In and Around the Lian Li PC-A55

My initial investigation of Lian Li's PC-A55 wasn't terribly exciting, but I also hadn't given how the case would perform too much thought until assembly began. That said, I was pleased to see an enclosure that wasn't particularly busy internally or externally.

Some may take issue with the aesthetic of the PC-A55; it's extremely staid and conservative and we may be getting to the point where we feel a little saturated by basic boxes. In case you're not interested in a black PC-A55, you can get it in silver as well for the same price. The design remains the same, though: flat brushed aluminum front with only indicator LEDs, the Lian Li logo, and a single 5.25" drive bay. The sides of the enclosure share the same style, with no ventilation, only flat surfaces. The slightly perforated sides of the front bezel give the illusion of ventilation, but trust me when I tell you it's minimal at best.

The back and bottom of the PC-A55 are unpainted aluminum, while the top is the same flat black brushed aluminum with a single 140mm exhaust fan. The intake fan in the bottom of the enclosure is also covered by a removable fan filter, but the case itself needs to be lifted to snap the filter out, making it substantially less usable than designs by other vendors which allow fan filters to be slid out from the side or back. The bottom of the PC-A55 is also where the major problems with the design rear their ugly heads, but more on that in a bit.

The side panels themselves are secured with black thumbscrews and snap on and off very easily. As is typical of Lian Li's unique designs, there is no space behind the motherboard tray for routing cables; every effort seems to have been made to get the size of the enclosure down as small as possible. Inside the case is a fixed cage for the 5.25" bay and two 3.5" bays, along with sockets to mount a 2.5" drive to the underside of the cage. Note that by doing so you risk impeding power supply cabling, and power supply clearance is already at a premium. The other 2.5" mount is on the bottom of the case.

It's very clear that interior space is at an absolute premium inside the PC-A55. The bottom intake fan only adds to the height of the enclosure because it has to, otherwise clearance on the sides of the motherboard tray is at a minimum. What I do appreciate is that the design is comparatively simple; Lian Li just doesn't have room for their usual rail-mounted drives, so we make do with old-school screw mounts in the PC-A55. Motherboard standoffs come pre-installed, and the front bezel of the case easily snaps on and off. Expansion slots use thumbscrews, as does the mounting bracket for the power supply, and the power cable actually routes from the back of the case to the internal mount.

Introducing the Lian Li PC-A55 Assembling 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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