Lian Li PC-Q18: The Perfect Mini Server Case?

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AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product at various states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Two years ago, Lian Li released a mini-ITX tower that was both attractive and incredibly versatile. The PC-Q08 was solidly built and had support for an ample number of drives, a long graphics card, and a fairly tall CPU heatsink. It was a flawed product however, with the biggest issue being how prone it was to vibration, a serious problem as its most obvious function was as a file server loaded up with four to six hard drives.

The PC-Q18 addresses this issue in several different ways. Its side panels are thicker and mount easily with added security. The hard drive cage has been reinforced, made thicker and immobilized by being affixed to both the top and front of the case. Hard drive mounting has been upgraded as well, with the drives partially decoupled from the case using thick rubber grommets. Removing the metal frame for the front intake fan and putting the bayonet mount directly on the fan/filter also may have helped. The end result is a dramatic reduction in vibration that can be both felt and heard.

Changes have been enacted to make it more server friendly as well. A four drive SATA backplane has been added, a significant feature available on very few, high-end consumer cases. As drives can now be mounted individually without removing the entire drive cage, and the side panel no longer requires tools for removal, servicing hard drives is a breeze. Rather than a removable drive cage at the bottom to allow for a long graphics card option, the PC-Q18 allows up to three drives to be mounted along the length of the case floor, making them easier to access.

We have mixed feelings about some of the other adjustments. The case is narrower, reducing the CPU heatsink height clearance to about 76 mm by our measurements, though that's still enough for such quality coolers as the Noctua NH-L12 (in single fan configuration) and Scythe Big Shuriken 2. The PSU intake vent on the side panel has been removed, possibly making the case somewhat quieter but robbing the power supply of a fresh air supply and forcing its fan to act against a down-blowing CPU fan. The motherboard was mounted directly on the right side panel of the PC-Q08, making it fairly secure while the PC-Q18 uses a somewhat flimsy removable motherboard tray, attached with only four screws.

We thought of the PC-Q08 somewhat as a jack of all trades mini-ITX case. The PC-Q18 is more specialized, with major refinements focused on achieving its potential as a file server first and foremost. Most of the changes have been made to make hard drive access quick and painless and they've succeeded masterfully. As the case is also substantially more expensive than the PC-Q08, getting your money's worth is more dependent on making full use of its storage capabilities. It can fulfill other functions as well, but it's a waste for housing a pure HTPC or compact gaming case with limited hard drive capacity. A home server or DIY NAS role is the forte of the PC-Q08

Our thanks to Lian Li for the PC-Q18 case sample.

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Lian Li PC-Q18 is Recommended by SPCR

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Lian Li PC-V354 MicroATX Mini Tower Case
Lian Li PC-Q08 Mini-ITX Mini Tower Case

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