February 15th, 2011

Lian Li PC-A12

Lian Li PC-A12 case

Introduction

Recently, we had the privilege of reviewing Lian Li’s PCB-20 case. Suffice to say, its professional looks and ease of install had us impressed. But today with have another Lian Li offering, the PC-A12; a cheaper version.

About Lian Li

Lian Li Industrial Co., LTD was founded in 1983. We are the one of the largest and most reputable manufacturer of aluminium PC case in Taiwan. With over twenty years of experience in the computer products field, our dedicated team of engineers, production specialists and administrative staff provide the finest quality accessories available on the market.

In 1993, Lian-Li Introduced the new lines of computer hardware, including bracket ( for case & interfaces), Mobile rack (for H.D.D.), mounting kit (for FDD & HDD), aluminium PC cases, IPC, external cases, server cases and more. We also provide OEM & ODM services, you are assured of designs that will meet your exact specifications, innovative ideas in manufacturing that will give your products an essential market edge.

Our outstanding quality has earned us ISO 9001 certification for all of our products. In addition, we back up our quality assurance with a two-year guarantee on most of our products.

R&D is one of the reasons why Lian Li is able to offer quality products to the market. Whether it is for OEM or ODM projects, our experienced mechanical and electrical engineers are capable of providing our customers with the best solutions in product design.

Specifications

Drives

5.25″ bay x 4, 3.5″ bay x 2, 3.5″ internal x 3

Cooling

12cm ball bearing fan x 2 (front and rear)

Motherboard type

ATX & Pentium 4 (max size: 12″ x 9.6″)

Front I/O

USB 2.0 x 2, IEEE1394 x 1, MIC x 1, EAR x 1

Dimensions

210 x 450 x 490mm (W,H,D)

The Case

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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Much like Silverstone, Lian Li love their aluminium. This is evident from the extremely light case that we’ve been sent. The A12 is so light that you can comfortably hold it up with a single finger. This is by far the lightest case that we have ever tested.

While you would expect a lighter case to be weak, the A12 took the standing test in its stride and there was no bending, or hint of flexing.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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The front of the case is much like the PC-B20, but instead of being curved, the front is straight but has an indentation. This indentation has a blue strip that lights up when you turn the case on. This is evident from the wires that are present at the bottom of the door.

The front looks great, and has a professional appearance, rather than gaming type with skulls, vents etc. The sides of the case are black brushed aluminium, in fact, the only steel that used on this case are the screws which you get a whole load of.

Also included, is a motherboard standoff screwdriver, an instruction manual, a Lian Li product range leaflet, a bunch of cable ties, a self adhesive cable clamp, and some spare thumbscrews. There are more than enough screws for you to lose half and still have too many.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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Lian Li PC-A12 case
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The front of the case has the Lian Li door, with ball in socket latch system which is much better than using a magnet. The door isn’t as tight as I would like it to be, and it often fell open while I was examining the case. However, once it’s stood up the door is just right. If you still find that it falls open – e.g. if you are carrying the case – you can lock the door with the included keys.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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Both of the side panels can be removed by unscrewing the factory-tight thumbscrews from the back. Unlike the PC-B20, the whole of the case doesn’t have thumbscrews all over it. Instead, the thumbscrews are only in places where they are likely to be needed, and you’ll have to grab your screwdriver if you want to remove/install a component. The PCI brackets are all screws; in fact, only the case sides and power supply shroud are thumbscrews.

The PCI brackets are all the removable type, and not the cheaper push-out type that leave a hole in your case if you push out the wrong one.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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The bottom of the case shows the 4 rubber feet and the hard disc cage mounting screws (highlighted in red). These have to be removed so that the cage can be taken out.

Lian Li PC-A12 case

The rear of the case shows the removable power supply shroud, the PCI brackets, the 120mm fan and the optional side vent holes. There is a 120mm fan with a filter that isn’t fine enough to stop dust, but enough to stop wandering fingers. You can purchase the side 120mm unit that will add extra ventilation if needs be thanks to the mounting holes.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge
Lian Li PC-A12 case
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The front of the case, inside the door, looks exactly like the PC-B20 although the fan vent has larger holes, and there is no fan speed selector. The front 120mm fan does have a dust filter that should stop your expensive components being blanketed in a layer of heat trapping and ugly dust.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge

On the right hand side of the facia, you’ll find the I/O connectivity which includes two USB ports, a FireWire and the usual mic and line out audio. They are positioned in an awkward spot and it might be a little difficult to use if you have your case on the floor, but perfect if you have the case on your desk. Putting the ports on the side of the case means that the front can stay as clean looking as possible.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge

Inside, you’ll find space for four hard disc, two floppy disc drives (or another two hard discs) and four 5.25” drive bays. These don’t have the usual runners on the side which means that when installing a drive you’ll have to hold the back whilst screwing it into place. There are no tool-less installation innovations included, unlike the PC-B20 which had a slot-in design for the 5.25” drives.

To power the front illumination, you’ll find a pass-thru molex splitter with powers the LED’s and doesn’t remove any power connectors.

Installation

The installation was surprisingly easy. Installing the motherboard standoffs, which is normally my biggest hate, was made easy by the included screw driver that allows you to fully tighten the standoffs. This lessens the chance of the dreaded unscrewing of the standoff when undoing a motherboard screw.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge

Once that was done, I popped the 5.25” drive cover off, which normally requires you to take off the door, but it’s easy enough to do without. The DVD drive slotted in easily, and looked pretty good once mounted.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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After replacing the stock blanking plate with the motherboard specific one, the motherboard was put into place.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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The hard disc cage was my biggest annoyance. Unscrewing the four holes on the bottom of the case is easy enough to do when the case is empty, but once full it becomes a chore. After removing the cage, I put the four rubber grommets into place and screwed the drive into its new home. The rubber grommets detach the hard disc from the case itself, and remove any hard disc vibrations. This isn’t the most secure method of mounting, and if you take your case on excursions, then there are additional holes to tightly screws the HDD in place.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge
Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge
Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge

Reinstalling the hard disc cage was also tiresome. Lining up the cage with two heavy HDD’s installed with the case mounting holes was difficult. If you wanted to remove or install a hard disc later on, you would have to disconnect all of the cables from your PC and put it on its side to access the cage screws.

While this is a small annoyance, it’ll become a major chore once you’ve done it a few times. Compared with the PC-B20, this is a flawed method of hard disc mounting.

If you mount the hard disc cage with the hard disc ports pointing out the case, you’ll run into issues with the power cables poking outside the case causing problems when you want to put the side panel back on. Fortunately, the hard disc cage can be rotated by 90 degrees removing this problem.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge

The power supply was the easiest part to install. Simply unscrew the four thumbscrews, remove the shroud, screw on your PSU and slot it back into the case. This negates the need to take off your CPU cooler to access the power supply which is a nice little feature.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
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Lian Li PC-A12 case
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If you are a cable management junkie, then the included cable ties and wire clamp will be a sight for sore eyes. There is also a lot of space to hide the offending cables allowing for a cleaner case and better airflow.

Once everything was installed I was happy with the end result. While I didn’t time myself, the installation was short and easy to accomplish.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge

Testing

Once turned on, the front of the case lit up with a subtle blue glow which was well diffused with the whole strip the same brightness. The front of the case looks professional, doesn’t stand out, but is great to look at.

Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge
Lian Li PC-A12 case
Click to enlarge

The front 120mm fan is unfortunately quite loud and is far from what could be classed as silent. However, as with any fan, you can replace it with your favoured quieter brand easily, and still keep the included dust filter.

The case doesn’t include the silent innovations that the PC-B20 showed, like the foam padded side panels, or the door foam strips. The case isn’t loud as to be distracting, but you wouldn’t want to use it in a library.

While no formal testing was carried out, the case was at least as cool as the PC-B20 by Lian Li and the Spire Blackfin case we also reviewed.

Conclusion

Lian Li have done themselves proud once again. There are few downsides to this case which only really show themselves during installation. Once your PC is parked in this new enclosure, it’ll be housed in a great looking and cool environment. Not only that, but the case weighs next to nothing while maintaining strength which is perfect for a LAN party enthusiast.

Look past the HDD cage and relatively loud fans and you’ll love the Lian Li PC-A12.

Pros Cons
Looks great Costly
Cool operation HDD cage mounting
High standard of build quality Fans not silent

I’d like to thank Lian Li for providing us with the case.

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