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Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 full-tower chassis review

by Matt Davey on 6 August 2010, 16:57 3.0

Tags: Dark Fleet DF-85, Antec

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Dark Fleet ahoy

As the previous resident reviewer of all things chassis and cooling here at HEXUS I’ve been on what students call a gap year…or two. So as I blow the dust off the keyboard, figure out how to work a camera again and spend hours reviewing what’s gone on in these markets over the last two years, I think I can finally say I’m ready. But be kind, folks, and let me ease you into chassis reviewing gently.

By sheer coincidence my last review here was for an Antec chassis - the very popular 1200 gaming series. Today it’s a new breed as we take a look at Antec’s Dark Fleet series, headlined by the DF-85.

The Dark Fleet series is currently made up of three models. The base DF-30 features a black finish and the now almost-retro blue-LED fans with a single hot-swap bay up top. The middle cousin, the DF-35, features the same exterior as the DF-30 but also packs a few internal hot-swap bays for good measure.

Finally we get to today’s subject matter, the DF-85. This headline act features a total of 14 drive bays, seven fans and more hot-swapping capability than a swinger’s convention on a rainy day. So without further ado let’s get down and dirty over on the dark side.

As you may have already gathered, the DF-85 isn’t small - in fact it sits a hefty 596mm tall, 505mm deep and a rather narrow 213mm wide. As a result the DF-85 does look a little ungainly out of the box with a high side and busy front-end.

A busy front

Up front we have three ‘Fleet-Release™’ lockable access doors - yup, would you believe Antec trademarked it - covering up the nine internal bays that are cooled by three filtered, speed-adjustable 120mm red-LED fans.

Triple-fan cooling

Further up we have three externally-accessible 5.25in bays, each of which are fitted with access hatch doors that open up left to right. Unfortunately if you prefer to go from right to left Antec hasn’t catered for you with the DF-85, because fixed hinges mean swapping them round isn’t possible.

Left-to-right opening only

Although the moulded plastic on the front is pleasant enough to the touch, the clips used to secure the hatches and doors in place are very tight, with a fair bit of flexing experienced each time they’re opened. Given the expanse of plastic up front we expected the DF-85 to be lighter, but the steel core and side panels means it tips the scales at a hefty 11kg empty.

Visually it's clear to see what Antec is going for with the front of the DF-85, but we think it's missed a trick by fixing the hinge on the right, because flexibility in its layout would have added a great deal more value to the chassis - especially disappointing given its lofty £140 retail price.

Up top the DF-85 features reset and power buttons on opposing sides, with headphone, mic and four USB ports in between. As is pretty much standard in the current 2010 crop, the fourth port is of the USB 3.0 persuasion.