Introducing the Fractal Design Define Mini

Good micro-ATX enclosures have actually been frighteningly rare of late; manufacturers seem to be going big or going home, and only letting either beefy XL-ATX cases or diminutive mini-ITX cases out to play. It's a weird situation when the micro-ATX form factor seems to be ideal for the majority of end users. Enter Fractal Design and their Define Mini.

The Define Mini has actually been on the market for about a year, but with few contenders really materializing in recent months outside of SilverStone's SG09 and Rosewill's Line-M, good options for micro-ATX builders have been somewhat wanting. That's why I sought out the Define Mini; Fractal Design's Define line of enclosures has always been a little wanting for air cooling performance, but they're attractive and popular, and they're easy to build. Getting some of that sweet acoustic padding in a smaller package is an enticing proposition.

Fractal Design Define Mini Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25" (includes 5.25"-to-3.5" adaptor)
Internal 6x 3.5"/2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan (supports 2x 120mm)
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
Side 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
Bottom 1x 120mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 4+1
I/O Port 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 160mm
PSU 160mm with bottom fan installed; 200-220mm without
GPU 260mm with top drive cage installed; 400mm without
Dimensions 8.3" x 15.6" x 19.3"
210mm x 395mm x 490mm
Weight 21 lbs. / 9.5 kg
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header
Removable drive cage
Removable filters on front and bottom fans
Three-channel 3-pin analog fan controller included
Acoustic padding
Price $99

If you've been keeping track with the Fractal Design Define series of enclosures, there are no surprises in the Define Mini. Rather than integrating it into the case, Fractal Design includes a separate three-channel fan controller and a fifth expansion slot horizontally aligned above the fourth standard ones to mount it in. Fractal Design's "ModuVent" is accounted for, as well, but I'd've liked an extra vent in the top of the case and support for a 240mm radiator.

Finally, there's the acoustic padding we've come to expect and appreciate. The more time I've spent with the similarly padded Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 (and I have seriously pimped this particular ride), the more I've come to understand the role acoustic padding fundamentally serves and its relationship with case design at large. A good thermal design is absolutely essential to a silent case as the acoustic padding proves all for naught, but end users should also be careful to design with these limitations in mind. Acoustic padding doesn't muffle noisy components, but it will bring quiet ones down to even more comfortable volumes, and that makes it a desirable feature.

What does all this mean? It means that the Fractal Design Define Mini could theoretically serve a purpose that the other micro-ATX enclosures on the market can't.

In and Around the Fractal Design Define Mini
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  • antef - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Agreed, dimensions are the first thing I check for any MicroATX case now, if it's no smaller than most ATX cases then why would I even consider it? I hope manufacturers are reading this. Many of us don't have that many components and don't require these dimensions. Reply
  • takeship - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I can vouch for this. It's FAR too large a case for what it offers. I've built twice with this case, once for myself and once for a friend - in retrospect the thermals vs noise don't justify this over a full Define R4, or one of the recent NZXT Phantoms. Mostly high quality, though the motherboard cut out is the wrong size for virtually any backplate, and the included fan controller was junk, and well, I replaced every fan anyways. Further, there is *barely* enough space to fit a Crossfire/Sli dual slot setup in the case with the tight clearance above the PSU standoff. I only have a single card, so it's less of an issue, but there is very little airflow from the front case fans through the non-removable lower HDD bay into the GFX card space. Living with it for now, and the heft makes it feel secure, but I wouldn't recommend it for a real enthusiast. Reply
  • dave_the_nerd - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Quote: "It's a weird situation when the micro-ATX form factor seems to be ideal for the majority of end users."

    Umm... what?

    The majority of PC end users buy laptops. (Laptops outsell desktops by about 2:1.) Most of those desktops are sold to businesses, and it's literally been years since I saw an ATX or mATX minitower in use in somebody's home. (Mostly SFF desktop designs and iMacs.)

    Today, mATX is the answer to a question anybody asked. The BYO "enthusiast" crowd will continue buying ATX towers with room for all their cooling hardware, and the BYO "best fit for my needs" crowd will continue snatching up SFF.
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Hi Dustin! you say you have a terrible time to manage cables on every case you test, but how do you feel about cabling a custom-case made by hp?

    I'm living with it because it is mATX and is much smaller than the average cases on stores. I don't have the exact dimensions now, but I managed to change all internals, add one SSD, a scythe Ninja Mini cooler, and even a Radeon 5770 in there. with all fans being PWM this thing is pretty quiet, at iddle you can hear it but it's not annoying. at load however the GPU fan makes a bunch of noise :(

    here are some images from a similar case from the HP site.

    outside: bit.ly/ZE9Bge
    inside: bit.ly/ZEaQMr

    how would you feel about doing cabling this one? lol
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    short url corrected:

    http://goo.gl/QCjpd
    http://goo.gl/PhBJZ
    Reply
  • ZoeAnderson24 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    If you think Ronald`s story is surprising..., a month back my cousins best friend basically recieved a check for $8905 working a 40 hours month at home and they're friend's mother-in-law`s neighbour has been doing this for 7-months and made over $8905 in there spare time on there labtop. follow the instructions from this web-site. All29.comCHECK IT OUT Reply
  • jrs77 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Testing cases is really a hard thing to do I'm afraid.

    I've got the Define Mini on my desk behind my screen, where it hides itself due to it's little height.

    Anyways... for the watercooling. A 240mm rad in the front is possible without modding. Just remove the two drivebays and install your 3.5" HDD + 2.5" SSD in one of the 5.1/4" bays. Another 120mm rad is possible in the back, so you have one 240mm rad for the GPU and one 120mm rad for the CPU, and voilá... even lower temps and the same low level of noise. Install a Scythe S-Flex @ 800RPM in the bottom behind the PSU and one in the top for that little additional ventilation and you can even use powerful components.

    I'm running a GTX660 and an i5-3450 in my Define Mini, and temps are no issue at all, and the case is still dead-silent there behind my screen. The one thing I did tho was to cutout the grill covering the fan in the back, as these hex-grills produce a very annoying noise when air is pushed through.

    A TJ08-E with a 200mm rad in the front and a 120mm in the back is deadsilent aswell, but a little bit trickier to assemble and crammed.
    Reply
  • bsix - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Dustin,

    You seem down on the Define cases except for the Xl r2. What separated that case was a bottom fan. I feel this design really needs that airflow with low impedance to help even out flows, otherwise there is a bit of a dead zone in the bottom half of the case.

    Also have we seen a comparison of an air cooled vs water cooled case at Anandtech? I'm not sure I have seen one with some of the later packaged water coolers..
    Reply
  • barry spock - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    It must've been out for more than a year because I got this in Sept(?) of '11. I used it in my first real build for more than 10 years and all up I like it, although I don't know how it compares to others.
    The aim for me was to build a silent PC. I went for a Noctua fan as well (as someone else in the comments mentioned). It's pretty quiet but in hindsight I think what I should've done is make a no-fan HTPC.
    Reply
  • rvdbos - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    $99 for an empty box? wtf, is it year 1995? nowadays I could get TWO bluray players with remote, ethernet, buildin wifi and DLNA for this much dough. why even bother bringing such a ripoff to the market? Reply

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