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Lian Li PC-V354 MicroATX Mini Tower Case

Lian Li PC-V354 MicroATX Mini Tower Case

January 20, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Lian Li PC-V354B

MicroATX Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$150

The Lian Li PC-Q08 case is a solidly constructed SFF chassis with a nice combination of features that gives it a good deal of versatility. However, the choice to make room for six hard drives makes it a bit large for a mini-ITX/DTX case; in fact, we would say it's a waste of space if used with fewer than three 3.5" drives. For a server, the design also limits your options as only a couple of mini-ITX boards have enough SATA ports to connect six drives and adding a controller card limits future expansion. A slightly larger form factor might be preferable. In contrast, MicroATX boards are more numerous and affordable. The Lian Li PC-V354 appears, at first glance, to be a bigger, mATX version of the PC-Q08... but appearances are often deceiving.


The PC-V354 box.

Like its little brother, the Lian Li PC-V354 is of aluminum construction, has front USB 3.0 ports, and there is enough room inside for moderately-sized CPU coolers and the extra long graphics cards that are all the rage these days. Being larger, it should run a bit cooler, especially as it comes with three fans included instead of two in the PC-Q08, and there is an optional placement at the back for a fourth.


The PC-V354B (Black).

Three inches deeper, two inches taller, and slightly wider, the PC-V354 supports one more hard drive and ships with two 12 cm intake fans rather than a single 14 cm model. A memory card reader has been added on the front panel. There are several other minor differences both inside and out that we'll get into later.


Accessories.

Like the PC-Q08, the PC-V354 has front USB 3.0, but doesn't have a proper internal header. External USB plugs at the ends of the inside cables have be routed out the back to into rear I/O ports. To facilitate this, a PCI bracket with a small grommet is included. If your case lacks USB 3.0, an adapter is included so you can plug it into a standard old USB 2.0 header.

Specifications: Lian Li PC-V354

(from the
product web page
)
Model PC-V354
Case Type Mini Tower
Dimensions (W) 245mm x (H) 320mm x (D) 420mm (33 liters)
Front bezel Material Aluminum
Color Black / Silver / Red
Side Panel Aluminum
Body Material Aluminum
Net Weight 4.17KG
5.25" drive bay (External) 1
3.5" drive bay (External) None
3.5" drive bay (Internal) 7
Expansion Slot 5
Motherboard M-ATX / Mini-ITX / Mini-DTX
System Fan (Front) Black, Silver / 120mm Blue LED Fan x 2

Red / 120mm Red LED Fan x 2
System Fan (Top) 140mm Fan x 1
System Fan (Rear) None
I/O Ports USB3.0 x 2 / HD Audio / SD Card Reader
2.5" drive bay (Internal) 4
Maximum Video Card Size 350mm

PHYSICAL DETAILS & INTERIOR

The PC-V354 measures 245 x 320 x 420 mm or approximately 9.6 x 12.6 x 16.5" (W x H x D) and weighs 4.4 kg or 9.7 lb. The total volume of the case is just a shade under 33 L, making it about 50% larger than the PC-Q08.


The front of the case is fairly plain with large intake vents for
the two 12 cm fans and a stealthed optical drive bay.



Being taller than the PC-Q08, the PC-V354 has room for an additional 12 cm fan at the rear. The only other change at the back is a knob for adjusting the fan speed controller.



The PC-V354 has a large intake area with two 12 cm fans at the front, so the bottom is sealed up. In contrast, the smaller PC-Q08 has a heavily ventilated bottom panel to provide fresh air for the graphics card.



The motherboard standoffs are built directly into the right side panel. Both panels are 2 mm thick (33% thicker than the PC-Q08) and each is secured with eight small screws.



The interior is mostly the same except there is an extra brace on the front panel to support the drive cages and a fan controller at the rear just above the I/O shield. The 2.5" mounting area is also moved from the floor of the 5.25" bay to the bottom of the drive cages.



Having two 12 cm fans at the front means all seven of the drive bay mounts receive direct airflow. The bottom cage isn't as tight as in the PC-Q08, using only two screws (rather than four) to secure it to the case floor.

INTERIOR (Continued)

The interior layout is more or less the same as the PC-Q08's, but there are some minor differences including an extra fan mount and the inclusion of a fan controller.


The added depth of the cage makes managing cables a bit easier. There is plenty of room for excess cabling behind the drives in particular.



The top/rear corner.



Oddly, there is no power supply vent on the side panel like the PC-Q08, so the fan has to draw air from the interior. They have also added a pair of metal bars on the case floor to give it some support.



In our view its best feature is the fan controller at the back that supports four 3-pin fans. It is powered via molex.



Like the PC-Q08, the front fans have both filters and grills on them and mount in the same way.



Slide the rubber grommets into the larger holes and then push toward the smaller holes.


HARD DRIVE CAGES & ASSEMBLY

Being deeper and taller than the PC-Q08, the PC-V354 is generally easier to work in, but it is far from an ideal experience. The PC-Q08 had six painfully tiny screws holding down each side panel; the PC-V354 has eight. The drive cages are also flimsier, and though they have an extra support bracket, it doesn't really help and just makes them more difficult to access.


The drive cages are 1.2 mm thick, 0.3 mm thinner than in the PC-Q08, making them softer and somehow stickier. We managed to pull the cages apart from each another using brute strength. Needless to say, the PC-V354 is afflicted by the same hard drive vibration problem as the PC-Q08



As in our SFF home server build, we made the cages tighter to reduce vibration by padding both sides with paper/cardboard. In this case, more material was needed.



Our test system included a Core i5-750 processor cooled by a Noctua NH-C12P, the best cooler we had that would fit. There was about 20 mm between the heatsink and PSU making the total clearance about 11 cm. We tried the Thermalright MUX-120 as well, a thin tower with the fan positioned on top, but it was a few millimeters too thick and interfered with the power supply.



The rest of our components included an Asus P7H55D-M Pro motherboard, 4GB of Corsair DDR3, a Samsung EcoGreen F3 hard drive, a Radeon HD 5450 graphics card (and later an Asus HD 6850) and a Cooler Master Silent Pro M700 modular power supply.




We encountered only one problem during installation: the I/O shield wouldn't fit properly. It seems that the standoffs on the side panel were a little too short. This is an unacceptable defect.



System assembled and powered up.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

BASELINE NOISE

The PC-V354 shipped with a 14 cm top exhaust fan and two 12 cm LED intake fans. The noise level of the two models were comparable, but the top fan seemed to make more noise as a result of its interaction with the chassis.


14 cm top exhaust fan.


12 cm front intake fan.

The top fan had a bit of a rattle at full speed which was alleviated when we pushed down on the corners from the outside. Similarly, at 9V and below it produced an odd fluttery hum that lessened when we pushed down on the hub. The bottom fans suffered from the same symptoms, but to a lesser degree. The way they are partially decoupled from the case seemed to help their acoustics. Thankfully these odd noises are not that noticeable at a distance; they were difficult to distinguish from one meter away.

Baseline Noise Level
Fan Voltage
Top
Front #1
Front #2
5V
OFF
12~13 dBA
7V
16~17 dBA
9V
23~24 dBA
12V
26 dBA
OFF
5V
OFF
11~12 dBA
7V
15 dBA
9V
20 dBA
12V
25~26 dBA
OFF
5V
5V
13 dBA
7V
7V
17~18 dBA
9V
9V
22 dBA
12V
12V
28 dBA
6V
16 dBA
7V
19 dBA
8V
21 dBA
9V
26 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

Together, the fans exceed the 20 dBA level at about 8V. To keep it running quietly we would recommend 6V or 7V at most, but depending on your cooling needs, this might not be possible. Anything less isn't advisable as our sample's top fan would not spin up with less than 6V.


With its stock fans running at 7V, the PC-V354 measured 19 [email protected] Interaction between the fans and chassis (particularly the top exhaust fan) generated low frequency tonality centered at ~300 Hz.

TEST RESULTS

As the choice of graphics card can have a heavy impact on both cooling and acoustics, we tested the case with two different graphics cards. A Radeon HD 5450, which is something that might be used in a basic system, server, or HTPC, and an Asus Radeon HD 6850, something you'd find in a midrange gaming system. The 5450 is a low power card with a large passive heatsink while the 6850 is more moderate in terms of energy use but is equipped with a fairly quiet and efficient direct-touch heatpipe cooler. The three system fans were connected to the case's fan speed controller, which in turn was powered by an external controller to precisely change the voltage.

Test Results: Radeon HD 5450


HD 5450 test system.


System Measurements
System Fan Speeds
Off (idle)
Off (CPU + GPU Load)
6V (CPU + GPU Load)
16 dBA
18 dBA
System Power
50W
160W
157W
CPU Temp
24°C
67°C
57°C
HDD Temp
36°C
36°C
29°C
GPU Temp
42°C
75°C
66°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C.

Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.

CPU fan speed: 9V.

In this configuration with no system fans running, the system was very quiet measuring only 16 [email protected] On load, the CPU hit a balmy 67°C, but the hard drive and graphics card were adequately cooled. A low-end, fanless video card doesn't represent much of a challenge to the PC-V354, at least not when housing the components we chose for the build. Setting all three of the case's fans to just 6V (the minimum required to start the top fan) resulted in only a 2 dB increase in noise. The thermal advantage was significant though, 9~10°C for the CPU/GPU and 7°C for the hard drive.


Our HD 5450 test system measured 18 [email protected] on full load.

Test Results: Asus EAH6850 DirectCU


HD 6850 test system with one of the front fans swapped to the rear.
There was about 1.9 cm between the edge of the graphics card PCB and power supply, and 12.1 cm between the graphics card and front fan grill.

Installing the HD 6850 required the removal of the bottom drive cage, so we moved the hard drive to the top. The graphics card being the noisiest and hottest component, the goal was to keep the system noise level as low as possible by altering the system and GPU fan speeds while maintaining a full load (Prime95 + FurMark) GPU temperature of 90°C.

System Measurements (Idle)
System Fan Speeds
6V
6V (one fan moved to rear)
GPU Fan Speed
1740 RPM
21~22 dBA
System Power
64W
CPU Temp
22°C
23°C
HDD Temp
32°C
28°C
GPU Temp
42°C
40°C
GPU VRM Temp
48°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C.

Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.

CPU fan speed: 9V.

Given the thermal output of the HD 6850, we tested the system with the fans' factory configuration, and with one of the intake fans moved to the rear, making it an exhaust fan. The upper intake fan was chosen because we felt the graphics card needed more airflow than the hard drive.

At idle, both fan configurations sounded similar. The GPU fan automatically ran at its minimum speed, about 1740 RPM, resulting in a noise level of 21~22 [email protected] This was a fair bit louder than the same system with a HD 5450. After moving a front fan to the back, the hard drive temperature actually decreased despite the loss of an intake fan. The GPU also ran slightly cooler as well.

System Measurements (CPU + GPU Load)
System Fan Speeds
6V
9V
9V (one fan moved to rear)
GPU Fan Speed
3720 RPM
2860 RPM
1740 RPM
34 dBA
29~30 dBA
26 dBA
System Power
273W
271W
274W
CPU Temp
61°C
58°C
61°C
HDD Temp
35°C
32°C
27°C
GPU Temp
91°C
90°C
GPU VRM Temp
76°C
74°C
77°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C.

Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.

CPU fan speed: 9V.

In the stock fan configuration with the fans running at 6V and 9V, we weren't able to reach our 90°C goal without cranking up the GPU fan speed 1000~2000 RPM higher than the minimum. This made the system unbearably loud. A moderate reduction in GPU fan speed was possible when running the system fans at full speed, but the system noise level was worse than at 9V.

Moving a fan to the rear made a world of difference, allowing us to dial down the GPU fan speed to its minimum setting. At 26 [email protected], it was far from a quiet gaming machine, but it was decent given the performance level and size of the case.


Our HD 6850 test system measured 26 [email protected] on full load. The system fans produced most of the noise, mostly low frequency, below 700 Hz.

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

The Lian Li PC-V354 is essentially what we expected, a bigger version of the PC-Q08 for microATX boards with much of the same basic functionality. There is plenty of space for hard drives, a reasonably-sized CPU cooler, and a long graphics card. The larger volume and extra fans means it runs fairly cool, and the manual fan speed controller and memory card reader are nice additions. It is versatile enough to house just about any type of system and it looks nicer than most microATX towers. With proper planning and tweaking, it can handle a midrange system with adequate cooling at a reasonably low noise level.

Editor's Note: Larry and I differ on the usability and attractiveness of the PC-V354. In my opinion, the basic shape and proportions work for a smaller case like the PC-Q08. But the same proportions in the bigger PC-V354 reminds me of a small storage chest. A storage chest does not belong atop a desk, its footprint is way too intrusive. Even on the floor, the PC-V354 ends up taking a lot of floor space, as much as a larger mid-tower case. It is an inefficient use of space; the standard short tower mATX case is easier to place, can fit taller, bigger heatsinks, and is way cheaper. To me, the Lian Li PC-V354 looks like an ungainly, ugly duck made differently just to be different (rather than for improved function), and there's nothing you can do to turn it into a swan.

That being said, aside from the extras and the obvious benefits from utilizing a larger form factor, the chassis itself is not an improvement over the PC-Q08. In fact, there are a few aspects of the case we wish hadn't strayed away from the PC-Q08 design. Our biggest problem with the PC-Q08 is its hard drive cages, which are not secured tightly enough, making them prone to vibration when multiple drives are installed. The PC-V354 suffers from the same problem, but it is actually worse as the drive cages are noticeably thinner and lighter. They are so weak we were able to pry them apart by almost a centimeter with our bare hands. We are also puzzled as to why they did not include a power supply vent on the side panel. Giving the PSU a cool source of intake air gives it and the entire system a thermal advantage that can translate into an acoustic benefit — with so many super quiet PSUs to choose from these days — which outweighs any noise reduction from having an unvented side panel. Finally, we had an issue with the I/O shield not aligning properly — possibly an isolated problem with our sample.

Lian Li PC-V354
PROS



* Support for up to four fans

* Fan speed controller

* Can hold up to seven 3.5" HDDs

* 14"+ graphics card clearance

* Front card reader and USB 3.0
CONS



* Prone to vibration

* No power supply vent

* Misaligned I/O shield?

* Not ideal for a silent PC

Our thanks to Lian
Li
for the PC-V354 sample.

* * *

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* * *

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