Antec DF-85 Review
Reviewed by: airman
Reviewed on: September 1, 2010
When a computer enthusiast hears the name Antec, the first thing that comes to mind is its computer cases. Antec has been in business for almost 25 years, longer than personal computers were a common item in a household. Antec is said to be the "global leader in high-performance computer components and accessories for the gaming, PC upgrade and Do-It-Yourself markets" (Antec's website), which probably does not come as a surprise to any above average PC user. Antec has been a pioneer in the market of computer cases, cooling solutions, and power supplies, all of which are of high quality and would be rare to leave their owners unsatisfied. In the spotlight today is the Antec DF-85. The DF-85 is a massive full tower case that offers hot swappable drive bays, loads of room, and plenty of airflow, while having an aggressive, yet attractive, look. In this review, I will provide a complete exploration and evaluation of the Antec DF-85 from unboxing, outer and inner components, installation, manufacturer specifications and features, and more importantly, testing and results.
The packaging that houses the DF-85 is a red, yellow, and black box that doesn't seem to have an identifiable front. The large sides (typically front and rear) contain information on the case, such as features and specifications, with one that would be like a "cover page". One narrow side of the box has a list of additional features, and opposite of this side is the Antec logo with a quarter angle of the case with the lights on, as well as the model number and the product line - "Dark Fleet". The main package was shipped in another cardboard box around it, protecting it from scratches and other damage during shipping. The DF-85 made it to my residence unharmed, in good condition.
Just like any other case, the DF-85 is secured between two large blocks of fitted styrofoam and wrapped in a plastic protective bag. Sitting on top of the case upon opening the box is the user's manual inside a ziploc bag, which also contains a bag of several types of screws, motherboard standoffs, wire ties, and paper washers.
The size of the DF-85 is unforgettable. From top to bottom, I believe this is the tallest case that I have ever reviewed. From the looks of just the outside and reading the packaging, there is going to be a lot to talk about! Hopefully, with all these features, Antec also put plenty of thought into the performance of the case. Later in this review, I will be exploring this as well.
The front of the DF-85 has a very futuristic, armored sort of look to it. Each of the fan covers and drive doors are designed in a wishbone shape, which adds a nice look to the design. There are three red 120mm fans and three external 5.25" device bays. There are four USB ports on the top for I/O, as well as the typical audio. The far right USB port is colored blue, which signifies that it is USB3.0 capable. The left side panel is black, along with the rest of the case, and features a two-piece window that runs the height of the case and up to the beginning of the drive bays. There is room for one 120mm fan on the side, positioned above where the video card will be.
The rear of the case contains two red 120mm LED fans, two water cooling ports, seven expansion slots, and a four channel (two speed) fan controller in the top left that controls the rear and top exhaust fans. The power supply mounting bracket allows for a power supply to be mounted upwards or downwards, giving the user a choice of how they wish to run their wires and handle the fans on the power supply itself.
The top panel of the case contains two 140mm exhaust fans that are not lit. Antec chose to do this because they did not want a lot of light to be emitted from the case and irritate users who do not wish to have the extra light. The very front of the top has a plastic cover over the 2.5" hot swappable hard drive bay. This could be very useful for solid state drives or laptop hard drives. The bottom of the DF-85 has four rubber feet, as well as four mounting holes for a solid state drive if the user chooses to mount one along the bottom. There is no ventilation underneath the power supply, so if the user chooses to mount the intake fan on the power supply facing downwards, they should be wary that this could increase the temperature of the power supply.
The front bezel of the case seems like it is very difficult to remove, requiring removal of six screws, and feeding slack from the front I/O port cables through. These cables are already a tight fit, so I opted to not remove the front bezel after getting to this step. I usually take pictures of behind the front bezel and the inner side of it, but I did not feel comfortable trying to remove it and potentially damaging the plugs/wires on the front I/O port. With that said, this ends the evaluation of the exterior of the case. The next page will consist of an evaluation of the interior of the case, working components, and the rest of its features.
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.
Mini-ITX, microATX, standard ATX
Not included (fits standard-size of Antec-exclusive CPX form factor PSUs)
Internal Drive bays
Up to 9 x internal 3.5", 1 x internal bottom-mounted 2.5" SSD drive
External Drive bays
3 x 5.25", 1x top-mounted 2.5" hot-swap SATA drive bay
2 x top 140mm TwoCool fans
2 x rear 120mm TwoCool red LED fans
3 x front 120mm red LED fans with speed control knobs
1 x side 120mm fan to cool graphics cards (optional)
1 x USB 3.0, 3 x USB 2.0, Audio In/Out (AC'97/HDA-compatible)
596mm (H) x 213mm (W) x 505mm (D)
23.5" (H) x 8.4" (W) x 19.9" (D)
- 3 x variable-speed 120mm red LED fans with control knobs
- Top 2.5" hot-swap SATA (SSD-compatible) hard drive caddy
- 3 x washable fan filters in tool-free Fleet-Release mounts
- Windows side panel with optional 120mm fan mount
- CPU cutout and cable management
- Rubber ports for optional water cooling
- Lockable front doors ensure security
- Bottom-mounted power supply for noise reduction - compatible with a standard ATX PSU as well as Antec's exclusive CPX form factor power supplies
All information provided courtesy of Antec @ http://www.antec.com
To test the Antec DF-85, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system temperature during load and idle phases. Load will be simulated by Prime95 small FFTs and HD Tune for one hour with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp. The GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by RivaTuner after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. Each case is tested as is from the factory, including the fan configuration. As stated earlier, the fan configuration for the DF-85 is 3x120mm front intake, 2x120mm rear exhaust, and 2x140mm top exhaust.
- Processor: Intel i7 920
- Motherboard: MSI Eclipse SLI
- Memory: Mushkin Ridgeback 12800 6-8-6-24
- Video Card: nVidia GTX 260
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: Lite-On DVD-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
- Ambient Temperature: 23 °C
- CPU Heatsink: Stock Intel
- Case: Antec DF-85
- Thermaltake Armor A60
- NZXT Phantom
- Thermaltake Armor A90
- Antec Sonata Proto
- Raidmax Quantum
- Xclio A380 Color Plus
- Raidmax Skyline
Though the DF-85 didn't completely blow away the competition in all the tests, it did pull ahead and match all the best temperatures collected from every other case except for in a few tests. The addition of a side intake fan would have improved temperatures of the chipset and the graphics card by a meaningful amount, but as our testing methodology requires, we test our cases as packaged from the manufacturer, straight out of the box. The performance of the DF-85 is on par with my assumptions. I had a feeling that it would match most of the highest performing cases, though I did expect a slight fallout on the video card and chipset temperatures due to not having a side intake fan. On the next page, I will wrap up this review in my conclusion.
As far as my expectations went with the Antec DF-85, every one of them was met. Antec did a great job with the engineering of the DF-85, as its design offers plenty of features, space, and cooling capabilities. Antec chose not to use tool-less drive bays in this case, and its reasoning for this is to cut down on noise and to ensure peace of mind as far as the security of users' components go. The wire management capabilities in the DF-85 are plentiful, and it has loads of cutouts and other accommodations just for wire management. There are small loops for attaching the included wire ties over the back of the motherboard and behind the hard drive cages. The hot swappable drive bays are a nice feature, and offer customization with the ability to swap their positions and even remove them if necessary. The top 2.5" SATA cradle is a unique feature, though may not be used by many. It could probably be removed if the user wishes, but it would probably be more trouble to remove it than to just leave it there. The included fans move plenty of air and do it relatively quietly. Antec thought of those who may be more sensitive to the noise and installed individual, variable fan speed controllers for the front 120mm intake fans, and individual two-speed controllers for the four top and rear exhaust fans.
As far as performance goes, the Antec DF-85 performed right on top with the other high end cases. With an additional 120mm side intake fan over the graphics card(s) and chipset, I am sure that the DF-85 would have been a top performer in every test. Unfortunately, however, as I find with just about every other case with a heatsink mounting bracket access hole, the cutout on the DF-85 is also not in the correct position for the MSI X58 SLI Platinum motherboard used in this test. I really hope manufacturers will catch onto this and start increasing the size or simply moving these cutouts to fit all common motherboards. Overall, for a high end case, the Antec DF-85 is a solid performer with plenty to offer. For computer enthusiasts with deep pockets in the market for a new case with plenty of space and loads of cooling capacity, the DF-85 is an excellent choice.
- Loads of space
- Cools very well - seven included variable speed fans
- Removable and washable fan filters
- Four removable/interchangeable hot swap SATA hard drive bays
- Grommets for external water cooling loop