Computer cases have come a long way in the past couple of years both in their functionality and particularly in their appearance. It seems manufacturers are starting to realise the potential selling power of a good looking case and designs are venturing away from the steel and plastic standard. The thermal conductive properties and appearance of aluminium especially mean it has become one of the newer materials that is becoming more common. Lian Li and Coolermaster have since become the market leaders of cases in this material but are they worth their high prices ?
In this review I'll be taking a look at one of Lian Li's server cases; the PC70. I was lucky enough to pick up a relatively cheap second hand one which had been modded slightly but apart form that was in perfect condition.
As you can see the box the case comes in is HUGE, its pretty damn awkward to carry too, especially when taking it through narrow corridors and stairs !! The surprising thing is just how light it is given the size, you can really notice just much of a difference aluminium makes over the steel.
The first thing that strikes you on getting the case out is just how damn tall it is, the 6 5.25" bays really make you stand back and go "Woah !!". The other thing that caught my eye was just how nice the brushed aluminium finish was, its pretty smooth but the way the lines follow the direction of the panels makes it look even better. You can see where the previous owner has cut a hole for a window.
This shot shows what I got when I bought the case, look out for the neons and perspex window being used in future mods ..... You can again see the nice finish on the aluminium.
I really like this case, from the front you can see how good the general workmanship is, the blanking plates fit perfectly together and are held in nice and snuggly. The two grills in the front are for 80mm fans which sit inside. One thing that I feel could be improved though is the switch mounting, its solid and the buttons have a nice action but its made of plastic and stands out from the rest of the case a bit too much for my liking.
The front fascia is held in place by four lugs and simply lifts away from the case body with a bit of force. It can feel a bit loose but at the same time still stays secure. A nice addition to this case is a switch used to the control the speed of the front 80mm fans to suit your own taste, you can see the switch between the LEDs and and the white sticker.
Another feature I like are the removable floppy bays, by simply removing three thumb-screws the whole unit lifts out through the front to allow easier fitting of the drives themselves
The floppy unit, like the case in general, is of a superb build quality. This photo also shows the brushed finish in a bit more detail. Despite having such a prominent grain it is still smooth to the touch, I think maybe due to clear anodisation or some other process.
Taking a look at the back you can see how Lian Li have thought about active cooling with space for four 80mm and three 40mm fans to be attached. Here though the original fan grills have been replaced with some which allow for better air-flow as well as being finished with some rubber trim by the original owner. You can also see how only the parts visible from the front/side have the brushed finish seen before with the rest being regular aluminium sheet. Apart from that the back is of a standard layout.
One point of note however is that the plate holding the top two fans and power supply can be reversed so the PSU can be at the top of the case above the fans. My only reservation with this is that there is a cage on the inside to support it when its at the bottom which would be absent if it were at the top.
The inside of this case is possibly the most impressive thing, it is absolutely MASSIVE!! When I first considered buying this case I was worried that the lack of a detachable motherboard tray might be a bit of a problem. However as soon as you start to fit the PC you realise how pointless one would be given just how much room there is, so much so that it was actually a joy to fit... an accolade few cases can boast.
The main drive mounting spaces are basically three distinct areas for either the 5.25", 3.5" externals and 3.5" internals. Only the former of which are not removable.
The idea of a removable HD cage was something I was particularly impressed with, I have four hard-drives and these are normally a pain to fit when the cage is fixed. Here however it was incredibly easy to manipulate them in a matter of moments. Another small attention to detail that really impressed me is how the cage can be removed from this front side without the need to remove the rear panel, incredibly useful when your PC is next to a wall as mine is. You can also see the front 80mm fan intakes and the thumb-screws used throughout the case.
While the inside of the case may not be brushed aluminium it still looks great thanks to the polished appearance of the metal. Once again you can see the thumbscrews here, this time used to retain the PCI plates. These help to make this case almost screw-less needing a screwdriver only a bare minimum of times in assembling the computer. The feet are one of the few non-metal parts of this case which are instead painted plastic, nothing too major but it is noticeable so I tucked them underneath.
Finally a look at the rear of the motherboard tray. You can see the PSU cage clearly here whose main purpose I think is to support the power supply more than anything. Also just above the HD cage its possible to see the wiring for the front fan control although it is somewhat cluttered.
Just to give you and idea of just how big this case really is
..... and for my money the best looking too.
Well I'm not sure how fair my view is going to be as I knew I was going to like this case from the start, saying that though I can safely say that it hasn't disappointed me in the slightest. Its not so much the obvious things like the large space, removable HD cage etc... but more the little details that made me really warm to this case, a lot of thought obviously went into making it very functional yet at the same time attractive. I think the full tower proportions suit the Lian Li style a lot more than their smaller cases and the extra fan positions certainly make it cooler. My only niggles are the power button assembly and the feet, nothing life threatening but they just don't quite fit. On more recent models of the PC70 though the power button has actually been changed so I can't be the only one to have thought it was a bit odd... as yet I'm not sure which versions have this though. One thing I would like to mention in particular is how effective the case is, I'll be honest I was sceptical about it reducing my temperatures by much but it not only did that (to the extent that it often sits at 25'C idle) but it also reduces the noise levels of the internal fans, a benefit I was certainly not expecting. Obvious comparisons are drawn between Lian Li and Coolermaster and I have to say that the CM cases are insanely well finished (see Cheeses review) but personally I prefer Lian Li's slightly industrial type finish, I know many people will disagree but that's just my personal opinion. Then you have the fact that despite being a full tower case the PC70 is still cheaper than most of the Coolermaster range, you certainly get a heck of a lot of aluminium for your £200! I'm not going to say its better, merely that its a good value alternative in my eyes. Beyond that a direct comparison would be a bit futile given that CM don't make a full tower case, if they did then maybe my opinion would change but for now I'm more than happy with my PC70. You might have realised by now that I really do like this case so I have few reservations in giving it a seemingly appropriate silver award .. well done Lian Li.