I recently completed a build using the Lian Li PC-A04. The intended purpose is video editing and transcoding of AVCHD home movies, so I wanted a decently high powered system, but without compromising much on quietness, efficiency, and overall “bang for the buck.”
Lian Li PC-A04
Intel Core i5-2500k
Gelid Tranquillo CPU Cooler
Asrock Z68 Pro3-m (mATX m/b)
2x 4GB G.Skill Sniper DDR3-1600 1.25V (low voltage) memory kit
Corsair VX430 (edit: V2
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB 7200rpm hard drive
Samsung SH-222ab DVD Recorder
Acousti AFM02B Ultra Soft Silicone Fan Mounts
2x 10” rounded SATA rev.3 cables
3-pin Fan Y-adapter cable
I went with the Lian Li PC-A04 knowing that it is not a great choice for good sound dampening, since the lightweight aluminum resonates much easier than thicker steel. However, I loved the clean design, the good ventilation path, and the fact that it is "Finest Quality Made in Taiwan" (I'm MIT myself).
Pic with motherboard and CPU Cooler installed. Keen eyed observers will note that I put the cooler fan and wire clips on reversed. That silly mistake was soon corrected, albeit after all the pictures were taken!
A CPU cooler that I highly recommend for this case is the Gelid Tranquillo. Here's a pic showing the clearance for the Tranquillo. The cooler itself is about 153mm high, and when installed there is about 4-5 mm of clearance from the tips of the heatpipes to the side of the case.
Cable routing wasn't too bad for my particular motherboard. Not using a discrete VGA card and only having one hard drive helped greatly, of course. The Corsair VX430 cables were long enough that I could keep them tucked up against the sides and edges of the case. Even the primary ATX cable doesn't disrupt airflow much as it doesn't cross into the interior of the case until the 5 1/4" drive rack. I bought a couple 10" rounded SATA cables which were much easier to route than the difficult to bend flat cables. 10" was just right for my config, with no slack to tuck anywhere.
I removed the additional hard drive rack since I only needed one, and with the rack oriented front to back there is plenty of room to tuck extra power supply cables, if your PSU is not modular.
One small bother was that the hole on the motherboard tray for installing a CPU cooler did not line up with the location of my CPU, so that I had to loosen and lift the motherboard off the tray in order to slide the cooler backplate underneath.
A small touch was replacing the screws that hold the top 120mm fan with Acousti AFM02 silicone fan mounts. Though the mounts are not flush with the top of the case, since they are black they really are not very obtrusive. The two 120mm front case fans already have rubber mounts.
I have to say that I am very impressed by the quiet ventilation provided by the case fans that Lian Li included. I wanted to give them a chance before spending more on higher quality fans, and I'm probably going to keep them for now. They can operate at very slow speeds (my motherboard can lower the two front fans down to <600rpm where they are inaudible) but they can also ramp up to provide effective cooling at load. At stock speeds I am currently measuring 26-28 degrees C at idle using CoreTemp, with max temperatures at load (Intel Burn Test 2.51) peaking at 58-59 degrees. This is with an ambient temp of 21-22 degrees.
The system is far from silent, but it is quiet enough for my ears. The aluminum does indeed vibrate, and there is a clear deep hum if I stick my ear up to the case, but even just two feet away all I hear is a gentle rush of air (when the fans are turned down low). I can certainly live with that!