Lian Li are well known for their quality aluminium cases, and have been in the enclosure game for a long time as a result. Today I have their PC-B20 model which is not only toted as aluminium but super silent. Lets find out…
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.
|Device||5.25″ x 4, 3.5″ x 2, 3.5″ internal x 3|
|Fan||12cm ball-bearing fan x 1 (with filter) in the front
8cm ball-bearing fan x 1 (at the rear side)
12cm patent side fan x1
|Motherboard type||ATX M/B (Max size : 12″ x 9.6″ )|
|Top I/O||USB2.0 x 2, IEEE1394 x 1, MIC x 1, EAR x 1|
|Dimensions||210 x 450 x 515mm(W.H.D)|
|Slot||PCI slot x 7|
|Power supply type||ATX PSU|
|Net weight/gross weight||7.8Kg/9.8Kg|
Out of the box, the first thing that I noticed was the weight. As it’s made well-nigh completely out of aluminium it’s pretty light and easy to carry. This should be of interest to anyone who moves their PC around a lot, e.g. a LAN party-ist. Once you’ve carried around a 6 ton case for a day, you know the benefit of losing a couple of kilos in case design.
With the case come several extras. You get motherboard standoffs, motherboard screws, three cable ties, a screw driver, a couple of space thumbscrews, self adhesive wire clamps (cable management), HDD screws, HDD rubber grommets and a load of other screws. Also included is a power supply air duct which goes over the back of the power supply. Personally, I can’t see the point or reasoning behind this, except possibly aesthetics.
The front of the case is a door which has a semi circular curve on the right hand side which is the inverse of the main case colour; if you chose the black version then it’ll be silver and vice versa.
At the top of this door are the two bog standard HDD and power LED’s. This and the Lian Li logo in the top left corner are the only features of the front. Running on the left hand side of this door is a lock which allows you to secure the door in place, which is useful if you are carrying it awkwardly.
Both sides of the door have long slits that allow air to flow in. Once the door is open, you can see how it’s held in place. Rather than the usual miniscule magnet affair, Lian Li have used a ball bearing which is spring loaded. When closed it fits into a small indentation at the top and bottom of the case.
To reduce the amount of noise that the case spits out, there are two strips of malleable foam which nearly fully seal the door in place. Once the door is open, you can see the usual power buttons, a fan speed selector, four 5.25” bays, two floppy bays and a large grilled intake vent. Behind this grilled vent is a dust filter and Lian Li branded 120mm fan.
The fan selector is a tiny little slide switch which allows you to change the fan speeds in the case. I would have liked to have said ‘conveniently change the speed’ but the switch is too fiddly and poorly marked to be a really useful tool. If Lian Li had whacked on a nice aluminium knob and clear marking, or a rheostat (variable resistor) it would have been more useful and easier to use.
The buttons above this selector are plastic which doesn’t really feel that great compared to the rest of the awesome aluminium exterior. That said, it’s not like your hammering these buttons all the time, and they are hidden behind the nice aluminium door so all is not lost.
On top of the case is a little metal flap which hides the standard I/O ports including two USB ports, a firewire and audio in and out. This nearly seamless flap is a great little addition, but it could be stealthed even better if the two screws on either side weren’t visible.
Looking at the back of the case, you’ll see a whole lot of tool-less goodness. If thumbscrews scare you, you may wish to look away now. The back of the case is porcupine like with all of the screws and it doesn’t look that swish with thousands of these thumb loving screws.
In total, there are 16 screws which hold in the various parts on the back. This includes the removable power supply shroud, the removable motherboard tray, the side VGA vent and the case sides.
The power supply shroud allows you to remove the power supply from the back, screw on the shroud and reinsert it without the need to force it through the case or remove your motherboard tray. That said, if you do feel the need to remove your motherboard, you can simply slide it out the back and work on it there.
Once out, the tray has the rear 80mm fan (which has a non-standard grill (which are usually just drilled holes), the usual PCI-brackets and blanking plate, and also the side VGA fan.
The VGA fan is mounted in what can only be described as a patent pending method. Rather than widening the case excessively to fit a 120mm fan in the usual way, Lian Li have been doing overtime in R and D, creating the sideways fan mounting bracket. This screws onto the motherboard tray (with thumbscrews no less) and the fan blows out of the case, drawing hot air directly from the heated graphics cards. Not only does it cool your graphics card(s), but won’t get in the way, and if it does you can easily remove it. This fan bracket is complete with rubber mounts removing vibration from the fan.
The other fan of interest is the 80mm fan above it. This has another shroud which allows you to channel cool air from outside of your case directly onto the CPU HSF. The shroud can be pushed towards the back of the case if you have a slim cooler or removed if you have a monster (such as the Noctua NH-12 or the ThermalTake Max Orb).
The PCI brackets on the back are all nice and shiny allowing for optimum fingerprint territory. In fact the entire case absorbs fingerprints and within a few minutes of handling it, you’ll be on police records. A little water (or glass cleaner) with a paper towel and you’ll be back to cleanliness.
Inside the case, you’ll find a removable HDD caddy and a funky method of keeping your CD drives in place without the need for screws. The hard disc caddy can be removed, with yet another thumbscrew and then installation is easy.
The caddy can only hold 3 discs which may be a problem for the storage junkie but more than enough for most people. The floppy disc bays can also be used for hard discs which means that you can have a maximum of 5 drives with no all-important FDD.
Above this are the four visible 5.25” bays with none hidden. These have a clip on the side which has two pins which fit into the holes where screws should normally go. Oddly, this only works on one side, and only at the back. You can remove this using screws, or use the clips in conjunction with screws. You either have quick and easy installation, but not so sturdy, or spend a little more time with a screw driver. The Spire BlackFin method (although only available on HDD’s) was a lot better than this one-sided approach.
All of the I/O cables have both single and moulded plugs which means that if you have a standard motherboard, installation is easy, while if you have a non-standard layout you can still use them. Whichever connection you use, you’ll be left with the other unused connectors in your case which doesn’t look so great. Aesthetics have taken the back seat for compatibility. It may be a godsend for some, but a small annoyance for others.
Both side panels are covered with noise absorbing foam. This stuff must be insanely cheap (cost not appearance) and even if it helps by the tiniest bit, the 30p that goes into it should always be spent. It’s nice to see that Lian Li have invested in this noise dampening method.
The feet on the bottom of the case are also clad in brushed aluminium, are fairly hefty and grip well meaning that they a) aren’t gonna fall off and b) are going to stop your case sliding around.
Amusingly, all of the thumbscrews are factory tightened to the point where you need to use a screw driver to release them, or grind your fingers down to the bone. Once the virgin twist is done, you can assign your screwdriver to the bin.
To start with, I removed the power supply shroud to pop the power supply in. After screwing the Enermax Liberty into place, I pushed the shroud back to its original position. Unfortunately, as the PC-B20 is engineered with exact specifications in mind (i.e. what ATX power supplies should be sized as, the position of the screws etc.) the four holes where the thumbscrews go through don’t match up with the case. It’s a little annoying, but other power supplies worked with a little force. The case should have a little more tolerance for different sized components (we’re talking millimetres here), although it’s not Lian Li’s job to support wrongly sized components.
Both 80mm and 120mm shrouds removed
I removed the motherboard tray and installed the motherboard as normal. It was nice to have the extra space to work with, rather than trying to fit screws into places where hands weren’t meant to go. The included screw driver is actually designed for the motherboard spacers so that you don’t have to use your fingers. It’s a good idea, especially when the spacer gets stuck on a screw which I’m sure has happened to most people who are reading this. After removing the supplied generic blanking plate, I was ready to go.
The hard discs are the most time consuming part of the installation; you have to remove the caddy, and then insert 4 rubber grommets which absorb hard disc rumbling. Now you have to screw the four supplied screws into place. Once completed the hard disc is held securely and perhaps more importantly, quietly. If you are worried about them falling out (the rubber grommets can come loose) then there are another 2 screws that can be used.
The 5.25” bay covers are easily removed. All you have to do is pull the two wings together and they pop out. You’ll have to get you’ll whole hand in the case, or remove the front bezel. It’s a lot quicker to use the arm method, rather than unscrewing the front in my mind.
As I’m using the Max Orb, I had to remove the 80mm fan duct so that it would fit. This was a simple case of removing three more thumbscrews.
As with the other cases that I have reviewed, I now run the standing test which can be viewed here.
The Lian Li PC-B20 managed an impressive 3 which means that there was no visible bending when stood on. This is made even more impressive by the fact that it’s made 100% of aluminium which isn’t well known as the strongest metal. Fortunately, the thick plates used to make the case are strong enough to put up with my weight (I would have cried if I had broken it).
Noise-wise this case is fantastic. The noise absorbing pads on the side panels, and the sealed front go a long way to remove any fan noise. The hard disc mounting system removes the rumbling when reading/writing. The case has been designed to be a quiet computer, which fits into the background, rather than an eye-catching design with lights etc. Instead it sits quietly in the corner doing its job with style.
Even with the strangely set out fans, the case did manage to shave a degree or so off CPU temperatures and ambient was down a notch or two. Good work Lian Li.
If you want a cool, quiet and well designed case with a bit of style thrown in, you’ll be impressed with the PC-B20 case. It raised the bar for case design in several areas, but mainly ease of installation and noise reduction. Of course, this kind of design and thought comes at a premium; if you can stomach the price-tag you’ll love it.
|Removable mobo tray||Power supply didn’t fit|
I’d like to thank Lian Li for providing us with the case.
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