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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  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    This is absolutely not true. Outside of being two large, black boxes, I've seen nothing that makes these two cases remotely similar in actual design.
  • Observist - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    IMO, the 650D is the most Lian-Li-looking case on the market not made by Lian-Li. This particular Lian-Li (PC-90) is not very similar to the 650D, but the PC-9F and the 650D have nearly identical internal layouts. The Corsair has 1x200mm front fan instead of 2x120mm, includes a fan controller, and a few other nice features, but also costs 50% more than a PC-9F... and weighs 100% more.

    I think the PC-90 here is very overpriced, even compared to other LL cases.
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the review; I've been eyeballing this case for awhile but the price tag has kept it out impulse buy territory. It cools just as well as I thought it would, though, so it looks like I've found the case for my next build.

    I do have to say I'm a little perplexed as to why the drive shield and extras are a 'negative', though. I can definitely understand complaining about them when they could be better, but wanting Lian Li to skip them altogether seems a little strange. This is especially true of the optical drive cover; I’ve used them before, and they’ve always worked great and made the case look more polished and professional – worst case they don’t work and you use the case without them.
  • Observist - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Check out the Lian-Li PC-9F. It's similar to this one (PC-90), slightly smaller, with the following differences:

    - Only $120
    - Bottom-mount PSU
    - Traditional HDD cage (6x)
    - Space behind MB tray for cable mgmt (limited, but enough)
    - 120mm front fans
    - USB/audio ports on top

    (And that's my last cheesy sales clerk post on this thread)
  • CloudFire - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    It's more of a concern about airflow getting into your system parts, pretty obvious to think about when you're building a computer. Obviously that is not a concern for you. Myself, and others, even with a windowless case, we like to see a perfect wiring job on a rig done right, but I guess some of us have greater expectations from our custom rigs than others and don't enjoy seeing a rat's nest of a wiring job .
  • rastagor - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I have this case.

    I like the clean lines of it.

    I like that it's relatively small for an ATX-XL case.

    It's hard to work on inside (but see above)

    Wiring inside is a mess, despite my best efforts to route stuff nicely.

    The video cards get very very hot- ventilation and airflow over the PCI slots is not adequate.

    Hope this helps,

  • john1970 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I've had 2 lianli cases in past both were good at the time but with longer vga cards and multiple setups they would not work for modern configurations.This case look very plain and the inside looks just plain lazy.I put together a Level 10 GT case just a few days ago I couldnt be more please with cable routing and cooling .IMO this case might look ok on the outside but fails really hard on the inside.Like others have pointed out ,even if you take your time with the build it will look sloppy.I give this case a 3 out of 10.
  • dacipher - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    We'll take your 3 out of 10 extremely serious, since you obviously own the case. What's with all the hate with Lian-Li? They make top of the line cases with solid construction. I have a PC-B25FWB from '09 and it continues to satisfy me 'till this day. Yea the price is a little steep but once you have a Lian-Li in front of you, that'll be the last thing you'll think about. Don't be an enthusiast if you don't have the money! Just keeping it real and West Coast.
  • Leyawiin - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    I don't think I would like this case, but I love my A05N. Small, clean design, accepts full sized ATX, light weight, easy enough to assemble and with the optional 140mm fan lid, quite cool.

    This one has some good ideas but that lack of cable management is kind of sad. Its worse than my ten year old Antec midtower that had no cable management features at all.
  • doppelavatar - Thursday, February 23, 2012 - link

    I happen to own this case too and I've been building dozens of rigs since *486 so I know what I'm talking about. First of all I would like to adress the cable management complaints from people who obviously don't; may I remind all the Lian Li haters trolling this forum that this is a COMPACT HPTX chassis so that if it were to use the usual cable management it wouldn't be compact anymore. On the other hand if you use a regular ATX form factor, cable management is quite a breeze with a bit of patience and a few velcros... now, if you happen to be a nicompoop who can't deal with cables without grommets and a few hundred square feet behind the motherboard you are bound to hate this case because YOU are lazy, not Lian Li since they seem to take for granted that the people buying this case are competent grownups who are neither tool-less nor witless. For those who rightly observe the heat produced in the PCI area by an SLI/Crossfire configuration THAT is the reason why this case has a 14 cm fan mount on the top. I used Lian Li's own CF-1412R on rubber strips and a filter and my two 6950@ 6970 furnace gets most of it's RISING heat efficiently and rather quietly expelled, and my thermal performance is even better than the one tested in this review and THAT is what this is mostly about, isn't it ?

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