Fractal Design Define Mini and ECS HDC-I Review – Creating a Fusion HTPC

1. Introduction3. ECS HDC-I Mini-ATX Motherboard


Fractal Design Define Mini and ECS HDC-I mATX Review - Creating a Fusion HTPC

Fractal Design Define Mini Case

The Define Mini arrives in a box which features a clear image of the case on the front. The other sides of the box cover features and specifications then inside we find the case suspended in polystyrene and wrapped in a plastic bag. Bundled with the Define Mini we get a user manual and a selection of screws, cables, fan controller etc which are all held in a small box which lists the contents on the outside, using clear images which help us identify each item.

The Define Mini has a black finish with a body which is predominantly steel. The right side of the case is blank and at the front we find a door which swings open to reveal two 12cm fan bays of which one is populated. This 12cm fan is a low noise model, manufactured by Fractal design with white blades and a 1200rpm rating.

Two 5.25" bays sit above the fan locations and we can see from the open image that the back of the door is lined with foam to reduce noise levels from the fan.

At the top, front edge of the case we find the cases connectivity. There are two 3.5mm audio connectors, two USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.0 connector all of which sit alongside the power button and LED.

The Define Mini measures 210x395x490mm (WxHxD) and weighs 9.5kg

Turning the case round to look at the left side we find the location for a 12/14cm intake fan which by default is not populated. Instead we see that Fractal Design have gone to the trouble of padding the location with bitumen, just as they do with both side panels and the top fan bay, to minimise noise exiting the case. The same technique is used on the top surface of the case where we see another 12/14cm fan bay.

Round at the back of the case we find a reasonably standard layout. At the top are two holes for case wiring or water-cooling tubing and the IO location sits to the left of a 12cm exhaust. Four add-in card slots sit below this with a fifth available for the bundled fan controller and at the bottom we have the PSU location. The PSU location has a dust filter, as does an additional 12cm intake fan location on the base of the system and four rubber feet lift the Define Mini off the surface it is placed on.

Looking inside the Define Mini we see that despite being a compact model which supports mini-ITX and micro-ATX boards there are many of the features we expect in quality, larger towers. For example this case features a CPU backplate cut-out, rubber sections to sit our PSU on (reducing vibrations) and rubber grommets on the case wiring holes that sit around the motherboard location. Another low noise 12cm, 1200rpm fan sits in the exhaust location and we even find a front panel USB 3.0 connector which is ideal for combining with the latest motherboards.

Over at the right side of the chamber we find the drive bays. Each has a slide out tray in which we can place our drives, 2.5" models supported. The cages these six bays sit in can also be changed with the middle section being able to point out like the bottom, to the left as shown or completely removed to accommodate graphics cards up to 40cm in length. This high level of compatibility is enhanced by support of PSUs up to 22cm and coolers of 16.5cm in height.

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