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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Antec has just released a new series of cases called Dark Fleet, comprised of three models, DF-30, DF-35 and DF-85. While the first two are mid-tower units, DF-85 is a high-end full-tower case.

The Dark Fleet DF-85 comes with a total of seven fans, all of them with speed controllers, and a place for you to install a 120 mm fan on its left-side panel, featuring two silicone spacers for reducing the vibration and therefore noise produced by this fan. The left-side panel has two transparent windows.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 1: Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 case

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 2: Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 case

The front panel of the Dark Fleet DF-85 can be seen in Figure 3. This case has three external 5.25” bays featuring decorative tabs (see Figure 4). These tabs make the case look nice, but you will need to open them every time you need to access peripherals installed in the 5.25” bays, like your optical drive. Ejecting your optical drive tray won’t open the tab in front of it, so we have mixed feelings about this feature. We understand that it makes the case look nicer, but it can be really frustrating to have to move the tab every time you want to insert a CD or DVD.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 3: Front panel

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 4: Decorative tabs found in front of the 5.25” bays

[nextpage title=”Introduction (Cont’d)”]

On its front panel, the DF-85 has three 120 mm fans with individual speed controllers, shown in Figure 5. The speed of each fan is controlled by an individual knob and you can change it from 1,000 rpm (33.3 cfm, 19.45 dBA) to 2,000 rpm (66.6 cfm, 34.5 dBA).

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 5: Speed controller

Each fan is attached to a small door that covers three 3.5” bays each, so the case has a total of nine 3.5” bays (four of them – the top two and the bottom two – come with hot-swap connectors). These doors have a latch that is opened from inside the case.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 6: Doors opened

Each fan has an individual, washable air filter, which is very easy to remove.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 7: Air filter

The connectors and buttons of the Dark Fleet DF-85 are available on the top part of the front panel. This panel comes with three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port (blue connector). You may be wondering what the difference is between the USB 3.0 and the USB 2.0 ports. There are two differences. First, because it operates at a higher speed, the wires require better shielding. Second, USB 3.0 ports are available on the rear panel of the motherboards that come with this feature, and therefore, the USB 3.0 port of the front panel must use a regular USB A connector on its other end instead of a regular 10-pin header. So the available USB 3.0 port is attached to a standard USB connector that must be routed to the outside of the case and connected to one external USB 3.0 port available on the motherboard. No FireWire or eSATA port is available.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 8: Buttons and connectors

The DF-85 has an external 2.5” bay with hot-swap connectors for you to easily install an SSD or a laptop hard disk drive. This bay is protected by a transparent lid and can be seen in Figures 8 and 9.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 caseFigure 9: External hot-swap 2.5” bay

[nextpage title=”The Top and Rear Panels”]

The top panel comes with two 140 mm fans, each one attached to an individual two-step speed controller that is available on the rear panel of the case. They rotate at 800 rpm (low) or 1,200 rpm (high), produce a maximum airflow of 33.6 cfm (low) or 58.9 cfm (high) and a maximum noise level of 21.8 dBA (low) or 26 dBA (high). No air filter is available on these fans, but this feature is really not necessary, since these fans work in exhaust mode (i.e., blowing hot air from inside the computer to the outside).

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 10: Top panel

Even though the power supply is installed on the bottom part of the case, the bottom panel has no mesh or any other special feature.

Finally we have the rear panel in Figure 11. It is painted black, giving a very professional look to the product. The Dark Fleet DF-85 comes with two 120 mm fans attached to its rear panel, which is really unique, since the vast majority of cases available on the market have only one rear fan. These two fans are attached to individual two-step speed controllers, which are located on the top part of the rear panel (see Figure 12) and rotate at 900 rpm (low) or 1,500 rpm (high), producing a maximum airflow of 30.1 cfm (low) or 51.2 cfm (high), and a maximum noise level of 16.9 dBA (low) or 27.9 dBA (high).

The DF-85 follows the standard ATX layout, with seven expansion slots. The slot covers are vented, which may improve airflow. One of the covers is silver (it should be black to match the rest of the case) and has a hole in it. This hole is for you to route the cable of the front USB 3.0 port to the rear panel of the motherboard.

Above the area where expansion cards are installed the case has a small mesh featuring two holes covered with rubber protections to be used by liquid cooling solutions with external parts.

The power supply is ins
talled on the bottom part of the case, as you can clearly see in Figure 11. One interesting thing is that this case supports power supplies from the Antec CP series. This information isn’t clear on the product page or in the product manual.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 11: Rear panel

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 12: Controllers for the top and rear fans

Now let’s take a look inside the Antec Dark Fleet DF-85.

[nextpage title=”Inside Antec Dark Fleet DF-85″]

Both panels are fastened to the case using black thumbscrews and we wouldn’t expect anything less in a case from this category. In Figure 13, you have an overall view from inside the Dark Fleet DF-85. The interior is painted black. The motherboard tray has a hole around the area where the CPU is installed, allowing access to the backplate of the CPU cooler, so you can replace the coolering without having to remove the motherboard. Several holes for routing cables behind the motherboard tray are available, and the case comes with two big ties behind the motherboard tray and several clips for fastening zip-lock ties.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 13: Overall look

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 14: A view from behind the motherboard tray

This case supports video cards up to 12.5” (31.8 cm) long.

In Figure 15, you have another overall look inside the case. Expansion cards are fastened to the case using regular screws. We think a case like this deserved black thumbscrews here.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 15: Overall look

In Figure 16, you can see the power supply compartment. Power supplies are installed upside down, meaning that the power supply fan is placed facing up. This explains why there is no mesh on the bottom panel of the case. The power supply is installed on top of four rubber pads.

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 16: Power supply compartment.

[nextpage title=”The Disk Drive Bays”]

The Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 comes with three external 5.25” bays, nine internal 3.5” bays that are accessed from outside the case, one external hot-swap bay for 2.5” devices like SSDs and laptop hard disk drives (already shown in Figures 8, 9 and 10), and one internal 2.5” bay.

Four of the nine internal 3.5” bays come with hot-swap connectors (the two top ones and the two bottom ones).

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 17: Overall look

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 18: The top hot-swap connectors

Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Case Figure 19: The bottom hot-swap connectors and internal 2.5” bay

None of the bays come with screwless installation mechanisms, but the case comes with some silver thumbscrews. According to Antec, screwless mechanisms add noise to the case and that is why this feature was not added in this case.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 case main specs include:

  • Style: Full-tower
  • Application: ATX and smaller form factors derived from this one
  • Material: Zinc-coated steel (SECC)
  • Power supply required: Doesn’t come with the product
  • Available colors: Black with interior painted black
  • Side panel: Transparent acrylic
  • Dimensions: 23.5” x 8 3/8” x 19 7/8” (59.6 cm x 21.3 cm x 50.5 cm) (H x W x D)
  • Net weight: 24.5 lbs (11.0 kg)
  • Gross weight: 29.0 lbs (13.2 kg)
  • Bays: Three external 5.25” bays, nine internal 3.5” bays (four with hot-swap connectors), one external 2.5” bay with hot-swap connectors, and one internal 2.5” bay
  • Expansion slots: Seven
  • Fans: Three 120 mm fans on the front panel (individual analog speed control from 1,000 rpm to 2,000 rpm, 33.3 cfm to 66.6 cfm, 19.45 dBA to 34.5 dBA), two 140 mm fans on the top panel (individual two-step speed control; 800 rpm, 33.6 cfm, 21.8 dBA at low speed and 1,200 rpm, 58.9 cfm and 26 dBA at high speed), and two 120 mm fans on the rear panel (individual two-step speed control; 900 rpm, 30.1 cfm and 16.9 dBA at low speed and 1,500 rpm, 51.2 cfm and 27.9 dBA at high speed).
  • Optional fans: One 120 mm on the left-side panel
  • More Information: https://www.antec.com
  • Average Price in the US*: USD 190.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 is a nice full-tower case for the user that is looking for a case that supports lots of hard disk drives and comes with lots of fans with speed control. The construction quality is top-notch, but we didn’t like the tabs covering the 5.25” bays. Users looking for other specific features – eight expansion slots, for instance – will have to pick a different product, though. In the same price range, we have Cooler Master HAF X, which may be a better choice, depending on what you are looking for in terms of features.

Strong Points

  • Impressive number of fans: seven.
  • Speed control for all fans.
  • Vented slot covers
  • Air filters on the front fans
  • Four 3.5” and one 2.5” hot-swap bays
  • Support for up to two 2.5” hard drives or SSDs
  • Support for up to 11 hard drives is more than enough for even the most hardcore user
  • Hole for accessing the backplate fo
    r the CPU cooler on the motherboard tray
  • Holes for routing cables on the motherboard tray
  • Clips for fastening zip-lock ties
  • One USB 3.0 port
  • Anti-vibration mechanism on the internal 2.5” bay
  • No sharp edges where you could cut yourself while building your PC
  • Support for power supplies from the Antec CP series

Weak Points

  • The tabs in front of the 5.25” bays make inserting media in the optical drives a really annoying process
  • No screwless mechanism for the drive bays
  • No anti-vibration mechanism for hard disk drives
  • No eSATA port
  • No FireWire port
  • Slot cover for the USB 3.0 cable isn’t painted black
  • Uses regular silver screws for installing expansion cards instead of black thumbscrews
  • Bay covers aren’t meshed
  • It would be nice if it came with eight expansion slots
  • It should have a separated hole for routing the cable from the front USB 3.0 port instead of using one expansion slot for this