In and Around the Lian Li PC-A05FN

From reading the comments on past reviews, it seems like the overwhelming majority of you vastly prefer enclosures that look more classy and austere than flashier designs. While there's certainly a place for some of those (and I adored the gaudy fire engine red NZXT Phantom 410 we recently reviewed), the overarching theme is that people want an enclosure that reminds them of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lian Li seems to have delivered for the most part on that front with the PC-A05FN; you can get it in silver or black, but it's always going to have the head-to-toe brushed aluminum finish.

It's definitely an attractive piece of kit, but be warned: the black brushed aluminum is going to pick up fingerprints and smudges. That said, the front of the enclosure is pretty much where all the action happens: there's a pair of 5.25" external bays, a single 3.5" external bay, power and reset buttons, audio jacks, and then singles of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. These last two are unusual, since there's only one internal connector serving both ports, and that connector is USB 3.0.

The top of the PC-A05FN features a sealed off mount for a 140mm fan; you can remove the aluminum plate and install one internally (and there's space for it), or leave it in and enjoy a remarkably seamless top finish that gives Fractal Design's Define R3 a run for its money. When you swing around to the back is when things are going to start to seem strange: there's no power supply mount, just the I/O cluster, eight expansion slots, and then an AC adaptor plug.

Opening up the enclosure reveals the answer to these mysteries: Lian Li opts to mount the power supply at the front of the case and then route the cable to the front. You can also see how the cooling is fundamentally designed: the rear fan is an intake instead of an exhaust, while the front fan is the exhaust. This looks potentially better for keeping the CPU cool, but at the cost of getting fresh air to the video card(s). For that, we're pretty much hoping the air coming in from the back vents will be enough, but it stands to reason a multi-GPU configuration inside of the PC-A05FN is probably ill-advised.

Overall I found the design of the PC-A05FN interesting, but with some reservations. Much like the last Lian Li case we reviewed, the PC-TU200, I'm left feeling more of that "just because you can doesn't mean you should" kind of vibe in relation to the design decisions. Lian Li has added some allowances for tool-less assembly (like the snapping clips for the 5.25" drive bays), so hopefully assembly will at least go a little more smoothly than the previous Lian Li cases we've tested.

Introducing the Lian Li PC-A05FN Assembling the Lian Li PC-A05FN
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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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