Once you’ve tried to read the Lian Li site specifications and still have no idea what the case is all about, its time to look at the box. It’s not particularly awe-inspiring and you get a large three-quarters photo of the C32 which inset pictures of the different features that the case has.
For example, the main feature of this case (as shown by the double sized picture of it) is that it can be rack mounted (19” rack) with the use of the supplied handles. This seems a little excessive, especially for the standard desktop market, but according to the Lian Li own spec’s it’s the only case of its kind. This case, while it can be rack mounted, probably won’t due to the height of it; most server’s are 1U or 2U in height which is 45mm and 90mm respectively. The PC-C32 is a massive 167mm in comparison, which is nearly 4U which you’d be able to fit up to 4 computers in the same space. Due to this space usage, I doubt any serious server operation would use this case in its rack mount form although it’d look pretty nice.
Annoyingly, as this case is designed to be secured in a rack, there are holes down either side which are for extra support once installed. The black version, which I am reviewing today, shows these screw holes prominently as they contrast with the case colour. This seems like a sacrifice for the rack mounting ability which doesn’t appear to be the best use for this case.
Supplied with the case is the usual box of goodies which includes every screw that you’ll need, rubber HDD grommets, some cable management clips, and the rack handles. There is also the Lian Li style manual, which is just a double sided A4 piece of paper, however, each step is paired with a photo of what to do so it’s clear what each step requires.
Looking at the front of the case, you aren’t going to be blown away by any gamer style vents or flashy LED fans. Instead, you get a sheer black anodized panel of aluminium divided by a thin silver strip which runs horizontally across. On the right hand side, you’ll find the external drive bays, which consist of a 5.25” bay on the top, and a multi 3.5”-inside-a-5.25” bay at the bottom. This bottom slot allows you to either mount a 3.5” drive, or you can just use it as another 5.25” bay.
On the left-hand side of the facia, you’ll find the power and reset buttons, the corresponding LED’s to the right, and finally a line of I/O ports which are the usual FireWire, 2x USB and audio sockets. The whole front of the case is made of aluminium, not even the buttons stray into plastic, and as a result the PC-C32 looks professional. Not only this but its good enough to be at home in a media centre role.
Looking along the sides you find the rack screw holes which make the case look like its unfinished, or shouldn’t be used outside of a rack scenario. The vertical set of holes is used for the handles which are supplied with the case. Near the front of the case, there are vents on both sides of the case which are right next to the drive cages which should allow plenty of air to pass.
Moving to the back, you’ll find that the case allows a full size ATX board to be used due to the seven PCI slots, each with its own vented slot cover. The left hand side has the PSU shroud which allows you to remove the power supply from the back of the case, rather than having to take out your motherboard or remove you CPU cooler. To the right of this, and above the motherboard blanking plate, there is a spot for an 80mm fan which isn’t supplied and probably isn’t all that necessary. Above this, you can see the two thumb screws that are used to remove the top panel.
The top panel is held in place by two rear thumb screws, and then another two screws at the front on either side. This seems odd considering as you’ll need a screw driver for the front screws, but can use just your fingers for the back screws. This panel has an inset plate which is screwed flush to the outer side. This can be removed and a 14mm fan module can slot into its place.
Looking at the bottom of the case, you’ll find that there are four nicely sized, and great looking feet which will grip whatever surface that you place the C32 on. They are removable if you want to use the case in a rack and just need you to take out a single screw.
Once the top panel has been removed, you can see the innards of the case which is still made completely out of aluminium. Running along the possibly sharp edges of the bent aluminium, there are plastic strips that protect your hand from being sliced.
The most eye-catching part of the case is the twin 120mm fans which are attached to a removable bar running across the middle of the C32. These can be moved by unscrewing the top mounts slightly and then shifting them either way. These fans don’t have any vibration prevention systems installed but are only connected by one edge so there is less chance of additional noise. To protect wires and fingers, there are simple pressed grills on either side of the fans, which don’t look spectacular but do the trick.
These fans are natively a 3 pin type, meaning that they give PWM feedback (i.e. RPM) and they can be connected directly to your motherboard and hence can be computer controlled (speed therefore noise output). However, Lian Li have thought of the people who are out of mobo headers, and both fans have a 3 pin to molex converter attached.
In front of the fans are the drive bays which allow for a maximum of two 5.25” drives or one 5.25” and one 3.5” external, with another 3.5” internal which sits between the two, while the HDD cage allows for a maximum of three HDD’s. This allows for either two DVD drives, and four HDD’s, or one DVD and five HDD’s. You could waste that 3.5” slot on a floppy disc drive, but with only two drive slots, it would have to be worth it.
Both of the drive bays can be removed completely, allowing you to install the drives outside of the case which gives you much more room to work. To remove the cages, you have use the thumbscrews which are spring loaded and stay connected to the cage once unfastened meaning you won’t lose them.
The HDD cage uses a vibration reduction method that is seen on pretty much all of Lian Li’s cases. Essentially, you don’t screw the HDD directly to the cage. Instead you use screws which don’t have a thread going all the way to the end. This ‘unthreaded’ part is where a rubber grommet sits, this then slots into the holes in the HDD cage and effectively decouples the HDD from the case. It also allows you to prepare a hard disc outside of the case and then just slot it in, enabling quick installation/removal of a disc.
The 5.25” bays on the other hand, don’t have rubber grommets and instead just simply need eight screws; four either side, although you can use less if you’re lazy. The 5.25” to 3.5” converter that is mounted in the lower 5.25” bay can be removed with a couple of screws. Above this is the fourth HDD slot which needs the same grommets as before.
Motherboard and power supply
The motherboard area is relatively free and allows enough room for a standard ATX board to slide in easily. The standoffs are pre-installed which not only reduces your workload but also means that they are less likely to unscrew with your motherboard screw.
Above the mother board is the power supply slot which can take a standard ATX sized power supply. It has enough room to fit in a long PSU if you have one, and it actually seems fairly unnecessary to have the rear-mounting PSU shroud as there is easily enough room for the PSU to slot in or be removed from inside.