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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  • ShieTar - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    This is a strange thermal design indeed. It seems the engineers at Lian Li were trying to get the best CPU cooling possible, without too much care about what that will do to the GPU.

    Sounds as if it could give you a nice, silent workstation with a high-power CPU and On-Chip graphics. Sadly, in my personal experience, most business buyers don't seem to care too much about the noise that their employees will have to suffer from their machienes, and just go straight for the cheapest offer.

    Still, it would be interesting too see a comparison of this box and a more classical competitor when filled with this kind of business setup instead of your standard, more gaming centered, testbed.
    Reply
  • Touche - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Aluminum cases have a big drawback. They tend to hum due to HDD vibrations. It'not (as) noticable if you have loud fans, but it's terrible with quiet computers. Reply
  • bji - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I have this case and this doesn't happen to mine. No humming. Also my fans are almost never running; it's a quiet computer.

    Why is aluminum more susceptible than steel anyway? What's the science behind your statement?
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Mass (weight) is a great noise insulator. And steel has a greater mass than alu. So usually, steel has better acoustic qualities. Using that to translate "all alu cases are worse than others" is not right. Reply
  • ckryan - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I put a lot of mass on the panels with the acoustic dampening material, and it's totally worth it. But I didn't have any humming or vibrations beforehand. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Sideways 3.5" drive bays. Having them facing the board is just way too cluttered. With the immense width of this case, you'd think they'd have much better cable routing options behind the motherboard tray, too. Reply
  • darkhawk1980 - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I don't have the case, and it's difficult to really know if it would fit or work, but would it be possible to modify the side panel and add in a 80mm or 120mm fan that could blow air in near the air inlet on the GPU? Specifically, perhaps, placing one right near the back (or front, depending on your viewpoint) of the GPU, and placing it between the end of the GPU and the HDD caddy's? This might improve both the GPU temperatures and the SSD temperatures, although I'm not sure if it would help or hinder the other temperatures inside the case. This would also help to provide a positive internal pressure (looks like 1 inlet fan at the back, and 2 outlet fans [power supply exhaust + front 120mm fan exhaust]) which is definitely a good thing. Reply
  • MadAd - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    Ive given up giving up on these cases with creative item rearrangements. It never works, weve had ATX for 10+ years and if there was a good configuration to be found, wed have it already.

    Why dont the manufacturers start calling for a smaller redesign? Optical Disks and Power Supplies are limiting shrinking the box atm, but ask for a smaller power supply atm and people grimace with the mutterings of 1U on their lips. Mobos can always be smaller, all electronics can, but no one seems to have any will to do it.

    If consoles pads and laptops are 'taking over' standard pcs, then its time to do it...most home users dont need more than a slim client, with space usually going to ppl with many HDD (nas box anyone?) or large gfx arrays.

    IM sure atx wont just disappear tho, enthusiasts that need the space can use it, but we really need to deal with this size thing to move the PC into the living room.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I don't see the shortage of small enclosures, be they ITX or mATX, in the last few years. There are quite a lot of cases that offer what you describe, with SFX PSUs for moderately powerful gaming rigs or external pico PSUs for mid to high-end CPU+iGPU configurations.
    And there there is also the AIO becoming increasingly powerful and cheap.

    ATX will always be around because a lot of people don't want to pay the premium for the smaller size and they just hide the case. Or they actually need the space. I don't see how anything huge has to change though, as there are products for everyones purposes. :-)
    Reply
  • MadAd - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    "a lot of people don't want to pay the premium for the smaller size"

    exactly!

    so until the market moves to a new standard, anything that isnt atx is going to have a premium on it..its dragging the platform as a whole down
    Reply

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