Lian Li PC-9N Reviewred454 -
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Lian Li PC-9N Closer Look: Working Components:
Other than the obvious weight difference compared to a steel case, the next thing I noticed when I opened the case up was the spartan nature of the chassis. Uh-oh, flashback time. The inside reminded me a little of the cases of long ago, when cases were constructed with cheap thin sheet metal and the designers had little regard for the do-it-yourselfer or enthusiast. There were confined spaces, no flexiblilty, and tons of blood-thirsty sharp edges quietly waiting to cut your hands and fingers during tasks as simple as adding a stick of memory. But that was years ago, things have come a long way, so perhaps I shouldn't rush to judgement.
OK, let's look a the details. The motherboard tray is simply some aluminum rails with mounting studs. Not the usual formed metal tray. No cable routing grommets. No holes for cable to pass through. And really only one place up front to add a fan. However, there certainly seems to be plenty of room. A monster video card would be right at home without having to remove or reconfigure any hard drive cages. Not much to obstruct air flow. Maybe this simplistic approach is not such a bad thing.
Up top we have three optical drive bays and the top two are tool-less. And at the rear is the included 120mm exhaust fan. This fan has an internal and external fan guard. Right below the fan are the two rubber grommets for external water cooling. And actually the holes for the grommets are slotted up to the rear fan hole, so I can pop the grommets out and my Corsair H70 radiator can be mounted outside of the case. I did notice that the edges on the back end of the optical drive frame were a tad sharp - nothing horrible, so just be careful.
With the front fascia removed, you can see the 140mm (included) front fan. Covering this fan is a removable filter that easily clips into position. There is a space directly above this fan to add another 140mm fan if you like, otherwise, there is a plastic cover to control air flow. Above the top optical drive bay (on the front face of the chassis), there are mounting holes and a small slot for an optional Lian Li fan speed controller (part number PT-FN01) for controlling up to three fans. You have to order it from Lian Li - it does not come with this case. After installation, it would only be accessible by removing the front fascia.
The aluminum hard drive cage can hold three 3.5 inch hard drives below and one SSD on top. Or you can put one SSD on top, two 3.5 inch hard drives in the middle, and one SSD at the bottom. It is easily removable (two thumb screws) and can be placed in three positions - front, side, and rear facing. I dedcided to go with the side facing position since that was the easiest for routing the power and SATA cables. There are shoulder screws and rubber isolators for mounting your 3.5 inch hard drives. The front 140mm fan is in front of the hard drive cage and supplies a good flow of air to keep your drives cool.
And here are the filters: one for the PSU intake from under the case, and one from the front 140mm fan. The filters are identical, so if you mix them up, it won't matter. It would be nice if the bottom filter could slide out. I hate having to tip the case to get at the filter.
The instructions are nicely illustrated, and in several languages. The hardware kit consists of various screws for motherboard and hard drive mounting, a system speaker, a side panel lock bracket, and a USB adapter.
Time for a motherboard test fit. My ASUS Maximus V Formula motherboard, which is an extended ATX board, fits just fine. The extended ATX boards are 1/2 inch wider than a standard ATX. Now, something that I really like is the abiltiy to remove the entire top of the case. Usually they are riveted on, but the PC-9N uses four screws to secure the top to the case chassis. This makes access to the top of the motherboard very convenient, especially when you are attaching the CPU power cables. The I/O cables remain attached to the top, so I carefully set it off to the side while I worked. Make sure you put all the screws back when you are finished.
On the left, I still have the top off (resting on the top of the chassis), but here is a shot of the back of the case. Since the motherboard mounts on rails, there is some space for air to flow (behind the motherboard), helping to keep it cool.The horizontal rails are shaped like shallow C channels to facilitate cable routing, and there is a nice hole to fish the CPU power cables through. The rails have some notches in them for cable ties. Despite not having a formed motherboard tray or cable routing grommets, the build comes together without any problems. I was a little worried about the cable routing since there just isn't anywhere to really stash them out of view. But it really doesn't look too bad.
Now that everything is assembled, let's power it up and start the testing.