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A HUGE Case With Many Surprises - Dark Base Pro 901 from be quiet!

Here we have yet another case review. This time it is one from be quiet! - the Darkbase Pro 901. This is the first case in about seven years from be quiet! for the very high end and it's a big one. Like always, we'll do our case reviews in two sections. The first section is going to be just going through the case, going through its specs, what it comes with and compatibility. And then in the second part, we're going to do some benchmarking, put it together and present what our findings were in terms of how it is to build inside, the quality, as well as the actual benchmarks such as temperatures, performance, etc. See the unboxing in the video below:

After spending some time tinkering with the case, I can confidently say that this is among the most user-friendly cases I've worked with. The feature that truly stands out is the removable motherboard tray. You can assemble your system on the tray, which is incredibly convenient, and it comes with the added advantage of being able to test your gear before diving into all the wiring. I strongly advise that you first set up your system outside the case to confirm that all components are functional, then proceed to assemble it within the case. Once everything's tested and confirmed, all you need to do is smoothly slide it back into the case, and voila, you're all set!

Once everything's put together, you'll notice a generous amount of space, coupled with clever cable routing options. The beauty of it all is you don't really need to sweat over cable management, just tuck them into the designated channels and put them out of mind. There's also a significant gap at the back for cables before reaching the back panel, so I doubt you'd ever need to push it just to close. Yes, the space may seem overwhelmingly large when using our standard testing equipment on the ITX board, but even when accommodating a full-size ATX board, this case provides an ample amount of room.

We did find an issue with using the ITX board in this case - due to the layout of the top slot, plugging in either HDMI or DisplayPort cables into the GPU becomes a challenge. I am sure 99% of people buying this case won’t be using ITX motherboards - however, it's an observation that's definitely worth keeping in mind.

By the way, I want to half backtrack my comment about the screw bags and screw organiser. Having completed the build, I found that the remaining screws fit quite snugly into the box, making it a handy storage solution. However, my preference still leans towards having all screws housed in the neatly organised box, eliminating the need for single-use plastic.

One of my favourite features is the ability to flip the case over and have the tempered glass with the full view of your build on the other side. This is possible and cool, but be warned - it's quite an involved process. BeQuiet! has an excellent video tutorial on how to achieve this, which I strongly recommend checking out.

Another feature that deserves a mention is the neat GPU bracket, equipped with magnets for easy adjustments when in standard orientation. Moreover, it can be screwed up if you choose to invert the case, providing support from above. The concept is great, but be mindful of cable lengths. During my test with a smaller GPU where the PSU cable had to reach higher I found I couldn't use the included plastic cover when routing the cable within the support. As a result, I had to rely solely on the GPU bracket and let the cables run straight up.

Don’t get me wrong - it is still a very clean set-up when looking head on, but from an angle the cables become visible. So, the visual impact can vary depending on your perspective.

One area that could benefit from a bit of enhancement is the fan controller. While both the front and top panels house three fan headers, great for fan placement, there's nothing available for the fan at the rear. I would've preferred this to be wired up in a way that left me with just a single cable to manage fan speeds. It's a minor critique, but for a case of this stature, I believe my expectations are well placed. To be frank, I would have also liked to see at least one additional fan included at the front.

Which leads us to the benchmarking. We did a bunch of tests, but let's concentrate on the most significant ones, starting with the fans operating at their maximum capacity. For the record, the ambient temperature during our testing was a consistent 21 degrees Celsius. Bear in mind that this is a relatively new test suite for us, so comparisons are somewhat limited. However, as you can see, the temperatures closely mimic those of the open test bench, although with higher noise levels. Nevertheless, it manages to outperform the Fractal North.

When we look at the more reasonable noise normalised test, which presents a more realistic scenario, we again observe a slight edge over the Fractal North in terms of both CPU and GPU temperatures, though, as expected, it trails behind the open bench setup.

Given the array of accessories that accompany this case, we conducted additional tests to evaluate its performance in various configurations. Beyond the standard setup, we examined the enclosed quiet configuration as well as an airflow-optimised configuration.

Interestingly, we found that in the quiet configuration, the case turned out to be the loudest, which is a bit ironic. The difference is minor - just one decibel. I suspect this is because our standard noise measurement is taken from the side of the case. In this setup, there's a slot pointing towards the sound meter, and when a solid front panel is in place, it seems to concentrate the noise coming from that side.

In terms of performance, we noticed that the airflow mode and the stock mode display similar outcomes, whereas the quiet mode registers slightly higher temperatures across the board. This is understandable, given that the front panel in the quiet mode restricts airflow, allowing only slight gaps at the front sides.

Overall this is certainly a premium case. It's evident that the engineers at BeQuiet! invested significant thought into creating a case that blends efficiency with practicality. I'm thoroughly impressed with its mechanical design and the ability to disassemble and reassemble it easily. The fact that I could put it all back together without constantly referring to the manual, and that all the components fit seamlessly without any warping, is nothing short of a blessing.

Given its price point, this case is clearly targeted at systems that would cost well over 2, if not 3 thousand dollars. I would have liked to have a few extra fans and probably included vertical mount. But all things considered, it's a robust case with impressive performance.


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