|Antec DF-35 Dark Fleet Computer Case|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Wednesday, 07 July 2010|
Page 6 of 6
Antec Dark Fleet Final Thoughts
This case was disappointing in some ways, and rather nice in others. I'll cover the disappointing stuff first: building a system in the Antec DF-35 was more trouble than I expected in a $140.00 case, maily due to the lack of cable management and the unnecessarily complex operation to remove the front bezel. Some aspects of the case, like the lack of power supply ventilation holes, cable management, and punch-out card slot covers, are things I'd be surprised to see in a case costing half as much. And the competition in the $150-and-under case segment is fierce: for example, the Cooler Master CM690-II Advanced costs $89.99 at Newegg and has cable management, toolless mounting for 3.5" and 5.25" devices, a hot-swap SATA bay on the top of the case that can accomodate 3.5" and 2.5" devices, screw-down card slot covers, and (filtered!) ventilation for the power supply. Forgoing a few of these fancier features can land you in any of a number of sub-$80 NZXT cases that still offer better "basic features" than the DF-35. This makes the Antec DF-35 a hard sell at its price.
Once I had finished building the system, though, things looked up a little. The case's appearance is handsome and the white LED lit fans add a nice visual touch. The fans themselves were impressive, too, moving a lot of air with very little noise. Turning all four fans to maximum resulted only in a muted whooshing noise; turning them all down to minimum made the system almost inaudible. This case should easily provide enough ventilation to host a high-performance SLI or CrossfireX system.
I never was able to get the cabling as neat as I wanted and would prefer a non-windowed version of the case for this reason.
Any case manufacturer will have a budget, and Antec obviously thought that features like the SATA backplanes, fancy fans, and swing-out access panels on the front of the case merited the lion's share of the cost of the case. But even some of the extra features seem incompletely implemented: for example, what's the point of easy front access to drives that plug into a SATA backplane when the drives are held in by screws and you have to take off the side panel to add or remove drives?
Extra features are nice, but I think that the "basic" features should take precedence. I would have fewer complaints about the DF-35 were it priced at $99.95 or less, but at $140, it's competing with some very nice cases, most of which make building a system a lot easier.
Antec DF-35 Conclusion
Antec owns the bulk of the market share for computer cases, and with good reason: their cases historically offer high construction quality, compelling features, and competitive prices. The DF-35, however, seems remiss in each of these categories. With just a little extra effort on Antec's part— primarily punching a few extra holes in strategically-located spots— this could be a great case, with functionality to match its looks.
Clunky construction process aside, the performance of this case was very good. The cooling is excellent and should serve owners of hot, high-performance hardware well. Providing each fan with its own controller is a nice feature, although it was done by using specialized, Antec-only fans with integrated controllers.
I found the appearance of the case appealing. Antec was obviously trying to ramp things up a bit over the more pedestrian "Hundred" series, and they've succeeded.
The construction quality, on the other hand, wasn't as good as it should be for a case of this class. The sloppy fit of the side panels and the number of screws securing the front bezel (6 of which were self-tapping screws into plastic, which will limit the number of times they can be effectively secured) count against the DF-35. And I still hate the punch-out card slot covers.
Functionally, the case performed well. Having an integrated 3.5" externally-accessible device bay is a feature I wish more cases had; the 2.5" drive mount at the bottom of the chassis in an inexpensive and elegant solution. On the other hand, having to manually move a snap-down trim piece every time you need to access your optical drive will get old pretty quickly.
The value? Sorry, that's where this case fails. Selling for $139.99 at NewEgg, this case sacrifices too many basic features for the less-basic ones it has. Antec die-hards may overlook these issues, but cost-conscious shoppers know they have other options.
+ Sleek, semi-military appearance
- High price
Final Score: 7.85 out of 10.
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