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Antec Dark Fleet DF-85

We are always glad to test an Antec system case as this company has regularly pleased us with very good products. This time around, it is the flagship model of the new Dark Fleet gaming series.


As becomes a flagship, the DF-85 is large. It is a real Big Tower. Although lacking the gloss of the Performance and the practicality of the Hundred series, this model attracts the eye. Its intricate and irregular front panel with the excrescence at the top provokes associations with ships or rather with spaceships. It seems to come from those sci-fi books where a pompous fleet of huge spaceships travels the entire galaxy to destroy a dozen or two of planets. So, the visual effect of the DF-85 is most impressive.

Take note of the windowed side panel. This model is going to be appreciated by people who like to look at their computer components (or to show them to others).

Let’s examine the top panel first. Here, in front of the two 140mm fans covered with punched-out grids, we can see the ship’s queerly shaped superstructure.

It is there that the system case’s buttons and connectors reside. The Power and Reset buttons are placed at the opposite sides, so you can't confuse them. They are half-sunken into the slanting plastic surface, which provides some additional protection against an accidental press.

The front-panel connectors are in between the buttons. A pair of audio connectors is complemented with as many as three USB 2.0 ports. There is also a USB 3.0 port which can be easily identified by its blue color. There is another connector above but we'll discuss it later. We can only add that this system case lacks eSATA, which is a downside.

As we’ve written above, today’s mainboards don’t come with onboard USB 3.0 headers, so the manufacturer of this system case had to recall one old trick. The cable from the front-panel connector goes along the entire chassis and then outside through the special back-panel bracket with a hole. Then this cable is just plugged into the mainboard’s back-panel USB port. Although lacking in elegance, this solution is the simplest possible. The only thing we don’t quite understand is why that bracket is so bright and shiny while the system case is black overall.

The USB 3.0 cable is thick in one spot so that you could fix it within the bracket. As a result, the cable doesn’t hang loosely inside, and its "tail" behind the back panel looks more or less neat.

The remaining connector on the top panel can be easily identified as soon as you take a look at it from above through the transparent plastic. It is a couple of SATA connectors (interface and power) that are placed outside the system case so that you could attach a 2.5-inch hard disk drive to them. This is a very odd solution, we must confess. Thick hard drives (12.5 rather than 9.5 mm) cannot be plugged in at all because the plastic frame at the front gets in the way. And when you do manage plug an HDD in, it will stick out precariously. You can tear off the connector by accidentally pushing the connected HDD. Furthermore, the purpose of this arrangement is unclear because most users prefer to install 2.5-inch drives into external enclosures that convert the drive’s native SATA into USB interface.

Let’s get back to the front panel, though. Besides the superstructure, its appearance is determined by the plastic brackets covering the 5.25-inch bays. Although they look original, it is not handy that you have to push them aside each time you need to access your optical drive. Users who install manual fan controllers and other such devices into 5.25-inch bays won’t like that, either.

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