Lian Li PC-A76X Case Review: The Limits of Aluminumby Dustin Sklavos on September 30, 2012 12:01 AM EST
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- Lian Li
Introducing the Lian Li PC-A76X
As a case designer and manufacturer, Lian Li has built their entire business around aluminum. It's one of those materials that seems to have a real marketing draw, that seems to perk up consumers, and it's understandable. Aluminum conducts heat well, and an attractive brushed aluminum finish can trump the heck out of any garden variety plastic and/or steel enclosure. It's something Lian Li have essentially created a premium brand around, and today we're taking a look at one of their most premium offerings of all, the PC-A76X.
The PC-A76X isn't just a premium enclosure, it's a concerted effort by Lian Li to produce an E-ATX/HPTX case in relatively small dimensions. Our testbed is admittedly going to seem a little mundane, dwarfed by this monstrous piece of aluminum designed and destined for only the most powerful of workstations (or enthusiast builds), but that may not matter as much as it first appears. Has Lian Li produced a knockout case, or have they missed the mark?
That's a pretty sticky question. This case is designed to house frankly as much computer as you can cram into it, and I'll admit I was pretty optimistic when I first read the press materials. A trio of 140mm fans in the front attempt to produce the kind of wind tunnel effect that makes cases like SilverStone's FT02 and Temjin TJ08-E such formidable performers, and I've been looking for some time for a good replacement for my own FT02.
|Lian Li PC-A76X Specifications|
|Motherboard Form Factor||Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, E-ATX, HPTX|
|Drive Bays||External||2x 5.25”|
|Internal||9x 3.5", 3x 2.5"/3.5"|
|Cooling||Front||3x 140mm intake fan|
|Rear||1x 120mm exhaust fan|
|Top||2x 120mm fan mounts|
|Side||2x 140mm fan mount|
|I/O Port||2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic|
|Power Supply Size||Standard ATX|
|GPU||14.1" / 360mm|
11.22" x 27.95" x 26.89"
285mm x 710mm x 683mm
|Weight||20.9 lbs. / 9.5 kg|
USB 3.0 connectivity via internal headers
Toolless motherboard installation
Support for 240mm radiator in top of enclosure
All aluminum build and finish
The fact that the case is actually 21 lbs. of aluminum should give you some indication of just how big this beast really is, yet interestingly Lian Li opted to keep the design fairly narrow. I don't get the sense that they could've shrunk down the PC-A76X too much more without making some sacrifices. They probably could've made it a bit shorter by moving the PSU to the front of the case and ditching three of the drive bays and an intake fan, but that's about it.
At $210, the PC-A76X is squarely in enthusiast class territory; once you go over about $160, cases are generally supposed to offer both excellent acoustics and thermal performance. That's part of the reason why the lack of any kind of noise dampening material is worrisome, though the cooling design looks like it may just be efficient enough to pick up the slack.
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Iketh - Monday, October 1, 2012 - link"Side vents aren't necessarily more noisy"
Oh ok, I'm just making things up. Sorry...
"if you are getting any kind of increased vibration from a fan - you need to stop using dirt-cheap fans! Seriously!"
You consider Zalman fans cheap?
"Personally, I want a side fan. I realize my opinion is influenced from the days when graphics solutions started overpowering case cooling designs to the point where pulling off the side cover and setting up a fan to blow across the video card was a necessity, but I've found that a side fan can still significantly drop the temperature of a card."
Well of course! If a side fan is needed, the case was either designed poorly or you bought the wrong case for your needs. This is my whole point. Of course there are some designs that require side vents (ones that obstruct the entire front panel), but in my opinion, 80% of builders don't require these designs, yet it seems 80% of cases have side intakes... Antec three-hundred is a good example of a case that doesn't need a side intake unless you populate the lower half of the 3.5" bays.
"You can say proper design makes for a better solution, and certainly that has a lot of truth, but in the end moving air is going to be important enough to some builds that the side fan will be of great benefit. If you don't need or want that, buy a different case."
Again, you're exactly right.... Your post is scary because you're trying to argue yet you're agreeing, like you're not understanding my point at all. (and you're calling me a liar in others...)
JPForums said it better than I ever can. Refer to his post above.
redmist77 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - linkLooks suspiciously like an Antec P18X
fausto412 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - linkLian Li had a case that sold for 400+ dollars a few years back. The P180 was a cheap version of it. Lian Li was the leader in their component seperation scheme. Why Lian Li still makes good cases you can get the same or better just not 100% aluminum for way better price.
Samus - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - linkI prefer the aluminum/steel hybrid Silverstone implemented in the FT01. The outer ring is a seamless C-member made of steel, which makes the rest of the (aluminum) chassis very rigid. This way they don't need additional aluminum support brackets and crap to keep things sturdy. The added benifit of the outer ring and edges being steel is that it wont ding and dent (like even this Lian-Li PC-A76X sample did) when it is transported to you or when you transport it anywhere. I've moved mine across the country to San Diego and back in a car, and it still looks brand new four years later.
Obviously using steel as the exterior support adds weight, in this case, it is 8lbs more than the PC-A76X, but after water cooling, 5 HDD's and a GTX570, who's counting weight?
Brendonmc - Monday, October 1, 2012 - link
Agreed. Silverstone make some of the nicest looking cases on the market. I've thrown a whole heap of goodness into their SUGO SG04F, which is a full-width mini tower. It can accommodate a full size power supply and 2 full size double slot graphics cards. The concession is a micro ATX form-factor, but there are some good mobos available.
Granseth - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - linkIt also looks very much like Fractal Designs R3 (and 4) cabinets. But I like the design very much, so I won't complain about a better selection.
StevoLincolnite - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - linkAnd yet... I think it looks ugly. Something like a brushed metal bar fridge.
NicodemusMM - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - linkI have a Lian Li Tyr PC-X2000 which is about the same width, though I believe significantly taller. It easily accommodates a Noctura NH-D14, which is a massive. I will tell you from my experience with the Tyr that taking the front door off helps airflow and temps. The cutouts in the front are insufficient to permit the volume of air that the 3 fans are capable of and this case has even smaller cutouts. I'm currently running an i7-2600K @ 4.9GHz with HT on with the D14, but only with the front off. It restricts airflow that much.
I can't comment on this case specifically, but my experience with Lian Li has been superb. The construction is top notch. My only complaints so far would be with the Tyr's choked airflow from the front and it's insufficient room for cables between the motherboard tray and the side panel.
Regarding noise; I've found their cases to be quiet, but like all cases if you have a loud GPU it can get irritating.... even with noise dampening materials. Said materials are readily available, so if you're planning a HTPC near your seating area you may wish to consider it.
Impulses - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link" A76X's cooling design looked to be a big winner, at least on paper. The more cases I review, the more I'm convinced the bottom-front intake to top-back exhaust standard is just not the best way to do things. "
I've been saying this for a while now... Forcing air thru that S or L shape just isn't very efficient (before even taking internal components into account, and their fans). I just don't understand why we haven't seen much experimentation beyond a few fringe cases like the Silverstone FT02. The whole thing makes even less sense when you look at more compact mid towers...
How many people out there are really using more than one or two external bays along with more than 1-3 drives, the vast majority of users aren't... Yet the vast majority of cases dedicate a third of the space to this huge tower of drive bays.
I wanna see a case with a single external bay that's either oriented vertically (for media readers or slot loading opticals) or moved up and OVER all the other components, with two front fans pointing directly at the CPU area and directly at the GPU area, slap a couple of sleds for HDD/SSD on the bottom (maybe two stacks that are two drives tall each, so they occupy the space in front of the PSU), and done.
Instant cross flow across every major component, direct path of air allows for better cooling with lower speed fans and eliminates the need for a lot of side/top fans. Why does no one make a case like this that focuses on cooling without wasting space to also house a sever inside it?
Impulses - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - linkThat kinda case might be a smidge taller than average, but it'll be at least a third shallower (less wasted material) and it'd cool better than most (with just 3 fans, could even skimp and ship it with two), it can't possibly be that big a risk... Someone make it happen please!