Not long after Fractal released their define 7 series, which I actually reviewed just recently, there’s going to be a link to it in the right top corner, they’ve obviously heard comments of some of the users out there, waiting for something equally good, build quality and feature-wise, but in a smaller format, which then subsequently result in what I’m going to talk about today – the brand new and just introduced Define 7 Compact. But, before I go into details about what’s different compared to its bigger brother, let’s free check how it is to build in it, is the exactly the same or should you expect any compromises?
Well, I can’t say that it was any harder putting components in it than with doing the same in its so to speak full-sized version, but there are definitely some limitations, which is more than to be expected since the chassis is smaller by all counts, especially in length and width. Right away you can notice that because of the difference in length we don’t have that front compartment which can be turned into a drive storage layout with using their multi-bracket plates. This is something which probably a lot of potential buyers of the original Define 7 series don’t need, so it comes as a pretty reasonable compromise. This also defines a new maximal GPU length for Define 7 Compact, which is now 360 without and 341 mm with the fan installed on the front, and compared to the regular Define 7 that’s almost 130 mm shorter in both cases.
If you compare it to its predecessor, the Define C, it’s a bit of a different story. The total supported maximal GPU length is around 20 mm longer in both scenarios, with or without the front fan. On the other hand, the CPU cooler height is lower by 3 mm, 169 mm instead 172 mm, while with the Define 7 that’s 185 mm, but I don’t think this will have any impact on the installation flexibility.
Fractal Define 7 Compact – compromise we wanted?
Continuing on with the topic of putting stuff in the chassis, in regards to fan and radiator support, there’s a decent amount of options on your disposal, very similar to the original Define 7. At the front, you can put from 120 to 360 mm radiators, with a 145 mm limitation for maximal width for those radiators sizes using 140 mm fans. On the top, you can put up to 240 mm radiator, so Define 7 Compact drops the 360 mm radiator support here, which is not a surprise considering its stubby nature, while if you choose to put a 240 mm radiator on the top, be sure to use low profile RAM, maximal height of 40 mm because it will interfere with them.
You can also put one 120 on the bottom and one on the back, while that on the bottom will require removing the drive cage. Of course, you can choose to put just a fan on those two spots, one of which, the one back, comes preinstalled and that’s their Dynamic X2 GP-12 fan. Another Dynamic X2 fan is also preinstalled on the front, but that one is the 140 mm GP-14 version.
Although we don’t have that big storage skyscraper on the front, there is still a lot of other storage options at hand. We have a total of four dedicated 3,5” drive installation spots, two on the top hanging upside down using their multi-brackets, which unfortunately this time you won’t get at all from the bundle, you’ll have to buy them separately. Additional two come from the drive cage itself within the power supply shroud area and if you decide to remove the cage completely, there’s a single spot on the bottom that can be used without the need of a multi-bracket, just rubber grommets, and screws. All of the 3,5” drive installation positions can, of course, take in 2,5” drives as well, while they also have their own dedicated spots, two on the back of the motherboard tray thanks to these handy brackets, and two on the power supply shroud, for which you’ll also have to purchase separate 2,5” brackets if you plan to use more of it in your Define 7 Compact build.
Cutting down the non-essentials
Moving outside for a bit, the design of Fractal Define 7 Compact is completely the same compared to its big brother, only this one is like a fun-sized version of it. If you didn’t have a size reference, it would be easy to mix them up. Since it’s smaller in size the front metal brushed panel doesn’t sway open to reveal a big dust filter and 5,25” drive bay. You’ll still get some dust filters, but ones the sides, similar to Vector RS in which I did a build in just recently, so you have to pull the panel off in order to remove them and clean them. That’s not a problem since it can be pulled off easily, while the bottom dust filter again minds its own business and can be taken off as you please, independent of anything else surrounding it.
The top panel also follows the same theme of being held with a sort of like a quick-release mechanism, so you can pull it off in a matter of seconds and reveal another dust filter beneath it, all without obstructing the I/O’s on the top front. Speaking of them, just a quick glance over, with the Define 7 Compact you’ll be greeted by the same setup, so again a total of five USB ports, four of the USB Type-A ports, two 2.0 and two 3.0 ports, together with one USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2 port, next to the, of course, power on and reset switch, separate audio in and audio out 3,5 mm jacks and a bright power LED indicator. Back to the top panel, Fractal again provides with the bundle a mesh top panel as an alternative option and this time I’ve decided to use this panel since I put Fractal’s Celsius+ S28 Prisma all-in-one watercooler on the front, so I ended up transferring that 140 mm front fan to the top to serve a purpose of being an exhaust fan.
Both the left side tempered glass side panel, which BTW. is once more that light-tinted model, and right side panel, again have the same easy to release mechanics where you just pull this tab and the top side of the panel pops off with the bottom part being hinged into the chassis frame. Removing them we’re getting back inside, so let’s finally check out what’s actually different here. Obviously, it’s a lot more claustrophobic, but the essentials are still here. We have your rubber grommets and cutouts all around the motherboard tray, as you can see there’s just enough room for them between the radiator and the right side edge of the motherboard, plus you could get away with a push-pull configuration without still interfering with cables. On the back, you can see that we have 7 expansions slots, while they removed the option of installing the GPU vertically. On the front part of the power supply shroud you can again see the plastic covers which can be removed in case you plan to put a longer 360 mm or if you want to pull out the drive cage, you can only do that thought this opening.
Going behind the motherboard tray, on the bottom we have a dedicated space for the power supply, with rubber padding for it and a separate installation bracket. This time we have a little bit less of room for the power supply cables since the chassis is shorter, but still plenty enough for tucking them in, especially if you decide not to use the drive cage on the front. Going towards the top, the most obvious change is the lack of the fan hub controller, which was a really handy add-on, but I guess they needed to make some sacrifice in order to bring the price down and make more room back here.
Price cut for the Define 7 Compact
The middle routing canal for the cables is now moved all the way to the left, but you will still get a lot these holding brackets and Velcro ties, as well as on the right side of the tray, plus plenty of other cable tie points for doing a clean cable management job, with more than decent amount of space between the back of the motherboard tray and the right-side panel, which again carries sound dampening material, together with the front panel and the fully covered version of the top panel. Just be careful not to overlap the cables too much, then it can get a bit tight for the right panel to on since we now have a little bit less of empty space between it and the motherboard tray.
Touching the topic of sound insulation, Although I did use the mesh top panel with my initial temperature testing, I did try using the other panel, just to see what’s the difference in noise that it makes. Obviously, everything is going to be by default quieter since there’s one less fan on the top, but when you draw the line, the difference was not that distinctive. Here’s a short sound clip showing you all of those different scenarios and their noise profiles, while also showing the sound meter for measurement comparison.
Coming down to the temperature testing, with both the CPU and GPU being under full load, although it was a different cooling setup in question, I saw figures very similar to my recent experience with the Define 7, granted it’s a bit warmer now than usual. Being cooled off by a 280 mm watercooler, the Ryzen 7 3700X was a bit cooler compared to Noctua’s NH-D15 Chromax air CPU cooler which I used back then, while Sapphire’s RX 5600 XT Pulse was just a tad warmer, which is not a surprise as warm air from the radiator blows directly over it. Fractal once again proved with Define 7 Compact that they did a solid job on their front panels when it comes to these cutouts dedicated to airflow and bringing in the cold air, despite having a solid front side, while similar solutions can be seen on a couple of their other models.
So, if the Define 7 Compact is a smaller, and a bit less capable version of its original brother, the price should be lower, shouldn’t it? Yes, that assumption is this time a correct one.
The original MSRP for the tempered glass version of the Define 7 was, or better yet is 170$, while the price for the new Define 7 Compact carrying also the tempered glass side panel is set at 110$. That’s a pretty substantial difference which will make this series even more interesting to users who already set their eyes on the regular model, but didn’t need that much flexibility in terms of the storage options and other added feature, but rather just in search for a minimalistic looking, well built and well thought out chassis for a reasonable amount of money considering what it is.
That’s it for this time from me, I hope this Fractal Define 7 Compact review suited what you were looking for, if you have any question feel free to hit me in the comments section of my YouTube video listed above, you can contact me via my social media channels!