Define R6 case personal review or... what's happened to PC cases for the last 10 years?!

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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New user here, hi all!

Anandtech has always been a great reference for me on hardware for many years, so decided to register and well say something!

I'm not doing a new build at all, but my 10 year old case is resonating the hell outta the HDDs with no fix in sight (tried EVERYTHING, foregone conclusion..). So eventually got the new one. After a lot of searching I got a fractal design define R6 case. I plan to write a small review, but reckon a long prefix on the review theme seemed better.



The R6 is a great case, but in my searches looking at all the cases on offer, I can't help but wonder, why does it seem that PC case designs have regressed? Ala... 1 step forward, 2 steps back?


A. What seems to be missing most is surely air flow. 90% of the cases on offer have the front panel closed and just choose to use the side intakes. With so little area for air, it just doesn't make sense. This seems to me the biggest issue while straightforward enough to describe.
The R6 can have the front panel open and I ofc plan to just leave the panel entirely off. More on that later..


B. Dust filter setup. The old cases years ago mostly used "honey comb + sponge" setup in front. The sponge is thick and dense for keeping dust out. And if one needs more airflow, one can take the sponge out. Even better, since it is now summer I need even more air for the gfx card, I just completely take out a single honey comb in front of the bottom intake fan, like this
IMG_20190808_135401_1.jpg
It's all very customizable, depending on dust/noise/airflow needs. To clean them, you get a few spare combs. Wash the dirtiest ones with water, put on spares and let the wet ones dry. Next time cleaning just repeat the cycle.
The newer cases, seems they all use a single layer of net for dust filtration. The net is very coarse, and it is a single layer, like the ones on house windows to keep out mosquitoes. The only way I can think of is this way being cheaper.


C. PSU bottom mounts. This just creates headaches.

The PSU sucks up air from the bottom of the case, which means not enough air - similar to problem A; and it sucks up dust. The inside of the PSU is very hard to clean, once dust gets in there, it's there for good. -- case in point, my 10 year old PSU is an Antec SG-850, bought it based on stellar reviews from this very site. It is working still perfectly fine, but the fan in it is finally dying after such a long time! When I opened it up, thing is just covered up in dust galore. First time I opened it!

This is also related to PSU fan setup. Old PSUs mostly have an exhaust fan in the back. This is I find a good way to facilitate push-pull airflows. Assume there're 3 intake fans in front and 1 exhaust fan in back. With a PSU top mount:
Top intake fan -> PSU exhaust fan. Push pull for PSU.
Middle intake fan -> Rear exhaust fan. Push pull for CPU/RAM.
Bottom intake fan -> Gfx card fan. Push pull around GFX card.

One can still do this on the new cases, but the PSU loop is no more. Instead the PSU is using dusty, limited airflow with its own loop.

The way to avoid this is to invert the PSU to have it draw air from the top, but I find this even worse as the PSU intake is from the GFX card hot air pocket. On the Define R6 the PSU shroud is riveted, and the shroud surface definitely isn't perforated enough for good airflow so might as well forget it.
....The explanation for this entire PSU bottom mount I can think of, is the need for case top exhaust, purely for water cooling radiators.


D. Aesthetics vs. durability, or all the Glass and RGBs. OK, aesthetics is purely subjective so this section is just my own opinion. The Define R6 I bought is ofc no RGB, no glass. Reason is the fan/lighting controller seems flimsy on lotta cases - the R6 seems fine but only time will tell. I already see ppl on amazon/newegg etc saying their fan controller died after just months, or even worse, shorting out! As for the tempered glass, I'll just take a pic:
IMG_20190808_150543_2.jpg
This is my old case side panel - accidentally dropped it pretty hard couple years ago. Since the whole thing is metal, it just bent at the corner. Forced it back with tools and it didn't end up affect mounting at all. Imagine what would happen if it were glass.


A big plus for the newer cases is definitely cable management. The old cases are downright awful. But that's the only plus I can find.

The reasoning behind this whole deal it seems is water cooling. On a more macro level, perhaps normal users just moved on to smart phones and laptops, while the PC market has shrunk to mostly gamers with hard watercooling demand. But I wonder if the pace the case industry has been moving is just too.. fast? The sponge dust filtration and front intake setups shouldn't be a thing of the past at all I think. There are very cheap cases where the buyer wouldn't have the budget for extra bells and whistles, but the whole thing is still closed with glass front panel, RGB lighting and all the useless stuffs.
 

ElFenix

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Mar 20, 2000
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i've run my PSUs inverted in my fractals since i put them together years ago. they're fine. just don't drop a screw in one.

i too am annoyed by the multitude of glass side cases with no option for solid (or, especially, sound dampening) panels.
 

Campy

Senior member
Jun 25, 2010
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I think you're making a mountain out of a mole hill on some of this stuff. Yeah there have been cases with poor/abysmal airflow in the last few years, but the mfrs usually get called out for it by reviewers. Bottom mount PSU is nice, gets the cables out of the way and keeps more of the weight towards the bottom of the case, bottom dust filters are also standard.
Fractal have always had good airflow in their cases and a lot of them allow mounting 1-2 bottom intake fans too. If you really want max airflow you should have got the Fractal Meshify S2. It's basically the R6 with a mesh front and no drive cage.
 

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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Here goes the small review. Again case is the Define R6 blackout version, no tempered glass. This is definitely not one for visuals so no pictures - I'm mostly stock and pics wouldn't differ from other ones on the net. Whole thing is just a black blob anyway:D

Case is indeed very nice from the outset. Touching the sanded surface is a pleasure, and construction is sturdy. Have seen corsair cases flex a lot, but not this one.


Firstly the bad.

Biggest problem is not surprisingly the irremovable PSU shroud. I think it does add to structural integrity somewhat, but if it can be taken off, building the case woulda been easier. I did manage to unplug a SATA cable from the PSU while it was mounted, but it was quite difficult.

Next problem is the front intake fans. I have them connected to the fan controller on the case, and the PWM cable on the fan controller plugged into the mobo 4pin. The front fans became very loud. Unplugged the PWM cable, fans quieted down. But intake is now not PWM. Ordered 3 Noctua 14cm.

The panel of the intake fan mount is too thin. They are rather flimsy, not sure about running intake fans at high RPMs. Will see when the Noctuas arrive.

The SSD / HDD vertical mounts. Disks can run pretty hot and cooling them is necessary. Vertical mounts are all in positions without airflow which would be bad. This is ofc not only just on the Define R6 alone.
-- There're some holes on the SSD vertical mount plate, got one to be a tie down point for the cables instead. They're not completely useless...


Nitpickings being the motherboard supports are all screws. Below is a pic of my old case which is a cheap Thermaltake M9. 6 motherboard supports are organic, except the right most 3 to be compatible with different sized boards.
1.jpg
The mobo mount screws are crap. The type that secures the PSU to the back plate is much better. Luckily have lots of leftovers from old case so used those instead.
The board of the mobo tray is not as thick compared to the M9 and there's some flex.
The bottom right mobo screw couldn't align properly. Screwed it in just barely, I think there's quite a bit of bending force on the mobo now.
The HD audio mount is extremely tight. With the PSU shroud in the way I couldn't support the mobo from the other side while pushing in the mount.
But yea just small things.



Now the good.

Hard disk cage! Compared to old cases, perpendicular disk cage solves heaps of problems. A sad story: was trying to figure out the HDD vibration problem on the old M9. While unplugging HDD power, my hand swayed into the memory stick, bending it sideways some 20 degrees. I think that memory stick is damaged somewhat, a few booting fails happened, luckily it eventually worked after remounting the stick several times. Obviously new cases all have perpendicular disk cages and back cable nowadays but to me this is a life saver.

Case side panels. They're very easy to open and close, insert the front edge and pop. It makes troubleshooting things much easier. On the old case I'm used to have the left panel open in case any problem happens, but I think that is now no longer needed.

Detachable front door. This is simply a must! Remove it during summer, put it back on during winter that is if I'm bothered.

Bottom dust filter comes out from the front. Have seen cases with filter going out the back, which would be problematic.

Front panel not connected to the I/O ports. Makes dust cleaning much easier.



Thermals:

Not asking too much, only no worse than old case which was very well ventilated. And results seems to be on par. My setup atm is completely stock so will only get better with better fans.

Tried having the front door on. BLOODY HELL. GPU temp jumped 7 degrees and CPU fan ran over 2000 RPM. It was scary. Completely don't get case designs that have the front enclosed.



Good case overrall me thinks. Didn't give me too much bad surprise, the PSU shroud and bottom mount issue, I already knew them before getting the case.


Elfenix: Good to know inverting the PSU is OK, thank you! Going to do just that.

Campy: 5.25" mount is a must for me so the Meshify S2 was out. Otherwise I'd probably end up with that one indeed.
 

gg2

Junior Member
Jun 24, 2019
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Do you consider the case "silent" in normal use?
Is operating with and without the door very noticeable from a noise perspective?
 

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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Do you consider the case "silent" in normal use?
Is operating with and without the door very noticeable from a noise perspective?

It is better than my old case which has no sound insulation, but have seen friend's PC which mostly can't be heard, so I guess mediocre.
Door makes big difference. Especially when at speed it blocks lots of fan noise.
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
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for people without carpet or pets!

I have both of those, and I just bought a piece of lumber at Lowes, and cut it to the size of my FD R5's feet, and you couldn't really even see it. The bottom filter caught any hair that my kids missed vacuuming every day as part of their chores. More hair would actually get picked up by the front fans, and pulled into the front filter, as I had to clean that a lot more often than the bottom filter.

However, when I passed that case down to my youngest son, I didn't go with any fans mounted in the bottom since the Be Quiet case allowed me to have 3 X 140mm front intake fans.
 
Feb 4, 2009
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I have both of those, and I just bought a piece of lumber at Lowes, and cut it to the size of my FD R5's feet, and you couldn't really even see it. The bottom filter caught any hair that my kids missed vacuuming every day as part of their chores. More hair would actually get picked up by the front fans, and pulled into the front filter, as I had to clean that a lot more often than the bottom filter.

However, when I passed that case down to my youngest son, I didn't go with any fans mounted in the bottom since the Be Quiet case allowed me to have 3 X 140mm front intake fans.

I’m considering getting an R6 and I’m confused about what you did with the wood?
Did you put a slab of wood under the pc so there is less space for cat/dog hair to enter?
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
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I’m considering getting an R6 and I’m confused about what you did with the wood?
Did you put a slab of wood under the pc so there is less space for cat/dog hair to enter?

With carpet, the case's feet would sink into my carpet, and pretty much leave no clearance on the bottom of the case for airflow. So I bought a piece of finished wood, cut it down to where it was just big enough for all four of the case's feet would stand on it. This way it was like the case was on hard floor instead of sinking into the carpet, allowing airflow.

If there was any hair from my pets, the front fans would get it before it ever got to the bottom fans, so I had to clear out my front filter a lot more often than the bottom filter.
 

WilliamM2

Platinum Member
Jun 14, 2012
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I'm planning on getting an R6 for my next build. I will be blocking all ventilation on the bottom with a sheet of abs cut the exact size of the current slide out filter, and inverting the PSU. My cats shed like crazy, so even on hardwood floors hair is an issue. and blocking the bottom should make the case even quieter. As far as the PS shroud, it has plenty of ventilation, and can also draw in air from the open end at the front area of the case.

None of my previous cases have bottom fan mounts or vents, I don't think it's needed. The front door will also stay on, with HVAC, my house is the same temperature year round, or maybe even a little cooler in the summer.

My current case is an Antec SX-800 from 19 years ago. My Skylake system runs very cool and quiet, barely more than room temp most the time, right now the CPU is 72f. I'm sure the R6 will do better with the larger fans it has, even with the top and bottom closed off, just like the SX-800.
 
Feb 4, 2009
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I saw an R6 in person at Micro Center, sadly none of their demo machines were in them.
Display model looked pretty good except for the front door, it will definitely be broken off in the smallest accident, plastic & hinges felt cheap. Another minor bummer is the door won't open more than 90 degrees.
Not a deal breaker to me since next I never use the CD/DVD drive but something to be aware of.
 

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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Fan Blues

Well the Noctua fans are a bit of a disaster for this case. The front panel + filter perhaps changes airflow for the intake somewhat, and anything above 850RPM produces whines, plus the usual humming at high RPM for most fans.

So time to change it up. Had pretty good experience of Enermax 12cm Twister Advance. Its plastic is very soft and feels low quality, but this makes it very light and doesn't vibrate the case too much at high RPM, unlike some other "heavy" 12cm fans I've tried. At 1500RPM max the noises are acceptable. Plus the RPM selector is very convenient and I used to run 'em at 1200 max. Turns out there's a 14cm version so tried one of those. Compared to the Noctuas, it has slightly better airflow but a bit less static pressure. But the front dust filter made it hum loudly. Bah!

Also tried the default fractal design fans on the front with variable speed - turns out mobo doesn't support PWM on anything other than CPU and CPU_OPT, but voltage control is good enough for me. ..It is even worse than Enermax 14cm.


I think anything above 900RPM is just bad for this case' front intake. The Noctua fans are quite expensive and I can't waste them, so plugged in two Low Noise Adapters RPM Reduction cables on it - yes 2 of them, tried 1 and it's not enough - and it finally quieted down to acceptable levels.

The Enermax 14cm is selected on the lowest RPM (600-900) and relegated to rear exhaust duty. Any fan can do rear exhaust!

The default FD fans are not used, only for backups.

But one can never have too many fans. Despite sky high MTBFs listed on companies' websites I think these are expendables anyway. So decided to get another. Looked at anything else with 1000- Max RPM, non-RGB and focuses on quietness: Be Quiet Silent Wings 3 fits.

And success! Just can't hear them even at load. RPMs are good. At high CPU load the Noctua revs up slightly higher - with 2 LNAs already on that is, but not by much. Edit: Noctua 14cm default 1500RPM, +1 LNA is 1200RPM, +2 LNA should be 1000RPM so technically the same and speedfan pretty much say so as well.

So current setup is Noctua NF-A14 with 2 low noise adapters front up, Be quiet Silent wings 3 front below, Enermax twister advance in the back.

If I had known... probably woulda just got Silent Wings and sodded anything else. Oh well.

Hopefully it is of some use to others getting this case - ofc noise levels are subjective so make of it what you will!
 
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viivo

Diamond Member
May 4, 2002
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Regarding PSUs, don't most now run in fan-off mode the majority of the time? I know my current and last two PSUs have had that feature. It's been a very long time since PSU fan noise and airflow was a concern.

As to cases, I love my Fractal Define S. All solid panels with sound dampening material and plenty of room for two or more 280mm radiators. The solid front bezel doesn't impede airflow either due to sides, top, and bottom being well-vented for intake.
 

Topweasel

Diamond Member
Oct 19, 2000
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I saw an R6 in person at Micro Center, sadly none of their demo machines were in them.
Display model looked pretty good except for the front door, it will definitely be broken off in the smallest accident, plastic & hinges felt cheap. Another minor bummer is the door won't open more than 90 degrees.
Not a deal breaker to me since next I never use the CD/DVD drive but something to be aware of.

I believe some of that is that the case can have the front installed for opening in either direction. That means both sides have to support the hinge (or the part the door clicks into) and I think that is what limits max angle.
 

Topweasel

Diamond Member
Oct 19, 2000
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Regarding PSUs, don't most now run in fan-off mode the majority of the time? I know my current and last two PSUs have had that feature. It's been a very long time since PSU fan noise and airflow was a concern.

As to cases, I love my Fractal Define S. All solid panels with sound dampening material and plenty of room for two or more 280mm radiators. The solid front bezel doesn't impede airflow either due to sides, top, and bottom being well-vented for intake.

That's a good point. This isn't a closed front, or small slitted front. The intakes around the front are massive and allow a lot more air through then any case fan is going to pull.
 
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Feb 4, 2009
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I believe some of that is that the case can have the front installed for opening in either direction. That means both sides have to support the hinge (or the part the door clicks into) and I think that is what limits max angle.

Makes sense, I know I’ll forget how flimsy the door is and I’ll break it when I pick it up in a few years after I buy it.
Just like what happened to my antecedent P180 door.
 

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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Fan Blues 2

Well, switched to 3x120mm fans on front, just old ones from old case.
GPU temp drops by 2 deg C compared to 2x140mm. Despite mostly blocked by the PSU shroud, the bottom 120mm still contributes some airflow - felt it by hand using speedfan to adjust speed settings. On 2x140mm the bottom 140 loses some airflow below the shroud in comparison, I think that makes a slight difference.
Also it seems the 140mm fans, since they're so wide, even with the front door removed, they're still choked by air somewhat due to the front panel. The 120s are narrower and can intake air from a wider angle - but it's just my speculation.

More interestingly noise level dropped quite a bit by using 3x120s. This is due to my own brilliant 140mm fan choices ofc!

Did another test by adding 2 top intake fans - assumption is they would blow air down towards the GPU section. However no change in temps, which is just as well since not too inclined to open the top, even less top intake.
- The top metal cover is a b*tch to remove for me at least and had to use 2 flat head screw drivers as plyers.

Woulda loved to try 3x140 intakes, but not possible on this one. "Hello self, you wanted that ODD drive." In retrospect, no regrets, one's gotta have priorities!

Did two more tests outta curiosity.

1. How much does front intakes cool the GPU? Did a comparison between running 3 front intakes at 100%, and not running at all: a whopping 15 degrees C, 48 vs 33. (Ambient temp ~ 30C) The GPU wasn't at full load even, if it was the temp difference could be more. - Not gonna torture my old card to 100% without cooling...

2. Which fan contributes to GPU cooling the most, top, middle or bottom? Test is done by leaving 2 fans dead stop and 1 fan at 100%. Result is... no one. Interestingly one of them did make 1-2 deg difference, which is the top one, hmmm.... Anyway I think with only one fan running, the air dissipates too much and nothing substantial reached the back. Only by running all 3 together can air flow have enough range.

And one more research: what happened to side plate mounted fan for GPU cooling? It is extremely effective.
Answer: It makes removing the side plate very tricky.
-- Yeah that makes perfect sense lol.
 
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viivo

Diamond Member
May 4, 2002
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There are a few cooling vectors for GPUs. Bottom mounted fans obviously provide the GPU's fan(s) with fresh air. Depending on cooler design front intake can be beneficial or negligible.

In my experience over the past month trying to tame a 5700 XT's temperatures - mainly hot spot/junction - I found that airflow over the backplate had an immediately noticeable impact. The area which houses the hot spot sensor is on the back of the card around the core and even a small amount of air across it makes a difference, as in 80C+ to ~65.
 

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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There are a few cooling vectors for GPUs. Bottom mounted fans obviously provide the GPU's fan(s) with fresh air. Depending on cooler design front intake can be beneficial or negligible.
My bottom mount position is a tangled mess of PSU power lines:X Gonna tidy them up and try that next. Currently though I'm not sure if: a. the bottom intake is just gonna disrupt the airflow from the front and blow air up; b. does add cool air and does help; c. bottom and front cancels each other out.

Although it is all subjective and only test will tell.

I found that airflow over the backplate had an immediately noticeable impact. The area which houses the hot spot sensor is on the back of the card around the core and even a small amount of air across it makes a difference, as in 80C+ to ~65.
Interesting, so that's why... It explains my top 120mm fan slightly lowering temp by 1-2 degs.
 
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viivo

Diamond Member
May 4, 2002
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You may be overthinking it. It's a simple concept: blow air from outside case onto hot components, hot air then needs to be exhausted, generally at the top of the case since heat rises. Unless you're spinning 140mm fans at 2500RPM I doubt any are going to cancel each other out.
 

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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Managed to stick a fan under the bottom, no change to GPU temps... The CPU went down by 2 degrees, however, so I guess it does have its use -- gonna keep the fan in there!



A good revelation today is that static pressure fans are needed even for intakes. I'd been firmly believing air flow is more important. But after figuring out using speedfan to control fan speeds, tried today to compare air flow with dust filter on and off.

Fan 1 is the Enermax Cluster Advance 120mm, which is pretty air flow focused. The dust filter causes a significant difference. I did not use any instrument, nor is it needed, my hand is more than enough. With the filter on, air flow had been reduced to just a breeze to barely noticeable, compared to a tornado without the filter.

Fan 2 is a Corsair ML120, static pressure fan basically. The filter reduces air flow somewhat, but it is still pretty good.


It might have to do with the define R6's filter, as it is very close to the fans, like 1-2mm distance. If it were 1-2 centimeters, I wonder if the result would be different. Anyway, for the R6's front intake at least, static pressure is the key.
 
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Hooobi

Golden Member
Jan 26, 2001
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Thanks for the reviews. I'd been just about to click buy on the Define R6 Blackout but after reading about thermals elsewhere and here, I'm gonna just try to repurpose an ancient Antec P180 sitting in the garage with some new Noctua 120s. i9600k/1060 build all stock so hopefully temps will be ok, and judging by heft and thickness of the panels, I'm hoping my P180 will be pretty quiet. Saving $110ish after 3x Noctuas ($60) and a 2.5" HD tray adapter ($12).
 

skwabie

Junior Member
Aug 8, 2019
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Cooling is fine. It just needs static pressure fans due to the filter.
I like older cases as well, but due to different reasons written above... just can no longer get them.