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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  • lucky9 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    The noise and heat figures are compelling. Agreed the price is at least $50 high.
    Personally I have no use for this design but it seems to be a great one for those that need a large motherboard it a smaller space.

    But I wouldn't trade my K-62 for anything I've ever seen in the same size/price range.
  • Veroxious - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    It certainly is a matter of personal taste but as previous posters have pointed out at the price tag money can be better spent elsewhere like on a more powerful GPU / additional GPU.

    I for one would not be able to live with the drives hanging on the side and having cables all over the place. Also the PSU arrangement is less than ideal and a step backwards IMO.

    The main reason I would not buy most Lian Li cases is the absence of a side window. I for one like the ability to the see the hard work I put in putting together my rig and the non-standard accessories in it. While not to everyone's liking I simply love my HAF.
  • kevith - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Great review. I would say, that I don´t find the looks of this cabinet neither pretty nor the opposite. And I don´t think looks are a big deal, if it is not one of the above.

    But performance wise I find it even very interesting. I think the results points towards very good thermal capabilities with more than one video card and/or a SNB-E processor.

    Do you think the thermal performance has a lot to do with the case being made from aluminum? Does the case itself heat up during load?

    Because if it doesn´t, I´d think this could be a very good platform for a cool and quiet case, if one were to add more fans and sound dampening applications to the panels and internal surfaces.
  • cyabud - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I have a PC-9 made of the same materials and it gets slightly warm on the top and side of the case around the CPU. The case has some great features but - like the PC-90 - cable management's a complete joke. Can anyone recommend a stylish and well-designed case that does the job but doesn't look like a spaceship?
  • Observist - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I also have a PC-9F... with 2 GPU's and 4HDD's and a top-mounted ventilation fan, and I think the cable management is fine. There's not a lot of room behind the MB tray, but aside from that it's the same layout as a Corsair 650D and a bunch of other cases. Not sure what non-joke cable management would look like by your criteria. Cables need to go where they need to go.

    What the PC-90 lacks in cable management, it makes up by getting the HDD's out of the way of the front ventilation fans. Cables impede airflow, but not as much a big HDD cage like in the PC-9F.

    That said, most of the nicer, well-designed, non-spaceship cases are included in this comparison - Silverstone FT02, Antec P280, Corsair 650D. Fractal Design and BitFenix also make some clean-looking cases. Maybe a Corsair 600T... looks slightly obese, but that leaves a lot of room for cabling. CoolerMaster CM690 II isn't too bad either, for an older, less expensive case.
  • cyabud - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I just find it very difficult to get it looking tidy. That said I have a lot of drives in there and a MB with very awkwardly positioned SATA ports, which clearly doesn't help.

    Thanks for the non-spaceship case suggestions. Currently salivating over the Antec P280.
  • TerdFerguson - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    An overly kind review, to be sure. I understand that you want to keep those review samples coming in, but this case isn't worth $50.
  • rscoot - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Hammer Time.

    (can't touch this post)
  • burntham77 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I am so conflicted when it comes to choosing my next case. I love the elegance of a case like the PC-90, and yet I also crave a case with a side-window so I can see all of my hardware (and the neat cabling job). I yearn for understated, but I also year for gaudiness.
  • Observist - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Corsair 650D is your answer! It's basically a Lian-Li with a side window.

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