When we first talked to Lian Li, they asked us to review a benching station (their PC-Q06, reviewed here). They are not necessarily well known for benching stations, but they are most definitely known for their enclosed cases. Almost every PC builder, modder, and water cooler has seen (and drooled over) their creations. Today we’ll be pouring over one of their newer cases we posted about previously, the PC-X900.
Packaging & Specifications
Like most cases, the PC-X900 arrived shipped in its own box. Suffering a few not-so-minor impacts on its way, the box and protective foam did a solid job of keeping the case pristine.
You want that padding & bag pulled off, don’t you? Too bad! – Specifications first.
|Case Type||Mini Tower Chassis|
|Dimensions||(W) 230mm x (H) 598mm x (D) 388mm|
|Front bezel Material||Aluminum|
|Color||Black / Silver / Red|
|Side Panel||Transparent Side Panel|
|5.25″ drive bay (External)||3|
|3.5″ drive bay (External)||1(use one 5.25 inch to 3.5 inch converter)|
|3.5″ drive bay (Internal)||7|
|Motherboard||ATX / M-ATX|
|System Fan (Front)||Black, Silver / 120mm Blue LED Fan x 3
Red / 120mm Red LED Fan x 3
|System Fan (Top)||None|
|System Fan (Rear)||Black, Silver / 120mm Blue LED Fan x 2
Red / 120mm Red LED Fan x 2
|I/O Ports||USB3.0 x 4 / e-SATA x 1 / HD Audio|
|Maximum Video Card Size||305mm|
|Package Dimensions||(W) 468mm x (H) 670mm x (D) 293mm|
I would argue slightly with “Mini Tower Chasis” part. It’s quite a bit taller and slightly wider than the Cooler Master RC690 II Advanced and NZXT Tempest EVO mid towers we reviewed. That said, it has significantly less depth, so that’s probably where the mini- part came from.
Looking at the rest of the specifications, we see accommodations akin to any mid-tower’ish chassis. Seven expansion slots, seven 3.5″ and three 5.25″ drive bays. It could hold almost any system so long as there isn’t an E-ATX motherboard involved.
Okay, so we’re back on track for those of you that just like eye candy. After pulling the foam and bag off, we are met with a very solid, surprisingly lightweight case. With its decreased depth and increased height, it seems almost monolithic.
It’s definitely an imposing structure. What first came to mind was the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey. When you’re handling this thing, its rigidity and structural integrity are second to none. Even with the Plexiglas side window, it would take a mighty force to make this thing crumble. Speaking of the Plexiglas: it is truly a massive window, taking up darn near the entire lower section of the case.
Looking more closely at the front, you can see there is room for three vertically oriented 120 mm fans plus the three 5.25″ drive bays. One of the 5.25″ drive bays is pre-converted into a 3.5″ bay.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a spare 5.25″ blank, so if you don’t like the square-within-a-square look, you’ll have to use something in addition to your ODD (i.e. a fan controller) and remove the 3.5″ converter.
Taking our tour north a bit, we see the top of the case. There are the power and reset buttons as well as a covered front I/O panel.
As you can see, it looks like they even brushed the aluminum of the I/O cover at the same time, making for a uniform continuation of the brush lines. Attention to detail like this is a big part of what gives Lian Li their reputation for quality. You can see the port options available – one e-SATA, front panel microphone input and audio output as well as four USB 3.0 ports.
Don’t be discouraged if your motherboard doesn’t have USB 3.0 ports. They include an adapter to plug two of the cables into a USB 2.0 motherboard header. For the record, USB 3.0 cables 1 and 2 are the top and bottom USB 3.0 ports on the left in the photo above.
Continuing around to the rear, you can see the dual 120 mm exhaust fans, one for each ‘chamber’ (we’ll get to that in a little bit). The expansion slot covers are vented to help with airflow.
What’s nice about the fans is their lack of airflow restriction. Most cases simply have holes drilled in a pattern to allow air to go through. Lian Li cut the entire circle out for these fans, using grilles to keep those digits safe and allow more airflow than you’d see in a typical setup.
The fans are mounted with screws through rubber grommets. They don’t actually touch the case, keeping vibration next to nil and helping keep the machine quiet.
Last in our external tour, we’ll look at the bottom of the case. They definitely didn’t slack off here, giving you an easily removable air filter for your power supply and sturdy feet to elevate the case and keep your PSU from starving for air.
The intake was a surprise here, considering we just got finished talking about how great the lack of restriction on the rear fans is. The slots should allow plenty of air to enter, it’s just different. I would have preferred a bit less restrictive intake.
The feet fit well with the rest of the case and have rubber to keep it stationary and protect your floors. They are normal height so those of you with hardwood or tile would be fine, but folks with carpet would want to consider elevating the case a little bit.
So far, so good. From the outside it’s definitely a very nice looking case.
The included accessory bundle has various bits and baubles to make your installation experience easier. Included are:
- Two pretty darn long SATA cables.
- One two-connector USB 2.0 header to USB 3.0 cable converter.
- PSU mounting bracket.
- Expansion slot cable pass-through (for USB 3.0 cables to run to your board’s rear I/O panel).
- Case speaker.
- Lots of screws, including thumbscrews for mounting your motherboard.
- A handy-dandy screw box to keep all of this in – a very nice touch.
Not a bad bundle really. The extra long SATA cables are convenient for a case of this height and the screw box comes in handy. Unlike most cases, you don’t have to try and keep one of the little bags intact to corral leftover screws back into when you’re done.
The first thing to note is how you remove and install the side panels. There are two thumb screws on the back, one for each side panel at the top. It’s not a matter of just unscrewing that though; they never leave the case, which is convenient for those of us with butterfingers.
You unscrew it and pull it out, which unlocks the side panels. Then you simply pull the top of the panel out and lift it off of the case. By far one of the easiest, most seamless side panel removals I’ve ever experienced.
To add to its usefulness, there is even a place for a padlock for added security. To the left of that top fan, you can see another knob. This nice addition is the built-in fan controller. It has four outputs , one short for all included case fans but they include two splitters. While I wouldn’t trust it on some of the enthusiast-level high-powered screamers, it will suffice to control the five included 0.20 Amp fans. A wattage rating isn’t available on the site, so let’s just say don’t push it with high-amperage fans.
Pulling the side panels off, you see an interior with a finish equally as good looking as the exterior. Cavernous isn’t a word I’d use to describe this one (it is billed as a mini-tower after all), but it should handle most enthusiast set-ups.
From expansion slot to front fan this case measures 305 mm, plenty of room for most any video card on the market. We’ll be water cooling this one with an internal radiator, so that 305 mm is going to be reduced a bit.
Now let’s tool around some of the features starting with the two hard drive racks.
The bottom rack can hold three hard drives and the top can hold four. Both drive cages are removable with a single thumbscrew just like the ones used for the side panels (these are also affixed once they are unscrewed).
It’s nice to be able to take them out if you want, but you also must take them out to install the hard drives. Tool-free does not mean screw-free; thumb screws don’t require tools. They supply plenty of them too.
Since we’re talking about bays, the 5.25″ bays are a good next step. There will be three photos in a row shortly so you can see the tool-free latch in action. Click on the first, then click the right side of the photo.
The latches are surprisingly strong. Like most tool-free mounts it won’t suffice for a fan controller or other shallow device that only uses the front screw hole, but it works very well for full-depth 5.25″ devices. You can also move the mounting pins to alternate holes for wider compatibility.
Speaking of tool-free, the expansion slot latches are even stronger than these. They snap open and shut with a reassuring click. Once these are latched your PCI/PCI-e cards aren’t going anywhere.
While we’re down here, have a look down at the PSU mounting rails. The PSU sits on two rails – one on each side – and is elevated from the floor of the case, so it draws air from the case itself as well as from the vents on the bottom. Looking in the opposite direction shows the bottom of the HDD rack, which is vented to allow air from the bottom chamber to flow through. This is part of the designed airflow pattern, as illustrated by Lian Li.
The front fans are mounted on a removable plate. You unscrew two thumbscrews, angle it out and pull. It would be nice to get to the air filters without needing to do that, but it’s not difficult by any means. You can tell it’s designed to tight specifications to keep vibration down. Once mounted and tightened, the panel is solid.
The filters are designed just like the PSU’s and come off with a flick of the tabs. Unlike many cases, it’s nice to see the included fans with grilles included and mounted. It’s also nice to see all fan holes filled from the get-go.
You may have already surmised this, but one of the best things about the front fan mount is the spacing – it fits water cooling radiators nicely.
Last, but not least, the back of the motherboard tray. The cable pass-through holes are surrounded by zip tie mounts. It’s also nice that these have plastic clips to protect cables. Those are securely mounted too, unlike the NZXT rubber pass-through grommets that came off if you so much as touched them. Of course, it’s also impossible to miss the gaping hole for CPU cooler backplate mounting. The bigger the better as long as it doesn’t affect structural integrity!
First thing’s first: the PSU. There is a plate you remove and install with thumb screws which mounts to the PSU outside the case. After mounting that, slide it in and then use the hold-down strap to keep vibration to a minimum.
Now we come to one of the few drawbacks to this case, the HDD mounts. Well, not HDD per se, but SSD mounting – or lack thereof.
The HDD mounts no problem. There are rubber grommets through which the thumb screws go into the HDD. This isolates the drives’ vibration for more silence. Unfortunately, those mounts have no option to move them. So if you have a 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter like a lot of SSDs include, you’re out of luck (they don’t span the full length between spaces). Worse, the thumb screws don’t fit the adapter. Installing this one took borrowing a mount from the previously reviewed Cooler Master RC690 II Advanced. To install it properly, you have to purchase a 3.5″ to dual-2.5″ adapter for $9.99.
While Newegg doesn’t seem to have any, Lian Li does show they make a black version, so that’s good. It definitely does give one pause though. On one hand, it’s only $10 when you’re already spending a lot on a case. On the other – and the side of my brain that wins out – you’re paying a lot of money for this case; they could at least throw in a way to mount an SSD. A large proportion of people in the market for a case like this – one aimed squarely at the enthusiast market – will have at least one SSD in their system.
Now it’s time for the not-so-pretty shot – the rat’s nest every person that manages their wires well has behind the motherboard tray. Next to that is the back of the HDD cage. To the right of it are the electronics for the built-in fan controller. They do include two significantly long extensions that split one fan port into two, which was nice to see.
No, it’s not a good looking mess, but it keeps the part you do see nice and clean.
Like the previous two cases this board has been in – an original RC690 in which I cut a backplate hole and the RC690 II Advanced – the backplate mount was just too far to the side. I blame the board for this though; just look at how close to the motherboard mount they put the hole.
Backplate holes don’t get much bigger than this, but anyone with an EVGA P55 board should remember to put the backplate on before installing the board. This case definitely wins for closest to perfect.
The included expansion slot cable pass through bracket (whew, that’s a mouthful) is handy not only for the USB 3.0 cables it’s designed for, but also for fan cables to get to external radiators.
This also brings us to significant issue number two. The expansions slots are designed with a sort-of step up toward the end where the hold-down meets them. This presented a game-stopping problem that wouldn’t happen with all video cards, but the Matrix 5870 Platinum has its “Safe Mode” button right where that step-up is. Defeat is not an option, so enter the metal file.
It was painful to do that, but it worked. Not sure exactly why they are tapered up like that, but it was not a welcome feature.
The rest of the install was an uneventful and overall pleasant experience. Space did get pretty tight installing a radiator internally, especially with such a large video card. Sans radiator, it can fit a card 305 mm long but adding a radiator of course decreases that. For this install, we’ll be using a Swiftech MCR-320, which is 34 mm deep. Sticking with 25 mm fans, that leaves 271mm for a video card. This card happens to be very close to 270 mm long and, as you can see, cuts it very close. It took a bit of creative angling to get it in there.
This is definitely something to keep in mind when planning a build in one of these. A longer video card (such as a 5970) and/or deeper radiator (Thermochill, XSPC, etc.) would not have fared so well. In this instance however, it worked out perfectly.
The other close call was the barb, tubing and clamp at the top of the case. It fit, but just so. Another quick word on tubing – the grommets for tubing on the back of the case do not hold their place while pulling tubing through them. They do fine after you get it set and put them back in, but it’s a pain to get there.
Yes, I wish they sold rotary angles in copper. I went with them to go with the EK Supreme HF Copper CPU water block.
Installed and Ready for the Spotlight
Real quickly, let’s explore mini-tower vs. mid-tower with the RC690 II Advanced next to the PC-X900.
With the cases right next to each other, we can see more what they mean by mini-tower. While it’s quite tall, I can see why they would call it that now.
Ok, ok. You’ve waited long enough. After you see what went in it, we’ll start with fully installed photos but with the case side panel off.
|MB:||EVGA P55 FTW|
|RAM:||G.Skill Pi DDR3-2400|
|GPU:||ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum|
|PSU:||Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 800W|
Water Loop (In Order)
|Reservoir:||XSPC Res Top|
|Radiator One:||Swiftech MCR-220|
|Rad One Fans:||Ultra High Speed Panaflo|
|CPU Block:||EK Supreme HF Cu|
|Radiator Two:||Swiftech MCR-320|
|Rad Two Fans:||Delta AFB1212SH|
|Fan Controller:||Lamptron FC-5|
|Tubing:||Masterkleer 7/16″ ID / 5/8″ OD|
Now we’ll close it up to see the finished product.
The included fans all have four blue LEDs in them. Their positioning gives a nice effect off the blades. We’ll turn the lights off for our parting shots.
Where to start? I guess we’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way. The PC-X900 black costs a cool $339.99 plus shipping. The silver and red versions are $349.99 and $499.99, respectively (the red looks good, but WOW what a premium). This is targeted at people that aren’t just PC enthusiasts, but want to show off that PC in style. Lian Li knows this and do they ever deliver on style. Put it this way – when I showed a couple preliminary photos to our editing team, one of the editors (who shall remain nameless) said he’d trade his girlfriend for it.
Though close, it’s not perfect. The tubing grommets need to hold better to the panel and the expansion slots shouldn’t impede video card installation like they did in this instance. The Matrix 5870 Platinum is unique with its Safe Mode button, but there may be other cards that gets in the way of as well.
The only other beef is the lack of SSD accommodation without purchasing an extra bracket. It’s $10, but that’s ten bucks over and above an already expensive case whose price says to me that one of those should darn well be included.
These are minor quibbles though. Everything else about this case is top notch. For those who take silent computing seriously, this is one for the ages. From the tightness with which the removable parts fit, to the PSU hold-down to the rubber mounts isolating the fans and hard drives, it just screams silence. Even with five under-volted, high amperage fans it is much quieter than any other case I’ve reviewed. When said fans are cranked to the max, it still proves to be quieter than the competition.
People that use water cooling will also enjoy this case for its ability to accommodate an all-internal water loop. Just keep the combination of radiator depth and video card length in mind.
Lian Li continues to help us make our computers into works of art. Anyone in the market for a case of this calibre would be well advised to put this on their short list. While I wouldn’t go quite so far as one enthusiastic editor, I can say the PC-X900 is worth every penny!
–Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)