Gelid Enters The Case Market w/ DarkForceIntroduction
In 2008 a company was founded in Hong Kong: GELID Solutions. The founders come from an extensive PC cooling and IT background. Makes sense the name GELID was chosen, meaning icy! A Swiss management team is in place running operations. This makes me excited to see what GELID Solutions has put in their first mid-tower case, DARKFORCE . I hope it has the fun of an early Jackie Chan movie and the precision of a Swiss time piece.
The DARKFORCE mid-tower comes into a saturated field of mid-towers made for PC gamers and enthusiasts. Gelid Solution will need to take a unique approach to find ways to distinguish itself from the competitions at the entry price of $120 in the US market. After an overview of the specifications, it looks like Gelid Solutions has used its past experiences to put something a little different into this product. Cooling versatility is certainly at the forefront, as you will see in this review. A group of Hong Kong Modifiers called DIY Forces also get an assist in helping Gelid Solution with the DARKFORCE.
We as PS builders always want peace of mind when purchasing our next components. Gelid Solutions has a nice two year warranty in place with the DARKFORCE. Gelid Solutions support has stated that the warranty will cover RMA and defective parts for this model. The steel frame case with plastic exterior and a clear acrylic window comes in at 20lbs. It shipped to me fully boxed at 22 lbs.
Specifications and Details
- MicroATX and Full ATX Motherboard compatible
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 530 x 207 x 505 mm / 20.9 x 8.1 x 19.9 inch
- Material: 0.7mm SECC Steel Body; Acrylic Side Window; Plastic Bezel with Metal Mesh
- completely black painted 0.7mm steel tower
- Acrylic Window: 361.5 X 280 mm Visible Area with 3mm Thickness
- Two silent 120mm fans (Rear and Front) are preinstalled in the case
- Enables an 80mm or 120mm fan with a max. 15mm thickness to be installed onto the side panel
- Net Weight: 9.2KG / 20.08LBS
- Supports a 120mm or 240mm radiator at the bottom of the case
- Offers 8+1 slots for extra connection of peripheral devices
- 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 and an eSATA port
- Top I/O bay for Hotswap 3.5" or 2.5" hard disk or SSD at the top of the case
- Hot-Swap Harddisk Dock: 1 (Recommend Enabling AHCI Hard Drive Mode)
- 5.25" to 3.5" drive bay converter for any optional 3.5” device
- Extra large transparent acrylic side panel for the best view of the exclusive components inside the case
- 6 individual HDD trays and a removable HDD cage for extra-long VGA cards (up to 410mm
- Enough space for large size CPU coolers (up to 165mm height)
- Tool free optical drive mounting concept
- 2 internal fan extension PCB’s
- Built-in base dust filter
- Intelligent Sleeved Cable Management
Packaging is always one of those things many people look at as a secondary thing, if at all. One would think it's what is inside the packaging that counts. I agree completely with that thought. But on second thought, I would want whatever is in the packaging to be in one piece when it arrives. For me it's exciting to start a new build and I'd want what I ordered safely delivered and however the product is described on the outer packaging to be true.
The first thing I noticed about this box is that it is in color. The box was solid and I had no fear of anything inside being broken. Gelid Solutions does a very nice job of showing us what the DARKFORCE looks like on the front of the box. The Gelid Solutions Logo takes the top left hand corner of the box while the website takes the right. The DARKFORCE model name is shown nicely under the Gelid Solutions logo. The photo of the mid-tower on the front shows some of the main exterior features. The I/O panel has a location for a hot swappable 2.5" or 3.5" drive and is the highlight of the features presented on the front panel. On the bottom right, DiY also gets its spot from Gelid Solutions for their contribution to the Case.
The primary side panel shows all logos again, along with a nice view of the front profile of the DARKFORCE.
The back of the box has the Gelid and DiY graphics located in the same positions as the front of the box. The graphic in the middle is a nice shot of the internals of the DARKFORCE. Again, some of the features that Gelid has put behind the DARKFORCE are pointed out in the graphic. Looking more at the details of the graphic and what the DARKFORCE offers can show the PC builder what they can expect with DARKFORCE.
The secondary side lists a little more detail of what specifications are in the DARKFORCE mid-tower.
The internal package was very nice. The Styrofoam did not break while pulling the case out of the box. Even hand holds were part of the Styrofoam to help pull the case out of the box. The mid-tower was also in a plastic bag. Good protection of the product all around and not a scratch!
The accessory package is a nice compliment to the DARKFORCE. Plenty of screws for everything imaginable are included. A fold out instruction sheet is also in the kit. You can also find the instruction list here.
The GELID Solutions DARKFORCE makes its first attempt in entering the PC mid-tower case class. The vision statement from the GELID Solutions site states that they "combine quality and ingenuity to set the standard in creating best-in-class products for global computer enthusiasts." Let's take a look at how the exterior holds up the GELID solutions vision.
The DARKFORCE has a nice clean front. The Plastic front blends mesh metal. The top half of the case has four 5.25" bays with metal mesh covers. The fourth bay has a cut out for 3.5" drives as well. The bottom half of the case continues with the clean plastic and mesh combination. Six horizontal cutouts expose wire mesh also allowing for air flow with some style.
Moving on up to the top side shows a bit of the DARKFORCE's innovations. The I/O panel heads up the topside. In other makes and models a hand hold may follow the I/O panel. But not with the DARKFORCE. What they have here is definitely innovative. A slot for hot swappable 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives takes this place. The rest of the top side is wire mesh allowing for air flow from and optional interior case fan.
Here we have a closer look at the I/O panel. GELID Solutions does a nice job of future proofing the panel. A typical round power and reset button are set at the top. Two USB 2.0 ports surround either side of the audio ports. A USB 3.0 and E-SATA port round out this nicely set up panel.
The primary side sports a nice clear acrylic window. The door was easy to take off with two thumb screws and a pull on the hand hold. The feet have a nice look as well as they arch inward.
The opposite side opens much the same way. A nice engineering idea is also showcased on this side: a mount for a 120mm case fan near the top right of the case. As you will see in the interior the case fan is placed right over the CPU mount. This sounds like a good cooling idea from GELID Solutions.
The backup panel shows the first sign of liquid cooling options at the top with three ports at the top. A cut out for the I/O ports sits next to a 120mm case fan. 8 card slots follow below plus an additional vertical slot. The PSU location is also versatile for installation. Also, two Phillips screws at the top can be unscrewed to access the top side dust filter and install a 120mm fan.
The DARKFORCE bottom also has some nice unexpected features. The feet elevate the box more than most cases that I have recently reviewed. This looks to be for improving air flow. A removable cleanable air filter is also at the bottom.
GELID Solutions has a good start to living up to its name's meaning of icy, at least in the function of keep a rig cool.
The interior is always where the core and heartbeat of the build will reside. If the design is right everything will comes together like a well choreographed Jackie Chan fight. The DARKFORCE may surprise long time builders with what is inside.
Here is an overall view of the DARKFORCE interior. From this view it looks quite roomy. A good view of the 6 drive caddies split between two cages is seen. The toolless optical drive cage shows a profile look. What is the first noticeable feature is there is a place behind the CPU cutout for a 120mm fan. Also, the intelligent cables are sheathed well while some are connected to the 2 built in 3pin power modules. This is power by one 4 pin molex connector. Also, a Velcro strap is in place for holding in the CPU. DiY also has an optional device that fits in a drive bay for fan speed control. Below we will see a closer look at how this all comes together.
Up front we have four 5.25" drive bays. The fourth drive bay had a built in drive converter for 3.5" device. The drive bays do not need tools due to a hinged screw device. This device is released with a quick push.
Now we have two HDD/SSD cages. Each cage has three caddies. The caddies for me were easiest to screw the hard drive in from the bottom, not the side. The drive caddies support not only 3.5" drives but also 2.5" SSDs. The caddies are well made from plastic. I didn't have to worry about breaking one while installing a drive and sliding it into the cage. For those who use long cards, the cages are removable with a couple of thumb screws. This will work for cards up to 440mm (~17 1/4")
Gelid Solutions absolutely put a little extra thought behind the motherboard tray. The motherboard standoff screws were already installed. Several extras also came in the accessory pack. There was a good amount of room from the tray to the top for the box for larger CPU coolers and liquid cooling. Perhaps the most noticeable item is what is on the interior of the secondary door. It's a mount for an 80mm or 120mm case fan. This would sit directly behind the CPU cutout allowing for a nice cooling option. Also, notice between the tray and the cages are the rubber ports for wire management with the extended three pin power connectors next to it. This makes for some nice wire management options as well!
From the back of the case there is a lot to view. From the top we see the interior of the dust filter and also a fan mount. Along the back we see the three rubber ports headed to the back for liquid cooling options. A typical I/O panel cut out is next to the ports. A 120mm case fan is installed with a three pin power connector. Also, we see a look of the 8 + 1 expansion slots easily removed with thumb screws.
The bottom of the interior also has some noteworthy features. We can see the already wired fan power with a 4 pin Molex power source. The case wiring is also nicely tucked into the PSU Velcro strap. Yes, the power supply can be strapped in with Velcro!
The cleanable dust filer can also be easily removed. Two 120mm optional case fans can also be installed to the bottom for better air flow.
Finally we can see how great the preset wiring is. Even the Velcro loop can be seen on the bottom right of the case. I was really impressed with the cable management with this first Gelid Solutions mid-tower PC case.
Did I mention Swiss time pieces? The DARKFORCE may not be a time piece but precision was used in its making with the interior.
Installing PC Hardware
Installing PC Hardware
And now the PC parts come together! Most things in this case were installed without a hitch. The DARKFORCE looks make a great host for what makes it alive from the inside.
The Motherboard fit great and the pre-installed settings worked perfectly with this AM3+ board. As noted in the interior section there is plenty of room for larger cooling options. The graphics card looks small in the interior. Of course, if you have two long cards that take up the bottom half of the interior there is still a place for a hard drive. The fourth drive bay converts to 3.5" if needed, hence 6 + 1 3.5" drive bays.
After the power supply was installed, cable management was completed. All cabling flowed easily to where it needed to go. The case cables that were managed out of the box are perfectly placed. The Velcro strap even held in place the modular for the power supply. The hard drive cannot be seen due to the drive caddy guard in the front which is a nice touch. The profile of the 120mm front case fan can also be seen. Two 120mm fans are pre-installed with eight mounting locations.
The back view also completes how seamless the cable management is. We also get a look at the back of the CPU and see how important the side fan can be. The power and SATA connection can also be seen on the hard drive.
A builder should also see the external drive mounted. It was very easy to connect. The SATA and power connectors have a cover that has to be removed before connecting a drive.
Any PC Enthusiast loves their work when it is completed. No question that this case will satisfy a lot of builders. The acrylic siding doesn't hurt in showing off your work without compromising cooling options. The DARKFORCE is definitely onto something.
Thoughts and Conclusions
Thoughts and Conclusions
Gelid Solutions may not be a household name yet in the United States. I believe if Gelid Solutions comes out with more products like the DARKFROCE mid-tower PC case they will be in the ears of many enthusiasts. The DARKFORCE takes some nice risks that should pay off not only for the company but for any builders that dare to try something new. Gelid Solutions wants to "combine quality and ingenuity to setting the standard in creating best-in-class products for global computer enthusiasts." Well, if this is an indicator they are well on their way.
The Light of the DARKFORCEThe DARKFORCE to me is a nice surprise. For a product in the range of $120 USD (91 EURO), it gives a builder a lot to work with. Conventional cases in this class all have the usual 8 possible fans, top/bottom dust filter, USB 3.0 IO port(s), cable management, liquid cooling options, ample accessory screw, etc.
But what sets the DARKFORCE apart from the others? Is it the simplistic easy going look of the case? Well, maybe for some. Enthusiasts may really want options, and installing big long power graphics cards is one. The DARKFORCE delivers with the removable cage options. I am a big fan also of the drive caddies in this case. Installing a drive was effortless and was not like trying to put together a puzzle. The pre-mounted 3pin connections for a fan was nice. Even better, it connects through one of the 4 pin power connectors. Here are the two big stand outs of the DARKFORCE: The IO panel is beyond any mid-tower I have seen in this class. Not only is there USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and eSATA support, but also an external SATA drive connection is there support 2.5" and 3.5" drive! The other big highlight is a 120mm fan mounting option behind the CPU! This allows for the acrylic window without losing out on cooling! My friends and readers should certainly take a close look at the DARKFORCE and the makers at Gelid Solutions.
The Dark of the DARKFORCEThere was very little to complain or pick apart with this first time entry from Gelid Solutions. Sure, maybe the door was a little stiff to pull off. The front bezel has to be removed to install an optical drive. The metal wire mesh bezel cover was a little bit of a problem but support was quick to help me when I contacted them. Also I would have liked to have found more information on DiY Force and other options they have for Gelid Solutions. Not really much more dark to talk about with the DARKSIDE.
The DARKFORCE Compares Well to CompetitorsOne of my favorite cases I reviewed the past year is the Corsair Carbide 400. At the time of review it may have been in the top couple of cases in its class. Well, I will be bold enough to say that the couple of extraordinary features that Gelid Solutions puts in the DARKFORCE will certainly meet it head to head. Some may even think the extra features would put it over the top and I would agree. I hope Gelid Solutions makes its mark in this market so PC enthusiasts can help the company reach its vision.
The Legit Bottom Line: Gelid Solution makes its first PC case and any PC builder who reads about it should rejoice! The DARKFORCE enters as one of the best in its class and will make any PC builder hungry for what is next from the innovative minds at Gelid Solutions!