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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  • KingKongDonkeyBong - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    I'm a Mac junkie now, but rewind 4 years back and I used to build my own tower PCs like no tomorrow. I loved to pick out the best of the best components and put them together only to sell what I had done and start over again. To me, Lian Li has always stood for excellent looking aluminum cases, but they were bloody expensive then and are still today. I dreamed of a Lian Li case bak then, but I never got to build a PC with one of those beauties. :( It's great to see them still making top-notch stuff, though. Some of the better companies faded into oblivion, like SuperFlower. CoolerMaster used to make some good stuff back then, but no longer. :/ I'd put my money on Lian Li if I still had the passion to build tower PCs. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    ...did you actually read the review? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    I'd guess not. He looked at the picture and said, "That's a nice looking case!" Too bad it doesn't have the performance to back it up, unless maybe you just want to run a Core i3 CPU with now discrete GPU? Buying a $110 case for such a PC seems a bit much, though, and it still performs like A55. Reply
  • Brutalizer - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    There is a smaller ATX case, the Lian Li PC-V700. It is 21 x 40 x 50 cm. And it holds six 3.5" disks.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/lian-li-mid-case-...
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    Yeah. I have a PC-G50. It is smaller than this ( 14.5" tall or so ), and has 3 3.5" drive slots. With the Add-on 4in3 bay adapter, I've had 7 HDD in it at one time. Plus it added a 120mm intake fan into the mix.

    It is not the perfect case for a couple of reasons. but I am very happy with it. However, it is by far in my mind a better design compared to this.

    Move the PSU horizontal, sideways, and reverse ( with perhaps an adapter cable going out to the back ). After removing the drive bay from the bottom of course.. Then add ventilation for the PSU intake, front, or side ( both ? ). Just thinking out loud here . . . Still lots of things could be done to improve this design. Obviously.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - link

    My guess is that this person did not read / understand the article title. Never mind the article its self.

    One thing you do have to keep in mind however. Individuals have a mind of their own. Just because you or one of your cohorts gives equipment a bad review. Does not mean that someone else has to agree.

    And there is a lot to disagree with sometimes, from the articles / reviews presented here. Everyone's priorities are different.
    Reply
  • wonderpookie - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    Hehe, yea, I was just about to ask the exact same thing! Thank you for the in-depth and informative review, appreciated! Reply
  • Flunk - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    Lian Li makes some great cases, this may not be one of them but there are a lot of other models so if you like the look of this there probably is a case for you in there somewhere. I have a PC-9F that is quite similar but a bit bigger than this that's just great. Reply
  • p05esto - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    If you use Macs then what in the world are you doing on this site poser? This site is for computer enthusiasts and those into the latest and greatest, open standards and system, fastest machines around that can be upgraded and overclocked. Apple products don't fit under any of those headings. Maybe if we created an "overpriced preschool computing" Apple would fit nicely. No one wants Apple crap around here buddy. Reply
  • tim851 - Saturday, June 16, 2012 - link

    Who made you boss, kid?

    It sure was that guy Anand, who probably owns every Mac ever made.
    Reply

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