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Antec DF-35 Dark Fleet Computer Case E-mail
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Written by David Ramsey   
Wednesday, 07 July 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Antec DF-35 Dark Fleet Computer Case
Closer Look: Dark Fleet Exterior
DF-35 Detailed Exterior Features
Closer Look: Dark Fleet Interior
DF-35 Detailed Interior Features
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Antec Dark Fleet Final Thoughts

antec_df-35_assembled.jpgThis 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.

Pros:

+ Sleek, semi-military appearance
+ Excellent cooling with quiet, high-quality fans with individual controllers
+ Room for three 5.25" devices and six 3.5" drives, along with a 3.5" externally-accessible device
+ External SATA bay for 2.5" notebook drives or SSDs

Cons:

- High price
- Lack of basic features such as cable management
- No manual?
- Trim pieces impede access to 5.25" devices
- SATA backplane convenience obviated by screw-in drive mounting

Ratings:

  • Performance: 8.75
  • Appearance: 8.5
  • Construction: 7.25
  • Functionality: 8.25
  • Value: 6.5

Final Score: 7.85 out of 10.

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Comments 

 
# RE: Antec DF-35 Dark Fleet Computer CaseAdam 2010-07-08 04:23
Sweet mother of muffins that's ugly.
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# Poor DesignRobert Johnson 2010-07-08 11:10
I have to agree with your review. Antec did not design this at all well and it is far overpriced. Antec needs to stop trying to figure out how to design PC cases and get feedback from gamers and other people that love to build their own PCs. If Antec doesn't watch out Cooler Master will steal all of their marketshare. If you decide to review the DF-85 I think you'll come to relatively the same conclusions that you did here
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# RE: Poor DesignServando Silva 2010-07-08 11:40
I have to agreee on this one. What's up with Antec's new cases?
Other revisions are in the oven :).
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# Safety RequirementsPaul Parkinson 2010-07-08 13:31
The reason that the power supply is oriented with the fan pulling air from inside the case is based on producing a design that actually meets the required product safety requirements in place in the US and other countries around the world. Any chassis that orients the power supply to pull external air via an opening in the bottom of the case does not have a suitable fire enclosure. Power supplies do die and they do pop capacitors or catch on fire. The openings in the bottom of a chassis with the fan oriented fan down simply run the risk of dropping material out of the chassis that may cause a fire. These incidents do happen and people try to sue the power supply and chassis manufacturer. Antec is simply doing it correctly.
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# RE: Safety RequirementsDavid Ramsey 2010-07-08 14:11
So, you're saying that all those other cases that _do_ have bottom ventilation holes are in violation of some "product safety requirement"? I would think if there were such a requirement then those cases couldn't be sold here.
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# Re Safety RequirementsPaul Parkinson 2011-03-05 06:40
There is no national law that says computer products (Technically ITE Information Technology Equipment)must meet product safety standards. The product safety standards are actually referenced in OSHA which deals with workplace safety and then each local electrical provider or local government is responsible for enforcing any product safety laws. Enforcement at the border when something is imported is limited to checking for counterfeit safety labels and not actual compliance. You can and people so sell products in this country that do not meet safety standards. Ask someone with drywall from China in their house.
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# RE: Re Safety RequirementsDoug McKalip 2011-05-24 21:38
We repair computers and have seen a number of internal fires that I am sure the customers were glad they were contained within the cabinet. I even had a piece of audio gear, Russound CAV6.6, burn up in my house. My personal crusade to remove flammable material from consumer electronics can be seen at: ##itsonfire.org
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# It does actually happen....BruceBruce 2010-07-08 15:53
Check out Austin's tale of woe here: #forum.benchmarkreviews.com/showthread.php?t=16145&highlight=damage

Also, Lian Li is using louvres on some of their new cases to reduce the risk: #benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=526&Itemid=61&limit=1&limitstart=3
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# mrDale Lancaster 2010-07-25 13:02
3 x external 5.25" only 3? Don,t want supplied fans so to expensive case. pity would have bought this case. would replacing fans with new make be possible- Dale Lancaster
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# RE: mrDavid Ramsey 2010-07-27 08:13
You could replace the supplied fans, but you'd lose the integrated controllers built into the existing fans (as I mentioned in the review).
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# Just a pointAzaa 2010-12-06 13:56
quote

"The side panel fit is a little sloppy: even with the panels fully in place, there's about a 1/4" gap between the back of each side panel and the back of the case. "

I would like to point out that this is for cable management... which makes the air flow in this tower so much nicer. For the complaints on the drive bays there is also a FULL tower keep in mind this is mid and is trying to support optimal air flow because the better the air flow the better the entire machine will run.
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# Lian Li for me sorry AntecJohn 2011-01-11 13:31
Disappointed with Antec's case design/quality lately.
Went with Lian Li PC-60FNWX instead
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# interesting readwess 2011-03-05 01:29
After building a system for my friend yesterday on the DF-85 (the full size big brother of this DF-35) I was actually interested in picking one up and thought I'd see how much interior space I would "lose" between the two. looking for an image and review, google brought me here, and after reading this review, I am a bit confused.
As the owner of 3 antec nine hundred cases, I can tell you there is nothing wrong with the way the power supply being mounted the way it is. If you cannot understand the logic behind the engineering, perhaps you should not even be reviewing cases. I actually PREFER this design over the old "over the motherboard" design. traditionally with the powersupply mounted up high, it was sometimes the "only exhaust fan" running in the computer. With 140mm fan up top and 120mm in the back, let the fans do their job and let the power supply fan do the job its suppose to do, which is to cool the power supply. As for the hot swap 3.5" being useless without rails, does the harddrive not sit in the "slot" once inserted? I don't know about the df35 but on the full tower, when you slide a drive in, it just clicks and stays there. So having this the idea is so you can put in a hdd for "temporary use" quickly, where you don't need to open the case to connect sata / power cord I think it serve its purpose just fine.

I agree the price could've been lower and I didn't exactly like the looks of it at first glance, but once I finish building for my friend I liked the case enough to look into this. So if anyone reading this is interested in this case, check out the DF 85, If you have the space, its a much better case for not so much more.
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# RE: interesting readMoe 2011-04-27 09:55
I agree with all you have replied too here, Wess
I ordered the 35 as it was $79.00 with free UPS shipping for the case & the rest of the order,
I to thought it was not that pleasing to the eye but after popping a few of the plastic swing brackets off & growing on me its really a half decent looking case along with its better attributes.
Big Case
Good Cooling, airflow
Holds lots of Hd?s
Bottom HS Bay made just for my SSD Drive
Top Hot Swap 2.5" Bay perfect for my media player HD (made just for me)
Bottom PS great with Sandy Bridge build
Installed the 2 SATA 3 on front of case rather than out the back, easily have both
fan filters are great, work well
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# Antec... WHY???ReallyConfused 2011-04-28 17:38
WTHeck is with the "non-labeled headphone/mic jacks"... I really liked that feature when I bought the case, but when I got it I was like "Okay... Nothing telling me which is which, and I -don't- want to blow the plugs (which is what plugging the headphones/mic into the wrong plug WILL do), so what now?"

Does ANYONE who has this case know which plug is which?
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# RE: Antec... WHY???Olin Coles 2011-04-28 17:51
Microphone should be on the left, and speakers on the right. You really can't blow your headphones/speakers by plugging into the wrong plug unless there's maximum output.
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# Front FansArnold Frank Van Wie 2011-10-02 21:57
Can anyone tell me if the front fans can be turned off when complete quiet is needed from them?
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# RE: Front FansDavid Ramsey 2011-10-03 12:55
As I recall, if you turn the fan controller knobs all the way counterclockwise, the fans will stop. However, they're very quiet even when they're operating.
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# Front fansArnold Frank Van Wie 2011-10-03 15:29
Thanks very much David. I thought that would be the case. I should see if Antek has a manual for it on their web site.
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# difference and front fansalex 2012-01-18 11:23
hey i got a df 35 for xmas and was wondering what is the difference between df 30 and the df 35 and also on mine (df 35) the fans do not move and light up... any help tyvm guys :)
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# RE: Antec DF-35 Dark Fleet Computer CaseDavid Ramsey 2012-01-18 12:36
You can check Antec's web site for the specifications of the DF-30 and DF-35. If your fans aren't lighting up and moving, it probably means you don't have them plugged into fan headers on your motherboard.
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# I got itChris Mintjes 2012-03-10 12:00
I've got this case for about one year now.
I must say that this case isn't that bad as you guys think.
I admit it's kind of cheap material used for the case, but the hotswap on top is pretty cool. My only problem is the light produced from the led fans... It's a bit to much IMO. I like to watch movies on my pc, but with the amount of light produced it isn't so great.
Except for that i think it's a great case for stronger pc's.
The cords are easily to put away.

And in black it looks so much better.
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