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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  • wzrds3 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    My TJ08-E is still quite loud, even on the fan's low setting.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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