Back in the mid-90s, my friends and I reached that “coming of age” point. You know, that point when you stop wearing ripped up jeans in favor of more tailored stylings, you buy real furniture since the stuff you have had since you left your dorm ten years ago just wasn’t cutting it, and you buy a car to match your new lifestyle. My friends argued endlessly back and forth between BMW, Mercedes, Acura, etc. It was the first time I heard the phrase “Mercedes builds trucks, BMW builds motorcycles” in relation to their corporate stances. As my friends brought home their new German and Japanese toys, I was able to appreciate them but was left feeling lukewarm every time I test drove one. Fabulous cars, all, but somehow they didn’t quite suit me. I wanted something a little more….interesting.
Around this time, two other European manufacturers were making some noise on the car front. Volvo began winning all kinds of rave from writers and critics for their crossover from the incredibly safe family vehicle, to possessing a unique luxury. Another car winning absolute raves was the Saab 9000 Aero, with a C&D (or possibly R&T, memory on that fails) titling an article “Those Crafty Swedes Have Done It Again”. I had a little hands on with Saab, but really all I knew was that they were odd looking, built like tanks and had the strangest engineering of any car around. I also knew that Saabs had the odd distinction of having the longest individual ownership retention by a huge margin. As quirky and odd as they were, people were keeping them for a period averaging almost twice as long as their nearest competitor. What was it that made people keep these things until they all but fell apart? So, naturally, I test drove one. It was quirky beyond all belief. Everything about it was unconventional by American standards, from the power band to the flat dash to the odd vents, even where the ignition was located. But, it was incredibly refined, and after just a few uses, all of these oddities made perfect sense. There was nothing flashy, the design was sparse and was engineered in such a way that its rivals seemed to be grasping for its simple elegance by overcomplicating everything. Besides, I certainly didn’t want a truck…and as much as I like motorcycles, that wasn’t what I was after. Given that, a fighter jet didn’t seem all that bad an idea.
The Fractal Design Define XL Full Tower Computer Case is the flagship offering into the U.S. market from the Swedish based manufacturer. The Fractal Design Define XL offers some very unique features and a great amount of flexibility in a very stylish, yet minimalist design case. The Define XL is lined with noise absorbing material on the side panels and top, as well as along the inside of the front door, to provide a near silent experience. A preinstalled 140mm fan is included for air intake to go along with a 140mm and 180mm exhaust setup that is rather unique. The top 180mm exhaust fan actually has its airflow channeled out the back of the case in order to reduce noise while maintaining maximum flow. The front of the Define XL has a solid door for sleek appearance that also reduces noise, with a unique side air intake setup for the front fans. In addition to the preinstalled fans, Fractal Design has given the Define XL "ribbon" capabilities to expand to two additional 140mm intake fans (one front, one side panel), as well as an additional 120mm in the front. With the interior of the case being segmented into three separate, configurable chambers, the airflow of the Define XL can be tweaked a great deal to suit your needs. True to its full tower form, the Define XL is capable of holding a good amount of components. Up to 10 internal 3.5” disks and 4 5.25” external disks (a 3.5” adapter is included) fit easily, and there is room for 330mm long graphics adapters – or a staggering 480mm with the top HDD cage removed. The Define XL easily accommodates mini-ITX, micro ATX, ATX and E-ATX motherboards and also has provisions for easy installation of an oversized PSU.