Lian Li is known for its high quality aluminum cases. Earlier this year they announced an update to their PC-V2100 line, cases they have been building for ten years. The PC-V2130 has arrived, and Lian Li has some new features for us to enjoy. They built this case with radiators in mind, for one thing. Is this the case for you? Read on.
At first glance, the PC-V2130 is one huge tower. Big, and beautiful. It would be at home beside your desk in your living spaces, for example. The graceful lines, the brushed aluminum black exterior, the tasteful sleek black sides all tell you this is an elegant piece of equipment.
Then you pick it up – amazing! Such a big case, and it weighs so little. It has wheels so you can roll it out to work on its innards; but even loaded with hard drives, it weighs so little you can pick it up and carry it. Indeed, Lian-Li knows aluminum.
The MSRP of this case is $500. As of this writing, the price at Newegg will be $480 + $18 shipping, which is the only place it is listed yet. So, this is a high end case. Is it worth it? Hopefully this detailed review will help you decide.
For first impressions, we have a case with a 94 liter capacity. It can hold an oversize motherboard and up to 14 hard drives. Perfect for a home server, especially if you don’t have room to hide it away. Lian Li explains the virtues of the PC-V2130 here, but we will do our own exploration. We will start with a list of features.
PC-V2130 Features and Specifications
- Supports 240 mm or 280 mm Radiators
- Sound Insulation Material on Front Door and Side Panels
- Speed Fan Controller
- New Tool-less HDD Tray System
- USB 3.0 / HD Audio
- Pull-Forward Bottom Air Filter
- Tool-Less PCI slot mounting
- Brake for Wheels
- Three of the Four 5.25” Slots are in a Modular Removable Bay
- Trays for up to Eleven 3.5” Hard Drives if Modular 5.25” Bay is Removed
- Up to Four 2.5” Hard Drives or SSD’s can be mounted on the side
- Room for Three More 2.5” or 3.5” SSD’s or HD’s Behind the Motherboard
See this page for more, including graphic illustrations of how large graphics cards can fit. Below are the specifications as provided by Lian Li.
|Lian Li PC-V2130 Specifications|
|Case Type||Full Tower Chassis|
All black with window
|Front bezel Material||Aluminum|
|5.25″ drive bay (External)||x4|
or Option 3.5″ x3 (Model: HD-07)
|3.5″ drive bay (External)||None|
|HDD bay||3.5″ HDD x8|
2.5″ HDD x4
3.5″ HDD x3 or 2.5″ HDD x3(M/B tray)
|System Fan (Front)||140mm Fan x2|
|System Fan (Rear)||120mm Fan x1|
|System Fan (Bottom)||140mm Fan x2|
|System Fan (Top)||140mm or 120mm Fan x2 (Optional)|
|I/O Ports||USB3.0 x 4|
|Maximum Compatibility||VGA Card length: 360mm – 480mm(Max)|
PSU length: 200mm
CPU cooler height:180mm
Radiator 240mm or 280mm
|PSU||ATX PSU (Optional)|
Lian Li also advertises that the PC-V2130 has 31mm of space behind the motherboard. Don’t you wish more manufacturers advertised that number?
I measured this beast. It is 9.25” wide (235 mm, which is close to the advertised 237 mm), 25” tall (635 mm, close to the advertised 640 mm) and 24.5” deep. That last measurement is 623 mm, which would seem to be barely shorter than advertised 625 mm. But then add in the PSU plate and a thumbscrew – that is another centimeter. So the whole assembly is close to 635 mm deep. I measured about 370 mm for the graphics card length between the back of the case and the HD trays. Overall, this is a roomy case.
This case shipped all the way from Taiwan in its retail box. There is even a Republic of China stamp on it. Inside, we find your standard Styrofoam end caps, but this was enough. The case arrived without any dings or damage on the inside. One thing about this Styrofoam: it is fragile. If you tip the case up on its corner you will break the Styrofoam. Wrapping the front and back of the end caps with duck tape will provide enough extra strength to avoid that.
The front panel of the PC-V2130 presents us with a collection of handsome black ribs. Peeking beneath, we get our first glimpse of the wheels on this case. They are solid aluminum with O-rings for tires. To the right, you can barely make out the silver colored keyhole. In this view, the panel is locked and the keys are out, better to see the case in all its sleekness.
The left side is flat. Here you can see that the front panel is thick. The front panel is thick enough to have air slots for the hidden front twin 140 mm intake fans to inhale. At the top of the side, the two latches hold the panel to the case.
The rear view shows a shiny side – if you could not tell before, you know now that this is an aluminum case. Running from the top to the bottom, you can see two grommeted holes for hoses to an external radiator, a space for a 120 mm fan, a slot for the motherboard’s IO panel, ten vented PCIE slot covers, and a mounting plate for your PSU. It looks like there is room for a 140 mm exhaust fan instead of a 120 mm fan, but they went with the smaller fan. The little slots do not do much, but on the other side you will find Lian Li’s excellent slot device grippers. But more on that later.
The right side panel is also flat. The front panel has slots on this side, and the side panel shares the pull-down latches you saw in the left panel.
The first view of the top panel shows all of its orifices closed. The Reset and Power buttons sit to the left of the closed cover for the IO port. That larger grilled window at the top is a place for fans, as we shall see. You can barely make out the little latch that slides to the side and allows the top fan panel to open.
The second view of the top shows the orifices open. The Power and Reset buttons are still there. In the I/O cluster we have standard sockets for analog headphone and microphone jacks. There are also two pairs of USB 3.0 ports. Since some motherboards actually have two dual USB 3.0 sockets, this is not an idle affectation. Below that we see the open fan window. The metaphor is apt because the inside of the window has crossbars, just like the windows on some houses.
The fan window contains a panel of plastic that is supposed to be a dust filter. It is not really a dust filter; it is just a panel of plastic that restricts airflow. This is an inexplicable design choice, since everywhere else Lian Li uses the finest fan filters that come on cases.
The bottom of the case is — er, pardon the pun – a case in point. See that lovely fan filter? It is the optimal mesh for catching dust while letting air through. The two views also show us that the bottom filter covers the air intake for two 140 mm bottom fans and the PSU. The filter not only stretches the full length of the case, but it pulls forward. That means you don’t have to move the case to clean the filter. You can leave it backed up against a wall and pull out the filter to clean it. Clearly, it appears that Lian Li’s engineers understand the needs of someone who has a hard drive farm like the PC-V2130. Then they turn around and put the latch for the wheels at the back of the case.
What? You expect the user to pack eleven hard drives in this thing so it is heavy, and needs the wheels. Then the user rolls it back to the wall. Now the user locks it into position – by reaching to the back of the case? Really? After you just made the thing super easy to clean by giving us a pull-forward bottom filter, you give us a back-mounted wheel brake? And it’s not the easiest brake to engage and disengage. Well, this gives you something to do for the PC-V2140.
We return to the front of the case, this time with the door open. I left the key in the lock to show it off. And then note the inside of the door has acoustic padding up and down the whole height. At the top of the front panel proper, one can see two black thumbscrews. These, with the pair on the bottom, lock the front panel to the case. But you can leave off the thumbscrews and the panel will fit snugly onto the main case with a satisfying click. That way, you can easily get at the front filters to clean them.
Below the thumbscrews, the fan controller knob is centered over the 5.25” bay. There are four slots in the 5.25” bay, enough for a DVD device plus room for a 120 mm fan in your front bay.
Below the 5.25” bay there are two filtered 140 mm intake fans that blow air on your main hard drive rack. Finally, the pull handle of the full length bottom filter is visible here.
The side panels are identical. They can be placed indiscriminately on the right or the left. They fit onto the case with an open hinge. In essence, you position the panel by fitting its bottom onto the case and closing it up. Both panels have acoustic padding. I balanced one on the measuring pan of a digital scale designed for small objects. The side panel came in at just under 1.25 kg, which is under 2.75 lbs.
A closeup of the latch mechanism also shows the acoustic padding lining the panel.
In order to reduce the rattle of the side panels, Lian Li provides the PC-V2130 with springs at the top of the case, where the panels close over them. They do a great job of stopping any rattles. Just one thing – they come out easily. You could lose them – I almost did. So, before you start to work on this case, remove all the springs and store them in a safe place. Put them back on the case last thing.
With the left side panel off, when you look in the motherboard cavity of the PC-V2130 you will note there are two brackets there. One is for stabilizing long graphics cards and one for stabilizing hard drive trays. They can also be used for mounting additional 2.5” devices, whether they are SSDs or 2.5” HDs. Inside the cavity, we note the exhaust fan at the upper left, a large CPU window in the motherboard tray, grommeted pass-throughs, a tool-free device for immobilizing a device in the top 5.25” slot, the two 140 mm front fans, and two 140 mm bottom fans. At the rear of the case are ten PCIE slots with tool-free grippers for slot cards.
A closer look at the motherboard tray without intervening brackets reveals pre-installed motherboard standoffs. There are nine of them, arranged for a standard ATX motherboard. If that’s what you are using, you will not have to mess with standoffs.
At the bottom of the case there is a rubber strip that pads the PSU support. That pair of bottom-mounted 140 mm fans are quiet in operation. If you have a hard drive in the bottom tray, there is still room for a 280×25 mm radiator. You can use a thicker radiator if you leave off the lowest HD.
Lian Li provides this case with painless and nearly brainless tool-free latches for mounting cards in the PCIE slots. The only thing you need to remember is that you must lift the handles all the way up to get the card to seat properly.
The next picture shows the hard drive trays sitting directly behind the 140 mm intake fans. In this picture there are eight of them. If you want to remove the modular lower 3-slot 5.25” bay, you can free up space for three more 3.5” hard drives. Lian Li, of course, sells those trays as accessories.
Speaking of accessories, you can get what Lian Li calls an HDD Expansion Kit that will fit in the lower three slots of the 5.25” bay, which puts a 120 mm intake fan in your 5.25” bay. Unfortunately, you will probably also want to buy a front door for that kit. In the past Lian Li sold 3-slot units with an integrated front grill that would allow you to put a 120 mm fan in the 5.25” bay. This, for example, or this.
The view from behind the motherboard tray shows us a single sheet of aluminum. It has eight grommeted pass-throughs, a large CPU window, and positions for three 2.5” or 3.5” SSDs or HDs. What you don’t see are tie-down points. A nice clean look, though.
A close-up view of the back of the HD rack shows that those trays are each fastened with a pair of thumbscrews. The trays actually hold themselves up by fitting extensions of their side into vertical slots in the back. Gravity holds them down. The thumbscrews are there to prevent rattling, and to keep the trays from working loose if you move this beast.
Even without the grommets, which are tough to dislodge – there are no sharp edges here.
When you pop off the front panel, you are presented with wire hanging down the inside of the panel. Those come from the fan speed controller on the front of the case. You can see that the knob controls four fans. On the case itself, you will find the 4-slot 5.25” bay and two filtered intake fans. Again, these filters are the best filters you will find in cases. The have an optimal balance of filtration and air flow.
In the second picture you can see four telltale double holes – it looks like the front fan assembly can be mounted by punching the gasketed bolts through the large parts of the holes and then sliding the assembly sideways into the narrow parts.
Yup. That’s exactly right. You can pull the fan assembly off the case, then mount other fans or mount a radiator on the frame, then put it back. Sweet.
Here’s the obligatory case cable shot. You can see there are two dual USB 3.0 plugs for the two pairs of USB 3.0 ports in the I/O cluster. The HD audio plug at the far right of the picture is unaccompanied by an AC’97 plug. That made using the case a little easier than others.
The second shot shows some of the users manual, but the star of this picture is the QC label, with its date stamp and the inspector’s chop. It’s nice to know there is active QC going on in the Lian Li factory, and inspectors are taking responsibility for their output.
Even here, the case is not fully stripped down. The wheels remain. To remove the bottom fans you would have to take the rails off to get at the screws, so the fans stayed. The modular 5.25” bay was not removed. And yet when I got on the scale holding this aluminum skeleton, I was only 10 lbs heavier than I was without it. WOW, the frame weighed less than 4.5 kg. That’s pretty light.
The arrangement of the 5.25” bay is unfortunate. While the bottom 3 slots can be removed to make way for more HD trays, you still have the floor of the top slot. In other cases you could put your DVD reader or other ODD in the bottom slot, and use the top three for a fan. Since most 5.25” bays are open at the top there is room for a 140 mm fan, a 140 mm fan that could quietly feed air directly to your heatsink. This is a missed opportunity for this case.
The first picture shows the installation manual (available online) with case accessories on top. Starting from the front, you have two adapters that attach to the sides of a 120 mm fan. Then up on the manual you have an extra filter for this optional fan. Unfortunately, the manual does not tell you where in this gargantuan case to put this optional fan, and I could not find any place where the screw holes fit. There are three Molex-to-3pin fan adapters, plastic arms for the GPU supports, and stick-on cable clamps. There is a plastic box with a secure latch for spare parts, and a tiny wrench for motherboard standoffs. I have skipped over the various cushioned washers, screws, etc. Suffice to say there are lots of them.
On top of one of the side pieces for the optional fan, I have laid the USB 3.0-to-USB 2.0 adapter you will find among the accessories. It goes into the dual USB 3.0 plug tightly, but it works perfectly well. You can see one of the black thumbscrews. Like all the thumbscrews for this case, it has a pointy end, which makes inserting it in a screw hole much easier. Note the cylindrical thumbscrews. Those are your motherboard screws.
Now we are ready to see what fits in this case.
Test-Fitting Radiators in the PC-V2130
First of all, let us install a standard ATX motherboard in the PC-V2130. The slots on the right are the slots for the sides of the HD trays. As you can see, there is plenty of room for motherboards. And see that pass-through grommet at the top of the motherboard tray? Unlike some cases, there is plenty of room to move the EPS12V plug through.
Now we take the same picture, but circle the screw holes. Yes, there is room for an HPTX (the wide screw holes) or an XL-ATX (the tall screw holes).
I tried something interesting. Normally I lay a case down and install the motherboard while it is horizontal. It’s more complex this way, but it’s not difficult. Since there is no tall hardware on the fit-testing motherboard, I tried leaving the case vertical while I put the motherboard in place. It went up easily, made simple by these tall and short motherboard thumbscrews. How many simple jobs are hard to do? Happily, this was simple and easy.
Next was to look at bottom clearance. There is not quite enough room to have both the bottom tray inhabited and have a 280×25 mm radiator with 140×25 mm fans on the bottom. I simulated this with a double stack of 140 mm fans.
The front 240×30 mm radiator uses two 120×38 mm fans. From the picture, you can see that you can have a thick 240 mm and fans up front, and still have a 280×50 mm stack exactly underneath. You might be able to get away with a 280 mm rad and fans up front while you ran a 280 mm rad and fans on the bottom, but the clearances would be tight and I do not recommend trying.
Here we seen the PC-V2130 with two 120×30 mm radiators. One has 120×38 mm fans, and the top rad, an AIO, has a pair of 120×25 mm fans hidden by the case’s frame. In the close-up picture, we can see that the AIOs radiator has little space between it and the motherboard. Clearly, there is not room for a thick radiator or 38 mm fans here.
Building a System in the PC-V2130
With the PC-V2130, the PSU is attached to a mounting plate. This allows you to slide in the PSU from outside the case, avoiding cable issues. If you use the intended thumbscrews, the plate and thumbscrew adds a cm to the back of the case.
A hard drive tray will grip the motherboard tray with its sides. The rubber strip on the back is to dampen vibrations. The screws attach the HD to the sides through grommets, which are designed to reduce vibrations. I think there is a trend here.
Here are two HD trays, one with a HD in it. The screws have precise shanks on them to prevent over tightening, and thus defeating the anti-vibration properties of the rubber washers.
These HD mounting screws act as thumbscrews. I never needed a screwdriver. Note that the rubber washers are symmetrical; they look like grommets.
Lian Li uses a different rubber washer for mounting HDs and SSDs to surfaces. On the left, we have straight shank mounting screws – you will need a screwdriver – for 2.5” HDs and SSDs; and asymmetrical rubber mounting washers. The washers can be used for 2.5” devices and 3.5” devices. Only the screws differ.
Now we install the test system. The mATX motherboard fits in small cases as well as large ones. What does challenge cases is the NH-D14, which tests the airflow through a case. That NH-D14 seemed swallowed up by this case.
The DVD/ODD is secured by a swing-out device that seems unique to Lian Li. It snaps into place after you have positioned your ODD. You do have to eyeball your ODD as you move it into place, but the swing-out fastener does hold the ODD securely.
Here we can see the variety of mounts possible on the PC-V2130’s HD trays. From the top: an SSD mounted on a 3.5” sled; a 3.5” HD; a 2.5” 320 GB HD, and another 3.5” drive. As you can see, the 3.5” drives are situated where they can get the front fans best airflow. The 2.5″ HD’s airflow is between the fans – not bad, but not the best.
With the HD bracket in place, I have mounted the 2.5” 320 GB HD on it, as well as the system’s SSD. Note that both the dual USB 3.0 plugs connect to USB 3.0-USB 2.0 adapters, which then plug into the motherboard.
This is the function of the HD bracket – it stabilizes the HD trays and carries extra 2.5” drives.
A quick measurement check: yes, there indeed is 31 mm clearance behind the motherboard tray.
Behind the motherboard tray, we can see that the stick-on clamp does a pretty good job of keeping the backside neat. That CPU window is generous. Is it wide enough for two CPUs? I’ve looked at a few dual CPU motherboards and most will nowhere near fit inside this CPU window, but that’s not how they are made. As for the HDs installed in the HD stack, note that every one of them seems to sport a right-angled SATA data cable. A close-up view of a HD shows us why this is so – the HD is close enough to the back of its slot for a right-angled cable to fit. Note also the thumbscrews that hold those trays.
Here we see why the HD did not fit: it left no room for the side panel’s open hinge. So the HD was put on with the cable end down. While this solves the fit problem, others crop up because the center HD is set over a pass-through, it can use a right-angled SATA cable to connect with the motherboard. For the other positions, if you don’t want to twist your SATA data cables your will need to get one or more “left angle” SATA data cables. They are more expensive, but you should not need many.
The case was run with the following system installed:
|CPU||Intel i7 860 HT enabled, LLC enabled; ran at stock 2.93 GHz|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2; supplied 1.1125 Volts to the CPU|
|RAM||4 x 2 GB G.Skill low profile DDR3-1600 at 10x (1333 MHz)|
|Graphics Card||PowerColor AX3450 Radeon HD 3450 (fanless)|
|Solid State Drive||Kingston V+ 100 64 GB|
|Hard Drive 1||2.5” 320 GB (well used)|
|Hard Drive 2||3.5” 1 TB Toshiba (little used)|
|Hard Drive 3||3.5” 1 TB Seagate (well used)|
|Hard Drive 4||2.5” 250 GB (used)|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic X650 (fan mostly doesn’t run) 650 Watts|
|Stress Software||OCCT 3.10, small data set; logs temperature readings|
|SSD Software||CrystalDisk Info (read after 1 hour run)|
|Tenma 72-942 Sound Pressure Level Meter|
|Digital TEMPer USB Thermometer with dedicated logging software|
OCCT 3.10 running a small data set produces a flat core temperature curve. This produced a set of 4 core temps, which were automatically logged. The ambient temperature was measured with the USB thermometer and automatically logged. The temp for core 1 (the hottest core) was averaged. The mean ambient temp was subtracted from the mean core temp to get the net core temp. The mean ambient temp ran 21 °C to 21.5 °C.
Sound Pressure Levels were measured one meter in front of the case in a basement where the ambient SPL was 30 dBA, which sounds like dead silence to the human ear. The SPL was reported as a net SPL.
The fan controller controlled all five fans in two tests. It controlled the front four fans in the other two tests.
Results of Testing the PC-V2130
The net temps are all achieved by the devices, minus the ambient temps. That means, for example, that the well-used 2.5” 320 GB disk ran at under 25 °C at all times. The fan controller ran the fan speeds up and down quite nicely, making a difference both in noise and in airflow. The temps were lowest when the fans – front and back – ran at their maximum speed. The surprising thing was that with all the fans set to low, the system did not overheat, stopping the run. This result is unusual for big cases.
The noise was something else again. The listening experience from what was a reasonably quiet case was spoiled as soon as you moved even a little to the side. Quite frankly, the rear fan made an annoying sound. We will deal with that below. But first, the test results:
I tried running the case with the front four fans at High, with no fan or grill in the rear position (H+0). This would be great if you have fans in your heatsink; not so great in a system with a fan-less heatsink. But then I looked at the fan’s mount. This fan is not mounted like prior Lian Li rear fans. It is solidly mounted to the metal of the case back there. I think this was done to allow the mount to support an AIO cooler. The radiator would put a strain on a soft mount.
So, I put the fan on my fan stand and listened. I could hardly hear it. The net SPL (measured at 10 cm and corrected for a one-meter distance by subtracting 20 dB) was 25.5 dBA. It actually sounded quieter than that.
So, I pulled out the best vibration isolators I have ever found. They are made of silicone, and they put a cushion between the fan and the case, greatly attenuating and reducing vibration. I re-mounted the fan with these, and you couldn’t hear it. These vibration isolators made this case a nice neighbor, even with the rear fan going full blast.
For someone who needs a large computer, and does not have room to hide it away, this is a great case. It is so quiet and so handsome that you can work with this case right beside you. This case feels like an air-cooler’s case that has been adapted to cope with water cooling, mainly AIOs. It is still a great air-cooler’s case; but now you can use your AIO. Lian Li engineers have labored over every small detail to make the PC-V2130 an easy case to work in; it shows.
There were some inexplicable choices, though. For example, why put a fake filter up at the top, when you use the industry’s best filters everywhere else? Why not set your motherboard tray mounting holes a few mm higher, so that it wouldn’t matter whether you HDs pointed up or down? Why are the bottom wheel locks in the back, where they are hard to reach?
Other than those little quibbles, this was a delightful case to work in. Those HD trays, for example, are easy to put in place. And then I can use all my right angle SATA cables.
You will probably put your fans on an intermediate setting. If you use vibration isolators, you probably won’t even need to reduce the rear fan’s speed.
Finally, the weight, or lack of it. Big cases made of steel are back breakers. In fact, once they are built I leave them where they are and test them in place. The big case is where aluminum comes into its own. While it doesn’t really matter if a small case is steel or aluminum, in a big case it really does matter. This case was so light that I thought nothing of carrying it back and forth between its building site and its testing site – several times! That meant, for example, that I could leave the keyboard, mouse, and monitor at the testing site and move only the case, even though it had all of its stuff in it.
- The case is very light
- The case is strong
- There is room for many hard drives
- The case was designed to include two-fan radiators
- It is still a great air-cooler’s case.
- Optimal fan filters on front and bottom
- The bottom filter pulls out the front of the case
- The side panels are padded
- The sides are light and interchangeable
- The sides are easy to open
- The many thumbscrews have pointed ends
- When the rear fan is mounted with vibration isolators this is one quiet case
- The manual is available online
- There is plenty of room for wiring behind the motherboard tray
- Easy to get the EPS12V plug in and out
- No sharp edges
- Spring clips to keep side panels from rattling
- The tallest heatsinks will fit in the motherboard cavity
- Fake top filter – too restrictive
- Hard to get to the front filters
- The rear fan is mounted too tightly and turns vibration into unpleasant noise
- The wheel lock is at the back
- Instructions do not make the location of the optional fan mount understandable
- No additional instructions online
- Panel spring clips fall off easily
- Crossbars in top fan area prevent access through top of case to motherboard
- There is room for a 140 mm exhaust fan, but a 120 mm fan was put there
Ed Hume (ehume)