In and Around the Fractal Design Define Mini

If you're used to seeing the other Fractal Design Define enclosures, looking at the Mini may actually hurt your brain a little bit. The Define XL, Define R4, and Define Mini all look fundamentally the same in terms of style and aesthetic, but each one goes a little funhouse mirror in the process. Without examining its dimensions or putting it next to another enclosure, it might be hard to appreciate the slightly smaller form factor of the Define Mini.

The front of the Define Mini sports a padded door that swings open to the left along with ventilation on both sides of it to allow air to flow into the intake fans (and thus into the case) without letting the noise from the intakes escape. There's the familiar LED notch and ring just above it, along with the power button and I/O cluster, all right on the front edge just like the other Defines. Fractal Design hides the reset button behind the door, next to the pair of 5.25" bays. Below those bays are the two intake fans, with doors of their own that swing open to allow you to both change out the fans but also remove their filters for cleaning.

Examining the top, sides, and back of the Define Mini reveals few surprises. The left side includes the traditional ModuVent removable panel to allow the end user to install a 120mm or 140mm side intake fan, while the right side is blank. Meanwhile the top of the case has another 120mm/140mm ModuVent. I'm never really unhappy to see this feature in a case, especially as it's proliferated. Something like this adds flexibility to the case design. Finally, the only hiccup in the back is the fifth expansion slot aligned vertically, presumably for mounting the included fan controller.

Fractal Design uses a pair of thumbscrews to hold each side panel in place, and unfortunately the side panels are notched instead of hinged. I'm never happy to see this, but the Define Mini is at least small enough to prevent the panels from being too difficult to replace.

The motherboard tray is business as usual, with fairly smartly laid out routing holes for cabling. Unfortunately we're only looking at about 160mm of clearance above the motherboard, which makes installing any radiator in there a tight fit; the 120mm exhaust fan also means you'll have to orient any radiator carefully with the hoses above or below the mount.

Everything else inside the Define Mini is Fractal Design par for the course. Of the two drive cages, the top one is removable, but inexplicably, the bottom one is not. Fractal Design opted to use rivets instead of screws to mount the bottom cage, but there's no real reason not to make this something the end user could remove. Thankfully they continue to use their metal drive trays, which are among the best and most secure I've seen.

While the Define Mini is really surprise free for anyone familiar with Fractal Design's cases (and thus knowing what to expect), there's one tremendously goofy wrinkle: only one USB 3.0 port. It uses the full internal motherboard header, but every time I see something like this it seems like such a waste, especially when there's obviously space in the fascia to include a second. Outside of this, though, the Define Mini is at least superficially what you expected and were hoping for.

Introducing the Fractal Design Define Mini Assembling the Fractal Design Define Mini
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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

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