Lian Li PC-A76X Case Review: The Limits of Aluminumby Dustin Sklavos on September 30, 2012 12:01 AM EST
Assembling the Lian Li PC-A76X
If you've kept up at all with my reviews of previous Lian Li cases, there should be very little in the PC-A76X that will surprise you. Most of the design choices I've come to expect from Lian Li, for better or for worse, are present in the PC-A76X. Thankfully the sheer size of the enclosure goes a long way towards making it easy to assemble, provided you have the strength necessary to manipulate it.
Starting with the motherboard tray, Lian Li has the standoffs for the motherboard built into the tray along with holes for additional standoffs depending on the form factor of the motherboard you're using. Unfortunately, either as a result of paint or just inadequate machining, some of the holes actually proved to be too tight to fit additional standoffs into. I appreciate the convenience of the ones built in already, but the expansion holes really should've been handled with more care.
Thankfully once the board was in, the rest of the build was pretty much a breeze. You'll actually spend most of your time sifting through the mountain of grommets and screws included, though Lian Li does you a solid by also including a small plastic screw bin. 3.5" drives are handled by installing grommets and thumbscrews into the sides like wheels, and then the drive cage is opened with two thumbscrews. You raise the side, which opens the rails for the drives to slide into, then lower it again and tighten the thumbscrews to lock all the drives in place. For some reason I found this approach less troublesome than usual, though I still vastly prefer the rail systems used by Antec.
2.5" drives are handled similarly; grommets and screws go into the bottom of the drive, then the drive itself essentially slides and locks into place in the drive cage's dividers. It's a surprisingly secure mounting system, but the back of the 2.5" drive winds up being further inside the cage than I'd like. Finally, 5.25" drives enjoy a toolless locking system that's mostly adequate.
Expansion slots include ventilated covers and are held into place with thumbscrews, par for the course, but the power supply gets a removable frame. I'm not sure how necessary this frame was; there's a boatload of space around the power supply inside the case, even if you absolutely filled it to the brim with hardware. It's a nice touch, but a wasted convenience when there were other things in the case design that needed attention.
Finally, cabling the PC-A76X can be troublesome. You'll need long cables; that's not Lian Li's fault so much as it comes with the territory when you're supporting extended specs like E-ATX and HPTX. Yet the routing holes I mentioned on the previous page are both inadequate for any kind of major build, they're barely adequate for even a spare build like our testbed. They needed to be bigger, and the rubber linings themselves pop out way too easily. That said, there's at least a healthy amount of space behind the motherboard tray for routing cables.
I can't help but feel like while the underlying thermal design of the PC-A76X is sound, there are too many minor grievances with the execution. There are conveniences and features that really should've been included with a case at this price, aluminum be damned. I feel like half the time Lian Li's engineers don't actually build computers in their cases to understand why certain features have become standard in cases from other vendors; ease of use is a step up, but it's still way behind the curve.