The Fleet has Arrived: Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Gaming Case Review

Antec DF-85 Case Review

Yeap, that’s right. This case is called the Dark Fleet DF-85. Sounds awesome, right?

Well, that’s what Antec intends. Although Antec is best known for their more conservative cases, such as the Antec 300/900/1200 gaming cases and the their various mid-ATX towers, the company does have a bit of the crazy in them, as evidenced by their Skeleton line; enclosures that don’t enclose anything at all.

Now Antec has released the fleet. These cases are mid-to-high end gaming cases that fit somewhere between the 900 and the Skeleton. These are true enclosures, but they also have a lot of open space and features that make it easy to quickly swap out parts.

The DF-85 is the flagship. It is meant to go toe-to-toe with cases such as the Silverstone Raven series and the Coolermaster HAF series. It is priced in the same bracket, with retailers generally selling it for between $150 and $200. It has some stiff competition, to be sure – so how does this new Antec fare?

Design and Build Quality (4 out of 5)

Antec DF-85 Gaming Case Review

The Antec DF-85 is certainly an imposing case. Although there are larger cases on the market, the DF-85’s height of nearly two feet towers over the typical ATX case. The DF-85 is only 20 inches deep, however, which is smaller than many competitors. The Coolermaster HAF 932 is about three inches longer and the Silverstone Raven RV02 is a whopping five inches longer.

The design of the case seems to inspire either love or hate. The case is entirely black both inside and out. The front is somewhat busy, thanks to three 120mm fans and three plastic brackets that are placed over their optical drive bays. The overall effect is somewhat industrial. The Dark Fleet, it appears, has more in common with the warships of Warhammer 40K than, say, a Covenant Assault Carrier.

When in operation the DF-85’s front and rear fans are lit by red LED lights. Antec has shown incredible restraint with these, however, by placing the LEDs in relatively recessed positions. This dims the lighting substantially, reducing the distraction caused by the lights when you’re using the enclosure in a dark room.

Otherwise, the DF-85 is built like most Antec cases. This means that most of the case is made of steel and feels very sturdy. There are no sharp edges to worry about. The front, however, is plastic. I’d like to see more metal used on the front of high-end cases, but the plastic is thick and sturdy, so this isn’t a major issue.

Ease of Use (5 out of 5)

Big cases take up more space in a room, but they’re also often easier to work with. This is true of the DF-85. The interior of the case is cavernous. There are no metal bars or barriers between different parts of the case, so you have a lot of room to work. Putting together a system is very easy, although no easier than most other cases of this size.

The DF-85 is not a tool-free case, however, so you’ll need to get out your screwdriver to install hard drives and other components. While the case is designed with space behind the motherboard tray in which you can route wires to clean up your case’s interior, the space isn’t as large as I’d like.

Features (4 out of 5)

Antec Dark Fleet Case Review

Antec has included two features that are exclusive to the Dark Fleet line among Antec products – Fleet-Release and Fleet-Swap.

The Fleet-Release feature centers on the three 120mm fan mounts on the front of the case. Each of these fan mounts can be swung open while your PC is on by pressing firmly on the left side of the case mount. Each of these forward-mounted fans is protected by a dust filter which you can remove, clean and replace without ever turning your PC off. This feature also gives you access to the SATA hot-swap internal drive bays, making it possible to hot-swap internal hard drives at any time.

The Fleet-Swap feature is also about swapping hard drives, but centers on the single hot-swap SATA connection on the top of the case. It is built for 2.5” solid state hard drives. This makes it possible to use solid state hard drives like USB drives – just stick it in the enclosure and you’re good. The case also includes an internal 2.5” solid state hard drive mount.

Otherwise, the features of the DF-85 are fairly standard. You can mount up to nine 3.5” internal drives, three 5.25” external drives, and two 2.5” solid state drives. The motherboard tray has a CPU cutout that makes it possible to install CPU heatsinks that require a backplate without taking the entire motherboard out of the case. The power supply is mounted at the bottom to increase the tower’s stability and improve cooling. These features are all fairly standard for this kind of case.

Cooling and Noise (4 out of 5)

Seven. That is the number of fan mounts the DF-85 has. More importantly, that is the number of fans the case comes with. There are three 120mm fans in the front, two 120mm fans in the rear, and two 140mm fans on the top. The three front fans have control knobs that stick out of the front of the case, making it possible to adjust fan speed whenever you’d like.

Overall cooling seemed very good. My processor, a Core 2 Duo E8400, rose to 53 degrees Celsius at maximum load. This temperature was just two degrees cooler than what I experienced in my previous case, an Antec NSK6850. I was far more impressed by the effect the case had on my video card. The minimum temperature during the Furmark stress test had been 44 degrees Celsius, while the maximum was 69 degrees Celsius. The DF-85 reduced the minimum temperature to 41 degrees Celsius and the maximum to 52 degrees Celsius. That’s sixteen degrees cooler at load!

Of course, the many fans result in some noise. I found that the DF-85 was moderately quiet if the front fans were turned to their lowest settings. The cooling results above were obtained while the fans were at this setting, so I see little reason to increase their speed. The real noise issue is not the fans, but rather the hard drives. The DF-85 does not include any hard drive sound insulation features. When your mechanical hard drive spins up, you know it – if this will bother you, I suggest looking at a different case.

Verdict (4 out of 5)

The DF-85 is a typical Antec case. It is well built, well designed and a joy to use. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a high-end gaming case. It will be best with a user who isn’t too concerned with noise insulation and instead wants a case that is easy to work with and has excellent cooling. If that sounds like you, I suggest adopting a DF-85 into your home.


Author Experience

All images are from Antec press materials

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