Introducing the Lian Li PC-A05FN

If you're willing to shell out the money for them, there are a lot of interesting alternative enclosure designs on the market. Companies like SilverStone, Thermaltake, and Lian Li are happy to sell you more experimental and exotic cases once you get past $150 or so, but what if you want something a little spicier without breaking the bank? At $99 Lian Li has you covered with the new PC-A05FN. There are a lot of good (or at least interesting) ideas at work in the PC-A05FN, but how well do they pan out?

From the outside the PC-A05FN looks like a fairly typical midtower enclosure, albeit one made entirely out of aluminum, but the dimensions are a little unusual. This is a surprisingly short, surprisingly deep enclosure, and one you wouldn't expect to be able to fit a full ATX motherboard. But appearances can be deceiving, and when you pop it open you'll see it's anything but typical.

Lian Li PC-A05FN Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25", 1x 3.5"
Internal 3x 3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Rear 1x 120mm intake fan
Top 1x 140mm fan mount
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 8
Front I/O Port Power and reset buttons, mic and headphone jacks, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Top I/O Port -
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearance 10.5" (Expansion Cards), 165mm (CPU HSF), 160mm (PSU)
Weight 9.7 lbs (4.4kg)
Dimensions 8.27" x 15.16" x 19.69" (210mm x 385mm x 500mm)
Price $99

As you can see from the specifications, there isn't that much that seems noteworthy for a basic midtower. The PC-A05FN seems a little shy for hard drive mounting space, but not that many users need more than three 3.5" drive bays, especially with how frequently people are using SSDs now; we have space for two of those as well. Something unusual should catch your eye, though: the PC-A05FN has flipped the traditional airflow design. Instead of taking in cool air from the front and exhausting hot air out of the back, Lian Li has opted to bring cool air directly into the CPU heatsink fan and then blow it over the hard drives out of the front. It's definitely a shift in priorities.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A05FN
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  • know of fence - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Every case I ever opened had this empty room in the lower front, where only tumble weeds of dusts are blowing, maybe you'll find a dropped drive screw there, or a stray cable. Sometimes you'll even spot a speaker (beeper) from the old days...

    It's the most logical and consequential thing to stick a power supply there, even if you have to reroute the power cable.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    PSUs are intentionally mounted in the upper back of a case as that's where the heat is that the PSU fan evacuates. Basic engineering 101. Reply
  • Luumpy - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Ya thats the worst possible place for a psu(Top of case) . It sucks in hot air from the rest of pc. Just dumb.
    Your clearly NOT an engineer.
    Most high end cases put psu at bottom of case, where its cool.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Really splitting hairs here. The old ATX design says for the PSU to be in the top/back, because the air flow is from the lower/front, once over all components and then out the back . It was designed in old times when PCs used below 100W. Then came 100W CPUs and 300W graphics cards and things changed a bit.

    You cannot say that a PSU _must_ be at the top/back. However, you are just as wrong to say that it is a dumb place for it to be because of sucking in hot air. You can put it in the bottom. You can also put it in the top and turn it upside down (TJ08-E).

    Mostly, it doesn't matter nowadays as PSUs get ever more efficient, more and more becoming quieter and even semi-passive to the point where their exhaust ability is negligible and their need to be cooled also diminishes. And people with beefy hardware have one or two 120/140mm exhaust fans anyway.

    To the original poster: This design didn't really win any space by the positioning of the PSU. Also, a lot of modern designs use that space for HDDs, drives bays, larger fans and other interesting things. Depending on the usage scenario, dead space can be used quite effectively (water cooling, where you need space for a pump and a reservoir for example).
    Reply
  • crackedwiseman - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I made a build for a client of mine back in early 2009 using an earlier model of this case - the significant difference was the motherboard tray was "upside down", with the CPU being on the bottom and the GPU being on top. It performed spectacularly; the build was an overclocked i7-920 and a GTX 260, with a pair of 3.5" HDDs.

    Yes, it's cramped - thats the price of a small case. But (the older models at least) could handle pretty much any high-end single GPU system; this isn't made for gaming rigs, it's made to cram a powerful work machine into as little space as possible, which can be appealing depending on the availability of office space.
    Reply
  • johnsmith9875 - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    It has a hot spot at the top of the case. I use a slot cooler to take the heat that the video card generates and get it out of the box, otherwise it would cook anything near the top of the case.
    Because the cover on the front obstructs airflow I keep it off in the summer. In winter it seems to be adequately ventilated.

    What it needs is a blowhole in the top.
    Reply
  • Chuck_NC - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Interesting to read the reviews. As an engineer, there are some obvious points to make. I doubt that the HDD temps going higher are intentional, but a byproduct of goofing the airflow around the front. With the PSU blowing out, the HDD fan just pulls the hot exhaust right back in again. The PSU and HDD fans end up recirculating the air. They should reverse the direction of the HDD fan to blow out, and provide positive pressure from other fans going *into* the case (side fan, back, etc.). Would drop all temps, especially those in the front of the case. Anyway you do this, the HDDs are going to be warmer though.

    By moving the PSU from the typical top over the CPU area over to the front bottom, there is much less air being drawn out of the top back of the case, causing a hot spot area. Again, a side intake fan would help that but at the expense of noise and an added fan, which also adds less reliability (fans fail faster than any other PC part).

    I would guess that whoever designed this was looking more at aesthetics and less at airflow, but some minor changes fixes the airflow problems. And the blowhole idea is great - but add some air going into the case somewhere else.
    Reply
  • Kepe - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    You didn't read the article. Air is sucked in by the rear fan, and exhausted by the front fan. Also, the typical place for the PSU has changed from the top back position to the bottom back position over the last, say, five years. I haven't seen cases with the PSU in the top back position for years. Reply
  • Iketh - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Warmer HDD temps are good up to about 45-50C. The problem is HDs running too cool with intakes blowing right on them (below 30C). Reply
  • TwistedKestrel - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I pulled the trigger on this case when there weren't too many reviews out there. I laughed at the picture of the mess of cables - it made me feel better about not being able to figure out a good way to route pretty much everything.

    I still like it though. The cooling idea may not have paid off, but it hasn't seriously impacted my ability to overclock. The finish is nice, it's reasonably quiet ... better than a fork in the eye. Would I have bought if I'd seen this review first? Probably not!
    Reply

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