Fractal Design Vector RS Case Review: Style and Substance
A New Take on Tempered Glass from Fractal
Fractal Design (or, simply, Fractal as they shift corporate identity) has long been known in the enthusast community for outstanding enclosure design and performance. Their Define series has received considerable acclaim, and while there are certainly those who prefer the functional and minimalist design of cases like the Define R6 (and eschewing even the tempered glass side panel in favor of a solid, insulated panel), Fractal has moved with the industry into some more aesthetically inspired designs.
When we looked at the Define S2 Vision RGB case earlier this year, a design with no fewer than four tempered glass panels and a lofty $239.99 USD price tag, it was a very different product than previous Fractal enclosures we’d reviewed. Though a well-constructed example of the glass-on-all-sides approach to case design, its thermal performance came at the cost of some pretty high noise levels by Fractal standards.
There is no way around the problem with tempered glass designs where the front panel is solid glass, and that is airflow. To achieve the cooling performance of a case with a ventilated front panel more and/or faster intake fans must be present, and these often result in higher noise output. And while the Define R6 does not have a well-ventilated front, either, its front fans are muted by the insulated door that makes up this panel. With glass the sound will be more prevalent.
The Vector RS case that we present today is a striking design aesthetically, and with a $179.99 price tag it plays in the premium market, competing with cases such as the be quiet! Dark Base 700 – though with multiple tempered glass panels (it’s available with standard or dark-tinted glass) and a less conventional appearance. The Vector RS offers a new intake design for improved airflow, and only a portion of its front panel is glass – both of which may contribute to a lower noise profile. So, is this the next great Fractal case? Let’s find out.
- Case Material: Steel, Tempered Glass
- Side Panels
- Left side panel: Light/Dark Tempered glass (Blackout TG/Blackout Dark TG)
- Right side panel: Steel with bitumen sound damping
- Top panel: Light/Dark Tempered glass (Blackout TG/Blackout Dark TG)
- Motherboard compatibility: E-ATX (up to 285 mm wide), ATX, mATX, Mini-ITX
- Expansion slots: 7 + 2 vertical
- Power supply type: ATX
- Drive Bays
- External 5.25″ drive bays: N/A
- Universal 3.5″/2.5″ drive mounts: 6 included, 11 positions total
- Dedicated 2.5″ drive mounts: 2 included, 4 positions total
- Front ports:
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
- 2 x USB 3.0
- Audio I/O
- Total fan mounts: 9 (6 + 3 with included bracket)
- Front fan: 3 x 120/140 mm (2 x 140 mm fans included)
- Top fan (with cooling bracket installed): 3 x 120/140 mm
- Rear fan: 1 x 120/140 mm (1 x 140 mm fan included)
- Bottom fan: 2 x 120/140 mm
- Dust filters:
- Bottom fan + PSU
- Front fans
- Top panel (with cooling bracket installed)
- Radiator Support
- Front: 120/240/360 mm, 140/280 mm
- Top (with cooling bracket installed): 120/240/360 mm, 140/280/420 mm (max 35 mm MB component height)
- Rear: 120 mm
- Bottom: 120/240 mm, 140/280 mm
- Component Clearance
- PSU max length: 300 mm
- GPU max length: Max 440 mm with front fan mounted
- 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
- Additional Lighting: Integrated front/top panel ARGB
- Case dimensions (L x W x H): 552 x 233 x 498 mm
- Case dimensions w/o feet/protrusions/screws: 540 x 233 x 475 mm
- Net weight: 12.64 kg
“The Vector RS brings an exciting new aesthetic to the established concepts of modular case design, aimed to offer an uncompromised mix of attitude and ability.”
Fractal Vector RS Exterior
This is quite a departure for Fractal cases: an angular and asymmetrical design with an RGB light strip running through it. What has the world come to? (Actually, I liked the look of this case instantly, but of course aesthetics are a personal thing.)
Ignoring the style of the Vector RS for a moment we see a split between glass and plastic on the front panel, with the component side panel a panel of glass with a minimal metal frame, and rear panel of the steel variety.
There are a pair of vertical expansion slots on the back alongside the standard horizontal ones – and Fractal offers a separate GPU installation kit should you wish to show off your GPU through the tempered glass side. At the bottom of the enclosure there is a long dust filter which slides out towards the front.
Top Panel Options
Exactly how the top of the Vector RS looks (and functions) is left to the end user, with this glass windowed version simply the default.
A box with an alternate, vented top panel, as well as a bracket for mounting fans and radiators at the top of the case, is included with the Vector RS.
Using this alternate panel kit is easy, as the glass windowed top slides off after removing a pair of screws, and then the included cooling bracket, screen filter, and ventilated panel can be installed. This is very similar to the process with the Define R6, though that earlier enclosure uses a spring-loaded button release mechanism.
The end result with this ventilated panel looks just as polished as the default option, though less stylish, of course. Importantly for the aesthetics of this RGB design, the light strip is not affected by the replacement of this panel.
Fractal Vector RS Interior
If you are familiar with Fractal’s Define R6 enclosure then the interior of the Vector RS will offer no surprises, and it shares the modular approach of the latest in the Define R series. The biggest item of interest here in the component chamber is the removable panel the right of the motherboard tray, and this provides access to the rear of the HDD installation bracket.
Around back a total of six included HDD mounting brackets are found, pre-mounted, and if your build does not require these the entire thing can be removed to create a wide-open internal layout.
Removing the front panel is easy, and I was happy to see a cable-free connection for the front panel RGB strip, just as we saw with the Dark Base 700. The front panel also features a narrow screen filter for the air intakes on both sides, which is a very nice touch. These were easy to remove for cleaning, and given the generous distance between the slats that make up the side vents the filters were a good idea.
Another aspect of the design of the Vector RS is its modular front HDD cage, which consists of a full-length metal bracket with the door we looked at earlier, and this bracket comes out without too much trouble with a few screws to remove first.
Once all HDD trays this bracket have been removed the case is transformed to a fully open layout. While giving up 3.5-inch storage might not suit your needs, and with airflow pretty much unencumbered by storage mounted towards the bottom of the bracket, it’s still nice to have the option.
Fractal sent along both a new Ion+ 760W Platinum power supply and their optional Flex VRC-25 PCIe riser cable kit for vertical GPU installation.
The Flex VRC-25 kit includes a flexible cable and the required mounting hardware, and getting this set up in the Vector RS was a simple matter. Simply mount using the standoffs and screws and attach to a PCI Express x16 slot.
It’s worth noting that very tall GPUs might interfere with big CPU air coolers, but my ASUS Strix RTX 2070 fit beneath a Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition just fine.
I won’t cover the entire build process with this new case as the process is identical to that of the Define R6 (link to our review). Suffice it to say that the Vector RS offers the same easy and highly flexible build process as the R6, with a result that looks great with some attention paid to cable routing.
In the interest of time, only one of the possible builds was completed with our Vector RS, as I created an open build after going through the process of removing the HDD trays and bracket. The same build would have worked just as well with the HDD bracket, but airflow will eventually be compromised if you stack enough hard drives up front, of course.
The biggest question I always have when looking at any tempered glass case that features a solid front panel is that of airflow, and here we have a new intake around the perimeter of this front panel that is designed for quiet intake. Will enough air get through to make the front fans effective? We will investigate.
|PC Perspective Enclosure Test Platform|
|Motherboard||GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS PRO|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-9700K|
|Memory||Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4-3200 32GB (16GBx2)|
|Graphics Card||MSI NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X Trio|
|Storage||CORSAIR Neutron Series XTi 480GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Fractal Ion+ Platinum 760W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit (1903)|
A quick note first on GPU temps, as these are missing from the comparison chart below. After some flakey behavior leading up to this review the RTX 2070 I had been using for testing stopped working, and I did not have an identical version to compare to previous test results. A new RTX 2070 SUPER from MSI was substituted, and I at least have enclosure vs. open air for temps and noise.
With a new MSI RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X Trio installed I ran the usual GPU load test, comparing against open air results with this card for temps and noise.
These results might look a little odd until you consider that the MSI RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X Trio has a zero RPM idle, so the lower idle temps inside the case make sense as the card is being cooled via the Vector RS’s excellent airflow. Under load things swing back in favor of the open test bench, as they nearly always will, though a rise of only 3.5 C (above ambient) is excellent.
While unconventional, due to the failure of a GPU during the review process, these results still show excellent thermal performance.
We’ll look first at the noise with system idle and CPU loads compared to the other recently tested enclosures (again, GPU data will be absent from the chart for this Vector RS).
I didn’t make a separate chart for the GPU noise as output inside the case vs. the open test bench was literally unchanged. With the MSI RTX 2070 SUPER card the zero RPM idle means that system noise will be unchanged until the card is under load, and here this card’s very low 32.6 dBA recorded on the open test bench was exactly matched when testing inside the Vector RS.
The Vector RS enclosure’s included fans create about 32 dBA of noise from 12″ away (with my SPL meter, anyhow), and the quiet components used resulted in a rise of less than 2 dBA under CPU load and less than 1 dBA from the GPU. Paired with the right mix of components this Vector RS is be a very cool and quiet case – and that’s without adding the ventilated top panel, which should further improve temps though at a slight increase in system noise.
The light strip implemented by Fractal with the Vector RS is about as unobtrusive as they come, and connects to an available RGB header on your motherboard. In addition to motherboard lighting control Fractal’s Adjust R1 RGB controller can also be used.
I created a simple effect syncing with the purple color scheme within the case, and the interesting pattern this light strip creates – as it zig-zags from top right to front left as it travels down the front panel – adds to the effect.
The Vector RS is a striking design aesthetically; far different than a tempered glass variant of a standard Define case as with the S2 Vision. The lower $179.99 price tag (compared to $239.99 with the S2 Vision) is also welcome, and in general I completed the review process with some newfound enthusiasm.
Fractal’s Vector RS looks great, has a low-key approach to RGB, and has excellent thermals and noise levels – and not just for a tempered glass case. Add to this the quality of its construction and flexibility of its design (which is essentially identical to that of the Define R6 internally) and you have an outstanding product that succeeds in producing a more stylish version of a modern classic. I’m a fan.