When it comes to aluminum chassis in the enthusiast field, one name inevitably comes up: Lian Li. The company has been around longer than most other retail brands and was a fierce competitor in the budding enthusiast market to Cooler Master eight years ago. Cooler Master shifted focus and enlarged their portfolio, but Lian Li stuck to their business of producing aluminum chassis - though recently they have extended slightly by offering some power supplies for the retail market.

I visited Lian Li's headquarters located a little outside of Taipei, Taiwan several times in the past - while a certain director of FSP Group was still working there. At that time (2002), Lian Li only had one building and the product lines were in the attic of the building. Lian Li was the first company to introduce a commercially built side panel with water inside; this was a pretty cool feature that doesn't appear to exist anymore (for obvious reasons). Lian Li struggled for a few years with diminishing sales, as consumers and the market were moving in a different direction. However, it looks like they are enjoying increased sales during the last few years, helped by their new case designs and the fact that people are spending more money on fancy computer equipment.

I recently received a nice new chassis from Lian Li and used it for several months. The PC-V1010 is a mid tower with a decent amount of space inside, capable of mounting up to five 5.25" devices. The top of the case has a cover that hides various ports: eSATA, IEEE1394 Firewire, four USB, and headset/mic jacks. The exterior design is very sleek and foregoes flashy lights or any other bling in favor of quiet elegance. There's also no door to get in your way - which could be good or bad depending on user preference. Ventilation is provided by a large perforated area at the lower front, with a 140mm fan on the interior. In addition, all of the 5.25" bay covers are perforated; this can be good for airflow but it also makes keeping the interior dust-free painful.

Lian Li has a very cool system that holds the side panel in place. All you see is a blank plate of aluminum; Lian Li secures the panel with metal latches that are not visible from the outside. To remove the panel, there's only one screw at the top-back corner. Looking inside we see two separate thermal areas, similar to quite a few other high-end cases. The only opening between those two areas is in the middle of the separating plate, where you will route cables for any drives, GPUs, and the motherboard. The edges of the opening are folded aluminum, so you don't need to worry about cutting any cables on sharp edges. The bottom area has space for the power supply and up to six hard drives. You'll need to remove the other side of the case to install any hard drives, which is again accomplished by removing a single thumbscrew.

A large crossbar provides extra support for long expansion cards or graphics cards, and you can remove it to make the installation of the motherboard and other components easier. The front sports six bays for 5.25" drives, five of which have a detachable cover and external access. Lian Li does not include any sort of tool-less clamping system for the drives, so you will need to secure all components with screws. This is one area where cases like the Cooler Master Cosmos S have an advantage, although it's only a concern if you frequently swap components. The large 140mm fan and the 5.25" cover have a fine filter that helps prevent dust from entering the chassis. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of space for the power supply, so you won't be able to fit long power supplies in the case unless you purchase an optional PSU mounting bracket (which extends the PSU out the back of the case about 2"). Another nice feature is the small fan control unit above the rear 120mm fan, which you can connect your case fans and switch between low, medium, and high speeds.

The large interior makes it easy to install all of your components. If you like, you can also remove the motherboard tray to make installation even easier. However, it is not possible to install graphics or expansion cards before the motherboard tray is inside the chassis. The case supports standard motherboard sizes as well as E-ATX boards. There's also a chipset cooling fan, which may or may not work properly depending on your component choices. This is an extra 120mm fan (included) that installs on the expansion card support bar, and it can be adjusted to provide additional cooling for your chipset.

Hard drives are easy to install as well. There are small screws with rubber dampers that attach to the hard drives. With the screws in place, you simply slide the drives into the bottom of the case. The rubber grommets isolate the drives from the rest of the chassis, helping to eliminate noise caused by vibration. If you want to install more than six drives, Lian Li sell an optional HDD cage (EX-33N) that mounts at the front of the chassis and supports three additional HDDs; it also includes a 120mm fan. Another option is the new EX-H33, which provides three HDD mounts and supports hot-swapping of drives through the front of the case (with support from an appropriate SATA controller).

Our three graphics cards fit nicely, with room to route all the necessary cables. However, as you can see in the above gallery, the final install with all of our components doesn't leave a lot of room between our short power supply and the hard drives. Users with detachable cables will have a small advantage here.

The PC-V1010 is available in black and silver, and prices start at around $250 in the U.S and €185 in Europe. Prices for aluminum towers like this are always high since it costs more to use aluminum for the entire chassis instead of cheap plastic. Extras like an additional HDD cage and the extended PSU mounting bracket will also add to the cost - $35 and $20 respectively. For the added cost, however, Lian Li provides excellent quality. The included fans and noise dampening features help make this a very quiet chassis as well. I have used around 20 Lian Li cases during the past several years, and I can that the quality of every one was exceptional. Simply put, it's hard to go wrong with a Lian Li case - the only possible complaints will come from your pocketbook.



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  • Boushh - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    I'm also a happy user of a Lian Li case. I bought my black PC-61 back in 2002 and it's still housing my gaming PC.

    Recently I upgrade my 7800GT to a 9800GTX+, so I had to remove the removable drivebay because it was directly located after the motherboard and the 9800GTX+ was just to big.

    I thought about buying a bigger (specialy deeper) Lian Li case (that's why I keep reading your Lian Li reviews), but I succesfully relocated my drives and it seems the case still has a few years left in it ;-)
  • yyrkoon - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    I built a system for a friend a couple years ago using a silver PC-61, and he loved it. Something about that case always bothered me though(look wise), So I waited for the PC-G50 to come around before I bought my own Lian Li. 15" Tall, reverse ATX layout, and with an En 34n 4in3 drive bay/120mm expansion it can house 7 HDDs + 1 optical. Only thing I dont like about my case is the 80mm blowhole on the top(would prefer it remained closed, or was a 120mm blowhole). Well, actually, since the case is so compact the PSU sits right above the CPU, sp nothing other than stock HSF is really possible without remoting the PSU to the front of the case(which i have planned).

    I actually thought about buying this case myself, but three things stood out for me to personally to not like.

    1) like the reviewer said - holes in front of the case can make it hard for controlling dust.

    2) case is TOO tall(for me).

    3) I did not like the wheels on the bottom.
  • Felofasofa - Thursday, September 18, 2008 - link

    I've got a V1000B+II, and still marvel at it. I didn't think it was too expensive and they've come down even more now with the release of new models. It's just gorgeous, and will be my main housing for years to come. Incomparable to junk from Thermaltake, Antec and Coolermaster. The only other cases I like other than Lian Li's are Silverstones which I recommend for builds I do for other people that don't want a Lian Li. Reply
  • BPB - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    I have the PC-V2010B and love it. I can't speak highly enough about my case or Lian Li. I only wish I could afford the EX-33H hard drive kit to add to my case. Reply
  • tricomp - Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - link

    I also love Lian Li. I bought hundreds of models 1200 and 2000 cases for my clients. Now I am afraid I am going to leave Lian Li..very sad. The reasons in a bottom line is quality.
    Much thinner aluminum that easily bends and get hurt. this 1010 model in particular is hamming with full loaded machine like a very big and muscular bee. The HDD holders are not as safe. the building impression is bad.
    Its too bad Lian Li has stopped making the quality of the BEST ever cases for workstations - The 1200 II P and 2000 II P

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