the vent, alongside two removable plates near the front which can be removed if you go for a large radiator or water cool setup in the front. You also have the option of mounting numerous SSD/HDDs on the PSU shroud as well.
Moving to the motherboard tray, users will be greeted with a huge area to install motherboards up to SSI-EEB form factor. That being said, if you fancy using this build for something a little more discrete (internally at least) the Define 7 XL does support Mini-ITX form factor as well – along with everything in-between. If you do plan on using a larger form factor motherboard, you’ll be happy to know that Fractal has equipped the Define 7 XL with additional cutouts for this specific reason. The motherboard tray has a large cutout behind the motherboard to ensure accessing large CPU coolers is not a problem, alongside an additional 9 grommeted cable cutouts for easy cable management. On the right, in stock configuration, the Define 7 XL has a sheet of plastic covering the back of the hard drive mounting bays. However, if you remove this plate – which can be done by removing the front fans then popping it off – you give yourself access to a whole bunch of exciting extras that include water cooling mounts and additional storage support.
In terms of compatibility, the Define 7 XL has you covered for pretty much every hardware offering available right now. You have room for huge SSI-EEB motherboards, a GPU up to 549mm in length (in open layout), 185mm of clearance for the cooler, and a shed load of fans – 11 in total. Just remember, the cooling of this case with the door closed and the sound dampening roof panel in place is really quite poor. If you are planning to use enthusiast-grade components, you will have to alter the configuration of the case – so just keep that in mind.
The Back Panel
Behind the back panel is where most of the design features come into play. Remove the panel in the same manner as the front panel, using the pop mechanism found the back of the case. Once removed, you have access to a plethora of storage options and cable management routes. The PSU shroud can accommodate a PSU with a max length of 250mm with the two hard drive cages installed.
The PSU and hard drive cages at the bottom are covered by a shroud which doubles up to stop the cables from coming into contact with the back panel. Seeing as though the back panel doesn’t have a true locking mechanism, this feels like a well thought out design feature. The shroud can easily be removed to access the cages and PSU by simply pulling it towards you.
Numerous hard drive mounts can be found behind the motherboard and on the left-hand side of the back panel, along with cable management tie holds and Fractals signature straps in the middle.
Towards the top of the case, above the motherboard, Fractal have installed a super-thin fan controller that supports up to 9 fans – 6 x 3 pin and 3 x 4 pin. Having the hub near the top of the case towards the back should alleviate some cable management issues, especially when you consider the radiator and fans are usually situated at the top anyway.
So, we’ve had a brief look at the exterior and interior of this case, now it’s time to outline some of the stand-out features the Define 7 XL comes equipped with. Like we mentioned earlier, Fractal Design are the masters when it comes to creating useful features, so choosing some of the best should be no problem whatsoever.
Sound Performance – One of the big pluses that you get with the Define 7 XL is the noise dampening performance. It comes equipped with Fractal’s signature noise dampening sides panels – equipped with Moduvent technology – meaning noisy internal components will be nullified – even when pushed in heavy workloads.
Modularity – Fractal’s latest Moduvent technology has been equipped in the Define 7 XL to its fullest, making almost every panel interchangeable – requiring no effort to do so. Unlike other cases of this size, which require screwdrivers and Allen keys to access hard-to-reach places, the Fractal brings an almost tool-less design to the table. If you’re looking for ease of building, look no further, this thing does it all.
Nexus+2 Fan Hub – Fractal have tried to make cooling this case a priority by equipping it with a high-quality Nexus fan controller which supports up to three PWM fans and six 3-pin connectors. This makes cable managing your build a great deal easier and should give you enough support to equip your PC to the max.
Build Process – One of the benefits that come hand-in-hand with a case of this size is just how easy they are to build in – and the support they offer for larger components. The Define 7 XL just feels like everything has been considered during the design process. It offers a ton of cable management options, NAS levels of storage support, clearance for numerous radiator and water-cooling configurations, and easy to replace panels. It really does scream premium in almost every area – a great full tower chassis.
So, we come to the end of the Fractal Design Define 7 XL case review. This is where we sum up our final thoughts and give our verdict on whether we feel it’s worth the money and your consideration.
The Define 7 Xl is one of the latest arrivals from Fractal Design – alongside the Define 7 – and it brings with it a bunch of new technologies and design features to make your life (as a PC builder) all the easier. It really has been well-designed using high-quality materials and to a stellar finish. This case would be perfect for a server build or large Threadripper build, whilst still having enough room to kit it out with all the cooling you could wish for.
On the downside, this case does not offer great cooling out the box. The front panel doesn’t provide nearly enough airflow to keep the internals cool, neither does the roof panel. However, users do have the option of running the PC with the secondary panel in place and the front door open. This will reduce temps by over 10 degrees which is quite dramatic. Having said that, some people might not be overly enthusiastic about using this case with the door open as it kind of ruins the sleek aesthetic it comes with.
Cooling aside though, you really can’t knock this case. I feel that (at its current price point) it showcases good value for money, especially if you prioritize build quality and features over aesthetics and RGB.
So, with that in mind, my final thoughts are as follows. If you’re looking for an extremely well-built PC case that has a tonne of room for large enthusiast-level components, elaborate water-cooling configurations, and has extremely good acoustic performance, then look no further. The Fractal Design Define 7 XL will please even the most demanding PC enthusiast out there.