Assembling the Lian Li PC-A05FN

The fundamental problem with trying to assemble a system in any kind of small enclosure is that the enclosure itself is going to make the work slow and cramped. That's not really the fault of anyone or anything but physics, but sometimes a manufacturer tries to make their case a little bit more "capable" than they probably ought. Such may very well be Lian Li's PC-A05FN, which ostensibly has space for our testbed components (and indeed, we were able to fit the standardized testbed inside with some work), but honestly, if you're interested in this enclosure you're going to want to be fairly selective about the parts you choose.

Lian Li was gracious enough to include standoffs built into the motherboard tray, but because of the reversed cooling design, I had to remove the HSF unit we use for testing and then rotate it 180 degrees. Another option for a build in the PC-A05FN may be to orient the HSF to exhaust out of the top of the enclosure (by adding a 140mm fan), thus giving the unit sole access to the air coming in from the back. By that logic, it might also be wise to turn the front fan into an intake as well. Either way, our full-ATX motherboard was able to be jimmied in, but I ran into a problem almost immediately.

The SilverStone Strider Gold power supply we use for testing is 180mm, 20mm longer than Lian Li's specifications indicate. Thankfully I was still able to get it into the enclosure (I actually installed it first, though you can also install it by first removing the front bezel and then removing the mounting bracket) and get everything wired, but you're better off sticking with a 160mm or shorter unit. Note that clearance isn't good at all; the PSU completely blocks off the side-mounted SATA ports on the motherboard and prevents you from routing any cabling behind the motherboard tray (not that there's much reason to.) I do have to question whether that missing 20mm really matters, though; that's about enough to plug in a SATA cable but it cuts things awfully close.

I'm still not a fan of Lian Li's "rubber and rails" approach to installing 3.5" drives. You basically mount four thumbscrews with rubber rings into the sides of the drive, "unlock" the drive cage by removing the thumbscrew and lifting up the interior metal bumper, slide the drive in, then lower the bumper again and "lock" it by replacing the thumbscrew. I'm just not sure this is really that much easier than a basic, run of the mill drive cage where you have to screw the drive in by hand. And while the 5.25" optical drive at least benefits from a snap-to-close tool-less locking mechanism, that mechanism feels loose and you'll want to screw it in on the opposite side just to be safe (e.g. a loose DVD mount can cause increased vibration noise).

2.5" drives use a similar approach to their 3.5" cousins, but instead the screw and mount go into the bottom of the drive, and you have to use a screwdriver. From there, you pop the drive into a set of holes in the bottom of the chassis and then slide it into place. It feels remarkably secure, but any SATA power plug you use for these low drives is going to need to be at the end of the chain; clearance between the drive and the bottom of the chassis is basically nonexistent. I'd also recommend against using a mechanical drive in one of these mounts; these were clearly intended for SSDs and I can't vouch for how a mechanical drive will handle the vibration or the heat.

You can fit a 10.5" video card like our Zotac GeForce GTX 580 into the PC-A50FN, but you'll sacrifice at least one of the 3.5" drive bays in the process. Really you're better off with a smaller, shorter card like a GTX 560 or Radeon HD 6870; this is another one of those instances where "you can" doesn't mean "you should."

Finally, wiring the whole thing up was troublesome. Part of that is due to using a power supply that's admittedly a touch out of spec for this enclosure, but part of it is also the fact that while there's some space behind the motherboard tray, there's also really nothing to put back there or route. The result is a build that looks a bit messy internally, and worse, seems to crowd the video card something fierce. You could probably clean things up a bit more with some better component choices, but cable management is not the PC-A50FN's strong suit.

Honestly, I like the PC-A50FN more than the other Lian Li cases I've tested so far, but once again you really do need to choose your components carefully if you elect to build in this enclosure. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but this is most definitely not a "one size fits all" case.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A05FN Testing Methodology
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  • jigglywiggly - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    I just bought a 30$ xigamatek pc case from newegg that craps all over this.

    This case is too small first of all.
    The xigamatek is fairly large, fits 3870x2 + 3870 in CF np, fits big heatsink.

    it has a hole to remove the heatsink from the tray so no need to take mobo out.

    Fits 630watt psu, totally tooless.

    This case is more than 3x the price and I would pick the xigamatek. It's also incredibly light so it's probably easier to transport.
  • insurgent - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    The Xigmatek is also a boring steel case while this is made of brushed aluminum with superior build quality. The Xigmatek doesn't "crap" all over this, they belong in different market segments: those who are poor/cheap and those who appreciate nice things and have money to spare.
  • james.jwb - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    I had an A05nb that i cut a PSU 120mm hole for, and added a top panel identical to this one for a 140mm fan.

    It's a great looking case, there is no denying it, but it's quite flimsy. The aluminium is very thin, you get no extra features either. No good cable routing, no sound dampening. I just swapped it out for a Define R3 and it really shows how Lian Li seem to be falling behind on what is now standard on most cases.

    There is no other case like it though. If you what a great looks and a small footprint, it's as good as it gets, especially now it has those extra fan placements as standard, because my god, it needed it with my old 4890 installed :)

    With the right fans, it can definitely handle a 6970 setup fine, mine did.
  • ckryan - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    The old version of this case is where it's at. I don't like the new version as much.
  • Ben90 - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    I just found a piece of cardboard from the dumpster that craps all over the xigametek.

    That case is too small first of all.
    The cardboard is fairly large, fits Bitchin' Fast 3D 2000 in SLI np, fits autocascade.

    It has no fasteners anywhere so no need to take anything out.

    Fits a bin of extra computer parts, totally tooless.

    This case is more than infinite the price and I would pick the cardboard. It's also incredibly light so it's probably easier to transport.
  • Gazziza - Sunday, December 18, 2011 - link

    "This case is too small first of all.
    The xigamatek is fairly large, fits 3870x2 + 3870 in CF np, fits big heatsink."

    You're obviously not the target market for this case then. The whole point is that this case is supposed to be smaller than most mid towers. Not everyone has the space to fit in a larger case. You're making an apples to orange comparison. This Lian-Li and your Xigmatek occupy different parts of the market.
  • Iketh - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - link

    Lian Li must have read my mind regarding HD temps. If you're using 5400-5900 rpm drives, they get far too cool with fans blowing directly on them (20-25C). The approach in this case alleviates that, but what happens to HD temps when you're running a full load on the cpu for several hours straight?? That heat is blowing right over the hard drives. I can't see how they won't reach at least 50C, especially if using 7200rpm. That front fan should just be an intake also and open the top cover.
  • beginner99 - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    plus with this design they are countering natural air flow (warm air is lighter) forcing it to flow down a bit. Inputs at the fronts bottom and top-rear exhaust makes more sense.
  • Alecthar - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    The actual effect of convection for PC cases is usually overstated. Air, even warm air, is going to go where the fans draw it. There's also no reason to believe that "countering" the natural direction of air flow is in any way significant. Should you draw warm air over your HDDs? Maybe not, but that really has little to do with whether or not the case should be working with, or just ignoring, convection.
  • Strunf - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Why do you say the HD get far too cool? as far as I know 25°C is the optimal temperature for all electronics devices.

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