In and Around the Lian Li PC-A76X

I mentioned in the introduction that I was feeling very optimistic about the Lian Li PC-A76X. While I have misgivings about aluminum as a construction material (see my review of Cubitek's HPTX Ice), the PC-A76X's cooling design looked to be a big winner, at least on paper. The more cases I review, the more I'm convinced the bottom-front intake to top-back exhaust standard is just not the best way to do things. Lian Li looked like they had a winner on their hands.

Then I opened the box, reality set in, and my thoughts drifted from "this case should perform really well" to "I hope they're not charging as much for this as I think they are." Even just removing it from the box, the case had a bit of a rattle. In its journey here from Taiwan the front door had incurred a minor dent, and you can see from the side that though the top and bottom mostly line up, it's...less than secure.

Lian Li uses a traditional black brushed aluminum finish over the entire chassis, and if you're familiar with their other designs there's nothing particularly new here. What struck me once I unlocked and opened the front door was that the PC-A76X reminded me of an aluminum version of one of Fractal Design's cases. The deprecation of external 5.25" drive bays, coupled with the blocked in fan mounts on the top and side panels of the case reminded me of some of the things Fractal Design does, though they're just design tricks that are becoming increasingly common and not unique to that company at this point.

On top of the case is a sliding door that hides the port cluster, but inexplicably there's an opening for what looks like there should've been an eSATA port. The pair of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports are appreciated, though; I've been of the opinion that four is about the right number of USB ports for the front of a case, and USB 3.0 can still be hinky even on modern boards.

When you do remove the thumbscrews from the back of the case and pop the panels off, you find an interior that's remarkably straightforward. The bigger cases get, the more logical their interiors tend to be, and Lian Li makes the PC-A76X very simple for both new users and for people familiar with their ouevre. There's a removable bracing bar for expansion cards and one single, long drive cage in the front. Note that none of these cages are removable, so even if you don't need space for twelve hard drives, you're unfortunately stuck with that cage blocking some of the front intake.

What concerned me was the paucity of mounting holes in the motherboard tray for routing cables. These are conveniences that are par for the course for high end enclosures, yet these three small holes seem frankly inadequate for a case that's designed to hold multiple high end graphics cards and multi-CPU motherboards. That said, the area behind the motherboard tray is surprisingly spacious, and Lian Li has done a fantastic job of routing the case's cable leads and keeping the cabling clean and tidy.

I don't think you're going to hear me accuse the PC-A76X of being a bad design, but Lian Li's overall design language seems to be a bit behind the curve. The rubber-lined routing holes are really spare and strike me as being inadequate for a case with such lofty ambitions, and the inability to remove unneeded drive cages to improve airflow from the intakes would be troublesome at half the price and borders on unforgivable at $210. The aluminum used in the shell itself also seems frankly chintzy, and the minor damage incurred en route from Taiwan despite the healthy padding in the packaging suggests a case that may not be particularly sturdy in the long term.

Introducing the Lian Li PC-A76X Assembling the Lian Li PC-A76X
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  • Captmcnet - Saturday, January 04, 2014 - link

    NewEgg has this case listed for $190.
    The Lian-Li web site specs show 12 internal 3.5in HDD bays.
    Your Sept 2012 review specifies only 9 such bays.
    Which is correct please.
    Wm McMullen
    bill@mcmullen-fla.net
    Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    My last two cases have been Lian Li, my first a V1000 about 6 or 7 years ago and that thing was built like an aluminum tank. The panels were thick and strong, I still have it as a media server. Based on that experience my second case a full tower is a PC-P80. While very large and roomy, the aluminum on this case was not as high of quality as the original and the has a lot less features. Somewhere along the way, Lian Li began cutting corners on both their features and quality of their aluminum. I hate to see when companies have a good rep going and they start taking advantage after awhile. My next case probably won't be a Lian Li. Reply
  • hyrule4927 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Not really why you're complaining about side vents. I have an Antec 1100 and my GPU temperatures are about 5C lower with a side fan installed. I observed similar benefits from a side intake fan on my old Cooler Master case. Reply
  • Iketh - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    if you design the intakes efficiently and their flow through the bottom of the case, there is no need for the side intake

    side intake = more noise escaping from said GPU and very rarely come with a filter pre-installed, and of course vibration on the side panel
    Reply
  • Steveymoo - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    Actually, the extra noise part is not necessarily true. When I added a second GPU to my NZXT Hush PC, the GPUs would get so hot, the fans would max out. Instead of paying god knows how much for a new case with more adequate cooling, I drilled a hole into the side of the case, right above the GPUs, and fitted a 140mm Noctua fan, including a grill on the outside, and the rubber mount pins. The panel does not vibrate, and the temperature of my GPUs dropped by around 15C.

    As a result, my system runs way quieter under heavy load, and quietens down to a whisper during idle.

    A side panel fan is definitely the best solution, it just has to be done right.
    Reply
  • JPForums - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    A side panel fan isn't necessarily the best solution. Though, it is the correct answer for many cases, there are cases designed to flow large volumes of air through the case with minimal obstructions. In these cases, a side fan doesn't necessarily help. Silverstone's Raven RV02/ Fortress FT02 have no side panel fan, but produce some of the lowest GPU temperatures on the market. I had a buddy cut a hole in the side panel of an FT02 to mount a fan for the GPUs, thinking he could get the temperatures even lower (very nicely done by the way). Unfortunately, it caused more noise, more turbulence in the airflow, and ultimately, higher temperatures across the board. He even re-cut it for a larger fan, but to no avail. He ended up ditching his modded side panel for an original with no fan.

    That said, there are plenty of cases, like the Cooler Master HAF series, where side panel intake is absolutely critical as front intake is clearly obstructed. This type of case isn't necessarily inferior, just different. Done properly, this cooling style isn't really any noisier than the more free flowing style. Given a high end video card or two in this type of case (such as your case), the side fan does in fact reduce overall system noise (as you described).
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    I think you are really stretching here to try to make your point. Side vents aren't necessarily more noisy, and if you are getting any kind of increased vibration from a fan - you need to stop using dirt-cheap fans! Seriously!

    Personally, I want a side fan. I realize my opinion is influenced from the days when graphics solutions started overpowering case cooling designs to the point where pulling off the side cover and setting up a fan to blow across the video card was a necessity, but I've found that a side fan can still significantly drop the temperature of a card.

    You can say proper design makes for a better solution, and certainly that has a lot of truth, but in the end moving air is going to be important enough to some builds that the side fan will be of great benefit. If you don't need or want that, buy a different case.

    ;)
    Reply
  • rarson - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    "if you are getting any kind of increased vibration from a fan - you need to stop using dirt-cheap fans!"

    My thought exactly.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    "Side vents aren't necessarily more noisy"

    Oh ok, I'm just making things up. Sorry...

    "if you are getting any kind of increased vibration from a fan - you need to stop using dirt-cheap fans! Seriously!"

    You consider Zalman fans cheap?

    "Personally, I want a side fan. I realize my opinion is influenced from the days when graphics solutions started overpowering case cooling designs to the point where pulling off the side cover and setting up a fan to blow across the video card was a necessity, but I've found that a side fan can still significantly drop the temperature of a card."

    Well of course! If a side fan is needed, the case was either designed poorly or you bought the wrong case for your needs. This is my whole point. Of course there are some designs that require side vents (ones that obstruct the entire front panel), but in my opinion, 80% of builders don't require these designs, yet it seems 80% of cases have side intakes... Antec three-hundred is a good example of a case that doesn't need a side intake unless you populate the lower half of the 3.5" bays.

    "You can say proper design makes for a better solution, and certainly that has a lot of truth, but in the end moving air is going to be important enough to some builds that the side fan will be of great benefit. If you don't need or want that, buy a different case."

    Again, you're exactly right.... Your post is scary because you're trying to argue yet you're agreeing, like you're not understanding my point at all. (and you're calling me a liar in others...)

    JPForums said it better than I ever can. Refer to his post above.
    Reply
  • redmist77 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Looks suspiciously like an Antec P18X Reply

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