Inside the Define XL R2
The Define XL R2 may look a lot like the Define R4 from the outside, but it's on the inside that the larger chassis sets itself apart. The XL R2 is deeper by 132mm, wider by 90mm and taller by 173mm. For extreme builders, that's an obvious upgrade, and the size advantage brings greater flexibility for high-performance components.
It's worth noting that the XL R2 is also one of more affordable full-tower solutions on the market. Going by the current £105 asking price, Fractal's offering is cheaper than an NZXT Phantom 630 or a Cooler Master HAF X, and it's less than half the price of Corsair's upcoming Obsidian Series 900D.
Yet despite the sensible price tag, the Define XL R2 manages to include most of what you'd expect to find on a chassis of this size. That includes nine expansion slots that provision for multiple graphics cards, added support for large E-ATX or XL-ATX motherboards, four optical drive bays and eight storage bays. The latter are served up as part of two modular cages (four bays in each) that can be easily removed, if need be. Fractal's bright-white drive trays are ever present, and they remain excellent to use as they're made of metal, equipped with vibration-absorbing hard-disk standoffs, and able to accommodate 2.5in SSDs without any retooling.
Having modular drive cages provides extra flexibility where other components are concerned. Graphics cards, for example, can measure up to 330mm in length with both cages installed, but removing the upper cage paves the way for ginormous cards measuring anything up to 480mm. There's plenty of choice for liquid-cooling, too, as the top cage can be taken out and the lower cage can be moved to the bottom 140mm fan mount - freeing up the front fan mounts for a 240mm radiator. Of course, there's also room for a 240/280mm radiator up top and/or a 120/140mm radiator at the rear.
You're unlikely to be left wanting in terms of functionality - the Define XL R2 will house most enthusiast builds with plenty of room to spare - but while Fractal continues to get a lot of the essentials bang on, there is room for improvement. The optical bays, for example, aren't tool-free and require thumbscrews; there could be more cable-routing holes for different-sized boards; and there are no motherboard standoffs pre-prepared, making board installation that little bit more time consuming.
We appreciate the hinged side panels - they make alignment so much easier - but the panels themselves are heavy as a result of their noise-reducing lining and need to be removed carefully. Similarly, care needs to be taken when installing the PSU, as Fractal's mount only provides rubber feet at one end - you have to balance the PSU while you align the rear screws.
There are a couple of 'that-could-have-been-better' moments during the build process, but these are minor niggles, and the XL R2 is big enough to guarantee a largely trouble-free installation.
Our high-end Intel Ivy Bridge platform was suited and booted in next to no time, and the components look good in the XL R2's cavernous interior. There's a good amount of room behind the motherboard tray for stowing excess cables, though we'd like to see a couple of pre-installed cable clamps to help keep things in order.
Overall, it's a very competent chassis and one that's easy to work with. Fractal hasn't raised the bar, but if the XL R2 can deliver the two features we come to expect from the company's chassis - good cooling performance and low-noise operation - this could well be another hit.