Fractal Design is responsible for the Fractal Define C, one of our top-preferred cases from the past year. The Define C is a stout, well-constructed enclosure with competitive acoustics damping (behind only the Pure Base 600, in our tests) and thought-out cable management. Now, at what feels to be the mid-point of an ongoing trend in the industry, Fractal has announced its introduction of the Fractal Define C TG and Fractal Define C Mini TG (the latter is a shrunken ITX version of the ATX Define C).
Fractal’s Celsius S36 debuts alongside the company’s S24, coolers sized at 360mm and 240mm, respectively. The Celsius series uses an Asetek Gen5 pump, identical to the pump found on the EVGA CLC, NZXT X42/52/62, and Corsair H115i/H100iV2 coolers. This is a semi-custom Asetek solution that’s been loosely customized by Fractal Design, primarily focusing on the addition of G1/4” fittings (rad-side only), on-pump speed tuning, and an on-rad fan hub. It’s not as customized as, say, the NZXT Kraken series, but NZXT’s products also run more expensive. Fractal is looking at a launch price of $120 for the S36 that we’re reviewing today, and $110 for the S24.
Our focuses are on thermals and noise – not that you can focus on much else when talking coolers – with some new testing that looks at normalized noise output. We debuted this testing in our ASUS ROG Strix review and have carried it over to coolers.
Fractal’s coolers use 120mm fans that run a maximum RPM nearing 2000, with variable pump RPM from ~2000~3000. In our testing, though, it seemed a little simpler than that – pump RPM is based on liquid temp, and as we found in our 7700K review (the hottest CPU we've tested), liquid temp never really exceeds 30C. Given Fractal's curve, that means the pump stays at 2000RPM almost all the time. Rather than use software or suggest straight BIOS control – which we prefer – Fractal’s gone with a toggleable pump plate that switches into auto or PWM options. We’ve tested variable pump speeds in the past and haven’t found major differences in cooling efficacy, which is more heavily relegated to the fan spec and radiator size than anything else. This is more of a noise impact. We tested using the default, out-of-box “auto” setting, which kept our pump RPM fixed nearly perfectly at ~1960 throughout the tests (liquid temperature doesn't ramp up enough to push higher).
Fan speeds were manually controlled for the tests, though users could connect the fans to the on-rad hub. More on this in the conclusion.
Let’s get on with the testing, then run through the accessories and conclusion.
In direct competition with the Be Quiet! Pure Base 600 ($90) we reviewed recently is the Fractal Define C, a compact ATX mid tower with an emphasis on noise suppression. The Fractal Define C is a relatively new launch from Fractal Design, sticking to the highly competitive ~$90 mid-tower market. Fractal’s Define C ships in micro-ATX (“Define Mini C”) and ATX form factor versions, the latter of which is on the bench today.
Our Fractal Define C review looks at the ATX-sized enclosure, taking thermals to task and testing for noise emissions in the company’s newest box. Fractal’s immediate competition at this price-point comes from the Be Quiet! Pure Base 600, NZXT S340 non-Elite, and the Corsair 400Q and 400C.
The GPU news is probably the most interesting. AMD looks to be positioning an "RX 470D," also called "RX 465" and "RX 470 SE," to compete more directly with the GTX 1050 Ti. Our GTX 1050 & 1050 Ti review noted that the 1050 gives the RX 460 a tough fight, but that the RX 470 handily outpaces the 1050 Ti in all tested scenarios. The only problem, as always, is the price gap -- it's a $30 jump from entry-level GTX 1050 Ti cards to the entry-level RX 470 cards. That's where the 470D is supposed to land, and should fight the 1050 Ti directly.
Video below for the news discussion, or find the script below that:
“Balancing Size with Silence” is the motto for Fractal Design’s new Define Nano S, a case which continues the eternal struggle to fit all the features of a full ATX case into a compact ITX package. Essentially a scaled-down version of the Define S, the Nano model preserves the design philosophy of its larger sibling, but with a 203x412mm footprint.
Our coverage of last year's best PC enclosures has remained some of our most popular content to date, and as is CES tradition, we're updating the coverage for 2015. The previous years have gone through trends of mini-ITX / SFF boxes (the Steam Box craze, now dying down) and larger, enthusiast-priced boxes. This year's CES trends saw a lull from major case manufacturers like Corsair, Cooler Master (reeling from a lawsuit by Asetek), and NZXT, but welcomed budget-friendly enclosures and high-end works of art. Users seeking more mid-range enclosures will be left waiting a while longer, it seems.
Liquid cooling has been done by PC enthusiasts for years, but recently we have seen closed-loop coolers (CLCs) and expandable open loop coolers (OLCs) explode in popularity. Closed-loop coolers aren’t expandable or made to be tinkered with, whereas expandable open loop coolers support adding components to the watercooling loop (like additional GPUs). Swiftech was one of the first manufacturers to begin selling expandable open loop coolers commercially, but they aren't the only one nowadays. Not only has Cooler Master started selling expandable OLCs, but Fractal Design is jumping into the game, too.