Removing that side panel – which comes with a sticker warning it is made of glass and not plexi, used to be a bit of a nuisance. It’s not long since we were reaching around for a screwdriver, then came the advent of thumbscrews and now we have the ability to just pull on a tab and see the side magically come apart.
If that all sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, especially when the side is made of tempered glass then fear not, Fractal has come up with a solution where you would have to be the clumsiest of PC builders to shatter the side panel. A quick pull on the release mechanism frees the top of the panel, then you can pull the rest of it away, but all the time the glass is held in a discreet lip at the base preventing it from just dropping out. A feature definitely missing on some Corsair cases I have seen recently where gravity can certainly get the better of you.
Once released you can just lift the panel away and you would have to physically drop it at this point to break it. It’s a remarkably elegant solution. Not one you might use often unless you are constantly tinkering inside, but remember when I said about just improving the overall user experience?
The Define 7 Compact joins it’s two larger range-mates the Define 7 and the Define 7 XL and completes a trio that covers all needs and bases.
The name rightly suggests that this (so far) is the smallest of the three but it is still comfortably large enough for a good ATX build and hits a compromising sweet spot that doesn’t take up all of your available desk space. The XL, for example, is a huge case. My courier should be thankful it wasn’t that he’d had to carry all the way from Sweden.
For me, the Compact is the right size for any mid-tower I am intending to build. It might not be perfect for custom water loops or mammoth SLI builds, but for the vast majority of us out there, it is Goldilocks dimensions-wise. Just right.
But it is so much more than that. The Define 7 Compact is marketed as a quiet case. The steel panels all have sound-dampening bitumen stuck to them. So if you are not the kind of person who enjoys seven fans roaring like a jet engine every time you load Call of Duty, this could be for you. If you go for the option of the second steel panel rather than the glass you will kill the fan noise further still, but that is a trade-off you need to consider aesthetically. If your PCs guts aren’t important to be shown off and a quiet, non-intrusive build is your aim, forego the tempered glass and you can pretty much sleep in the room with the PC turned on.
This makes it a great option for a media center or home server build. I’m eyeing it up to replace my Frankenstein of a Plex server,.and it will just about silence its every breath.
Not everybody will be overly bothered about stopping all fan noise though and a unique selling point of the Fractal Define cases is their modularity.
In the box there is another box (exciting!) and this contains a second top panel that you can interchange with the steel panel it ships connected to. Pop the existing panel off and replace it with the new one and you change not only the look of the case but the purpose.
The second lid features patterned, cut out ventilation down the whole length, perfect if you need some extra cooling capacity for your rig. Again you are sacrificing the sound-proofing, but for gaming purposes with a decent GPU, it’s a great option that maintains the sophisticated look but gives you the benefit of better thermal performance.
There is an argument that you are perhaps paying for an extra bit of steel you very well may not use, and it could be an option like the glass panel, but sometimes over the course of a lifetime, cases get re-purposed and this, to me at least, means it is less likely to end up in landfill as it could easily go on lead two separate lives while it is in your home, one as a media center and one as a games PC, depending on how your needs change.
This secondary top panel comes complete with good quality dust filters, which are replicated throughout the unit. A full-length one can also be found underneath and also if you pop off the front aluminum panel you can get at the clever filters that cover the intake to give them a clean.
The air intake is through the gap between the front and sides of the case. There is no door here like in the Define 7. It doesn’t need one to be fair. If you want to get at the filter, you just pull it off and pull them from the front panel. It is the ability to pull off the front, sides, and top independently from each other which makes this such an interesting proposition. You can literally get at any part of your build with the minimum of fuss