Assembling the Lian Li PC-A76X

If you've kept up at all with my reviews of previous Lian Li cases, there should be very little in the PC-A76X that will surprise you. Most of the design choices I've come to expect from Lian Li, for better or for worse, are present in the PC-A76X. Thankfully the sheer size of the enclosure goes a long way towards making it easy to assemble, provided you have the strength necessary to manipulate it.

Starting with the motherboard tray, Lian Li has the standoffs for the motherboard built into the tray along with holes for additional standoffs depending on the form factor of the motherboard you're using. Unfortunately, either as a result of paint or just inadequate machining, some of the holes actually proved to be too tight to fit additional standoffs into. I appreciate the convenience of the ones built in already, but the expansion holes really should've been handled with more care.

Thankfully once the board was in, the rest of the build was pretty much a breeze. You'll actually spend most of your time sifting through the mountain of grommets and screws included, though Lian Li does you a solid by also including a small plastic screw bin. 3.5" drives are handled by installing grommets and thumbscrews into the sides like wheels, and then the drive cage is opened with two thumbscrews. You raise the side, which opens the rails for the drives to slide into, then lower it again and tighten the thumbscrews to lock all the drives in place. For some reason I found this approach less troublesome than usual, though I still vastly prefer the rail systems used by Antec.

2.5" drives are handled similarly; grommets and screws go into the bottom of the drive, then the drive itself essentially slides and locks into place in the drive cage's dividers. It's a surprisingly secure mounting system, but the back of the 2.5" drive winds up being further inside the cage than I'd like. Finally, 5.25" drives enjoy a toolless locking system that's mostly adequate.

Expansion slots include ventilated covers and are held into place with thumbscrews, par for the course, but the power supply gets a removable frame. I'm not sure how necessary this frame was; there's a boatload of space around the power supply inside the case, even if you absolutely filled it to the brim with hardware. It's a nice touch, but a wasted convenience when there were other things in the case design that needed attention.

Finally, cabling the PC-A76X can be troublesome. You'll need long cables; that's not Lian Li's fault so much as it comes with the territory when you're supporting extended specs like E-ATX and HPTX. Yet the routing holes I mentioned on the previous page are both inadequate for any kind of major build, they're barely adequate for even a spare build like our testbed. They needed to be bigger, and the rubber linings themselves pop out way too easily. That said, there's at least a healthy amount of space behind the motherboard tray for routing cables.

I can't help but feel like while the underlying thermal design of the PC-A76X is sound, there are too many minor grievances with the execution. There are conveniences and features that really should've been included with a case at this price, aluminum be damned. I feel like half the time Lian Li's engineers don't actually build computers in their cases to understand why certain features have become standard in cases from other vendors; ease of use is a step up, but it's still way behind the curve.

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

    Thanks for sharing my thoughts, not just on this case but Lian Li in general. I want and have always wanted an all-aluminum case for years, but each time I look through Lian Li's stock, I'm left with that feeling of running your nails across a chalk board and I end up with a cheaper case. And that's coming from someone who bought the original Cosmos years ago...

    And, please, case engineers, stop including side vents... they're not needed anymore when you have slotted PCI covers... just give us robust intake solutions and that's it. I have never found a side intake fan that didn't rattle the door or make the case humm and I can only imagine how the case in this review would sound with the thin panels...
    Reply
  • michaelheath - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    I've had a number of aluminum cases over the years, and, to be perfectly honest, the only ones that didn't feel chintzy were the cases that had other materials padding the panels and the frame. There really aren't many realistic benefits to using aluminum aside from weight - which doesn't mean much if you don't move your PC all that often. Aluminum certainly doesn't do much for heat dissipation or noise dampening, and Lian Li isn't alone in winding up with cases with middling performance that rattle and hum (though this particular case seems to avoid that).

    According to the rather thorough testing from Bit-Tech several months ago in their article, "The Big Air Cooling Investigation," where a Fractal Design Define R3 was tested with practically every reasonable (and a few unreasonable) configurations, it seems one of the most critical fan locations was in the side panel. Then again, as I mentioned before, the side panel is made of layered steel and plastic, not aluminum.

    Perforated PCI covers don't really help much when they aren't in the direct path of convection, especially if they aren't in the direct path of moving air. Typically, they sit below most of the sources of heat in a computer case and don't provide any tangible benefit except for allowing another location for sound to escape.
    Reply
  • cashkennedy - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    You obviously have never had a cooler master wave master , or a cooler master atcs, both are made of aluminum so thick, you cant even bend / dent it if you tried with all your strength. I believe the first year or two lian li was around they made cases out of similarly thick aluminum, and those were the years that aluminum cases got a good reputation, later they all started being made out of sheets thinner then a coke can, and add to that the fact that aluminum helping cool the components was all hype by retards who somehow didnt come to grasp the fact that none of your components are in direct contact with the aluminum (except for possibly the hard drives), so cant be cooled by the case... Reply
  • Iketh - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    actually there is obvious truth to aluminum keeping the AIR inside the case cooler... steel will act more as an insulator keeping the heat inside while aluminum will transfer that heat through the panels better, but it's negligible to the point of gimmicky Reply
  • rarson - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    You've got that backwards. Aluminum is a poor conductor of heat, hence the outside of an aluminum case will likely stay cooler than a steel case. Steel is a good conductor of heat; a steel case gets hotter because it's transferring heat from inside the case to outside through the metal itself. Reply
  • sor - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    My BS meter just went off. Nearly all metals are good conductors of heat, but aluminum, copper, and silver are among the best. Aluminum simply has less mass and doesn't RETAIN heat well, but it conducts heat just fine. Reply
  • Iketh - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    sorry, but you're the one that's backwards, and generally lacking knowledge on the subject as illustrated with this statement:

    "Steel is a good conductor of heat; a steel case gets hotter because it's transferring heat from inside the case to outside through the metal itself."
    Reply
  • BiggieShady - Tuesday, October 02, 2012 - link

    If steel is a good conductor of heat, aluminum is better. For purely hot air contact it's negligible, however for direct contact it matters - that's why you have aluminum or copper heatsinks instead of steel. Reply
  • johnsmith9875 - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    Steel is a terrible conductor of heat. They're used in cases mainly because its inexpensive and easy to fabricate compared to aluminum. Reply
  • xc68000 - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    Seriously. I can't get rid of my Wavemaster because literally every new aluminum case I look is crap in comparison. It was designed more for the P4 era and as such doesn't have any 120mm fans (except for the one I cut in the side panel). There is a market, but seems like no one is making cases for it. I've never seen a silverstone, but they look like a premium case I wonder about the panel thickness though.

    And seriously...you can see the LianLi badge is on crooked in one of those photos. They have definitely strayed from where they started from.
    Reply

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