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  • Sleepingforest - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Dustin, how would you say this compares to the TJ08e? They have essentially identical price points and both promise quiet performance. Reply
  • smellykaka - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I have a TJ08e and I can't imagine how it could be called quiet. Its single fan on low setting is very audible. My main PC (in a Fractal Design R3) with 6 case fans (and a water pump, and four GPU fans) is considerably quieter at idle. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    It can be quiet. It's loud just like any open? case with direct airflow. So it's up to your components. The big 180mm? fan on the TJ08e can be undervolted and be set quiet, it's 180mm! so it'll still pump out good air. After that it's up to your components, so pick a good cpu hs/f, quiet gpu, HDD's that don't vibrate too much, etc, etc.

    But yes, if you don't want to approach it this way, a case like this will be the best bet in terms of quiet potential, without having to try too hard.
    Reply
  • Sleepingforest - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Weird. Even in games, mine is totally silent. Maybe you're pushing your hardware harder? Reply
  • serrin - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    That's probably because the noise of your games is masking the noise of your case. The TJ-08E is great* quiet case, with the caveat being that you need to undervolt that sucker of a 180mm fan. Although that's not too hard given that you can buy them from fleaBay for a couple of bucks if you don't want to weld some resistors to a bit of wire.
    The Define Mini also is easier to assemble than the TJ-08E, but it's also 10cm longer and thus, heavier.
    Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
    Reply
  • Sleepingforest - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    The TJ08e is definitely a pain to muck around in because of the cramped space. My hands are pretty big, so squeezing them into case to mess with fan headers is pretty close to impossible. I wish it was just an inch bigger in each dimension.

    I have the fan undervolted pretty considerably, so even with the game sounds off, I don't really hear what's happening. Or being under a fume hood for too long has desensitized me to fan noise...
    Reply
  • JPForums - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I agree. The loudest component in the most recent TJ08e based build I've put together is the Zalman 9900CNPS and that's not particularly loud. However, the case is seriously a pain to work in for someone with big hands. I'm actually putting together two builds based on the Define R4 and Define Mini this weekend. I don't know how the noise will compare, but I've opened up the chassis and I'm fairly certain the Mini will be easier to build in than the TJ08e. I can't imagine its thermal performance will be quite as good though. Reply
  • Metaluna - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    The hard drive cage in the TJ08e also has major interference issues with many full-sized tower coolers. It's virtually impossible to mount a 3.5" HD in this cage with anything but a smallish (90mm) tower cooler, or maybe a 120 with the fan flipped to the other side (which in my situation had other interference issues on the other side of the board).

    On the plus side, it does have more height clearance for taller coolers. But overall I agree it's a PITA case to work in.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    I have big hands (1.95m here) and no problem with the TJ08-E. But then again, I don't use 3.5" drives. All my drives are in the 5.25" trays (2.5" ones, 7 total). That's all I need. And the space freed up is great for water cooling (pump and controls). :) The front intake fan is loud even in lowered setting though. It runs at ~700rpm on the low setting, but I have my fan control throttle the fan to ~500rpm to be inaudible. :) Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I don't want to be a jerk, but have you tried changing the fan's setting? There's a switch on the side of the case, I believe, that's easy to miss, but on the low setting the TJ08-E is borderline inaudible. Reply
  • wzrds3 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    My TJ08-E is still quite loud, even on the fan's low setting. Reply
  • flipmode - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I've done 6 builds with the TJ08-e. For every one of them I have found the front intake fan to be too loud even on the low setting. Plugging into a motherboard with fan speed control helps, but can also cause the front fan to stop spinning at times.

    At home, it is an extremely audible case.

    At work, I can't hear the thing at all even sitting right next to me.

    That is the extent to which ambient noise is a factor. People that call this case quiet may be dealing with higher ambient noise.

    I think after 6 builds I feel pretty confident that I know the typical acoustic character of the TJ08-e
    Reply
  • flipmode - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Also, the drive cage in the TJ08-e is a serious drawback. None the less, it remains my go-to mATX case. Reply
  • JPForums - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I've done 4 builds with the TJ08e. I agree they aren't silent, but none of my builds turned out particularly loud either. While ambient noise can be a factor in the perception of what is quiet, I think this may be a difference in standards of quiet. In my most recent build with the TJ08e, the Zalman 9900CNPS is the loudest component. By my standards, the 9900CNPS while not silent, is quiet. The ambient noise environment shouldn't make a difference as to which component is loudest in the build, so if you find the 9900CNPS comfortable, then the TJ08e has the potential to work for you. Just don't expect it to mute louder internal components given it has no acoustic padding. Reply
  • JPForums - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I should mention that I forgo the HDD cage all together and mount a single SSD in the bottom bracket that the HDD cage mounts on top of. It makes a difference to airflow. Might make a difference acoustically as well. Reply
  • cragAT - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    That is exactly what I did with my build, with my secondary HDD up in the 5.25 bay. No sound/temp issues at all. Reply
  • madwolfa - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I have a TJ-08E, it's nearly silent in my very quiet home environment. I use the "full speed" setting of the switch (so it has enough voltage to start), and then put it down to 400-500 RPM with FanXpert control of my Maximus V Gene. Still plenty of airflow and totally silent. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I'm pretty sure Dustin's tolerance for noise is a bit higher. I wouldn't call the low setting quiet at all. As for undervolting, you don't need to weld or use a resistor, all you do is the 5v,7v,12v trick of swapping molex wires cables. Reply
  • smellykaka - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    Yes, I have the fan on the low setting, it is still way more audible than a Fractal Design case. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Meh. I know they had to do it to fit in the drive racks the way they have them but once again this is a micro ATX case that's a scant few inches smaller in one dimension than mid-tower ATX cases. I just don't see the point. If you really want a compact case there *will* be real compromises, tight fits, and less easy assembly than wide open ATX cases. But any 'micro' ATX case that's got a dimension of around 20" is just missing the point of micro ATX. Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    agreed. cases this size are definitively not small. Reply
  • geniekid - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I respectfully disagree. The "point of micro ATX" is to have a system smaller than ATX but without all the trade-offs of mini ITX. There's a lot of ground between these two extremes and there's definitely a market of people who want a large micro ATX case. I imagine it overlaps with the market of people who buy Galaxy Notes ;) Reply
  • antef - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Yes, but as a few people have mentioned, this ISN'T really much (or any) smaller than many ATX cases. So why bother? You can put a MicroATX board in an ATX case if you want. If manufacturers want to produce several sizes and variations then that's fine, but they shouldn't even bother with the MicroATX form factor if they aren't going to try to build something smaller. Reply
  • darkfalz - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    Looks great in my home theatre setup. It's squat but long, so you don't notice the size from the front. Reply
  • lwatcdr - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - link

    That is kind of an issue with this case. The R4 ATX case is actually cheaper than the Define Mini on Newegg and it supports 140mm fans. Reply
  • antef - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I agree completely. If you want more room to work in then get a normal ATX case. MicroATX is for those who want compact. My SilverStone PS07 (sibling of the TJ08-E) is 14.7" tall and 15.7" deep (vs. 15.55" tall and over 19" deep for the Fractal) and I wouldn't want it any bigger. It's also only 11.46 lbs vs. 21! It's actually compact, light, and still plenty of space for my needs. I don't know why these MicroATX cases try to cater to users who need multiple optical drives and a half dozen internal drives. This is not typical and extreme overkill for the majority of users. Those who need that can buy an ATX case that's practically the same size as this Define Mini. Reply
  • anactoraaron - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    True the majority of users don't need multiple optical drives or half a dozen internal drives, but I DID. This lil' bad boy is containing my WHS 2011 with 5.5TB (5 1TB Raid 5 + 1.5TB pc backup drive)+ 40GB SSD (OS drive). I have it hidden away and needed a quiet case that could hold 6 internal drives.
    Not for everyone, sure. But for anyone needing a small & quiet case for a WHS box or other file sharing box it's perfect.

    I don't know why it wasn't mentioned but when I was running the cables in mine the rubber pieces that you run the cables through kept popping out and it was a major PITA putting them back in.
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    if you use WHS you are already on some niche market. don't get me wrong, I'd love to have one box with it on my house, but because of all changes MS is making on the OS with win8 I gave up on the idea of buying a dated Server OS.

    but yes, 6 internal drives is one good use of this case. I have only 2 drives on my main rig, so my needs are different. most people even have only 1 drive, for them the space would be better used on the desk than on the computer case.
    Reply
  • otherwise - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Considering this case is perfect for a 6-drive NAS, I really wish fractal design would start designing their cases so you could screw in backplanes like some other vendors. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Unless you need a full size board, you should get micro ATX and this. Built a machine for my girlfriend with this, a giant Noctua cooler, 3570k overclocked, Seasonic X-660, and so on and so on. So .. damn.. quiet. Looks great, has tons of drive bays. Highly recommended. Reply
  • tzhu07 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I own this case. It's the perfect balance between size and workability. It's also very quiet and looks beautiful. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I'm confused. Is this a typical size for a micro-ATX case? It is LARGER than my Antec Sonata III, which is a standard-size ATX case.

    Fractal Define Mini: 8.3" x 15.6" x 19.3" = 2499 cubic inches
    Antec Sonata III 500: 8.1" (W) x 16.7" (H) x 18.2" (D) = 2462 cubic inches

    I like the case. If it had existed 3.5 years ago, I would have strongly considered it for its quiet operation and nice design (assuming I was going micro-ATX). But it just doesn't fit the "mini" description very well, given that its the same size as many standard ATX cases.
    Reply
  • A5 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    The (now discontinued) Antec P180 Mini was the same way.

    What this design style does is let you have the bottom-mounted PSU in a case that is the size of a normal mid-tower, as opposed to the super-tall cases that have that feature and take full-size ATX boards.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    The spots where it's bigger than old cases are all cases where changing design requirements have triggered growth to meet. Making it slightly wider is needed to route cables behind the mobo tray. The increased depth is mostly used putting fans in the front and to give them side intakes for noise control; with a removable drive cage (to allow really big GPUs and make connecting sata cables easier) taking a bit as well. It could have been made another Inch shorter but that would have precluded space for a top fan.

    The Define mini is a MiniATX case designed for building a high performance system and keeping it cool. The Sonata III 500's design was optimized for making a full ATX system as small as possible; having used other cases with just enough clearance from the drive cages to stuff the mobo in connecting sata cables with the board screwed down is a PITA and full length GPUs are difficult to impossible to fit..
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Also, putting the PSU at the bottom instead of the top means you no longer have a big space at the top for optical drives to extend past the front edge of the motherboard without obstructing anything. Even without the fans and removable drive cage that would probably limit the case from getting any shallower. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Thank you to DanNeely and A5 for the insights about case size and design. I can see the niche for this case based on your description. Basically, by shrinking the motherboard area you can better utilize the remaining space to allow for a higher performance machine in a (relatively) small package. If you are building something with modest power requirements (all of my builds), it probably doesn't matter, but for someone who is going to stuff an overclocked i7 and high-end GPU into the case, I can see where this would make a world of difference. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Broadly speaking I think the main target customer for this case is people who have historically built relatively high end desktops; but who have realized they don't need a full ATX board for a single GPU but who don't want the overclocking, etc limitations imposed by mITX. Reply
  • A5 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Yeah, that's me exactly. Reply
  • antef - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I disagree that modern design goals necessitate these sorts of dimensions. My SilverStone PS07 is significantly smaller and still meets all the needs of a high performance system while keeping it cool. I'll go through each of your points:

    1) Width is the same between the Define Mini and PS07, so nothing to say there.
    2) The SilverStone is only 15.7" deep and fits front fans, an HDD cage, and the biggest GPU you want just fine. There is no top fan mount but there is a top exhaust that you can direct the PSU's exhaust through. It's able to accomplish this since the GPU sits on top of the drive bay instead of trying to fit behind it. SATA cable access is fine but is especially easy when you remove the drive cage. If the case you used couldn't fit large GPUs then that was a fault of that particular case's design.
    3) The SilverStone's PSU is top mounted which I don't see as a problem. This permits space for optical drives, and below that space for the motherboard, large GPU, front fants, and drive cage all in 15.7" of depth as mentioned above. You can also choose to not bother with optical drives at all, and remove the drive cage entirely and still be able to have 1 SSD and 1 HDD in the case.

    Yes, it's a little tighter to work in, but today's systems can get away with a lot less components than in the past, giving you the ability to still keep the internals very clean and uncluttered. If you need more space, ATX is there for you.
    Reply
  • mherbst55 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Was interested in this article until I got to the case dimensions. Why not just go with a standard full-sized ATX case and stuff a uATX board into it? At 8.3 x 15.6 x 19.3 isn't that what's being done here?

    Frankly, the best uATX case ever made was the SG03 by SilverStone. Dimensions are a svelte 12.28 x 7.87 x 14.17. Moreover, if SilverStone had been forward thinking and dropped the legacy 3.5" form factor HDD drive bays from the design (stuffed in the bottom of the case) they could’ve shaved an inch from the height. Interestingly in spite its diminutive size, because the SG03 can be stripped almost to the frame, building a clean system is actually quite simple. I discovered that a little pre-planning of the layout produced a build that was almost a work of art. Also, the flow-through design made cooling the interior a snap. For the life of me I can’t figure out why SilverStone didn’t continue to refine the design (add a removable motherboard tray, dual 3.5” cutouts for 2.5” form factor mobile racks for a total of 4 HDD drive bays, etc). It would have become the preferred uATX case for the vast majority of systems builders.
    Reply
  • 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
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  • 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
  • Icehawk - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    I have this case, it has a high build quality and very quiet - not the best cooling in stock form, true, and I think that is due to weak intake design and the damping material acting as insulation. I get little airflow even without the middle drive cage installed, my RAM gets pretty toasty - definitely been the source of a few crashes. I have a Corsair H70 (blowing out), a triple fan GTX670, and fanless 500W PSU which all run within comfortable temps. My system is just about silent under the desk which was my goal, I think with one more fan the system would run plenty cool but as you will see in my next comment the spot where a fan would do the most good for me is unusable.

    One design flaw, at least for me, is the location of the side panel fan cutout - it's too far towards the back of the case and because of this I cannot put a fan here as it interferes with my H70 radiator. If it was a little farther forward this would not be a problem and would also put it in a better location to cool the mobo.

    Two comments about the review - first, do you REALLY care about built-in standoffs? IMO it's a tiny "upgrade", it saves about 2 minutes max the first time you build a machine. Second, I was able to route all of my cable behind the mobo from the included fans & controller... barely. It IS doable but you may need to cut some wiring sheaths and get creative with routing.

    At $100 I think it's great value in terms of build quality, materials, etc - I can't believe I've been buying $50 junk boxes all of these years when for not a lot more the boxes are way nicer. Would love to see a revised model that improves cooling and cleans up the front design with a more minimal drive setup.
    Reply
  • Peroxyde - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    Bought a Fractal Design R4 Mid Tower 2 days ago. This case is a jewel. Heavy, less sensitive to vibration. Everything in this case has been thought carefully: cable management, filter, noise reduction, paint job, even down to the screws and the metal rulers hiding expansion card slots. It is way better than more expensive case from Antec and Cooler Master. This company should make more marketing. Even better, it look nice! Even my wife finds that it looks beautiful. Reply
  • darkfalz - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    I have the Define Mini. It's a nice case. It's heavy (sturdy) and very quiet. Having to manually adjust the fan is a bit annoying (and believe me, you will want it on max for gaming and min for anything else). It takes a stock 680 GTX so it handles a longer card than the specs specify. I added a second front fan as I have 5 HDDs inside (4 in RAID 5). LED is too bright (lights up the room in standby with blinking blue) and no HDD LED unfortunately. Reply
  • cpupro - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - link

    It is for mATX motherboards but it is not small case, my other mini tower case with ATX board inside is only about 1 cm taller than Define Mini, including standoffs. Only cons with this case is irritating bright blue LED (I assume also red LED in white cases), it burn eyes, nothing minimal here as article suggest. Don't need to mention LED suspend mode blinking or bright blue LED when watching films in dark room.
    Overall, well built, quality case.
    Reply
  • freedom4556 - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - link

    My big problem with my Fractal Define Mini is that I bought it hoping to go to a 'smaller' computer, but I didn't really check the dimensions before I did it versus what I had. I was coming from an Antec 300 and I wanted a bottom power supply intake, some sound deadening, and a few tool-less amenities along with downsizing from an ATX board in that build to an mATX board in the current build. It only cut two inches off the height, but got an inch wider and over an inch deeper in the process. So while I can understand that these builds are "small" in comparison to things like 800D and HAF X, they still aren't 'small' when you compare them with more 'budget' full-ATX offerings. I feel like all I lost in the transition was the flexibility of three extra slots while gaining some noise reduction at almost twice the cost. I also wish the door opened wider, and my front intake fan has starting buzzing against the frame after only a few removals for cleaning. Reply
  • stanwood - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    I used a Define Mini for my most recent build. Totally silent under my desk. Very sturdy and looks good. I have been very happy with it. Only pet peeve is I wish the front door swing were reversible (PC sits to my right but door swings open to the left).

    Dustin, it would be nice if you'd make sure to include a picture of the final rig as tested, with GPU, so we're clear how you set it up. I have left the middle drive cage in rotated to funnel air flow over my CPU. Did you try that out and see any difference?
    Reply
  • Sladeofdark - Monday, April 29, 2013 - link

    I was just talking about how good this case was. I got it for my girlfriend in White because the Corsair case is still too pricey right now. This case was all sold out and i had to order the one with a window kit because i liked it so much. I have used it in 3 builds just this year. Great Case. The front door likes to act up, but if you are a veteran builder you will have the parts on hand to reinforce the mechanism that catches the door and makes it stay closed with a click. Reply

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