Assembling the Lian Li PC-TU200

On the ease of assembly continuum for cases, at one far end you have Corsair (really the brand in general): couldn't be any easier to put together short of including a technician to just do it for you. On the opposite end you'll have some of SilverStone's more exotic cases (such as the Raven RV03), but I have to say the benchmark has really been set: thus far, out of every case I've assembled, the Lian Li PC-TU200 has been among the hardest if not the hardest case to put together.

I don't expect a case this small to be a tool-less design, far from it. But while many of SilverStone's exotic designs feel like puzzles with elegant solutions reflected in the documentation they ship with, the TU200 oftentimes feels like a bit of a head scratcher, not at all dissimilar to the V353 we reviewed recently. Advance warning: newbies need not apply here, and if you're going to build in the TU200 it may behoove you to have it in mind before you even order the first component.

This is the first time I've ever consulted the instruction manual to figure out how to get the side panels off: remove the two thumbscrews in the back (at the top), and then press the levers and the panels pop out. It's kind of cool but not something you'd immediately expect. To Lian Li's credit, all of the mechanisms involved feel very secure and built to last.

Their instruction manual will tell you to insert the I/O shield for the motherboard and then just pop the board in, but I found that there simply isn't enough clearance to get the motherboard in (at least not remotely easily) without completely removing the drive cage, a task that theoretically shouldn't be required if the included instructions are to be believed. That said, I'm always happy when the standoffs for the motherboard are already built into the tray, so once you can shimmy the board in and squeeze it up against the I/O shield, it's just a matter of getting the four screws in place.

After that, though, you get to what I'm convinced is the TU200's fatal flaw: the drive cage. I honestly feel like the way drives are mounted in the TU200 is just plain over-engineered. Here's how drives are supposed to mount, at least in theory: for 3.5" drives, you'll loosen the thumbscrew on the left side of the cage, in the extruded lip of the cage, then slide it up, opening the "rails" for inserting the drive. Then put four screws with large, wheel-shaped heads into the side mounts of the drive, slide the drive into the "rails" and into the SATA and power ports in the backplane, then basically close off the rails with the thumbscrew. I wish there were a clearer way to explain it than that.

2.5" drives are simultaneously better and worse: mount four screws into the bottom of the drive with rubber grommets around them (broad grommet side against the drive itself), then insert it into the open holes at the bottom of the cage (or case) and push it back into place. In the cage, this will block off the bottom bay, while in the case itself it runs the risk of butting up against the video card. Either way, you're going to have to route cables around the top of the cage instead of from the back.

Finally, to mount a 5.25" drive, you need to unscrew two screws on each side of the enclosure's interior that hold the bay cover in place, slide the drive in from the front, screw the bay cover back on, and then screw in the drive. Phew.

This is all over-engineered, but the real problems have to do with the drive cage itself. While I was able to get things mounted without too much trouble, the cage actually blocks a tremendous amount of air from the front fan. Worse still, the extrusion on the left side of the cage, where the thumbscrew that locks the drives into place is, drastically limits the size of power supply you can fit into the case. Lian Li's spec page originally listed the case as being able to support a power supply 180mm in length, the length of our usual test PSU. That PSU just plain didn't fit; cables mushing up against the lip of the cage (along with the power supply itself) saw to that. I had to use a 160mm power supply from Corsair, the AX850, and even then the modular cable plugs drastically interfere with clearance. I also had to flip the power supply since most PSUs have the plugs closer to the side with the intake fan: that meant the intake was left with a small gap between it...and the side panel. No es bueno. There's a reason their spec page now lists the power supply clearance at 140mm, and you'll want to adhere to that requirement.

Finally, because of the monster cage, routing cables turns into a massive chore, and jimmying a video card into the enclosure (particularly our GeForce GTX 580) winds up being an exercise in brute force. This is, I think, the first enclosure I've seen where a modular power supply might actually be a bad idea. Not only that, but I feel like cramming an ATX power supply into a case design like this is just...unwise. I know Lian Li was going for an enclosure that can handle a top-of-the-line graphics card, but there are smaller power supply form factors that may have been more ideal for something like this. Deepening the enclosure an inch or two, moving to a smaller power supply form factor, and mounting it up behind the optical drive might have improved things. That, and a case with an airflow design like this one would benefit tremendously from even a tiny tower-style cooler on the CPU.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-TU200 Testing Methodology
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  • TheGoodGeek - Friday, November 4, 2011 - link

    For reference, the clearances in this case are:

    VGA Card length: 300mm
    PSU length: 140mm
    CPU cooler height: 80mm
    Reply
  • TheGoodGeek - Friday, November 4, 2011 - link

    I've posted complete details of my build in this case along with photos and hardware choices (both wrong and right), on my blog (TheGoodGeek dot Net). A bit too long to post here, but the highlights are: don't go with a stock ATX PSU, get one of the shorter SFF ATX PSUs, and don't throw more wattage at it than you really need. 850W is overkill and will add to heat issues. Definitely find a better quality low profile CPU cooler, not the Intel stock cooler. I prefer the Asus P8H67-I to the Zotac Z68. Maybe Anand has had better luck with their Zotacs than the rest of us, but I just wouldn't trust it. Be willing to adjust your initial build until you get the cooling performance you need. Since my post ~5.5 hours ago, temps have only risen to: 30C CPU, 32C motherboard. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Sunday, November 6, 2011 - link

    I'd like to see a slim laptop drive bay instead of a 5.25". No cover is necessary, as that just ads weight and extra wear on my drive gears.

    I'd also like to see an included or available SOLID 375-550w standard PICO or ATX PSUs with SHORT wiring. Cohort with a brand name we recognize (some companies, ie Silverstone manufacture both cases and PSUs that are of quality, so pay attention if you do).

    Another note goes to durability. The black looks nice, but the painted corners will likely soon show wear as the paint comes off. If you use paint, make sure its very durable powder coating. Non-gloss (flat) is just fine. Plain stainless steel edges would do well also. The use of a heavy and thick (so you can barely see through) stainless steel mesh for air intakes or the case sides altogether (like the kind used for customized grills on automobiles) would be superb. I think you could slap together a pretty mean case. I would be willing to fork over more money for something that I know will last me 10 years and a hundred(s) of LAN parties.

    Wiring is a big pain when it comes to small cases. as well as getting access to components like hard drives, disc drives, ram, CPU heatsinks. Make it so the PSU and drive bay swings out of the way if you can so that the motherboard is openly accessed. I want everything to fold out on a swivel somehow so I can reach in and replace the motherboard easily.
    Reply
  • getback2us - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I like the Chenbro ES34069 specs the most.
    For the given size and 4 x 3.5 slots with a slot for DVD player sounds perfect to me.
    A 5.25 bay is essential in many cases when you are trying to dump contents from DVD to NAS. Doing it USB 3 or gigabit port might be another option, but what couldn't be more efficient than a local DVD drive.

    The Lien Li PC-Q08 and PC-TU200 are 2 best NAS cases I found next to Chenbro ES34069.

    There is 2 another good ones. One by Fractal design and Silverstone SST-TJ08 are 2 close matches for LOTSs 3.5 and at least one 5.25 drives while still being Mini-Itx and compact.

    I am always on lookout for compact BIIGG capacity cases.

    if anyone knows more, please let me know
    Reply
  • cyberkost - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    Pros:
    space for 4 3.5" HDD -- I grew to like RAID10 with 4 HDD
    5.25" bay -- full spectrum of ODDs can be used + a host of other 5.25" devices
    ATX PSU -- again, easy to find / less expensive parts
    Screw-less side panels -- open the case up easily for airflow or temporary hook-ups
    Mobo tray -- mobo is NOT on a side panel!!
    Compact size / mobility

    Cons:
    Aluminum feet -- going to scratch / mark the surface the case is standing on
    Price -- a bit too high (should be same / similar to PC-Q08 ~ USD120-130)
    Silver front fan bracket in a black case -- visible through, not very aesthetic (can be painted, but I'd much prefer anodized from the factory)
    Placement / orientation of front panel buttons / connectors -- I think Lian Li should have arranged them in a vertical cluster like on PC-Q08 .. or at least have USB3.0 and eSATA ports oriented horizontally

    Neutrals:
    Handle .. but it kinda goes with that "luggage" corner design
    Reply
  • cyberkost - Monday, December 26, 2011 - link

    More of a question: did anyone try to put another intake fan on the bottom using rubber screws? I think it might work / be helpful in the no GPU scenario ... Reply
  • TheGoodGeek - Monday, December 26, 2011 - link

    No. There's not enough room with a GPU installed, and I think there are better SFF choices if you're going the no GPU route. Reply
  • n13L5 - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    The TU200 case reviewed here is a 25.3 liter case, with:

    300mm graphics card clearance, which is good, but only 140mm PSU clearance and a pretty poor 80mm CPU cooler clearance.

    .
    The smaller PC-Q08 at only 21.3 liters does better:

    300mm graphics card clearance, 160mm PSU clearance, and a not perfect, but much better 110mm CPU cooler clearance.

    .
    What this means is, that you'll be hard pressed to install anything better than Scythe's Big Shuriken cooler in the TU200.

    The PC-Q08 can hold a far better Noctua NH-L12 (with 2x 120mm NF-P12 fans) or even a Noctua NH-C14 cooler (with 1x 140mm NF-P14 fan).

    Looking at some comparison tests made a strong point for using the NH-C14 cooler: With 2 fans installed, it beats a lot of massive top-end tower coolers and with only 1 fan installed, its still beats some, and it certainly beats anything that fits into small cases.

    The Big Shuriken is great for its size at only 58mm high, but it lacks fin surface area to compete when you have 110mm to play with. Result, you get much better cooling in the PC-Q08 than in the TU200. I could not find anything better than the Big Shuriken that still stayed under 80mm height. (if you know something, I'm interested, please let me know)

    Economically, the Noctua NH-C14 cooler is also interesting, even though its not cheap: the second fan it comes with won't fit on the cooler in this case, but it can be used as a case fan in the PC-Q08 in two places, and its an expensive, very high quality, silent fan.

    The cooler costs 65 Euro with those 2 fans, which separately cost 21 Euro each. So, with the extra, I have to buy just one more 140mm fan to complete the cooling, setting me back 86 Euro total.

    If I buy the Big Shuriken instead, it costs me only 42 Euro with its one slimline fan, but I still have to buy 2 140mm case fans, so I would end up with an almost identical 84 Euro total.

    Granted, if you don't mind buying cheaper/lower quality fans, this calculation falls apart :)

    .
    .
    Note: the PC-Q08 spec lists one 140mm fan and one 120mm fan, but like many other 140mm fans, Noctua's 140mm fans have 120mm mounting holes and there's enough room around the 120mm cutout in the case to mount them in both locations. Actually, the 140mm cutout in the case could hold a 180mm fan, if you can find a good one, which I found surprisingly difficult...
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Friday, September 7, 2012 - link

    I largely agree with the reviewer's criticisms but not with some of the proposed solutions.

    Right up front: the much cheaper (and same size) PC-Q08 is much better thermally, due to a smaller simple drive cage with more perforations, and an additional 120mm exhaust fan at the top, and the greater clearance for CPU coolers of 110mm instead of 80mm on the PC-TU200.

    The TU200 drive cage is a major selling point for me, cause once the case is built (only thing that really annoyed me is cable management) drives slide in and out, and they do hot swap.

    I've built this with 2012 components: Asus P8Z77-i Deluxe, Intel I7-3770K, Gigabyte GTX 670 OC Windforce, one SSD and one HDD and CL8 Crucial RAM.

    Issues:

    1) Drive cage should be much more perforated and moved 1/2 inch toward the front fan.

    2) Annoying that modular 160mm deep PSUs are unsuitable for this case and 140mm PSUs are generally not available with modular wiring. Antec does make a great 140mm deep PSU series for this case though, the EarthWatt Platinum 450/550/650 Watt at 93% efficiency.

    3) Using the Asus mainboard with its vertical power management daughter board makes it impossible to fit a Scythe Big Shuriken, which would otherwise be a good fit for this case. I'm using the awful Intel stock cooler till I find something with a 120mm fan that fits.

    4) Related to this, due to no 120mm exaust fan anywhere, a little liquid cooler with radiator is out of the question for CPU cooling too.

    5) While the entire floor of the PC-Q08 is perforated for GPU air intake, only the rear section of the TU200 is perforated. If you have a reference board cooler design, your GPU's fan is going to sit 1" from solid metal, cutting its efficiency.

    6) Making the case slightly longer, like Dustin recommended may also give enough room for a 120mm exhaust fan behind the handle, so yeah... also, the case wastes some space in height, so the increase in length could be accompanied by a decrease in height. Though I do like that the current form factor makes it look like a guitar amp.

    7) Due to the thermal limitations, my setup is much louder in this case than in the PC-Q08. During a stresstest (running Furmark simultaneously with Cinebench R11.5) pushing GPU and CPU to full load, Intel's retarded CPU cooler was howling, followed by a BOD after about 15 minutes. This was no problem in the PC-Q08, it didn't even get noisy.

    Lest you think I'm trying really hard to sell you on the PC-Q08, that also has some annoyances: The sides only come off by unscrewing 16(!) screws total, and there is no mainboard tray, the mainboard standoffs are on the right side outer panel. Given how wide that case is, I guess it was about cost cutting, seeing how this case is about half the price of the TU200. But given the TU200's issues, it does make the PC-Q08 look good, even though its drive case is nothing special.

    I missed bidding in time on an SG08 on ebay, so I have to wait for another one before I can test that, cause I'm not paying Silverstone 200 Euros for their steel case with a non modular bronze PSU.
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Friday, September 7, 2012 - link

    Forgot to mention the 2.5" drive issue:

    With all the little custom parts Lian Li made for the TU200, they could have easily provided a mounting bracket for 2.5" drives that would let them slide & plug right into the backplane.

    As it is, you have to mount rubber grommets to the bottom instead of the sides, and then try to fish SATA power connectors through the small openings in the backplane, for which I popped off a cover from the connector to get it through, and after installation, your wires are stressed over sharp edges.

    Overall, I'd call the TU200 the case of stressed wires...
    Reply

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