Fractal’s New Define 7 XL Full Tower Case: First Impressions
Will Fractal’s New Case Define the Full Tower Market?
It has been a little over two years since the Define R6 launched, and today Fractal is announcing the new Define 7 Series. We have the big new Define 7 XL in the office, and after an initial build we can share some of our first impressions with this new flagship-level enclosure.
For years the Define cases have served as a template for what an ATX enclosure should be. Fractal’s designs are well engineered, offer useful features, and provide an understated appearance. The Define 7 Series follows this tradition, blending a thoughtful interior design with a no-frills aesthetic – and without an RGB in sight (unless you choose to add them, of course).
“The Define 7 XL sets a new standard for what you should expect from a full tower case in terms of modularity, flexibility and ease of use. With its dual-layout interior, industrial sound damping and massively versatile layout supporting the largest E-ATX and enterprise boards, multi-GPU setups, outlandish water loops, and almost two dozen storage devices (in Storage layout), you’ll be hard pressed to find a limit to what you can do with your build in the Define 7 XL.”
Features and Specs
- Spacious, extensively adaptable dual-layout interior easily accommodates large motherboards up to E-ATX and SSI-EEB
- Mount up to 18 HDD/SSDs plus five SSDs in the Storage Layout (6 HDD/SSD trays + 2 SSD brackets + 2 multi-brackets included)
- Use the Open Layout for more headroom and gargantuan water-cooling with radiators up to 480 mm in front or top and 280 mm in the base
- Two 5.25” ODD bays can be converted to an additional front fan mount with filtered louver covering
- Silence-optimized construction with industrial sound-damped front, top, and side panels
- Top panel effortlessly swaps from sound damped solid steel to filtered ventilation
- New chassis design opens up to fully expose the case interior on three sides for totally unhindered installation and cable routing
- Anodized aluminum front panel with reversible dual-handed hinges opens and closes easily with magnetic latching
- Outstanding cooling capacity with a total of 9 x 140 mm or 11 x 120 mm fan mounts and three preinstalled Dynamic X2 GP-14 fans
- Versatile new multi-brackets convert any unused fan position to an HDD, SSD or pump mount
- Three vertical GPU slots for use with the Flex VRC-25 PCIe riser, available separately
- Five front USB ports including one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C with fast charging support and speeds up to 10Gbps
- Ultra-slim Nexus+ 2 fan hub connects up to three PWM fans and six 3-pin fans directly in line with cable channels along the edge of the case
- Sturdy new HDD cage design with vibration damped trays
- Tool-less, top-latching panels allow quick access while preventing accidental drops
- Bridgeless expansion slots ensure obstruction-free connections for easier installation and hookup
- Ventilated PSU shroud with two-part removable cover
- Easy-to-clean high airflow nylon filters on the front, top, and base with full PSU coverage and convenient front access
- 13 pass-through holes with ten rubber grommets and two removable covers make for clean cable routing regardless of motherboard size
- Detachable PSU cable shield and integrated cable guides with Velcro straps further simplify cable management behind the board
The Define 7 XL looks like larger version of the Define cases we’re used to, with this particular example outfitted with a tempered glass side panel (this is the Define 7 XL Black TG Dark Tint).
The front panel is the same textured plastic we have seen before, and it swings open to reveal not only the front fan intake but support for two 5.25-inch external drives. Yes, dual optical bay support in 2020. That is awesome. Oh, and totally optional (you can remove the internal bracket to open up further cooling options in the top of the case).
The top of the case is home to the front panel I/O, which includes USB Type-C, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0, as well as analog audio and the usual power/reset controls.
The rear of the case offers support for up to a 140 mm fan (included) or radiator, and in addition to the 8 standard expansion slots there is a triple-slot vertical mount as well – with some additional hardware required if you wish you mount your GPU in this location.
Like so many cases these days the Define 7 XL features a wide-open internal layout, and unlike the Define R6 before it this case ships without a large storage section interfering with the component chamber.
This is not to say that this case doesn’t offer tons of storage flexibility, as you can “mount up to 18 HDD/SSDs plus five SSDs in the Storage Layout (6 HDD/SSD trays + 2 SSD brackets + 2 multi-brackets included)”. There are four dedicated HDD bays behind the shroud at the case floor, with vertical mounts on the left side and the usual SSD mounts beneath the motherboard tray.
As we saw with the Vector RS the Define 7 XL offers multiple top panel options, transforming from a solid panel lined with acoustic material to a fully ventilated panel. This alternate, airflow top panel is included in the accessory kit.
The Define 7 XL includes cable guides in addition to the velcro straps we’re accustomed to, and these do a nice job routing the smaller cables. PSU cables are generally too large fro these, but the 30 mm clearance for cables behind the rear panel does allow for some leeway here.
The case also offers Fractal’s Nexus+ 2 fan hub, which allows for up to three PWM fans (a PWM control cable plugs in an available motherboard header) and six standard 3-pin fans to be connected, and the slim new design places the hub along the edge of the case for easier cable routing.
While this is not a full review I still put together a full build inside the Define 7 XL, giving our X299 test platform a home for the time being inside of this cavernous case. And even with an EATX motherboard there was a generous amount of room around the system to rout cables and install cooling.
Clearance above the motherboard was particularly notable, as so many cases lack the necessary space to easily mount radiators and fans above the system. Here it was as easy as any enclosure I’ve tested to date, and cable routing was well above average, too.
This wasn’t a complex build by any means, but it went together very smoothly nonetheless. Support looks excellent if you have need of a more involved build such as the one Kent completed in his most recent enclosure review, with a lot of radiator/fan flexibility on all sides.
As you can see from Fractal’s diagrams above, fan and radiator support is extensive in the Define 7 XL, with up to 480 mm rads supported up front and at the top (with the 5.25 in bay removed), a 120 mm at the rear, and up to a 280 mm rad on the case floor. Up to 11x total 120 mm fans can be installed, or 9x 140 mm fans. In short, it’s a big case with lots of fan mounts.
Conclusion (So Far)
It’s only been a few days since I started using the Define 7 XL, and I’ve only completed one quick build. Still, after evaluating cases for more than seven years now I have become very quick to judge new models once I go hands on, and this one passes the initial inspection with few – if any – quibbles so far.
There are always things I would change about an enclosure, and here I find myself missing the aesthetics of the last Fractal case I reviewed, the outstanding (and angular) Vector RS. In fact, along with the be quiet! Dark Base 700, that Vector was one of my favorite enclosures of 2020.
Pricing always plays a role in how we judge a product, and at $209 USD for the tempered glass variant we received there is so much strong competition that thermal and noise performance will have to be evaluated before providing an assessment of the new Define 7 XL. As a full-tower design it does play in a smaller space in the overall enclosure market, and for a premium model that ~$200 price isn’t actually unreasonable.
The features, build quality, versatility, and classy appearance make this a worthy addition to Fractal’s Define family, and while I miss touches from the R6 (like the spring-loaded button to release the top panel) this is a solid effort from Fractal, and one that feels like it’s built to last for many years. Seriously, this thing is over 36 lbs.
Thermals and noise testing to come, along with a close look at the extended storage support. Stay tuned!
This disclosure statement covers the way the product being reviewed was obtained and the relationship between the product's manufacturer and PC Perspective.
How Product Was Obtained
The case is on loan from Fractal Design for the purpose of this review.
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The case remains the property of Fractal Design but will be on extended loan to PC Perspective for the purpose of future testing and product comparisons.
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