We’re here today with a Lian Li case that isn’t your typical fare, at least for the systems I typically build. Why, you may ask? Because the Lian Li PC-Q28 is tiny. Sit back, relax and have a read through to find out why you’d want such a tiny case – and find out why we like it so much.
Packaging & Specifications
Like all of Lian Li’s cases, the box is thick corrugated cardboard and the case is floating inside surrounded by styrofoam. It’s well protected against all but the most horrific impacts.
The specifications are helpfully printed on the box.
Lian Li’s site isn’t cooperating, so here are the more detailed specs as listed from Newegg.
Now we’ll get this thing out of the box and see what it looks like.
The PC-Q28 is elegant and simple on the outside. That’s one of the reasons I love this case and why it’s a very good looking addition to a home theater. It’s quite small, at only 8.9″ x 12″ x 13.6″ (WxHxD). There are two USB 3.0 ports and headphone/mic jacks on the lower right side, which leaves the front nearly uniform other than the small power switch and 5.25″ drive bay.
There isn’t much of anything on the other side. If I may talk a minute about the drive bay – I love that there IS one! Many mITX cases this size don’t have one, choosing instead to go with a slot-loading drive, which requires a more expensive, harder to find ODD. Yes, I still use an ODD for Blu-Ray playback, choosing to keep and use physical discs. Yes, storage is cheap, but not as cheap as a Blu-Ray drive and time is worth a lot to me these days, so the time it would take to properly rip all of my discs makes that idea a non-starter.
Thus, I’m very pleased there is an actual 5.25″ optical drive. If you don’t have or use one, they supply a matching brushed aluminum blank to keep the front of the case looking nice.
Speaking of brushed aluminum, that’s what the vast majority of this case is outfitted with. There are small departures from it, but they are few and far between (fan grill, case feet, things like that).
Speaking of grills, the PC-Q28 has its front air intake on the bottom front of the case. There is not a lot in the way of square inches on this grill, so you’ll need to make sure you keep it clean if your house is dust-prone. As long as you do that, it should be plenty of air for a system you put in this case.
The case feet are nearly flush with the surrounding aluminum such that you can’t really tell they are there unless you look from the bottom like this.
There are two fans included with the PC-Q28, one 140 mm that resides in the front above that filter and a 120 mm underneath the rear fan grill that you can see here. This fan is placed perfectly to remove heat from components on the motherboard.
The rear is equally sparse, with a slot for the PSU (you remove that bracket, mount it to the PSU, then slide the PSU into the case) and two PCIe slots, which is great because it means this demure case can accommodate a solid GPU.
Overall it is a classy box, with a great brushed aluminum look that’s sparsely outfitted. Externally at least, it looks like a great HTPC case, which will match many of the electronics on the market.
The accessories give you enough to use the case as you need to. There is a USB 3.0-to-USB 2.0 adapter in case your board doesn’t have a USB 3.0 header, and there are enough screws to mount anything and everything you could need.
They even include a couple of wire ties for some cable management. You may need more of these before you’re done.
Interior & Feature Tour
The case side panel is held on by tabs and one screw. Pull the screw out and slide the panel up, then it pulls right off.
Now we get to the heart of the matter. The PC-Q28 mounts your motherboard on two rails. You can see the top 120 mm fan and front 140 mm fan in this photo. The 120 mm fan includes a handy grill to keep wires out of it. With space this tight, that’s a very good idea.
Next to the board there is enough space for the 5.25″ drive and up to six (6!) 3.5″ HDDs. There are also slots for three 2.5″ drives, one in the drive cage and another two we’ll get to later. Remember that “up to” six drives though. That includes all of your SSD space. Practically speaking, a common use for this capability will be one 2.5″ SSD and up to five 3.5″ HDDs. The drive cage holds four drives.
If you opt to remove the bottom tray (more on that later) like I did, but still want storage and speed together, your best bet is to mount a 2.5″ SSD in the bottom of the cage there and add up to three 3.5″ HDDs. With drives up to 4 TB available, I would think that’s sufficient for the vast majority of people out there, unless your name is thideras.
Here’s another angle where you can see the drive cages a little better. I’ve also begun removal of the top drive cage to show that it’s removable. If you want, you can take this one out and just use the bottom cage, or vice versa.
The back of the motherboard rails and drive cages is quite sparse. There isn’t any wire management room behind the motherboard, so you’ll have to do all of your wire management on the ‘business’ side of the board.
Here are the aforementioned ‘front panel’ connectors. They’re on the side, but still reside on the front panel.
The PSU mount is a separate piece of aluminum that you mount on the PSU, then slide into the case itself. This is actually markedly easier than trying to hold the PSU up inside the case to mount it, especially on a build this small. You need all the help you can get. In this case, you can drape your wires through the hole, then slide the PSU right in. That is a solid improvement over having to hold the PSU up to mount it from the inside.
The PCIe card slots are held on by a sliding mount bracket, which is tool-free and convenient. The case is not as a whole tool-free, but this is and it’s well thought out.
Let’s start putting a system in here, shall we?
Working With the PC-Q28 & System Install
First we’ll take a look at that bottom drive mount. There are two sets of holes in two spots – one for 2.5″ drives and one for 3.5″ drives, times two. You can remove the drive cage and mount your only drives here, mount drives in all spots, or remove this tray and use only the drive cage.
In this instance, I was going for a more powerful HTPC that could game if called upon, so I went with removing the bottom drive mount and only using the cage.
It was mentioned earlier, but you remove the drive cage by taking out these two screws and sliding it out toward the front. As you can see, there is some room for HDD cable management back here too. You won’t be running anything behind the board, but this is some welcome breathing room.
Here’s the front 140mm fan. As you can see it’s offset from the front of the case so that air can be drawn from that bottom air intake.
Here is the drive configuration I went with – one HDD and one SSD in an SSD caching configuration.
The drive cage is well positioned to allow for video card mounting; the card slides right underneath. The maximum video card length is 290 mm, or 11.4″, so it can hold quite a large graphics card, just not the crazy 12″+ monster dual-GPU cards. It would be tight, but something like an AMD R9 290X or NVIAIA GTX TITAN would fit just fine. The card here is a GTX 660 and is 9.5″ long.
Here’s the back of the system, showing the two cables I managed to squeeze behind the motherboard rails.
Here are a couple photos of the completed install before shoving the PSU completely into the system. Yes, I’m using the stock cooler; there just isn’t much room between the board & PSU and there was no low profile heatsink on hand. The important part about this install is managing your wires before you put the PSU into place. If you don’t, you’re guaranteed to have a wire eaten up by your HSF. Get your wires squared away, accounting for distance of PSU travel, then push it the rest of the way in.
Here are a couple more peeks down at the board.
Finally, wires as managed as you can, push the PSU back in. Aside from that bundle of cables you see in front of the PSU, the front of the motherboard is relatively cable-free, giving plenty of breathing room. One thing I would recommend is a modular power supply so you can remove any cables not in use.
While small with few fans, there is actually decent airflow in this case. The 140 mm fan draws cool air in from outside and then you have the top 120 mm exhaust fan working in conjunction with the PSU fan and GPU fans pulling the hot air out of the case. One thing I would highly recommend is using a blower-style graphics card. If your card doesn’t exhaust its hot air outside the case, a case like this will heat up significantly.
Finally, here is the case all buttoned up and ready for HTPC duty.
Overall things are looking great…except for those fingerprints I didn’t notice when taking the photo!
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
The Lian Li PC-Q28 is a great example of small done right. In my case, it’s the perfect case for HTPC duty, but that isn’t all it can do. A Z77 system with a 3770K and GTX 660 is slightly overkill for HTPC duty, but it can also game. This build shows you don’t have to compromise on your system if you want to save space. The PC-Q28 doesn’t have to hold an HTPC. It can hold quite a strong gaming system in a very small package.
I didn’t do temperature testing specifically in this review because I am using only the stock cooler. Anecdotally, it keeps things cool enough; the fan spinning up to be audible is few and far between – which is important in an HTPC. No, it’s not going to be some roomy monster of a case with two or three intake fans, so don’t expect it to be and you’ll be fine. Our PCs can tolerate plenty warm temperatures, and this case will allow your system to operate well (and I mean plenty) below anything resembling max tolerance.
Now, being Lian Li, this is not going to be a cheap case, but in this instance neither is it going to be prohibitively expensive. The PC-Q28 retails on Newegg for $109.99 with free shipping. It’s out of stock, but you can also get the PC-Q28 in silver. That’s really not a bad price for the quality of this case. Aluminum cases are inherently expensive. They’re also lighter, stronger and better looking than their painted counterparts.
If you want a great looking LAN system, a classy looking HTPC in your living room or just a small, good looking but powerful PC, the PC-Q28 was made for you. Get one. You won’t be disappointed.