Hardware.info Taiwan Tour: Fractal Design Define R5 & Kelvin

Upcoming case and water cooling kits by Swedish manufacturer

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Clear line-up

As a relatively small company, Fractal Design prefers keeping the amount of product lines clear. In addition to the Define series, which is primarily about silent operation, there's a Core series and an Arc series of cases, along with a fairly modest amount of Node models. The name "Node" is a bit of an umbrella term, as the cases belonging to this series are intended to be used for niche purposes, such as home servers, HTPCs, and compact computers. The Core series is mainly about optimizing airflow, whereas the Arc series is the middle of the road between Define and Core – internally, they're similar to the former, but externally they look much more like the latter. Moreover, the Core series is supposed to be the budget series that offers a nice balance between price and performance. However, Borggren did admit that the introduction of the recent, more expensive Core cases did blur this line somewhat, as their prices did end up being fairly close to those of the Arc and Define series. As a result, he also feels that the cheaper models from the Core series are probably the most interesting ones.

Remarkably enough, Fractal Design uses the same pricing policy across their entire line-up. In other words, the price of each product of a given category is calculated based on the exact same formula. This is unlike many other companies, which are quite happy to adjust prices for marketing reasons, for example to make the positioning of products more clear. As a result, the water cooling kit featuring the largest radiator isn't all that much more expensive than the model positioned directly below it.

With this, the subject of the conversation changed to product positioning. Fractal Design has a rather complete case line-up, with prices ranging from approximately $40/£27/€35 to some $170/£115/€150 for the Define XL series. That said, there's actually fairly little competition in the €150 to €200 segment, and the company appears to be more than capable of producing an interesting enclosure for this segment. Borggren states that they're definitely looking into this, but admits that most of the premium features they come up with end up making an appearance in models that are positioned lower. And like we mentioned before, the company certainly isn't willing to make products more expensive just because they can.

If we were to read something like that in a press release, we'd likely just laugh about it, but during our two hour conversation with Borggren and Järlestedt, it became very clear that keeping hardware affordable is a priority, almost to the point that they consider it to be a personal mission. Järlestedt mentions how he also purchases hardware that he has to replace every so often, which implies that he wouldn't like it either if hardware were to become overly expensive. The products that we were shown substantiate this example – we already mentioned the prices of the water cooling kits, but the Define R5 also contains numerous small adjustments that won't have resulted in a cheaper production cycle, despite the fact that its suggested retail price is unchanged relative to the R4.


Product discussed in this review

  Product Lowest price

Fractal Design Define R5 Black

Tower, ATX, Black, 2 fans

Specifications Test results Reviews Prices

£95.98

Avg. £101.09
5 shops, 4x stock

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