Lian Li PC-101: Aluminum *Can* be Quiet!

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By height, the PC-101 is classified as a Mid-tower case, but it's a very big mid-tower. The extra space is in the depth; the case is actually deeper than it is tall. It should fit under a full-sized desk, but it will probably be a tight fit wherever it is placed.

The extra depth is worth mentioning because a little extra space for airflow is needed behind and to the right of the case. The intake vent for the main chamber is located on the back of the chassis, and the main exhaust on the right panel. This is important: It means that case cannot be placed flush against the right wall of the desk, as it would be a typical computer desk.

The mesh on the front panel is an intake for cooling the hard drives.
Note the vent on the right panel; this is the main exhaust.

An inverted ATX layout positions the power supply at the bottom and the motherboard on the left panel.

Although the PC-101 is ATX compatible, Lian Li has tinkered with the classical ATX layout by inverting it. We've seen this done before in the PC-V2000, and also in Silverstone's TJ-06, although every implementation seems to be a bit different. Like the Lian Li V2000 and unlike the TJ-06, the location of the power supply vis-a-vis the motherboard is conventional; it is on the side closest to the CPU, not the PCI slots. This means the PSU is at the bottom, and the cables that connect to the motherboard do not need to be any longer than normal.

Inverting the motherboard means that the CPU is now located underneath the expansion cards, which means that it no longer has to deal with heat rising off of a power hungry graphics card or two. In addition, the heat producing components on the expansion cards face up, which means that heat will not be trapped underneath them.

The centrally located fan is an intake that blows fresh air directly over the CPU socket.
The fan grill uses the same wire mesh found on many speakers, and is quite restrictive.

A thoroughly unusual airflow design has obviously been built around the inverted layout, which throws the traditional ATX case airflow scheme out the window. For starters, the power supply no longer plays any role in cooling; it is isolated from the main components in a separate chamber, much like the PSU chamber in the Antec P180. The power supply itself is not inverted; if a model with a bottom mounted fan is used, it is still mounted so that the fan ends up on the bottom. The power supply is raised above the floor of the case to accommodate this.

Although there is a fan in the traditional position behind the CPU socket, the fan is designed to blow into the case, providing the CPU with cooler outside air. Tower heatsinks that are designed to blow towards the back of the case need to be reversed for use in the PC-101.

The exhaust vent is larger than the exhaust fan, and is quite unrestrictive.

Hot air is exhausted through a large vent in the right panel that is located directly over the expansion slots. The vent is larger than the 120mm exhaust fan, and the position of the fan can be adjusted as needed. The fan is set back into the chassis so that it is closer to the expansion cards. The airflow is meant to pass between them, not above them. A small duct ensures that hot exhaust air does not get recirculated before it leaves the chassis.

I/O ports are located on the top of the case.

The front I/O ports are located on the top of the case, inset a couple of centimeters from the front bezel. This is meant to make the ports accessible without needing to bend down to find them, but it also means that the top of the case needs to be accessible — a low hanging desk drawer could require the case to be pulled out of the desk for the ports to be usable. Of course, with the extended depth of the case, this may already be necessary.

The top bay has a stealthed cover so your drive doesn't interrupt the silky blackness of the fascia.

Stealthed faceplates are provided for a floppy drive and a single optical bay. This is fortunate, since it is very difficult to match any drive to the anodized black or aluminum finish of the front bezel. Additional faceplates can be purchased from Lian Li. A memory card reader is also available in black or aluminum finishes.

This intake is very restricted, especially when the front door is closed.

At the bottom of the bezel is an intake vent that is supposed to provide outside air to the drive chamber. However, this vent is so constricted that it is unlikely to be effective. With the door closed, the only way for air to reach the fan is through tiny air holes that run the sides of the door. Then, the air must pass through a highly restrictive vent cover and a filter before it reaches the drives.

A ball-bearing latch holds the door securely closed.
Note the line of tiny air holes down the side of the door.

The door feels substantial, made from 2mm thick aluminum, and it opens and shuts smoothly. The door is held shut by a ball-bearing latch like those found in high-end cabinetry. It is details like these that makes people willing to pay extra for a Lian Li case.

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