Assembling the Lian Li PC-A55

Credit where credit is due, Lian Li's PC-A55 came together very smoothly. Usually smaller enclosure designs are difficult to assemble and somewhat involved, but the PC-A55 is very clean and logical and I seldom had to consult the instruction manual to figure out how to get everything to fit inside it.

Starting with the motherboard, while clearance around it is minimal, I'm always happy to see the stand-offs come preinstalled. It's a simple, thoughtful convenience that saves time in the long run. While ordinarily I attach the modular cables to the board first and then plug everything into the power supply at the last step, that's not possible in the PC-A55 due to the reduced clearance between the power supply mount and the drive cage. As a result, I actually connected the necessary cables and installed the power supply almost immediately after installing the motherboard.

Note that we're using a Micro-ATX motherboard as usual, but the only real difference you'd see with a full-size ATX board is that it would be "taller" in the pictures below. Our test board is just as deep as a standard ATX board, but it doesn't have as many expansion slots.

Installing the power supply involves removing a bracket from the bottom front of the enclosure. The power cable is already routed through this bracket and is easy to connect to the power supply, but when we put the PSU and bracket back inside the PC-A55, we discover what I would consider a potentially serious design flaw. The PSU can only be oriented one of two ways: either the bottom-mounted intake fan faces the interior of the case, disrupting the intended airflow, or it faces the inside of the front panel, in which case it's blocked off entirely.

At this point I also learned that the drives should probably be installed first. I had to remove the RAM from the motherboard to fit the 3.5" drive into the bay, though the 5.25" drive was able to slide in from the front of the PC-A55 relatively easily. Note that it's entirely possible to butt the 5.25" drive up against the edge of the motherboard, too. Unusually deep optical drives (like LG's combination HD-DVD/Blu-ray drive) simply won't fit without sticking out of the front of the case. 2.5" drives still use Lian Li's traditional bottom-mounted rubber grommets to slide into the two mounts.

Getting the video card in was easy enough, though, and wiring the PC-A55 was surprisingly simple. Our test SSD does press up against the bottom of the PC-A55, making it a little more difficult to get the data and power cables connected, but it's a minor quibble in the scheme of things. What you have to remember is that because the PC-A55 lacks any space behind the motherboard tray (and is small in general), there's really nowhere to put the cables except to cram them into the space beneath the drive cage.

Once I crammed everything into Lian Li's PC-A55, I immediately realized just how poorly the thermal design might actually perform. Here's the essential problem: if you install a full-height video card, about 75% of the bottom-mounted intake fan is going to be blocked by it, substantially reducing any air that comes in through the case's single intake, leaving the top-mounted exhaust fan to pick up the slack. This also means that multi-GPU is going to be basically out of the question, since the gap between the video cards is going to be basically dead, having nowhere to actually take in air from.

Things get worse. The rubber pegs the case stands on are only about 15mm high, meaning that in the best-case scenario, the intake vent of the PC-A55 is only going to be about 15mm off of the ground. The fan filter shaves another 3mm off of that. This is why every case I've reviewed thus far that had a bottom fan mount left that mount optional and didn't rely on it, excepting the Silverstone cases which all stood at least a full inch off of the ground, allowing for a healthy amount of ventilation and clearance even on carpet. Bottom line: the PC-A55 more or less can't be used on any carpet of any kind, as the bottom intake will be suffocated by it.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A55 Testing Methodology
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  • poloa - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - link

    They seem to have quoted the package dimensions in this review, not the case dimensions :-/ The outside dimensions are really the best feature of this case! (W) 188mm x (H) 375mm x (D) 455mm Reply
  • Mugur - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    I can't see any picture at all in the article. What's wrong? Reply
  • cjb110 - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    me too:( Reply
  • 996GT2 - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    Anandtech has now reviewed both the A05FN and A55. However, I believe that both of these cases have inferior designs compared to the original PC-A05N. The A05N retains the inverted layout first seen in the A05A, and the back to front airflow design is arguably much better for CPU cooling. It would be nice to see a review of the older A05N to see whether Lian Li has been going downhill in their more recent designs. Reply
  • Leyawiin - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    I think they are going downhill. I have an PC-A05NB with the optional 140mm top lid and its very cool running and a very clever design. These last two are pretty disappointing. Reply
  • Zink - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - link

    When the site came back this was supposed to be Anand's review of the new Macbook. I can understand him needing a bit of sleep but save the battery rundown tests for next week and let someone remote in to your LAN to run benches. Reply
  • cjs150 - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    This is based on the A05N which was a great little case if you are into watercooling, the inverted designed dealt with the airflow problem by having the GPU at the top of the case.

    A55 might still be a good watercooling case if you stick to micro ATX cards because the bottom of the case looks perfect for a thick 240 radiator but instead of being a simple case to use, a fair bit of modding seems to be needed.

    Go back to the inverted design. Actually scrub the design and start again
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    Cut a side blowhole and the core issue is solved. Why isn't there one? what the hell.. Reply
  • superccs - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    I have the A05 which has the PSU up front and it the rocks rear intake and front exhaust format well. CPU gets fresh air straight from a 120mm in the rear, the GPU gets frech air from a 1200mm in the side panel and everything is blown out the front by a 120mm and the PSU.

    That format works great, but WTH is with this mutant case? Do case designers know that the primary goal is to have a slick looking enclosure that keeps everything cool?

    Lian Li, please loose whoever designed this case in next years floods.
    Reply
  • grave00 - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    "In case you're not interested in a black PC-A55"

    Really, who wouldn't be interested in that? I think we could all use a black PC-A55.

    It's like shooting the broad side of a barn isn't it?
    Reply

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