darkFlash is an unheard-of PC parts company, you might want to keep your eyes on. With only 5k followers followers in social media, this Chinese company has carried on a stereotype of budget offerings. But, they seem to be doing things a bit different.
Take the DLM22, for instance. At first glance, you might peg it for something from NZXT or Fractal Design. In fact, it is darkFlash’s own spin on the compact PC case. We hesitate to call the DLM22 a copycat – even though it takes inspiration from other brands. The company has some unique choices. Some of these pay off. Yet, some fail to stick the landing.
This compact case supports only up to mATX motherboards. Even though it is pegged as ‘luxury’ by the brand, it falls square into the budget category. It retails for about $65, period. Its claim to fame is the hinge door panel with tempered glass. Other features include tool-less design, good fan support, and sleek, minimal looks. It looks premium, to be honest. But can the DLM22 hold its own against the big boys?
In this review, we’ll take a look at specs, interiors, and usability to give you an answer. Let’s dive in.
- Type: Small Form Factor
- Compatible motherboards: mATX, mITX
- Weight: 4.89 kg
- Dimensions: 360.68 x 203.2 x 411.48 mm
- Drive bays: 2 x 2.5″, 2 x 3.5″
- Expansions slots: 4
- Front I/O: 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, headphone/mic pair
- Front fans: 2 x 120 mm (or 240 mm AIO)
- Top fans: 2 x 120/140 mm (or 240 mm AIO)
- Rear fans: 1 x 120 mm
Design and Build – Interior
With irremovable front pannel, you are left with
As the front panel cannot be removed, you’ll only be removing the two side panels, both of which are quite easy to get off. The glass door will slide out of its hinge. The metal side panel is held in place by two plastic thumbscrews. It’s a three-second job to reach the insides of the case.
Around the center is the obvious mount for the motherboard. Only mATX and mITX mobos are supported. To the right of this mount is the space to mount two 2.5″ SSDs. You’ll need a screwdriver for doing this. Once you install your motherboard, you’ll want to move on to extensions and GPU. The extensions slots are, well, cheap. If you pop the covers out, you cannot get them back in, not without some hot glue. Plan ahead before popping any slot.
In terms of fans, the DLM22 has space for up to five. You can install two 120 mm units on the front or a 240 mm AIO. Frankly, we’d recommend against a water cooler in the front. If you have a massive GPU, it’ll be a very tight fit. You’ll likely want to fit a 120 mm fan at the rear too. The top of this case actually has ample space for either a 240 mm AIO or two 120/140 mm fans. For such a compact system, this room up top is a thumbs-up.
Some holes lead to underneath the PSU shroud, and some lead to the other side panel. The power supply basement is only really visible from that other side. There’s a honeycomb vent that is covered by a dust filter. The filter is not held by magnetic strips, being fitted mechanically instead. It’s a cost-cutting measure for sure, but we don’t really mind. The hard drive cage, at the bottom and is removable.There’s not much space on this side, but you should be able to comfortably squeeze in your cables.
Talking about airflow, it is a toasty rack. The side vents are too tight to draw air in. Yes, top is vent is an option but it does not do any justice if you want a powerful build. They could’ve utilized the front panel for airflow rather than sticking just for the looks. You could actually remove any front fans altogether, and opt for a negative airflow setup
In a nutshell, this is a well-built interior with a few flaws and a simple layout.
Design and Build – Exterior
The DLM22 looks a lot like the H510, base model. Let’s get that out of the way first. The clean, silent look is actually a plus for this case. And unlike NZXT’s offering, this one comes in white, black, mint green, or pink. Yes, mint and pink. We’ve seen very few pink cases and almost none in green. But, DLM22 does manage to pull it off well.
The top melds seamlessly into the front panel. The reason being, both are actually a single piece of folded metal. There’s a tasteful logo at the bottom, but no other markings are present. The metal side panel is another unmarked affair except for a thin vertical perforated vent, reminiscent of NZXT.
The other side panel is the chief eye candy. The tempered glass covers the whole of this side, a rare sight in similar cases. The 4 mm door actually opens on a hinge. This panel has a black bezel running at the edges, but otherwise gives a full view of the interior. It does it quite well, except that the PSU shroud completely eats up the bottom. Some slots there to show off your PSU brand might have been warranted. But this comes down to preference, really. You can open the hinge with a small strap at the edge of the door. You’ll want to adjust your desk layout so that you can open and close the panel quickly. Because that’s what we bet you’ll be doing, taking a look at your PC’s insides frequently.
There’s not much to say about the bottom and the back panels. Both of them are standard, with the chassis being slightly elevated by rubber feet. At the top is a vent for double fans. Again, this is different from the H510, which only has room for a single top fan. The front I/O ports are also present at the top. There’s a power button and a reset button, thankfully. There is a USB 3 and two USB 2 ports. There are two audio jacks for headphone and mic, respectively. You might have noticed the lack of USB Type-C. While this is a budget case, we feel Type-C should be standard in all cases. Maybe darkFlash will do a 2020 refresh.
In summary, though, the chassis looks really good. The exterior design is a strong point for the DLM22.
How Useful Is It?
For any challenger brand, usability is a big test it needs to pass. The darkFlash DLM22 starts off on the right foot by having the panel-removing process be toolless.
That’s about it for ease, though. The DLM22 does nothing particularly wrong. It just doesn’t stand out from the competition in terms of layout or nifty, useful parts. Fractal Design’s cases do this well. The expansion slot covers needing to pop out is a really low blow on darkFlash’s part. We don’t mind not having magnetic dust filters, but those covers are another issue. At the back is a sliding thing present, possibly to keep your GPU in place before bolting it down? Yeah, we have no idea, either.
No fans are included, but it is easy enough to install any. The company earns some points for the spacing between the motherboard and ceiling. The build process is otherwise bland. Cable management should not be a big issue. There are no channels or straps to ease this, although some zip ties are included.
After you’ve set up your build, the DLM22 is quite a pleasing experience. It doesn’t really have anything to suppress sound but isn’t too noisy. There are no dealbreakers in the usability department. But it is evident that darkFlash has a lot to learn.
So, should you get the DLM22 for your next mATX build?
If you’re on a budget, but still salivate at its looks, then yes. Buy it. Unless you’re really heating up your system, this case will perform fine. Its looks are splendid. The glass panel opening is a lovely touch, and you may find yourself playing with it often. If you know your way around pastel colors, then the mint green or pink may be worth considering.
However, if you’d rather have performance, then look at something like the Pure Base 500DX. Or, get a cheaper case. If you really want a case to delight you, then some older brands are more experienced. Some quality control issues have been reported, so be wary of that.
Despite its minor flaws, though, we cannot declare the darkFlash DLM22 as anything but value-for-money.