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.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A76X Testing Methodology


View All Comments

  • Grok42 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Why even have a single external bay, just get rid of them entirely. Surely there are enough people that don't have a need for any external drives that there could be a few of these types of cases on the market? I will say I'm impressed that Lian-Li *only* put two external bays in a case this large. Despite my opinion that none were needed, this is a huge step forward from silly cases with 5-9 external bays.

    I get your point that a huge portion of the builds don't need more than a few drives, but I think that unlike the external bay issue, the internal bays could be engineered in such a way that they are flexible and have no trade offs. It seems that a rail system could be conceived that did the job of supporting the structural needs of the case while not blocking air flow at all. Of course, as you add drives, they would block the flow of air but that is a choice you could make. My other big beef with almost all internal bay systems is that spacing the drives is always a trade-off between cabling requirements and heat. With SSDs becoming more popular the 3.5" Vs 2.5" bays is also getting to be a problem. It seems the internal drive rails could be made in such a way that you could decide on the spacing and not need to be locked into set distances based on how many and what type of drives you have.
  • Wardrop - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    I agree that the need for optical drives is on the decline. Very rarely do I, or anyone else in my house for that matter, need to read or write to an optical disc.

    Where I disagree is with cases with heaps of 5.25" bays. There's a market for them; especially for cases with ONLY 5.25" drive bays. I bought a Lian Li PC-A17B about 2 years ago - I had to shop around to find one as they had been discontinued (I bought one of the last available in Australia). The idea was to buy a bunch of Lian Li 3x 5.25" to 4x 3.5" hot-swap cages, which is exactly what I did. I've now got 3 optical drives and 8 hot-swap drives in the size of a standard ATX case. I could if I needed to, scrap the optical drives and go with another hard-drive cage for 12 hot-swap hard-drives in a standard ATX case. Not only does this function really well, it also looks great as the Lian Li drive bays look like they came with the case as they have the same finish and styling. Each drive cage also has a 120mm fan, so thermal performance isn't completely ruined either.

    I just wish Lian Li didn't discontinue this line of cases, as by having this case, they could essentially save themselves from having to make about 5 additional cases to account for all the combinations that could be achieved with the PC-A17.

    Modular case design. Just my two cents.
  • Grok42 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Certainly a valid use case and I'm glad they still make cases like this for your needs. However, there seem to be way too many of them given how niche this market would seem to be. There are also a lot of cases with internal hot swap bays which would be almost as good with the exception that you would have to have easy access to one side of the case in order to actually hot swap a drive. Given how uncommon it is to hot swap this typically wouldn't be a problem.

    Another way to build this would be to use an external drive enclosure. I get why this would be less than ideal for a lot of people but it has the advantage of being simple and robust.

    Maybe the answer is stackable case sections each with their own cooling fan.
  • rarson - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    You can also use the bays for other things, like storage drawers, fan controls, audio breakouts, etc. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    You know, I live in a tiny 1 bedroom apt and I've come to realize that my monster sized Thermaltake Kandalf is probably the best PC purchase I've made. The reason I state this is because smaller is not necessarily better. My PC case keeps my computer relatively quiet, and it was built to house water cooling as well. It was easier to build in than some of my smaller cases. Granted, a removable motherboard try and specifically designed parts (such as a slimmer CPU cooler) make building in smaller cases much easier. It's a beast, for sure - but I don't mind. It garners attention. It's kind of like having a big truck. It's a man's machine. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    I know that's your standard testbed and you want to use it for the sake of comparison charts, but I can't help but think you should have thrown a dual-socket EATX system in there for a real heat and noise test. How loud is this case when it is used the way it is meant to be used? Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    I agree. Some of these cases should be tested more strenuously to see if they really do keep up with cooling demands. That being said, I give Dustin credit for bringing some significant heat challenge in his methodology, much better than a lot of case reviews I've seen.

  • - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    You do not mention the type of aluminum employed in this case - is it pure aluminum or aluminum alloy? Aluminum tensile, bending and compression strength is comparable with steel with the right choice of material, so a flimsy case simply amounts to bad design and choice of aluminum alloy.

    Lots of steel cases are flimsy - just bad design. So too this aluminum case is simply one with bad choice in material thickness and/or material alloy.

    Aluminum may also be hardened to make the surface durable. Again bad choices and design for the material.
  • theSeb - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    " is it pure aluminum or aluminum alloy? Aluminum tensile, bending and compression strength is comparable with steel with the right choice of material, so a flimsy case simply amounts to bad design and choice of aluminum alloy."

    I can tell you without looking at the case that it will be an aluminium alloy. Basically all "aluminium" consumer goods are made out of some aluminium alloy and not "pure aluminium" so your question does not make sense, even though the second bit about the choice of aluminium alloy is correct.

    Pure aluminium is soft and very malleable.

    "The yield strength of pure aluminium is 7–11 MPa, while aluminium alloys have yield strengths ranging from 200 MPa to 600 MPa"
  • Magichands8 - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Lately every time I look at most of Lian Li's offerings I'm seeing lots of weird design decisions. I just don't understand the standard layout of most cases in which you have a thick drive tower positioned right behind the front intake fans. The components that need air flow the least get the best cooling. At the same time air flowing over the drives at the front is heated before it reaches the components that need to be cooled the most. I guess it's a throwback to a time when standard hard drives produced far more heat and storage capacity was much, much lower requiring many drives to satisfy the needs of power users. But those times are long gone. Lian Li really seemed to hit the mark with their PC-X2000 series. I am very impressed the by their straight-through air flow but the rest of their line-up seems to be deviating from that paradigm for reasons that scape me. Although it's really interesting to hear from an above poster who said that the front cover restricts air-flow. It wouldn't surprise me if that also contributed raising the noise floor of the system as well.

    Take the drive cage away from the front of the case. You should be able to easily fit at least 5 drives, very compactly, either above or below the motherboard. Especially if some of them are going to be SSDs (and they should be anyway). In fact I remember reading once that cooling drives TOO efficiently can actually cause them to fail SOONER. Plus, anyone who needs to fill on the order of 10+ drive bays is someone who is looking to use, what, 20+ TERABYTES of storage space? Anyone needing that much storage space is going to be much better served by a storage scheme that's flexible and expandable i.e. an external NAS or SAN setup. No matter how you cut it it just doesn't make any sense to allocate huge amounts of case space to large numbers of drives.

    I hear a lot in comments about Fractal Design and I like their cases but they can't get it right either. Every one of their cases seems to be designed for negative pressure cooling. That's the deal breaker for me on their cases. Even Lian Li is doing this with some of their NEWER designs. Negative pressure cooling is great and all if you want your case to double as vacuum cleaner but to me that's never made any sense.

    What I take away from all of the various case reviews I see is that all these case manufacturers either have no idea what their customers are using their cases to do or are simply not paying attention what qualifies as a good case.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now