Antec DF-85 Reviewairman - September 1, 2010
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Taking the side panel off of the case will expose a wealth of space inside the DF-85. The first thing that I noticed after removing the side panel is the huge clump of wires hanging from the top of the case. This set of wires includes power for the top two fans, front I/O ports (3xUSB2.0, 1xUSB3.0, audio), the power and reset buttons, as well as the power and signal cables for the top mounted 2.5" hot swappable drive bay. The power and signal cables on the hot swappable drive bay are removable if the user chooses not to use it and save on wire clutter. Luckily, there are plenty of cutouts on the motherboard tray that will allow any user to route as many cables as they wish behind the motherboard, producing a cleaner look on the interior of the case.
On the right side of the case, all the motherboard cutouts can be seen, as well as two sets of wire ties already attached to the back of the tray. There are several more of these wire ties included in the accessory bag, and there are many other loops pressed into the back of the case and hard drive cages that allow for these wire ties to be attached. A quick look at the device bays shows both 5.25" and 3.5" are not toolless - they will require at least one screw to secure the device if the user wants the piece of mind when moving their case.
The bottom rear of the case will show the power supply mounting bracket, the four rubber support feet, the inside of the two water cooling ports, and the seven expansion slots. On the outside bottom rail, the text "Antec DESIGN" is printed, giving the case a unique signature. The bottom-mounted 2.5" drive mounting holes can be seen, as well as the bottom two hot swap ports. These hot swap ports have female/female adapters that will allow the drive to snap into the plug, and not use the plugs if a hard drive will not be in place. The top rear of the case shows the two rear red LED 120mm exhaust fans, as well as the top 140mm fans. The upper hot swap ports can be seen, making a total of four slots that can be equipped as hot swappable drives. The cutouts on the motherboard tray can also be seen a little more clearly here. Six motherboard standoffs are in place straight out of the package, but will require three more to be added if the motherboard being used is a standard ATX. The rear heatsink access hole is wider than what I'm used to, however I will say up front that it is NOT tall enough for the MSI Platinum SLI motherboard by about one quarter of an inch.
Turning toward the front of the case will show the three 5.25" device bays and the top of the seven hard drive slots. Turning down to the bottom of the front of the case will show the rest of the hard drive slots, as well as making it clear that the hot swap drive connectors can be moved. There are four screws on each set and tapped holes throughout the entire height of the drive cages. This is a nice addition and allows the user to remove them if they do not wish to use them, as well as customize the position of the hot swappable slots.
Here is an up close look of the top mounted hot swappable hard drive bay. As you can see, the plugs here are removable, giving the option to remove the cables to help with wire management if the user chooses. The SATA cable connected to it from the factory is long enough to reach just about anywhere on the motherboard, so length should not be an issue for any user. The observant eye will notice that the SATA power connector going to this bay does not have an orange wire like other SATA connectors do, and that is because the other end is a standard 4-pin molex instead of a male SATA connector. With the drive in place, it sticks out about half way. This could easily be bumped or catch on something, so users would need to take care when using this bay.
There are several integrated fan controllers with the DF-85. There is the four-channel, two-speed one in the back responsible for the rear and top exhaust fans, and there are three variable speed knobs on the front of the case for each individual intake fan. At full blast, the case emits a dull whir and isn't really annoying to me, but any amount of ambiance may be for other users. With the fans all the way down, there is no noise, but I have no problem leaving them at full speed, even when sleeping. A unique thing that I found with these fans is that adjusting the speed does not change the brightness. This means that the fan control voltage is on a different circuit, and does not affect the behavior of the LEDs inside of the fans. This is the first set of LED fans that are adjustable and remain just as bright regardless of the speed selection.
To show more detail on the internal hot swappable bays, I took a picture of the front and rear of the piece that makes it possible. Again, you can see two of the four screws that are removable, giving the user the ability to move these pieces around or remove them altogether if they choose to. The hard drive easily slides in between the rails and remains snug once snapped into the hot swap "dock". I didn't feel the need to use a screw because of how snug the drive is when in place.
The feature that allows these hard drives to be slid in and out are the flip-out fan holders. These fan holders have included filters that are removable and washable, which is nice. The fans are removed without much effort and can be replaced with larger fans if the user chooses, though the fan control mechanism on the front will no longer function with aftermarket fans without modification to the wiring. The fans holders are locked closed by default and must be released by pushing the tab that is found next to the hard drive cage downwards. Once this is done, the left side of the fan holders can be pushed inwards and pulled outwards. This is a really cool feature and can make swapping and installing new hard drives a breeze.
As I mentioned, the DF-85 has seven expansion slots like just about every other case on the market, even going back several years. The bottom expansion slot cover is not like the others. It looks like it could be used for a game/MIDI port, but I don't quite see any explanation for it in the manual or Antec's website. The case did not come with anything that would fit here eitherI double checked to make sure! Anyways, beside the expansion slots are the typical ventilation holes that help with airflow. The two water cooling ports can take up to 3/4" ID tubing, though it could be a tight fit and may require the rubber grommets to be removed. The inside edge is still smooth without the grommet, so if they had to be removed to accommodate large ID tubing, there is little worry of chafing.
I also wanted to display a tighter view of the back of the motherboard where the wire ties and the loops for them reside. This is a nice and thoughtful addition by Antec and I put them to use without hesitation.
There is one last thing to show before getting the computer installed into the case. The front drive covers work in the same way as the fan holders, but they do not have a locking mechanism like the fan holders do. They simply require an inward force on the left hand side, releasing the tab's grip on the front bezel and allowing it to flip outwards. The 5.25" bay covers themselves are simple and one-piece plastic without the typical mesh wrapping found on a lot of other cases today. This doesn't bother me in the least, however, since the amount of airflow around the case can literally be felt anywhere around the case within about two feet. For being moderately quiet at full speed, having seven fans in a case can definitely move some air.
Having talked about just about everything I can with the DF-85 aside from the numerical values associated with its performance, it is time to get all the components inside of the case and on the test bed. I have invested a lot of faith in the DF-85 so far and I have very little doubt that it will be one of the top performers, if not THE top performer out of all the comparison cases. With all the components installed, the amount of internal room can still be seen and appreciated even with a large power supply and lengthy video card. With the computer turned on and looking at all of the lights and glows emitted from the case, it certainly is an eye pleaser. The next page will consist of manufacturer specifications and features pulled from Antec's website, followed by the infamous stress testing when the case is pushed to thermal limits of today's latest hardware.