Introducing the Lian Li PC-A55

Marking our fifth venture into Lian Li territory in recent years, the PC-A55 enclosure we have on hand is another unique, slightly-off-the-wall design from a company we've come to expect this kind of thinking from. After all, at Computex they were showing off a case with 26 3.5" bays and another one that looks like a small train. It's not unreasonable to expect some unique cases from Lian Li, and the PC-A55 is definitely one.

What Lian Li has attempted to achieve with the PC-A55 is essentially to make a full ATX enclosure as small as humanly possible while still being easy to build and service. In some ways they've definitely achieved this, but a lot of sacrifices had to be made to get the PC-A55 to where it is and unfortunately, we're not sure they were worth it.

Before we get deeper into the review, yes, the Lian Li PC-A55 has a very unfortunate name for anyone familiar with leetspeak. Those of you with a juvenile sense of humor (like me, for example), are probably going to enjoy this review tremendously. I'm not sure how to address this otherwise; I need to refer to the model name to write the review, so hopefully we can get through this with a minimum of tittering and focus on the enclosure at hand.

Lian Li's design borrows a bit from Silverstone in that it's intended to be vertically cooled; air is drawn in from the bottom of the enclosure and out of the top. With Silverstone's cases, this is often very effective, but in my experience it has less to do with natural convection and much more to do with the clear path air has to move through the heat-generating components. Part of the reason why the FT02 is one of the best air cooling enclosures around (if not the best) is because air has a straight shot from the bottom intake up through the (preferably tower) CPU cooler and out of the top of the case, with virtually no obstructions. As you'll see, the PC-A55 doesn't share this crucial design point.

Lian Li PC-A55 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX
Drive Bays External 1x 5.25”
Internal 2x 3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front -
Rear -
Top 1x 140mm exhaust fan
Side -
Bottom 1x 140mm intake fan
Expansion Slots 7
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 150 mm
PSU 160 mm
GPU 12.2" / 310mm
Weight 4.1kg / 9 lbs.
Dimensions 9.64" x 17.6" x 20.39"
245mm x 447mm x 518mm
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal header
All-aluminum build
Price $109

Lian Li advertises the PC-A55 as having a single USB 3.0 port and a single USB 2.0 port hidden under a door on the top of the case, but this is incorrect; the two ports share a single USB 3.0 internal motherboard header, and despite being black, the so-called USB 2.0 port does function at USB 3.0 speeds. Why they took the time to do this and advertise them as being different is beyond me.

As a whole, the PC-A55 is small and light, but because it supports ATX motherboards it's not quite small enough to notice the difference between a slightly larger, more standardized ATX case. Just the same, when we pop it open and assemble it we'll see that Lian Li made every single interior inch count; this really is about as small as they can get it while still accommodating ATX.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A55
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  • Stuka87 - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    You just proved that you are not a regular here. Every new Mac/iPhone/iPad gets heavily reviewed here.

    This site is for "Computer Enthusiast" like you said. That means ALL COMPUTERS. Not just non-Macs. I also find it funny that you says its for Open Standards, which most things reviewed here run Windows.

    I think you should just run along now.
    Reply
  • jmhart - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    Wait, you're calling HIM a poser? Reply
  • AVP - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    Where do losers like this get this mentality? Reply
  • Voo - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    Ah one of the new kids on the block that want to boast, but sadly have no idea what they're talking about.

    Yep there really aren't any Mac users on AT, apart from several staff members.
    Reply
  • zanon - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    Thank you for the thorough review Dustin. I know you dislike having to rag on and thumbs down something that people put effort into, but as potential customers we appreciate it, and Lian Li shouldn't be excused too much. While I very much appreciate companies that are willing to really experiment and push the envelope, they aren't running a charity, they're charging real money and have a duty to be professional. Basic thermal testing isn't rocket science, it's the sort of thing that any company should be doing as a continuous part of R&D, precisely to catch these issues. It's a core part of the engineering they should be doing. If you could get those numbers, they should have been able to as well long before ramping manufacturing. Someone should have said "hey wait a second, this isn't going to be that compelling, I guess we have to go back to the drawing board here."

    I worry that a lot of companies don't use measurement-based reality checks as much as they should be. I hear a lot of "well design is an art, not a science" type of wishy-washy statements (the audio industry seems to be the worst), but ultimately science is definitely a part. They should be as wild as they like in the concept and prototype stages, but everything should go through a careful measurement filter before further work. Hopefully they can do better next time around, they certainly have the engineering chops to produce excellent work. Everyone produces duds once in a while, if it's not a pattern then they can bounce right back with a useful lesson learned.

    Thanks again for the balanced review.
    Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    I'd optimize for depth instead of height. mATX, ODD above board, PSU and HDDs below. Straight front to back airflow. 2x 140 or 2x 180 in front should be enough. Depth of 350mm should be achievable. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    Actually a single 180mm can more or less nail it:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4533/silverstone-tem...
    Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    The TJ08-E is nice but a bit too cramped and a bit too long. Reply
  • Iketh - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    How is this cramped??

    http://www.overclock.net/gallery/image/view/album/...
    Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    You forgot to install the HDD cage... Reply

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