Lian-Li PC-TU300 case review: keep calm and carry on
The Lian-Li PC-TU300 is a PC case with a unique focus: mobility. This is achieved not purely through low weight or tiny dimensions, but through the inclusion of a carry handle and an optional screw-in trolley system. Once installed, the TU300 becomes quite literally carry-on luggage, small enough to fit in an overhead locker and nimble enough to roll around the airport without breaking a sweat. It’s an intriguing concept, so let’s see how well it works!
|Full ATX motherboard support in a portable chassis|
|Ruggedized walls and side panels|
|Side panels, drive bays and PCI expansions slots use tool-free design|
|Sturdy handle and optional luggage-like trolly wheels|
|Bottom-to-top thermal solution|
|Accommodates full size enthusiast components|
|Hot swappable tool-less drive bay|
|Case type: mid tower chassis||Expansion slots: 7|
|Dimensions: 218 x 398 x 440 mm||MB type: ATX, micro-ATX|
|Colour: black or silver||120mm fans: top x 2, rear x 1|
|Material: aluminium||PSU type: ATX|
|Net weight: 3.8 kg||Max GPU length: 300mm|
|External bay: 5.25″ slim||Max CPU cooler height: 160mm|
|HDD bay: 3.5″ x 2, 2.5″ x 1||Max PSU length: 160mm|
The TU300 comes nicely boxed, with foam on either side and the case wrapped in plastic. Given this case’s focus on survivability, I’m confident in saying it should definitely reach you in perfect condition.
The PC-TU300 (heretofore referred to as “the case” or “the TU300” for brevity) makes for a surprisingly good facsimile of a piece of luggage. You’ll notice the same armour on each corner, in order to better withstand being placed into the cramped overhead compartment (or just pushed into the back of your mate’s car). Our sample unit comes in black, and it looks very swish indeed. I particularly like the lack of any protruding elements; this is great for transport and just generally makes for a clean look.
The top of the case has a handle for easy transport, which is comfortable to hold and seems well attached to the case. There’s also an air vent here, designed to be the ultimate destination of the hot air produced by the system inside.
The front of the unit is very clean, with a slot for a slimline optical drive, a clicky circular power button.
Near the bottom are shiny ports for USB (two) and 3.5mm audio (also two). It would have been nicer to have the ports near the top of the case, but I assume the emphasis on space efficiency made that less workable for Lian-Li.
The sides of the case fit inside the armoured corners, with a blank facade on one side and a fine air vent on the other.
The back of the case is by far the most interesting part, with plenty of features to cover here. At the very top we have the top air filter, which slides out for easy cleaning.
Below this we have two levers, each of which releases one side panel for removal once the thumb screws have been removed. We also have the usual IO area, two holes for liquid cooling and a rear 120mm fan.
At the bottom of the back of the case, we have seven card slots, accessible via a thumbscrew, and a power port. Normally you’d have the PSU sit flush with the rear of the case, but here the power cable is connected to an internal cable, which then runs to the front of the case where the PSU sits.
The bottom of the case is fairly standard, with two vents for two bottom 120mm fans and some nice shiny metal feet.
Now, let’s look inside. Apart from the mysterious bit of damp yellow paper, everything is in order: we have nicely tied cables for attaching the various fans, cables for the front IO, space on the bottom for two SSDs, a white box of cables and a hard drive cage.
Here are the contents of the white cardboard box, all nicely wrapped and labelled.
Taking out the other side panel gives us a better overview of the shape of the case. You can see the large rectangular space where the motherboard will sit in the top left, cable passthroughs in the centre, a slot in the lower right for the PSU, and the hard drive cage in the upper right.
Here’s a better shot of the hard drive cage, showing the integrated SATA and power connections.
Now we’ve got a view of the back of the case, with the hookups for the hard drive connections visible on the left.
Here’s the passthrough power cable, which runs from back to front of the case. There’s plenty of space for other cables in this cavity too, which always makes things easier.
Overall, the TU300 seems well thought out, with enough space for the components you’d want while keeping overall dimensions (and weight) to the carry-on standard.
Sadly, without a system in need of a case transplant (or a dedicated test rig), we’re going to be taking a more evaluative approach here, rating the case on ease of installation, features and mobility instead of temperatures or air flow.
Choosing a good PC case is perhaps most important for the initial building process. A good case makes this much easier, by offering tool-free insertion and removal of various components, giving you space to work with and all of the bits and bobs you need to make changes.
The TU300 scores in the “good to great” range here, offering lots of little extras that grease the wheels considerably. The hard drive cage is well designed and mounts drives easily, with passthrough hookups for two drives to make cable routing a lot easier. The tall cable routing holes also improve things, but most important is a lot of space in the back to hide extra bits of cable and ensure everything is sensibly arranged.
Even the most annoying task, installing the motherboard, is made easier through a massive cutout for hooking up the fans and/or liquid cooling. There’s not much space to stash a large liquid cooling unit, but smaller units like the NZXT Kraken X31 should fit fine.
The only downsides to the case is that you don’t get a whole lot of room to work with – once installed, all of your components will be sitting pretty close to one another. That makes maintenance and upgrades more difficult, but it’s hard to really improve on this when you’re limited to a carry-on luggage dimensions. Considering the size of components that it’s possible to install here — 300mm video card, 160mm PSU and CPU cooler — I’d say that Lian-Li did a pretty excellent job given these restrictions.
The instructions provided could also be a little more detailed; Lian-Li only provide a two-page printout that doesn’t give the clearest look at the components and misses out some details.
First up: releasing the side panels. It looks pretty cool to pull a lever and have the sides pop off, but you’re left to manually pull out the panel from most of the connection points. This takes more time than the standard thumb-screw arrangement, and you can’t even pop off the panels until a thumb-screw is removed anyway. I do like the idea, but I think the execution could be a little cleaner to save time here.
In terms of capacity, I was impressed with the TU300. I’ve been using full tower cases for a long time, but I’d have to give up surprisingly little to move into this case from the NZXT Phantom 530. There’s room for 5 drives in all, 3 SSDs and 2 HDDs, and I reckon that’s enough for most people given the low price of storage today.
What about the trolley attachment? Well, it seems useful enough, but as I wasn’t provided with a sample unit I can’t speak to its efficacy (or even tell you its price). Hopefully it’s both effective and inexpensive, as it really sells the idea of this case.
True to form, the TU300 scores very highly here. The case is relatively light and small, but still manages to feel durable and armoured enough to risk taking on a plane or cramming into your friend’s car boot.
The integrated handle makes it much easier to move and rotate, which is handy when you’re putting it together, when you’re cleaning off the dust and of course when you’re taking your PC somewhere. With this handle, suddenly moving your PC into the living room to play games on the TV or bringing it to your friend’s house for an impromptu LAN doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Of course, you’ll still have to bring a mouse, keyboard, headphones, monitor, cables… but this is a big step towards making the bulkiest piece of your arsenal much less annoying to deal with.
Lian-Li’s PC-TU300 successfully makes the case (ha) for an ultra-portable mid-size tower, bringing proper PC firepower into a newly compact form factor. Even if you don’t intend to take your PC on the plane to your next LAN, the TU300 is still a well designed case with nice extras and very few flaws.
- Looks awesome in black aluminium
- Seems solidly built, reinforced on the corners like luggage
- Power supply nicely secreted inside, fits normal ATX power supplies
- Quality-looking front USB and audio ports
- Relatively light and easy to wield thanks to handle
- Includes good instructions and all the bits and bobs you could want
- Side panel release system works well enough, but is it necessarily better?
- Comes with an awesome trolley attachment
- Somehow still space for 3x 2.5″ SSDs and 2x 3.5″ HDDs
- Relatively expensive for a mid-size PC case
- Carry-on restrictions mean there’s little space to work
- Instructions aren’t detailed enough
- Top-mounted ports would be much better