Antec has kindly sent me a Dark Fleet DF-85 case and CP-1000 PSU to review. These products are aimed at the upper end of the market; both products are in Antec’s ‘CPX’ form factor and designed to work together. The PSU is being reviewed as a part that is complementary to this case: please see the Antec CP-1000 review at JonnyGuru for a very thorough review of the electrical performance of this unit by Oklahoma Wolf in more detail than I could ever hope to achieve.
Unboxing and First Impressions
The CP-1000 PSU, like the DF-85 case, is one of Antec’s CPX form-factor products. It’s a very large unit, standing a good couple of inches taller than a standard ATX PSU. The fan on this is a 120 mm model – and this is on the shorter side of the PSU, making it around 5 inches tall. Hopefully the… ahem… visual aid ought to help show the size of it. The unit is sturdy and everything feels very solid. There is the usual bunch of certifications, including “80 PLUS” and a five year warranty. I tend to keep PSUs quite a long time (the one in my home machine is about 5 years old) so a long warranty is a good thing in my opinion. A quick look on the web shows that this product currently sells for about £120 in the UK and about $150 in the USA. It’s a lot of money, but a lot of wattage and a well known PSU brand.
The unit comes with a number of hard-wired connectors, as well as five connectors for the modular parts. Although, there are six modular cables, you can only use a total of three of the SATA or Molex cables. In theory, you could power a whopping 12 drives just using the SATA connectors, and more if you used a few Molex-to-SATA adapters. The inclusion of two modular PCIe connectors as well as the two hard wired ones means that this should be suitable for any SLI or Crossfire setups. Unfortunately though, only 840 W can be drawn from the 12V rails – the other 160 W is taken from the 3.3 V and 5 V rails. I’d have liked to have seen more of the cables made modular; for example: I wont need any of the PCIe connectors for the test machine. I suppose you could argue that most people with a 1 kW PSU will be hooking it up to some GPU behemoth(s), but as you’ll see from the case these two products would also lend themselves very well to a PC with a lot of hard disk drives.
|ATX||20 pin + 4 pin||1||Fixed|
|EPS12V/ATX12V||4 pin + 4 pin||1||Fixed|
|PCIe||6 pin + 2 pin||2||Fixed|
|SATA||3 pin||3 x 3||Modular (Black Socket)|
|Molex||4 pin||1 x 3||Modular (Black Socket)|
|PCIe||6 pin||2 x 1||Modular (Red Socket)|
Dark Fleet DF-85
This is definitely a full tower – it’s pretty big, even if it’s a little narrow. After prising off the bubble wrap, I took a few pictures of the retail packaging. The packaging lists some of the features, as well as the weight and dimensions of the case: 11.0 kg (24.2 lbs), 596 mm tall, 213 mm wide and 505 mm deep (23.5″ x 8.4″ x 19.9″). There are a few features that the packaging shouts about:
- Hot-swap SSD bay (2.5″) at the top of the case.
- Hot-swap HDD bays (3.5″) down the front of the case.
- Removable front fan filters.
- Three variable-speed (via a knob) front 120 mm LED-lit fans.
- Two two-speed (via a switch at the back) top 120 mm fans.
- Two two-speed (via a switch at the back) back 140 mm LED-lit fans.
- Space for a 120 mm fan over the graphics card area (optional).
- Front USB ports, of which one is USB 3.0.
- Rubber-lined holes for running water cooling tubing in and out of the case.
Design, Features, and Build Quality
The unit seems weighty and solidly built, which I find very important. I’ve had a couple of cheap PSUs die on me before, and those usually felt like they were made from tin foil. I don’t have the fancy kit (oscilloscope and such) in order to really put this unit through its paces. JonnyGURU – who most definitely have all the gear – have reviewed this unit and given it a pretty good score of 8.5, with the main complaint being that it doesn’t offer a lot more than the 850 W model (CP-850). The images I have taken of the innards suggest it’s pretty much the same kind of unit I have (made by Delta) although I’d really need to rip it apart to confirm this.
Dark Fleet DF-85
As you would expect for a case selling for £130/$170, there are a number of external and internal features. The front of the case looks better in real life than it does in photographs. Initially, I thought this looked pretty damn ugly. Once I recieved the unit and had a look around, I reckon it looks rather sharp. It’s a very loud, noticable design which contrasts quite a bit with the more sedate P-series and is more “in your face” than the Antec Twelve Hundred (both of which are also in the CPX form factor).
Looking at the design and build of the case, it’s mostly pretty good. The metal edges are rolled – no cut fingers! – and the case feels sturdy. The metal is coated with a nice black finish, and the plastics feel quite robust and look – for the most part – good. I’m quite clumsy, but haven’t managed to scratch or dent this case, even with turning it over a few times. I’m not so keen on the side panels, however. They don’t come off and go on quite as satisfyingly as I would like, and I found them quite fiddly to screw in.
Looking at it from the front, the hot-swap SSD bay is at the top. This just screams gimmick. I may be completely wrong here, but if you build a system around an SSD, you want to put your operating system on it. Hence, the SSD is likely to be the one drive that you really never want to actually remove from the system. There is, however, a nice space on the floor of the case for mounting a 2.5″ drive using the supplied screws and rubber feet.
There are three doors on the front of the case that hold 120 mm LED-lit fans; behind these there is access to the 3.5″ hot-swap rack – I’ll look at these in more detail when I put a machine in there.There is a switch inside the case with which you can lock the front covers shut.
Also, at the top of the front there are three … erm… hinged covers? I’m not sure what the point of these are, to be honest. They don’t look great, they don’t actually cover your 5.25″ drives, and despite being made out of relatively solid and robust plastic the hinges don’t feel that solid. I’d have rather seen a door here that covers all three bays, with a suitable design on the front.
On the top we have two two-speed 120 mm fans. The top and rear fans are both controlled by a set of switches at the top rear of the case.
Looking at the rear of the case, there is a space at the bottom for the PSU. A metal plate allows the case to be used both with a standard ATX unit or with the larger CPX form-factor models. You can also see the rubber-lined holes for running water-cooling hoses into and out of the case, as well as the two rear 140 mm fans. Inside the case I found a bundle of wires hanging together. The fans are powered by molex connectors that can be daisy-chained together; there are also the standard power switch/reset switch/power LED/HDD LED cables. The USB 2.0 ports are connected up via the header on the motherboard, but the USB 3.0 port is connected via a USB-A plug which has to be connected to the rear of the machine. Although a special bracket is provided (the one in the bottom slot as you can see from the bottom left picture above) that the cable clips in to, it’s not long enough to reach the USB ports, so you’d need to move it up a few slots, where it might get in the way of expansion cards.
Lifting the other side panel off reveals a useful gap between the motherboard tray and the side panel. It’s not the most generous gap: if you’re stuffing a fair few cables in there it might get tricky to replace the side panel. The motherboard tray isn’t removable – it’s not a critical weakness, but a removable tray often makes installing your system easier and makes the case more appealing. Especially so if you’re aiming at a demographic that – to quote my better half – “just can’t leave the damn thing closed”. Helpfully there is quite a large space around where the CPU socket on the board will be, which should be good for people using backplates or mounting gigantic cooling apparatus to the CPU. Despite a few niggles over the design of the case, it definitely looks and feels like a nice premium case.
Putting the Two Together
As these two products are both part of the CPX form-factor family of products, I was very interested to see how well these work together. The CP-1000 PSU is only compatible with four cases (of which the DF-85 is one) and so I’d expect this to mean that the two products are designed to work really well together. The first test of this is putting the PSU in the case. Firstly, a bracket needs removed above the PSU bay inside the case, and moved up one notch. The lower position holds an ATX PSU in place, the upper is for CPX units like this. Secondly, the back plate screws out, again because we’re using a CPX rather than an ATX unit. The rest is all straightforward, as you would expect.
Looking at the lengths of each cable – while placing the ones I wont need out of the way – it became very quickly apparent that the cables are not long enough. The ATX cable doesn’t have enough length to reach round the back of the motherboard tray then over the top of the board to the relevant socket. The EPS12V/ATX12V cable has the same issue. The molex and SATA connectors are only a little on the short side, but another few centimetres would have been nice to allow for some cable management. As you can see from this thread of cable-managed case pictures, a number of our members do rather like their cable management!
With the PSU in place, the case is ready to receive a computer.
Test System: The Linux-Powered Home Machine
Specifications and Current Setup
- CPU: AMD Athlon X2 7750 @ 3.15 GHz, stock Vcore and stock cooling
- RAM: 6 GB DDR2 (3x 2 GB)
- Motherboard: Asus M3N-HDMI
- Graphics: Onboard nVidia 8300
- Optical: Phillips DVDRW
- Power Supply: 520 W Hiper PSU
- Case: Compucase 6XR8
- Operating System HDD: 1x 500 GB Seagate
- Storage HDDs: 2x 1 TB Hitachi and 1x 2 TB Samsung
- Operating System: Gentoo Linux
- Monitors: 22″ 1920×1080 Acer P225HQ Monitor (VGA) and 32″ 1920×1080 LG 32LG7000 TV (HDMI)
This is my home machine: it only gets switched off or rebooted when I need to move it or sort out the power cables at the back of the desk. It’s what I think of as a “storage-heavy” machine as it has quite a few drives and fills up all four 3.5 in bays in the case. It runs Rosetta@Home for the Overclockers.com team (shameless plug!) and tends to sit at ca. 70 C under load which is a little warm. The cables, as you can see from the images below, do rather need some attention. In transplanting this into a new case I’ll be looking at the effects on the case and CPU temperatures as well as how it deals with the number of drives.
Installing the System
Moving the system from case to case was relatively easy: the hard part was removing the board from the old case. Installing the motherboard was simple – the ATX board fits into the case with plenty of room to spare. Hooking up the power connectors (ATX and EPS12V/ATX12V) was made more difficult by the insufficient length of the cables: although they reached the connectors there was not enough length to tidy the cables away neatly. A case with a window implies that you want your system to be seen, and so I’d expect the cables to be long enough for some cable management.
The only other major issue was the DVD-RW (and not the fact that it’s white, and therefore doesn’t match!). There are three 5.25 inch drive bays, however the top one is not deep enough. One of the top-mounted fans is in the way. The case either needs to be an inch or two deeper overall, or the top bay needs to be made into a 3.5 inch one ideally.
Installation of the hard drives, however, was far easier and proceeded without a problem. The way in which the hard disks are installed in the case is very well thought out. I particularly like that there is room for a total of nine 3.5 inch hard disks, which is ideal for file servers or large RAID setups. Two adapters (pictured below) can be used to make four of the bays into hot-swap ones. The SATA and power leads plug into these, which allow the drive to be slid in and out from the front. The drives can then be secured with thumbscrews. The hot-swap mechanism is pretty solid; drives can be inserted, with care, quickly and smoothly. It would be great if it was possible to purchase more of these adapters, although the Antec website doesn’t mention if they are available.
The only part of the installation I couldn’t fully test was the installation of a full-size graphics card. It is possible, however, to assess the space available for a graphics card. If the hot-swap adapters are present directly in line with the PCIe slot(s), the space will limit you to small to medium sized cards. If, however, you either don’t use the hot-swap adapters or if you move these down towards the bottom of the case, there is plenty of space for graphics cards up to (and indeed, larger than) the width of the board (ca. 10 inches/25 cm). This available space, plus the (potentially) four available PCIe power connectors make this case and PSU a good choice for a powerful gaming rig utilising SLI or CrossFire.
The space behind the motherboard was used to … ahem … tidy (if that’s the right word) the extra cabling. The gap isn’t quite big enough however and the side panels don’t feel as robust as I’d like, so it was a little bit of a struggle to replace the side panel. Once the side panel was on, it was time to turn the machine on.
Temperatures and Noise
The system was placed next to my desk. Unfortunately, because of the extra height, it wont fit exactly where the old case was. This will likely contribute to the improvement in temperatures: the case temperature was a few degrees lower (ca. 34°C versus ca. 40°C beforehand), but there was little change in the CPU temperature (68°C versus 70°C). I am using the stock cooler, however, which is probably where the cooling bottleneck is.
Despite having a total of seven fans (versus 1 in the old case), the noise isn’t a problem at all with all the fans set to low speed – the majority of the noise comes from the CPU cooler. The noise becomes very noticeable once you increase the fan speed, but it’s mostly low-pitch “whooshing”. This is definitely an acceptable level of noise for a case with this many fans.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
This case surprised me – I wasn’t particularly keen at first, but after getting hands-on with the case and putting a live system in it I have come to like it. Its solid and easy to work in. It looks pretty good when the lights in the room are off, and is currently begging me to pick up an X6 and a 5770 to build a nice gaming rig from it. Unfortunately at this point in time, neither my wallet nor my girlfriend will allow such a build… but soon!
Dark Fleet DF-85 Case and CP-1000 PSU
|The Good||The Bad|
|Robust construction||Top 5.25 inch bay is not deep enough|
|Plenty of cooling; adjustable speed fans||Hot-swap SSD bay is a gimmick|
|Easy installation of hard disk drives||5.25 inch bay covers don’t look or feel great|
|Plenty of space for board, drives, and expansion cards||PSU cables are too short for this case|
|Good looks when lit up with the LED fans||Not enough of the PSU cables are modular|
|PSU feels robust and sturdy|
|PSU has large cooling fan and plenty of connections|
We can’t give a rating to the PSU, but the case is most definitely Overclockers.com Approved.