Introducing the Lian Li PC-A76X

As a case designer and manufacturer, Lian Li has built their entire business around aluminum. It's one of those materials that seems to have a real marketing draw, that seems to perk up consumers, and it's understandable. Aluminum conducts heat well, and an attractive brushed aluminum finish can trump the heck out of any garden variety plastic and/or steel enclosure. It's something Lian Li have essentially created a premium brand around, and today we're taking a look at one of their most premium offerings of all, the PC-A76X.

The PC-A76X isn't just a premium enclosure, it's a concerted effort by Lian Li to produce an E-ATX/HPTX case in relatively small dimensions. Our testbed is admittedly going to seem a little mundane, dwarfed by this monstrous piece of aluminum designed and destined for only the most powerful of workstations (or enthusiast builds), but that may not matter as much as it first appears. Has Lian Li produced a knockout case, or have they missed the mark?

That's a pretty sticky question. This case is designed to house frankly as much computer as you can cram into it, and I'll admit I was pretty optimistic when I first read the press materials. A trio of 140mm fans in the front attempt to produce the kind of wind tunnel effect that makes cases like SilverStone's FT02 and Temjin TJ08-E such formidable performers, and I've been looking for some time for a good replacement for my own FT02.

Lian Li PC-A76X Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, E-ATX, HPTX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25”
Internal 9x 3.5", 3x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front 3x 140mm intake fan
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120mm fan mounts
Side 2x 140mm fan mount
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 11
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm
PSU 360mm
GPU 14.1" / 360mm
Dimensions 11.22" x 27.95" x 26.89"
285mm x 710mm x 683mm
Weight 20.9 lbs. / 9.5 kg
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal headers
Toolless motherboard installation
Support for 240mm radiator in top of enclosure
All aluminum build and finish
Price $210

The fact that the case is actually 21 lbs. of aluminum should give you some indication of just how big this beast really is, yet interestingly Lian Li opted to keep the design fairly narrow. I don't get the sense that they could've shrunk down the PC-A76X too much more without making some sacrifices. They probably could've made it a bit shorter by moving the PSU to the front of the case and ditching three of the drive bays and an intake fan, but that's about it.

At $210, the PC-A76X is squarely in enthusiast class territory; once you go over about $160, cases are generally supposed to offer both excellent acoustics and thermal performance. That's part of the reason why the lack of any kind of noise dampening material is worrisome, though the cooling design looks like it may just be efficient enough to pick up the slack.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A76X
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  • Grok42 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Certainly a valid use case and I'm glad they still make cases like this for your needs. However, there seem to be way too many of them given how niche this market would seem to be. There are also a lot of cases with internal hot swap bays which would be almost as good with the exception that you would have to have easy access to one side of the case in order to actually hot swap a drive. Given how uncommon it is to hot swap this typically wouldn't be a problem.

    Another way to build this would be to use an external drive enclosure. I get why this would be less than ideal for a lot of people but it has the advantage of being simple and robust.

    Maybe the answer is stackable case sections each with their own cooling fan.
    Reply
  • rarson - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    You can also use the bays for other things, like storage drawers, fan controls, audio breakouts, etc. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    You know, I live in a tiny 1 bedroom apt and I've come to realize that my monster sized Thermaltake Kandalf is probably the best PC purchase I've made. The reason I state this is because smaller is not necessarily better. My PC case keeps my computer relatively quiet, and it was built to house water cooling as well. It was easier to build in than some of my smaller cases. Granted, a removable motherboard try and specifically designed parts (such as a slimmer CPU cooler) make building in smaller cases much easier. It's a beast, for sure - but I don't mind. It garners attention. It's kind of like having a big truck. It's a man's machine. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    I know that's your standard testbed and you want to use it for the sake of comparison charts, but I can't help but think you should have thrown a dual-socket EATX system in there for a real heat and noise test. How loud is this case when it is used the way it is meant to be used? Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    I agree. Some of these cases should be tested more strenuously to see if they really do keep up with cooling demands. That being said, I give Dustin credit for bringing some significant heat challenge in his methodology, much better than a lot of case reviews I've seen.

    ;)
    Reply
  • vgray35@hotmail.com - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    You do not mention the type of aluminum employed in this case - is it pure aluminum or aluminum alloy? Aluminum tensile, bending and compression strength is comparable with steel with the right choice of material, so a flimsy case simply amounts to bad design and choice of aluminum alloy.

    Lots of steel cases are flimsy - just bad design. So too this aluminum case is simply one with bad choice in material thickness and/or material alloy.

    Aluminum may also be hardened to make the surface durable. Again bad choices and design for the material.
    Reply
  • theSeb - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    " is it pure aluminum or aluminum alloy? Aluminum tensile, bending and compression strength is comparable with steel with the right choice of material, so a flimsy case simply amounts to bad design and choice of aluminum alloy."

    I can tell you without looking at the case that it will be an aluminium alloy. Basically all "aluminium" consumer goods are made out of some aluminium alloy and not "pure aluminium" so your question does not make sense, even though the second bit about the choice of aluminium alloy is correct.

    Pure aluminium is soft and very malleable.

    "The yield strength of pure aluminium is 7–11 MPa, while aluminium alloys have yield strengths ranging from 200 MPa to 600 MPa"
    Reply
  • Magichands8 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Lately every time I look at most of Lian Li's offerings I'm seeing lots of weird design decisions. I just don't understand the standard layout of most cases in which you have a thick drive tower positioned right behind the front intake fans. The components that need air flow the least get the best cooling. At the same time air flowing over the drives at the front is heated before it reaches the components that need to be cooled the most. I guess it's a throwback to a time when standard hard drives produced far more heat and storage capacity was much, much lower requiring many drives to satisfy the needs of power users. But those times are long gone. Lian Li really seemed to hit the mark with their PC-X2000 series. I am very impressed the by their straight-through air flow but the rest of their line-up seems to be deviating from that paradigm for reasons that scape me. Although it's really interesting to hear from an above poster who said that the front cover restricts air-flow. It wouldn't surprise me if that also contributed raising the noise floor of the system as well.

    Take the drive cage away from the front of the case. You should be able to easily fit at least 5 drives, very compactly, either above or below the motherboard. Especially if some of them are going to be SSDs (and they should be anyway). In fact I remember reading once that cooling drives TOO efficiently can actually cause them to fail SOONER. Plus, anyone who needs to fill on the order of 10+ drive bays is someone who is looking to use, what, 20+ TERABYTES of storage space? Anyone needing that much storage space is going to be much better served by a storage scheme that's flexible and expandable i.e. an external NAS or SAN setup. No matter how you cut it it just doesn't make any sense to allocate huge amounts of case space to large numbers of drives.

    I hear a lot in comments about Fractal Design and I like their cases but they can't get it right either. Every one of their cases seems to be designed for negative pressure cooling. That's the deal breaker for me on their cases. Even Lian Li is doing this with some of their NEWER designs. Negative pressure cooling is great and all if you want your case to double as vacuum cleaner but to me that's never made any sense.

    What I take away from all of the various case reviews I see is that all these case manufacturers either have no idea what their customers are using their cases to do or are simply not paying attention what qualifies as a good case.
    Reply
  • wwwcd - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    This BIG case assembled with micro motherboard...PC case who was making for E-ATX...This is fun! Reply
  • ZoSo - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    I love Lian Li cases. Never had any issues with them and the build quality is great. Any system I built with them ran exceptionally cool with proper wire management. I've tried a lot of other all aluminum cases and once I bought my first Lian Li, it was then I realized I wasted my money on those other cases, and the extra money for Lian Li is well worth it. I also recommend them if someone wants a system built by me. I plan on getting the PC-A76X or the PC-A75X, still undecided, and fill it with HDDs using the optional backplanes. If the PC-A76X is built like the PC-X2000, which I'm currently using for my main system for the past 2 years, then it is a very good case.
    And by the way, Lian Li anodizes there cases, they don't paint.
    Reply

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