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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  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    Considering the mountain of cheap laughs I got working on this review, I'm happy to disappoint you. Reply
  • eBob - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    My current case is full ATX and is smaller than that! I was actually considering going micro-ATX for my next build, but couldn't find a motherboard that I liked. Reply
  • crackedwiseman - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    A couple of years ago I did a build for a customer in an A05, which, similarly to the A55, tries to fit an ATX board in an mATX sized enclosure. It was a bit cramped, but not that bad, and thermal performance was solid given that I had an overclocked i7-920 and a GTX 260 in there. The A05 had a totally different internal layout; I can't image why they decided to change it - this is anything but an improvement Reply
  • rickcain2320 - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    The A05 doesn't work well unless you cut a hole in the top or add a slot fan. I never kept the front panel on because of heating concerns, which turned out to be true as my motherboard chipset fried from the heat, taking out the video card in the process. Reply
  • PortsOrBust - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    "Unfortunately, a case I can't find any argument for."

    This thought may be anathema on a "latest and greatest" enthusiast site, but if one simply wanted a small ATX case, and used only on-board ports with no additional cards, it seems to me that most of the other issues are not deal-killers.

    Granted the PSU mount isn't ideal, but without add-in cards the airflow would likely overcome that problem, and finding a way to raise the box off the floor a half an inch or so isn't a big deal either.

    Some people will pay $110 for the size and looks of a case, but aren't looking to spend $400 on the latest and greatest video card.

    So, its by no means a perfect case, or even the best example of a compact case, but that doesn't mean there's no argument for it . . .
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    Except if you're not going to use any expansion cards, what's the point of going with a full ATX board instead of Micro-ATX or even Mini-ITX? Reply
  • erwendigo - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    The better quality of a good ATX motherboard, a very "little" point.

    This review is a shame. You lost the point of a minimal case ATX, you had overestimate the importance of temperatures in a system that it isn´t in the enthusiast niche.

    This case have a very specific niche, but you missundertood this and its rol.

    And the worse, you made a lot of badass jokes. :-/
    Reply
  • plamengv - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    Lian Li PC-A55 compared to Antec NSK-4000 is a monster. Lian Li never had such a good case as Antec is! Reply
  • Alchemy69 - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    This will do until NZXT release their M0-U7H case and then I'll go from A55 to M0-U7H. Reply
  • dave1_nyc - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    I'll probably wind up feeling like a dumbass for saying this, but I can' t believe that the dimensions are correct, esp the height, which is shown as 17.6". One of my machines systems uses a Fractal R3, which feels far more spacious, (and which has room for the PSU under the ATX slots), and it's about the same height.

    It measures a little bit higher from the floor, but then it has taller feet, and hence more space under the case for air intake.

    So what am I missing? How can this case be almost 18" high and yet have so little vertical space?
    Reply

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