Fractal Design Define 7 / 7 XL for Desktop Form Factor Storage Chassis

ReturnedSword

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Jun 15, 2018
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Fractal Design just dropped their new Define 7 / 7 XL. Tbh I was a bit surprised, didn't see this coming since didn't see any announcements from Fractal Design during CES 2020 regarding the Define series update. In particular, the Define XL hasn't been updated in years (since the last XL based on the Define R2 nearly a decade ago IIRC).

Define 7 — Fractal Design
Define 7 XL — Fractal Design

Both chassis look pretty interesting for home storage use. They are a bit on the large side due to support for E-ATX in the Define 7 (57.69 L) and up to SSI-EEB in the Define 7 XL (77.60 L). It looks like the Define 7 can also fit SSI-EEB, though some of the screws at the right edge can't be utilized due to overhang of the standoffs. I'll likely use this chassis for mATX sized boards so wish the chassis was a bit smaller, but can't complain much with the build quality and suggested price. With the number of drives, not having hotswap bays is manageable. All of my drives are labeled in any case.

Point of interest for me is that the Define 7 can mount 10 3.5" drives, with 3 more in the top/bottom fan slots, while the Define 7 XL can mount 15 3.5" drives, and 3 more in the top fan slots. The fan slot mounts aren't ideal, but the option is there I guess.


This may be perfect for a desktop FF storage chassis for a homelab. TG is nice for a workstation or gaming build, but for a server, the default sound dampened panels are preferred.
 

ReturnedSword

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Jun 15, 2018
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Yes, needing to buy additional drive sleds was the same for the Define R6. They're not that expensive, though can be hard to find as time goes on. You can also buy them cheaply from others on r/hardwareswap. Seems like many are willing to sell off their spare parts for a fair price; I'm one to keep all my spares, then when it's time to get rid of them they're worthless by then haha.

I assume that the drive sleds may be used in the fan slot positions too, going by what Fractal Design has done in the past.

Keep in mind that the advertised maximum drive capacity is only possible if using the top and bottom fan slots to mount drives, which for me personally is a bit impractical in a storage server, but I'm sure there will be users who make use of this capability.
 

ullbeking

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Jul 28, 2017
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These look... awesome. Thank you for posting, @ReturnedSword !!

I'm mainly interested in cases that can hold E-ATX and SSI-EEB mainboards, and the FD Define 7 XL is looking particularly sweet. Such a chassis is excellent for a powerful workstation.

I wonder how much acoustic dampening or other kinds of noise suppression the Define 7 XL gives its user..?

So far the Nanoxia Deep Silence series has been at the top due to quietness being one of the most important concerns for me.

Systems mounted in the Define 7 XL will tend to be dual-CPU mainboards. I predict most noise will come from the CPU HSF's and hard drive vibration.

It will be great to finally have SSI-EEB officially supported in a FD Define series chassis. (In the XL R2 you miss a lot of standoffs or maybe even you have to make more holes in your mainboard!)

Edit: @ReturnedSword: What is TG? (Mentioned in your post.)
 

ReturnedSword

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Jun 15, 2018
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I've suggested to Fractal Design a few times that they should consider making a version of the Define series with two drive towers. The Define series in general is pretty modular, so probably wouldn't be that hard. Investment in more tooling might be a limiting issue though, especially for a feature that won't move many units in the mainstream.

From personal experience, the Define R5, R6 acoustic dampening is excellent, so I'd expect the 7 will be even better. Nanoxia is well made for a quiet use case, but I don't prefer their chassis since they are quite bulky looking. I do tend to go for quiet builds, since the forum I was most active in during my enthusiast years was SPCR.

Both the 7 and 7 XL support 185mm height HSF, so plenty of room there for even a huge Noctua NH-D15. As for HDD vibration, the sleds use the mounting style introduced in the R6, so it's not too bad.
 

XeonLab

New Member
Aug 14, 2016
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Kudos for Fractal Design bringing something new to the "HEDT/NAS/Server"-tower chassis market, which is almost non-existent nowadays (Lian Li seemingly no longer cares about big cases and the others care even less). The D7's will certainly be nice cases, though I don't like fitting drives inside the PSU tunnel.
 

ReturnedSword

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Jun 15, 2018
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The RGB trend makes things difficult for minimalist components. I admit, my last workstation is RGB, but the novelty wore off when I realized I hardly ever look at my PC. Reminds me of the days of cathode tube lighting. Not sure why I bought into that years ago as well, since the result was the same. I do like a tastefully done TG panel over acrylic, but having an option for a solid panel is nice.

The other chassis trend is minimalist front fascias. Due to this, airflow is quite constrained. I'm not referring to open front chassis with screamer fans, rather, adequate airflow that's not choked. There's a trade off with constrained front panels. On one side of the coin a non-open front panel usually makes the chassis more quiet (important to me), but there's a point where temperatures will invariably be high even with high static pressure fans. On the Define 7 / 7 XL, airflow is limited unless the door is opened/removed.

With the Define 7 / XL drive layout, understandably Fractal Design like other manufacturers, need to make a product that has the most mass market appeal. Previously both the Define R and Define S series had great modularity with being able to convert the internal layout. Looks like the Define 7 is combining the features of both the R and S series, which is a good thing. I agree that an uninterrupted drive tower is preferred, even if it extends into the PSU tunnel. My preference stems from more of cabling/clean looks due to OCD than drives being in the PSU tunnel. My biggest ask from Fractal Design would be to offer a variant with two drive towers for those who don't need to run an E-ATX or EEB motherboard. Of course, that probably won't happen in the Define line due to the aforementioned mass market targeting. I have a little hope that the Node line will be updated, but who knows?

I've been a fan of Lian Li since bygone days. They've made many nice chassis. Recently their Lancool and O11 series are pretty nice. I'm not really into the aesthetics of the Lancool series, and like the O11 series though it's a bit big.
 

Octopuss

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Jun 30, 2019
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These cases are great, but probably not if you have an earlier model. The differences almost on the cosmetic level.
 

ReturnedSword

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Jun 15, 2018
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Fractal isn’t known for paradigm shifting chassis design. Mostly their designs focus on improving the internal layout. The outer design has been relatively same since the R2. With the 7 series it looks like Fractal combined the internal design of the R6 and S2, which is good since the S2 was fairly redundant.