Gelid have been around since 2008, a HongKong based company with a Swiss management team. Well known for some nifty tower coolers, the Tranquillo being a case in point, Gelid now spread their wings into case manufacturing releasing the Darkforce into the wild.
The case is a reasonably sleek looking Mid tower. Finished in black inside and out. Able to accept GPUs up to 11.5" without modification, and up to 16" with the removal of either section of the split 3.5" rack. CPU cooler wise the Darkforce will take anything up to 165mm in height.
So... Sleek, Black, good GPU and Cooling capacity, ample storage capacity. All the basics seem to be present and correct so lets take a look at things in a bit more detail and see if the Darkforce is a Force to be reckoned with or needs to slink off to the shadows.
3.5" Drive Bay:
6+1 (Converted from one 5.25" Drive Bay)
5.25" Drive Bay:
4 (Without the Use of 5.25" to 3.5" Tray)
361.5 X 280 mm Visible Area with 3mm Thickness
530 x 207 x 505 mm / 20.9 x 8.1 x 19.9 inch
Fan Power Extention PCB:
2 (Supports up to 6 Fans)
2 x 140 or 120mm (Optional)
2 x 120mm (1 x 120 x 25mm Fan @1200rpm included)
1 x 120 x 25mm Fan 1200rpm
Side: 1x 80 or 120mm x 15mm Fan (optional)
2 x 140 or 120mm (Optional)
Hot-Swap Harddisk Dock:
1 (Recommend Enabling AHCI Hard Drive Mode)
0.7mm SECC Steel Body; Arcylic Side Window; Plastic Bezel with Metal Mesh
Full ATX / Micro-ATX
9.2KG / 20.08LBS
Support ATX PS2 / EPS 12V (Optional)
Up Close Exterior
First impressions of the exterior of the Darkforce are good. In a sector of the market dominated by black towers it's hard for a manufacturer to make their offerings look that little bit different. With the mix of mesh and thick set cut outs Gelid have managed to set their offering apart to a degree.
4x5.25" drive bays are located at the top of the front, with the lowermost having a separate cut out for 3.5" external drives or devices. I can't help thinking this addition is becoming an increasingly unnecessary inclusion though, but for the time being nice to have the option I guess. Access to the 5.25 bays is gained by unclipping and removing the whole front of the case. This might sound drastic bit it actually comes away very easily. The left side of the case is dominated by a large clear perspex window going from top bottom and 3/4 of the way from the rear to the front of the case which is pretty much perfect as it allows you to see the sexy stuff but masks off the Optical drive and HDD area from view. The window is surface mounted on the exterior of the door rather than the interior of the door and held in place with plastic rivets.
Moving round the back and working our way down from the top we see there are three 3/4" rubber gorommeted Water-cooling access ports. Beneath them lies the fan extract, fitted with a Gelid 120mm fan. To the left of this we see the rear I/O area. The Darkforce has 8 expansions slots with an additional one vertically mounted to allow the attachment of expansion bay devices that do not require to be hooked up to the Motherboard, such as fan controllers etc. The bottom of the case presents us with the opening for the PSU.
The Front I/O area seen below left is blended nicely into the top front area of the case, with the ramped area behind it providing hot swap capabilities for your 3.5 and 2.5" drives. The panel sports the usual power and reset buttons along with mic and phono jack plug sockets. connectivity wise all is present and correct with 2xUSB2, 1xUSB3 (no adapter) and 1xE-SATA. The image below right shows some detail of the front grill area.
Before we move to the interior of the case lets take a little look at the top and base. The top is flanked by two curving shoulders and blends nicely into the front of the case. It is finished in the same fine rigid mesh as the front. The top of the case is removable via 4 screws and although there is a recess underneath it is not deep enough to accommodate fans. To remove the mesh filters from the roof of the case necessitates the removal of the front and roof sections before this can be accomplished, which has to be said is a bit of a fag just to remove a filter, remembering that all your front I/O connections are also attached to the roof of the case. The base of the case is fully ventilated, with both the PSU and forward sections having mesh filters. Although not requiring major case disassembling, the filters in this area are still not easy to remove and re fit.
Up Close Interior.
The Interior of the case is finished in a satin Black which nicely counterpoints the matte and satin of the exterior. A large CPU cut out makes things easier when it comes to swapping out the CPU cooler. Gelid have provided 5 oval cable management holes in the case 4 spaced vertically along what would be the right hand edge of the motherboard and the fifth horizontally at the base. Round the back we see that although there is some space for cable management Gelid have not been over generous with the 15mm space they have allowed back there. They have however been more than generous with no less than 8 cable tie mounting points.
Taking a closer look at the drive bays, the 5.25" bays are all of the tool-less type, with an innovative hinged mechanism locking the devices in place. under the 5.25" bays live the HDD racks. Separated into 2 sections of 3, each pod of 3 is removable to allow accommodation of GPUs over 11.5 Inches (allowing up to a maximum of 16") Each drive drawer is removable and is able to hold both 2.5" and 3.5" drives via screw mounting from either the side or underneath.
The images below show the internal drive bays in progressive states of removal. At the very bottom of the case lies an additional internal drive bay area, which can be left in place if all other bays have been removed, or removed itself to aid in fitting of additional floor fans or as Gelid claim, a 120 or 240mm radiator. I have to honest though slotting a 240mm in the base is going to be a snug fit and you're going to have to take into account the size of your PSU and the way the cables exit it.
While we're looking at the front of the case it should be noted that although Gelid have only fitted a single 120mm fan it is possible to fit 2x120mm fans in this area. Unfortunately the only filtering here is provided by the circular mesh which makes up the grill itself, and can only be cleaned by removing the front of the case.
While we're down the bottom lets have a gander at the PSU mounting area. The Darkforce is able to accept full size ATX PSUs, but anything longer than 150mm will start to obscure the lowermost cable management hole as well as affecting the ability to install any rads in the base. Anti vibration is provided by small raised rubber pads, as well as a securing strap should you be concerned that your PSU may make a bid for freedom.
The final thing I want to point out in the base of this case is something I'm particularly pleased about. Those of you who have read my other reviews will know I have something of a fetish for having braided cables. Well I'm pleased to announce that Gelid have succeeded where others have failed and braided the majority of the front I/O cables, with those not braided being black anyway. Top marks to Gelid for this.
Before we leave the interior and move to the build lets take a look at the roof area and cooling in general. We already know we can put 2x120 or 140 fans on the base, and perhaps a 240mm rad. We know the front will take 2x120mm fans and comes fitted with one already. We also know that the rear comes with a 120mm extract. What we haven't seen yet is that the roof of the case will also accept 2x120mm or 2x140mm fans internally. I had a look to see what the odds where of getting a rad up there and I have to say although a rad would just about fit there's no clearance to the motherboard for fans to fit in so it's a bit of a non starter.
The sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed a few little 3 pin connection blocks strategically placed around the interior of the case. These as you've probably guessed are fan headers. The lower most header is fed via a 4pin molex providing power for 4x3pin headers. One of these can be used to piggyback some juice up to the upper most header which will then be able to output to 3x3 pin headers. When I saw this nifty little feature I instantly thought how the hell did I fail to spot the fan controller on the front I/O panel, so following a quick face palm went to look for it assuming I'd missed it as it was so stealthily located so as not to ruin the sleek lines. Turns out the reason I can't find it is that it isn't there. Shame really after going to the trouble of providing the ability to link all fans together not to provide the ability to control them all.
Building into the Darkforce is a bit of a mixed experience. The lack of space round the back coupled with a few other factors outlined below make it a bit of a chore to build into, and make it harder still to achieve a good tidy build. I was quite hopeful that the lack of space would be mitigated by the good spread of cable tie mounts, what I didn't forsee was that there was so little space I would have to forgo the mounts and stash the excess cable lengths into the unused 3.5" drive bays.
Although the vertically orientated cable management holes provide a good set of options for routing leads back to the motherboard and drives, the single small horizontal hole at the bottom of the case gets totally filled by the cables as they exit the PSU, making it impossible to feed the USB and audio and front I/O cables back through. No big deal you might think but what it means is they have to emerge through holes quite a long way from their destination sockets. This of course makes for an untidy interior, and I for one do not like untidy interiors.
A few more cms of space between the top of the PSU and the bottom of the Motherboard would have allowed for some better cable routing, or perhaps even an extra management hole, as it is, what was a relatively tidy area next to the PSU becomes something of a vipers nest.
The final straw came when I tried to get the side panel on. Having already had several goes at rear cable management and having finally resorted to stuffing it all into a drive bay I was amazed to find that only by using 90degree SATA connections coming from the back of the HDDs could I hope to get the door on. That's right, there's so little room that a standard straight plug SATA cable cannot be bent around tight enough within the space provided to get the door on.
Testing and Conclusion
Once built into and fired up the Gelid Darkforce is actually a very quiet and elegant looking piece of kit to have sitting on the desk beside you. The 3 inclusive Gelid branded fans appear to be an all black version of the Gelid "Silent" range. Whether they are or not they certainly are pretty damn quiet. Cross case airflow is reasonable but certainly not brilliant. With room for additional fans this could always be improved should you so desire. Build quality is good, with no rough edges or marks, smears or scratches out of the box. The case feels solid and well put together. Braiding on the internal cables is of a good quality and well presented with heat shrink terminations being nice and tidy. Take not all other case manufacturers. If Gelid can braid it's cables so can you. The quality and presentation of the plastics is also good, as is the inclusion of rubber grommets for all cable management holes. The Darkforce can take GPUs up to 11.5 " or 16" with the removal of sections of the HDD racks, it can accommodate CPU coolers up to 165mm in height, which should see it cope with all but the very biggest on the market. It has ample storage capacity and flexibility of mounting for 3.5 and 2.5" drives. Essentially sleek and stealthy in it's looks their is yet an air of aggression emanating from the broad barred grill at the front.
So far so good then, but as you'll know from reading through the review this case is not without it's problems. The main areas of concern are the lack of space behind the motherboard and the rather small cable management hole beside the PSU. All this makes not only for what could best be described a tiresome build but also makes it very hard to achieve a decent looking interior, which with that big window is something you're going to want to achieve. Add to this that the fan filters aren't exactly easy to get at, with some being totally non removable and the Darkforce starts to lose a few points from what was looking quite a tidy score.
Now lets look at how it fits into the market place. At £89 it's up against some stiff competition, not least of which is the new Black and white edition CM690II recently reviewed. for a bit less you can sort yourself out with one of the lite versions of the CM690 complete with window. At £89 sadly the CM690 is not it's only competitor. Shop about and you you'll find you can also pick Corsair Carbide 500R and the new NZXT Phantom 410.
First impressions of this case were very good. It ticks a lot of the right boxes and has some features that other manufacturers could do with taking note of. However, When thinking about summing it up and scoring it I keep getting dragged back to the build experience and the mess of cables I was left with. It really was a pain and I am really not happy with the results, and believe me I had more than one go at it. In the end I got so fed up with trying to arrange the cables in such a way that I could actually get the door on that I just stuffed everything into a vacant 3.5" drawer. Another 5mm back there and a larger management hole near the PSU and I really I would have been praising this case from the highest mountains. As it is regretfully I have to award a Bronze.
Thanks to Quiet PC for the Darkforce on test here today, you can discuss your thoughts in our forums.