In and Around the Lian Li PC-A05FN

From reading the comments on past reviews, it seems like the overwhelming majority of you vastly prefer enclosures that look more classy and austere than flashier designs. While there's certainly a place for some of those (and I adored the gaudy fire engine red NZXT Phantom 410 we recently reviewed), the overarching theme is that people want an enclosure that reminds them of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lian Li seems to have delivered for the most part on that front with the PC-A05FN; you can get it in silver or black, but it's always going to have the head-to-toe brushed aluminum finish.

It's definitely an attractive piece of kit, but be warned: the black brushed aluminum is going to pick up fingerprints and smudges. That said, the front of the enclosure is pretty much where all the action happens: there's a pair of 5.25" external bays, a single 3.5" external bay, power and reset buttons, audio jacks, and then singles of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. These last two are unusual, since there's only one internal connector serving both ports, and that connector is USB 3.0.

The top of the PC-A05FN features a sealed off mount for a 140mm fan; you can remove the aluminum plate and install one internally (and there's space for it), or leave it in and enjoy a remarkably seamless top finish that gives Fractal Design's Define R3 a run for its money. When you swing around to the back is when things are going to start to seem strange: there's no power supply mount, just the I/O cluster, eight expansion slots, and then an AC adaptor plug.

Opening up the enclosure reveals the answer to these mysteries: Lian Li opts to mount the power supply at the front of the case and then route the cable to the front. You can also see how the cooling is fundamentally designed: the rear fan is an intake instead of an exhaust, while the front fan is the exhaust. This looks potentially better for keeping the CPU cool, but at the cost of getting fresh air to the video card(s). For that, we're pretty much hoping the air coming in from the back vents will be enough, but it stands to reason a multi-GPU configuration inside of the PC-A05FN is probably ill-advised.

Overall I found the design of the PC-A05FN interesting, but with some reservations. Much like the last Lian Li case we reviewed, the PC-TU200, I'm left feeling more of that "just because you can doesn't mean you should" kind of vibe in relation to the design decisions. Lian Li has added some allowances for tool-less assembly (like the snapping clips for the 5.25" drive bays), so hopefully assembly will at least go a little more smoothly than the previous Lian Li cases we've tested.

Introducing the Lian Li PC-A05FN Assembling the Lian Li PC-A05FN
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  • ArteTetra - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I think this case was designed to be put in a piece of furniture. Hot air is expelled from the front because furniture is usually closed on the back. The compact size also fits this role.
    I guess there are people who could be very interested in this.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    If the back is closed, where would the case get the cool air it needed? You need 2 sides to be relatively unobstructed in order to ensure good temperatures and noise. It really doesn't matter if it's front to back or vice versa if the rest is similar. :-) Reply
  • geniekid - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    "the overarching theme is that people want an enclosure that reminds them of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey."

    Lol! So true. Myself included.
    Reply
  • NINaudio - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    we could get a review of the lancool PC-K9? That looks like a very interesting case and I'd love to see how it stacks up. Reply
  • bji - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    This case is not for everyone. It is smaller and has weaker cooling characteristics than other cases. It works perfectly for my setup, which is a Phenom II 1075T, SSD drives, a high-end aftermarket heatsink and 120mm fan CPU cooler, a singe low-speed quiet 120 mm case fan at the back, motherboard, and nothing else (no dedicated GPU, I just use the crappy one on the motherboard, I don't do any gaming whatsoever). My whole system stays as cool as I could want.

    So if your cooling needs are moderate, this case is fine.

    I personally appreciate the fact that it doesn't look like a big plastic piece of crap with weird angles, holes, and plastic extrusions everywhere. It looks classy and understated. The aluminum is thin like someone said but I find it to be strong and durable enough.

    The *only* quibble I have is that the lid for the top USB ports/audio ports is kind of cheaply made. It has sharp edges and the hinge protrudes out of the top surface. It would be nicer if it was flush somehow, it would fit the smooth surfaces of the case better.
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    who needs a full size atx motherboard anymore???

    ... and by that, almost no one needs a full size atx case.

    this case might be worth looking at if it was microatx
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Pretty much my thoughts these days. Only reason to go full ATX these days is insane enthusiast builds or shaving off a few bucks. Reply
  • zhadlp - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    for that size, its more suited for an matx build... and I'd still prefer my A04 compared to this one, they both have belong to the same price point I think.

    easy to mod too... :)
    http://www.techpowerup.com/gallery/2983.html
    Reply
  • CZroe - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Not one single shot of the front with a PSU installed with the faceplate removed? I was curious about how far the thing protruded and wondered if the PSU was inset a bit to compensate for that. Reply
  • shakyone - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I purchased the original one of these, four years ago. It has been sitting in my kitchen, quietly humming away, always on.

    The beauty of this thing is that it just looks "classy" and simple. It is very tiny, yet it fits a full size ATX motherboard! Seriously people, this baby can fit a fully loaded system, and look petite doing it. If you want to put a PC out where it doesn't need to draw attention, this is the case to do it. It doesn't draw any attention to itself in the process, that was the goal.

    As reported, yes it runs hot. I scaled back from a high end graphics card for a Radeon 5770, that ran cool. I also have to be careful when picking parts, because it is small.

    I'm waiting for the price to drop on this version, and I'm pulling the trigger, as an upgrade. The Lian-Li quality, really closed the deal. I was able to get all matching Lian-Li accessories, and it keeps it diminutive appearance. I get that they are not the best of the best, but they work very well, and look like the belonged there all along. They have more matching case accessories than I think any other manufacturer, and it is worth it, for me.

    You can do a lot with this one, that is its secret!
    Reply

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