Minimal is the new hip aesthetic. In the PC case market, the Swiss company Fractal Design is a master of minimal. The Fractal Design Compact 7 is their latest offering. It gives off an understated, stylish vibe. But is it as functional as fans expect?
The Define series has defined Fractal’s cases. They have excellent build quality with no sharp edges and no flexing. The cases look super clean, and a growing population is now tired of excess RGB. They have nifty and useful features that add together to an impressive product.
The Define 7C has quite a reputation to uphold. Define 7 has been a well-received product, garnering praise everywhere. Fractal has shown that they can size things down too. The Meshify Mini C has been a fan-favorite for a good reason. It has 4.8/5 stars on Amazon, out of 871 ratings. That’s incredible.
If you want a traditional ATX case of the Define family, Fractal has finally put out the Define 7 Compact. It promises all the goodness of the Define 7, in smaller dimensions. How well does it deliver, though? We’ll take a look at specs, design, and usability to give a final verdict.
- Type: Mid-tower
- Compatible motherboards: ATX, mATX, mITX
- PSU type: ATX
- Weight: 8.76 kg
- Dimensions: 427 x 210 x 474 mm
- Drive mounts: 2 included, maximum 4
- Expansions slots: 7 total
- Front I/O: 1 x USB 3.1 G2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, Audio I/O
- Front fans: 3 x 120 mm or 2 x 140 mm
- Top fans: 2 x 120/140 mm
- Rear fans: 1 x 120 mm
- Bottom fans: 1 x 120 mm (need to remove HDD cage)
- Included fans: 1 x each Dynamic X2-14 and X2-12
Design and Build – Exterior
The 7 Compact looks like a smaller Define 7. Pretty obvious. It has a much shorter body, letting go of additional hard drive options. The outer looks are very similar, and the case is heavy compared to other mid-towers. We have the metal chassis to thank for that.
The front panel is brushed aluminum, with the Fractal logo. It does not swing open, but can be pulled off to install 3 x 120 or 2 x 140 mm fans. Or, you could put a 2-fan or 3-fan AIO here, too. One Dynamic X2-14 comes pre-installed.
The top has the I/O ports and has a full selection of USB and audio. The dust filter there can be removed, as can the mounting bracket. This bracket supports 2 x 120/140 mm fans or AIOs of 240/280 mm size. The bottom dust filter is also removable for cleaning.
The PSU bay at the rear is bottom-mounted, and there is an exhaust vent. The PSU is held in place by thumbscrews, and at the top of the rear is an exhaust, pre-installed Dynamic X2-12 fan. Almost every vent and filter has that distinctive eye-pleasing angled-diagonal design.
Finally, we arrive at the side panel. Three variants exist solid steel, clear glass, and tinted glass. The other panel is opaque and unmarked except for a vertical vent at the edge. The (optional) glass panels offer an interior view unobstructed by any meddling screws.
Design and Build – Interior
As you pull off the locking tabs, you get access to the inside of the Define 7 Compact.
The PSU bay is not cramped but will be if you want to install cooling solutions. The expansion slots have thumb screws, and we love the tool-less design. At the top, there is space to place fans or a radiator.
At the front, there is a removable cage under the shroud. You can fit up to four 2.5″ hard drive trays here, with two included.
Two SSD trays can be mounted at the bottom metal shroud. There are Velcro strips to bind cables, and the cooler bracket is above the trays. Since this case is well, compact, it does not have many removable/swappable interiors, unlike many of Fractal’s bigger cases.
There are no vertical PCI slots, which some competitors tend to offer.
Regarding the temperature and noise performance, hexus.net has run some useful benchmarks.
As we can see, the Define 7 Compact fares solidly in both CPU and GPU temps. Only Corsair’s iCUe and Crystal Series cases offer any sizeable improvements.
In terms of system noise, the case is best at muffling idle noise. Under heavy gaming load, though, other offerings such as cases from be quiet! might be better.
How Useful is It?
One of the big selling points of Fractal Design cases is its usability. Sturdy and useful is the motto. With the Design 7 Compact, all this usefulness has to be boiled down into a smaller space. Huge GPUs plus bigger radiators might not fit inside. But for most users, space will be enough for a tight build.
And this case delivers, too. Fractal provides many accessories in the box, which make for a satisfying experience.
There are suitable screws, a microfiber cloth and zip ties included. And who doesn’t love zip ties? The Velcro strips come in handy for cable management as well.
As we’ve mentioned, the solid top panel can be swapped out for a vented one. It will be a bit noisier, but thermals should improve. Of note is the lack of the Nexus+ 2 fan hub that ships with the Define 7. That unit connects up to three PWM fans and six 3-pin fans. However, this is forgivable since you’re unlikely to cram that many fans in a compact mid-tower. And Fractal had to cut costs somewhere.
One proper issue, however, is the cable management in one place. The HDD cage at the bottom interferes with the PSU cables when installed. And then, the otherwise handy side panel just doesn’t close naturally. You’ll have to do some stuffing and pushing to shut the panel. This sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise flawless design. We expect such nuisances to be a non-problem when it comes to Fractal.
So, should you get the Fractal Design Define 7 Compact?
The non-glass panel version will set you back almost 110 US dollars. The tempered glass ones cost $130. Anyone getting a Fractal case is definitely considering the aesthetics. So, it makes sense to get the glass ones, tinted or transparent.
If you like the Define series’s look and want a compact case, there’s nothing wrong with the 7 Compact. You’ll shell out a few more bucks than value options from competitors, but it’ll be worth it. The small issue of panel fitting, no vertical PCI, and fewer SSD slots will not matter to most PC builders.
You’ll want to look elsewhere if you want more bang for your buck, though. Or, if you want a case with exceptional noise and thermal performance, there are better options. Take a look at the be quiet! Pure Base 500DX, for better airflow. None look as smooth as the Define 7C, though.