In and Around the Lian Li PC-90

While Lian Li does have the odd stylized enclosure design, their brushed aluminum cases tend to really epitomize simplicity of style. End users looking for something with a little more flash are sure to be disappointed, and nowhere is that more apparent than with the PC-90.

Externally, the PC-90 is almost entirely black brushed aluminum, with the rear and bottom of the case still sporting the typical silver sheen. The front features two external 5.25" drive bays, one of which has an included bezel cover. Connectivity is handled by two USB 3.0 ports that use an internal motherboard header, the standard HD audio connectors, and an eSATA port. The eSATA port is a nice touch, but I feel like USB 3.0 largely supplants it and Lian Li can probably dispense with it in a future revision. The power button is a sliver of rubber with a blue LED behind it, while the reset button has the red IDE activity LED behind it.

On the top of the case, Lian Li has a plate that can be removed to install a 140mm fan inside the enclosure, but this seems like another useful feature that may not be as useful in practice; you'll see from the test results later on that cooling is not one of the PC-90's weaknesses. This fan mount also winds up being planted squarely between where the power supply and optical drive are expected to go, potentially causing clearance problems later on. As a result it's probably better left occupied by the plate, which means you just get a cut-out shape marring the top of your case rather than something you're likely to use.

When we get to the back, we see Lian Li employs a mounting bracket for the PSU to allow for easy installation; this tends to be more common in designs with top-mounted power supplies. Everything else is bog standard, with a 120mm exhaust fan and ten expansion slots with ventilated covers.

Of course, once you remove the side panels (each secured with two thumbscrews and the main side panel additionally able to be secured with a padlock), you'll see where Lian Li's engineers took some liberties with the classic ATX enclosure layout. There's a top rail for supporting the power supply, and then a large motherboard tray with a cutout for cooler backplates.

Yet you can also see how Lian Li was able to cram so much in the enclosure: there's no space behind the motherboard tray for routing cables, and drives are instead mounted to a pair of plates and either pressed up against the side panel of the case or stretched internally on the undersides of the plates; you'll see on the next page how it all comes together. There's also a third pair of plates in the center that's theoretically intended for routing cables, but in practice winds up being largely superfluous. Thankfully you can choose to dispense with any or all of these plates, using only what you need, as they're completely removable.

The internal fans also all use 3-pin fan headers and all come connected with 3-pin to molex adaptors, allowing you to choose how you want to power them. Likewise, Lian Li also includes a USB 2.0 adaptor for the internal USB 3.0 connector.

My experiences with the previous Lian Li enclosures I've tested left me a little bit wary and skeptical of the design, but thankfully the PC-90 proves to be a lot more logical (and easy to put together) in assembly than would first appear.

Introducing Lian Li's PC-90 Assembling the Lian Li PC-90
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  • jjj - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    too bad you aren't actually testing it with at least 2 GPUs
  • jjj - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    lol got to add some more because this review just bugs me.
    Sure you got your standard testing for the sake of consistency but why just stick to it when it's not appropriate for the product? With 2 sockets and/or more than one GPU you don't only have more heat but the location of the hotspots changes and that does make a difference.Ofc you also got a very different scenario for SB-E where if you push the air back from the CPU you got some RAM in the way and you don't get any air over the VRM and that's far from ideal.
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I agree here, a 10-slot case should be tested with an extended ATX mainboard and at least 2 graphics cards.

    Better yet, slam one of those EVGA dual-CPU bad boys in and load it up with all the GPU it can handle. If I were buying this case, it would be for that kind of setup. (Probably not dual CPU, but definitely 3 graphics cards. Overclocked CPU.) How well does everything fit, and does it stay cool in that king of setup?

    I don't understand why adding pieces of plastic to support heavy graphics cards means there is too much there. Now, if they throw in a bunch of odd-looking things and don't explain what they are for, I'd sure gripe about a poor manual, but not that they supplied extra parts I didn't happen to need.

    Nice article really, just would like to have seen a more stressful test.

  • 1ceTr0n - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Lian Li makes ANOTHER boring, ugly ass case and claims it to be "UNIQUE" and "DIFFERENT".

    Lian Li hasn't made a single case that looked halfway decent IMO since the PC-68 back late 2001. The one and only Lian Li i've ever owned.
  • alufan - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    rubbish i got a A70 a while back and its perfect tbh choice of top or bottom psu mount, up to 10 HDs all with fan cooling built inspace and support for the largest GPU cards available and it looks so simple and fuss free and minimalist, it also has factory made top panel with rad and fan mounts built in, look back in the DNA of silverstone et al and Lian Lis ideas will all be looking back at you
  • CloudFire - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Agreed, Lian Li makes horrible cases. There are a few exceptions but like this one, the majority of them are horrid. Money can be spent way better elsewhere. Seriously, look at the wiring done in the assembled case. No thank you. The only thing I give Lian Li is their finesse when it comes to minimalist design and elegance; case design/layout is terrible.
  • aznofazns - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    And what do you consider to be an aesthetically pleasing case? Antec 900? BARF932?

    Take a look at the PC-P80, PC-V2120X, and basically all of the mini-ITX/micro-ATX cases they've put out in the past 5 years. If you think those are "boring, ugly ass" cases then you must be 12 years old.
  • MilwaukeeMike - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    BARF932... I laughed. Gonna use that if you don't mind.

    Yes, it's aesthetically pleasing... so are the other cases you linked. But why are the prices so high? So I can feel good making pretentious statements about being 'minimalist'? A high price for this case, and the ones you linked ($309, $469 on newegg), without knowing where my money is gonig leads me to think it's a marketing stunt and i'm paying for the priviledge of owning a Lian Li case.

    Thanks, but i'll pass.
  • tecknurd - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I have a Lian Li case and it is probably model PC-68, but I do not remember. Besides that, Lian Li case does make plain cases, but Lian Li puts the work on the DIY for making their case their own unique case. Depending on the model, can add extras to Lian Li cases.

    I will own another Lian Li case because they are easy to build a computer compared to other brands. Lian Li has tight tolerances, so drive bays and expansions are with in spec. Do not have to use a rubber headed hammer to pound the drives in place or a screw driver to leverage the expansion slots in place while screwing them down. The motherboard tray from Lian Li moves out smoothly compared to their competitors.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Respectfully disagree with your point that Lian Li cases are easy to build compared to other brands. The Lian Li cases I've tested have consistently been the most time-consuming and frustrating ones to build in. The PC-90 was the least offensive that way.

    If you want something well made and easy to build in, Corsair remains for me the gold standard for ease of assembly.

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