Introducing the Lian Li PC-A76X

As a case designer and manufacturer, Lian Li has built their entire business around aluminum. It's one of those materials that seems to have a real marketing draw, that seems to perk up consumers, and it's understandable. Aluminum conducts heat well, and an attractive brushed aluminum finish can trump the heck out of any garden variety plastic and/or steel enclosure. It's something Lian Li have essentially created a premium brand around, and today we're taking a look at one of their most premium offerings of all, the PC-A76X.

The PC-A76X isn't just a premium enclosure, it's a concerted effort by Lian Li to produce an E-ATX/HPTX case in relatively small dimensions. Our testbed is admittedly going to seem a little mundane, dwarfed by this monstrous piece of aluminum designed and destined for only the most powerful of workstations (or enthusiast builds), but that may not matter as much as it first appears. Has Lian Li produced a knockout case, or have they missed the mark?

That's a pretty sticky question. This case is designed to house frankly as much computer as you can cram into it, and I'll admit I was pretty optimistic when I first read the press materials. A trio of 140mm fans in the front attempt to produce the kind of wind tunnel effect that makes cases like SilverStone's FT02 and Temjin TJ08-E such formidable performers, and I've been looking for some time for a good replacement for my own FT02.

Lian Li PC-A76X Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, E-ATX, HPTX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25”
Internal 9x 3.5", 3x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front 3x 140mm intake fan
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120mm fan mounts
Side 2x 140mm fan mount
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 11
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm
PSU 360mm
GPU 14.1" / 360mm
Dimensions 11.22" x 27.95" x 26.89"
285mm x 710mm x 683mm
Weight 20.9 lbs. / 9.5 kg
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal headers
Toolless motherboard installation
Support for 240mm radiator in top of enclosure
All aluminum build and finish
Price $210

The fact that the case is actually 21 lbs. of aluminum should give you some indication of just how big this beast really is, yet interestingly Lian Li opted to keep the design fairly narrow. I don't get the sense that they could've shrunk down the PC-A76X too much more without making some sacrifices. They probably could've made it a bit shorter by moving the PSU to the front of the case and ditching three of the drive bays and an intake fan, but that's about it.

At $210, the PC-A76X is squarely in enthusiast class territory; once you go over about $160, cases are generally supposed to offer both excellent acoustics and thermal performance. That's part of the reason why the lack of any kind of noise dampening material is worrisome, though the cooling design looks like it may just be efficient enough to pick up the slack.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A76X
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  • Iketh - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    Thanks for sharing my thoughts, not just on this case but Lian Li in general. I want and have always wanted an all-aluminum case for years, but each time I look through Lian Li's stock, I'm left with that feeling of running your nails across a chalk board and I end up with a cheaper case. And that's coming from someone who bought the original Cosmos years ago...

    And, please, case engineers, stop including side vents... they're not needed anymore when you have slotted PCI covers... just give us robust intake solutions and that's it. I have never found a side intake fan that didn't rattle the door or make the case humm and I can only imagine how the case in this review would sound with the thin panels...
    Reply
  • michaelheath - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    I've had a number of aluminum cases over the years, and, to be perfectly honest, the only ones that didn't feel chintzy were the cases that had other materials padding the panels and the frame. There really aren't many realistic benefits to using aluminum aside from weight - which doesn't mean much if you don't move your PC all that often. Aluminum certainly doesn't do much for heat dissipation or noise dampening, and Lian Li isn't alone in winding up with cases with middling performance that rattle and hum (though this particular case seems to avoid that).

    According to the rather thorough testing from Bit-Tech several months ago in their article, "The Big Air Cooling Investigation," where a Fractal Design Define R3 was tested with practically every reasonable (and a few unreasonable) configurations, it seems one of the most critical fan locations was in the side panel. Then again, as I mentioned before, the side panel is made of layered steel and plastic, not aluminum.

    Perforated PCI covers don't really help much when they aren't in the direct path of convection, especially if they aren't in the direct path of moving air. Typically, they sit below most of the sources of heat in a computer case and don't provide any tangible benefit except for allowing another location for sound to escape.
    Reply
  • cashkennedy - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    You obviously have never had a cooler master wave master , or a cooler master atcs, both are made of aluminum so thick, you cant even bend / dent it if you tried with all your strength. I believe the first year or two lian li was around they made cases out of similarly thick aluminum, and those were the years that aluminum cases got a good reputation, later they all started being made out of sheets thinner then a coke can, and add to that the fact that aluminum helping cool the components was all hype by retards who somehow didnt come to grasp the fact that none of your components are in direct contact with the aluminum (except for possibly the hard drives), so cant be cooled by the case... Reply
  • Iketh - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    actually there is obvious truth to aluminum keeping the AIR inside the case cooler... steel will act more as an insulator keeping the heat inside while aluminum will transfer that heat through the panels better, but it's negligible to the point of gimmicky Reply
  • rarson - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    You've got that backwards. Aluminum is a poor conductor of heat, hence the outside of an aluminum case will likely stay cooler than a steel case. Steel is a good conductor of heat; a steel case gets hotter because it's transferring heat from inside the case to outside through the metal itself. Reply
  • sor - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    My BS meter just went off. Nearly all metals are good conductors of heat, but aluminum, copper, and silver are among the best. Aluminum simply has less mass and doesn't RETAIN heat well, but it conducts heat just fine. Reply
  • Iketh - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    sorry, but you're the one that's backwards, and generally lacking knowledge on the subject as illustrated with this statement:

    "Steel is a good conductor of heat; a steel case gets hotter because it's transferring heat from inside the case to outside through the metal itself."
    Reply
  • BiggieShady - Tuesday, October 02, 2012 - link

    If steel is a good conductor of heat, aluminum is better. For purely hot air contact it's negligible, however for direct contact it matters - that's why you have aluminum or copper heatsinks instead of steel. Reply
  • johnsmith9875 - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    Steel is a terrible conductor of heat. They're used in cases mainly because its inexpensive and easy to fabricate compared to aluminum. Reply
  • xc68000 - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    Seriously. I can't get rid of my Wavemaster because literally every new aluminum case I look is crap in comparison. It was designed more for the P4 era and as such doesn't have any 120mm fans (except for the one I cut in the side panel). There is a market, but seems like no one is making cases for it. I've never seen a silverstone, but they look like a premium case I wonder about the panel thickness though.

    And seriously...you can see the LianLi badge is on crooked in one of those photos. They have definitely strayed from where they started from.
    Reply

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