Case Conundrum: Affordable Midtowers Compared

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Fractal Design R4

The Fractal R4 is an evolution of the Fractal R3. There are some design differences between this midtower and the other cases we've included here, including an unusually small number of 5.25" drive bays. Where other mid-towers offer 3-5 5.25" bays, the Fractal R4 offers just two.
 
The Fractal R4, from the right and left sides. The front panel's insulation is visible.

There's a method to this madness. By shucking a number of bays, the R4's central fans are able to direct a larger volume of cooler air at the CPU heatsink. There's a three-speed fan controller on the inside of the case as well, a nifty feature that allows end-users to adjust fan speeds and system noise on the fly without re-wiring anything.



Fractal also ships the system with removable insulated panels that block off the 120mm fan mounts. This allows users to reduce system noise by covering panels they aren't using, and can actually improve cooling efficiency by ensuring that air flows through the case in an optimal manner. The center set of drives can be removed, further clearing room for the front intakes. With the 3.5" bays installed, the Fractal R4 can mount a total of 10 drives (5 in the top bay, 3 below, and two 2.5" SSDs to the back of the motherboard.



Here you can see the eight expansion slot, one located laterally on the motherboard rather than vertically. This is a nifty idea for moving things like USB brackets out of the way. There are times when the headers for these parts interfere with multi-GPU or other PCIe configurations; being able to move the slot mounted adapter could make it easier to tuck the hardware in an out of the way.

The Fractal R4 offers a number of nice features and plenty of cable management options. I like the 7+1 design for slots and the fact that I/O ports have moved to the top (and are less likely to get whacked in high-traffic areas). There's only two fans, but the 140mm size ensures they don't need to spin very quickly to keep the system cool.
 

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