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

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The side panels are held on by a single spring-loaded thumbscrew. The photo below illustrates how the system works. This is the same system found of the PC-V2000, and doubtless many other Lian Li cases as well. A steel hasp allows a padlock to be attached to prevent unwanted access in public places.

Our feelings about the quick release system were mixed. Unscrewing the thumbscrew was the easy part. Once the panel was free, however, it still needed to be lifted up and out of the guide track at the bottom of the case. The panel was often quite stiff, and removing it sometimes required a little force. This led to the occasional skinned knuckle, as our fingers got caught between the panel and the top of the case. Putting the panel back had its own challenges; aligning the panel properly often took a couple of tries before it would slide into place. The system is probably an improvement over basic screws but maybe it is over-engineered; a latch like the one on the Antec Sonata would have been easier and just as secure.

The panels themselves were like the door: Surprisingly heavy and sturdy for aluminum. Lian Li does not specify the thickness of the material used (they specify very little it seems), but it appears to be about 2mm thick, like the door. Thanks to the thick material, the panels felt as rigid as any steel panels we have handled.

Unfortunately, the quick release system did not hold the panel as tightly as it could have. Rapping on the panels with our knuckles produced an audible rattle, and there was a small amount of give that allowed the panels to move against the frame.

A single thumbscrew on a spring secures the side panel for easy removal.

At a cursory glance, the PC-101 resembles the Antec P180: A chamber at the bottom isolates the power supply and drives from the rest of the system, and the motherboard tray is blocked by paraphernalia extending from the back panel. The paraphernalia consists of the exhaust fan and its mounting system, and an airflow guide to ensure that as much air as possible passes over the CPU. Both of these must be removed before a motherboard can be installed. Fortunately, removal is fairly painless, as both are held on with thumbscrews.

The bottom chamber is important for noise: Isolating the power supply from the main sources of heat in the system ensures that it doesn't heat up as quickly, which means that the PSU's internal fan can spin more slowly. The isolation is not as complete as in the P180: A large hole between the two chambers is bound to let some hot air into the lower chamber.

Drives and the power supply are separated from the main chamber by a metal divider.

The motherboard tray cannot be removed, but is open enough that it doesn't need to be.

Unlike many Lian Li cases, the motherboard tray is riveted in place and cannot be removed for separate installation. This is not a problem, as there is ample space to work, and cable routing cannot be done with the motherboard outside the case anyway. (We did have one gripe with the motherboard tray: None of the holes for motherboard standoffs were marked, leaving us to guess and test which standoffs needed to be installed for our motherboard.)

There's plenty of airflow through the drive bays.

Airflow through the bottom chamber is fairly unrestricted, and the drive bays can be removed if they are not needed (perhaps because a suspension system is used, or to accommodate a water-cooling system). However, as mentioned, the actual intake is quite restrictive, and a high pressure (read: noisy) fan is likely to be needed to provide adequate airflow.

The fan in the lower chamber is held on by the same spring-loaded thumbscrews as are used on the side panels.

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