In and Around the Lian Li PC-TU200

If you've been keeping up with my case reviews since I started hammering them out a few months ago, you'll know I'm a proponent of enclosure designs that find newer, sometimes smarter ways to work. At the very least, I can respect any company that's willing to tinker with conventions and experiment with their designs: that's why I have such a soft spot for SilverStone, and it's why I'm developing one for Lian Li. But there's a major difference between the two: SilverStone experiments a bit with their designs, but Lian Li oftentimes seems like their engineers have started entirely off the grid to begin with.

Externally, the TU200 seems pretty self-explanatory. The front features a single 5.25" drive bay with a bay cover so as not to mar Lian Li's trademark all-aluminum design. Below it are the power button and reset buttons, followed by the massive front vent for the 140mm intake fan. Making sure to keep with the times, the bottom of the enclosure sports an eSATA port and a pair of USB 3.0 ports, along with the standard headphone and mic jacks. The corners of the enclosure are covered in molded aluminum bumpers while the top has a handle built into it, not so quietly suggesting that the TU200 is meant to spend its time on the road instead of buried under your desk.

Pop over to the back, and you'll notice two major clues that all is not normal in Lian Li's world: two levers at the top, locked into place with thumbscrews, that are designed to pop out the side panels. Below them is a healthy amount of ventilation, the power supply mounting plate, and the openings for the motherboard I/O cluster along with two ventilated expansion bay covers.

When you do open up the TU200, everything is where you'd expect it to be...sort of. There's a fairly healthy sized drive cage to the right able to support four 3.5" drives (or three 3.5" drives and a single 2.5" drive that mounts to the bottom); that cage is held in place by the top cage for the 5.25" drive and a small plate that secures into both the cage and the bottom of the enclosure with thumbscrews. If it wasn't clear from the outside that quarters in the TU200 were going to be cramped, it should be abundantly clear now. Thankfully the standoffs for the motherboard are built into the tray.

Speaking of the motherboard tray, you'll notice that behind it there's virtually no gap between it and the side panel; any cable organization has to be done behind the drive cage backplane. And while that backplane is very much appreciated, it has a couple of minor flaws. The first is that Lian Li inexplicably includes molex power connectors instead of SATA power. I've mentioned this before: molex needs to go the way of the dinosaur, period. The second has to do with the mount at the bottom of the cage used for the 2.5" drive: it just doesn't line up with the bottom connectors. Given that Lian Li has to use custom grommets and screws to mount a 2.5" drive to the bottom of the cage anyhow, I feel like some allowance could or should've been made for this.

Quarters in the TU200 are pretty freaking cramped. That's to be expected from an enclosure this small and designed with these parts in mind. While the front intake fan theoretically provides airflow for the entire system, it also can potentially run into trouble from the drive cage blocking the air, and it's too high to bring in cool air for the video card; for that there's ventilation in the bottom of the case, but as you can see in the photos the TU200's feet don't lift it off the ground very much. On carpet this gap will be completely closed.

Introducing the Lian Li PC-TU200 Assembling the Lian Li PC-TU200
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  • apparition47 - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - link

    I built a mini-ITX rig for the gf using this case about 1-2 months ago. It was my first non-ATX build, so it was an interesting project. I managed to wedge a GTX 560 Ti in there with a i5 2400. I'm still dumbfounded how you can get so much power into a case like that, having built all my gaming rigs on ATX up til now.

    Hopefully when it's time for my next PC, another mini-ITX case will be suitable.
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Friday, September 7, 2012 - link

    Check the PC-Q18 case. same size, no optical drive bay, no external bay at all, actually.

    I was looking at it, but I need a BD drive cause I do watch movies sometimes.
    Reply
  • ac2 - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    Dustin (and Jared), first just want to thank you for all the stuff you put out here. I really don't give a **** about all the smartphone/ tablet reviews so particularly look forward to your work on systems/ mobos/ cases/ PSU. If you could do a roundup of the most popular LCD monitor size that would be great.

    Re UEFI, there is a lot of discussion re the secure boot option being mandated by MS for Windows 8 and how this may be interpreted by OEMs to lock out other OSs from Win 8 pre-installs. This may be a storm in a teacup, but could you please keep a eye out for this on future mobo/ system/ laptop reviews, particularly calling out such systems that do not allow the user to install other OSs as a result of this.
    Reply
  • anikolayev - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    Seconding Iketh

    WHY, WHY do I need an optical drive on the road? WHY?

    When are these manufacturers going to figure it out that there's a market for mATX cases that have room ONLY for an SSD.

    Even on my main rackmount PC I tossed out the optical drives just last week.

    WHO NEEDS A DVD BURNER WHEN YOU CAN HAVE A SECOND OR FULL SIZE GPU? Seriously people, seriously.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    While digital distribution is more and more becoming a way to go, every so often there are still games that will need disc authentication to load. It's stupid and I have VERY few now, but nonetheless it's a consideration. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    That's what a USB external optical drive is for. I personally only use mid-tower desktop systems but if I was more mobile-oriented I would love a smaller box similar to this.

    It is crazy that no one seems to understand what enthusiasts want in a particular case. We seriously need to start an Anandtech hardware company. "Hardware by enthusiasts for enthusiasts" or something like that.

    Ditch the drive cage, ditch the optical drive, increase the space behind the mobo by 1" to allow for the 2.5" SSD/HDD and cable routing. You'd have a clean wiring on the component side, and enough space on the backside for wiring and drives.

    This is so obvious I'm surprised Apple hasn't tried to patent it yet (yup I went there).

    Who's going to be the obvious genius to build this simple design?
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    A consideration that should be met with external DVD drives only

    http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82...
    Reply
  • BansheeX - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    Why does these dinosaur drive sizes persist? Slimline and 2.5 need to become standard already, good god. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    5.25"...the slimline form factor makes it a bit harder to fit certain types of drives into, which drives up cost.

    3.5"...we may be up to 1TB in 2.5" mechanical hard drives right now, but we're up to 4TB in 3.5" mechanical hard drives, so that pretty much speaks for itself.
    Reply
  • saurey - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    I'd remove the cage altogether, then get a 1x5.25 to 4x2.5" drive bay - only takes 1 power connector to run 4 drives and have that be my storage solution.

    I'd also put some rubber feet stick ons underneath the existing case feet to raise it a about a cm higher for better intake for GPU.

    Also would play with the idea of mounting the PSU upside down to help pull air out of the case.

    I wonder how high the maximum cooler on the CPU is? I really like the corsair hydro coolers but there doesn't seem to be a way to fit that... Maybe where that dumb drive bay is?

    Agreed no need for 3.5" drives, especially in this case and 5.25 bay is just a bonus so I can use my 4x2.5" rack in it.
    Reply

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