Lian Li PC-V650 Mini-Tower Case Review

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The Lian Li name is certainly no stranger to the computer enthusiast crowd and has long been known for elegant and extremely well-built aluminum cases. Today, we’ll be looking at a mini-tower offering from Lian Li, the PC-V650. Don’t let the mini-tower designation fool you into thinking this is a cramped design that offers little in the way configuration options. As you’ll see, there are ample opportunities to install a variety of components for PC or HTPC use. So, let’s dive in and see all that the Lian Li PC-V650 has to offer!

Specifications and Features

The specifications immediately show a few promising items. There are seven expansion slots, support for full size ATX motherboards, three included fans, a card reader, and all aluminum construction. We’re off to a good start, I’d say. The specifications are courtesy of the Lian Li Global website.

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Anytime you pack a lot of components in a smaller form factor case, cooling is at a premium. To make sure everything inside stays as cool as possible, Lian Li has incorporated four included fans. Two 140 mm intake fans located at the front, another 140 mm exhaust fan at the top, and a 120 mm exhaust fan at the rear should provide plenty of air flow. (All images below courtesy of Lian Li)

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There is support for up to seven 3.5″ HDDs, and two locations in the HDD rack support SATA hot swap.

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Speaking of the HDD racks, one of them is removable to accommodate large graphics cards up to 370 mm in length. The PC-V650 will also fit PSUs up to 230 mm long and CPU coolers up to 180 mm high.

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lianli_pcv650 (7)

In order to gain access to the inside of the PC-V650, you’ll need to remove a side panel. To make this job easy, Lian Li has implemented a tool-less side panel removal/installation feature.

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Other major features include a card reader, openings for external water cooling systems, and even the feet are made of aluminum!

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Packaging/Accessories/First Look

The front and back of the box are identical with pictures outlining some of the major features of the PC-V650. There’s also a large picture of the case itself and some additional branding printed here. Funny enough, both box sides are also identical and have a multilingual basic feature list. The top and bottom of the box have absolutely nothing to show you, they’re just plain white!

Box Front and Back

Box Front and Back

Both Box Sides

Both Box Sides

Inside, we find the PC-V650 wrapped in a clear plastic bag and well protected by the two Styrofoam blocks on each side. Between the plastic bag and the case is where Lian Li chose to put the documentation.

Styrofoam/Plastic Wrap

Styrofoam/Plastic Wrap

Out of the Box

Out of the Box

The accessories are in a white box inside and wire tied to the HDD cage. Everything you need (and them some) to get a proper system assembled is included. That lone screw in the close-up picture of the accessories was found on top of the case under the plastic wrap. I’m not sure what it’s for or where it came from; but hopefully when we get inside, we’ll figure it out.

Documentation and Accessories

Documentation and Accessories

Accessories Up Close

Accessories Up Close

lianli_pcv650 (29)
lianli_pcv650 (30)

… And here is your first look all unwrapped. Pretty, ain’t she?

First Look

First Look

Exterior Tour

Black anodized brushed aluminum, and lots of it, describe the two side panels. There is a flat piece that extends off the back of each panel, which makes popping the panels off an easy task. Other than that, there aren’t any distinguishing designs, ventilation holes, or anything else for that matter. The simple, yet attractive panels have a very solid feel to them, and the detailed finish is nothing less than what we’ve come to expect from Lian Li over the years.

Right Side Panel

Right Side Panel

Left Side Panel

Left Side Panel

As we look at the back of the PC-V650, we begin to get an idea of how this wide bodied case accepts components. At the bottom, we have the full ATX standard allotment of seven expansion slots and the opening for the PSU. As you can see, the PSU will mount in a vertical position just next to any add on cards. The screws that hold the expansion slot covers are located externally and use regular screws for retention. The upper back of the case is where you’ll find the included 120 mm exhaust fan, two rubber grommet holes for an external water cooling setup, and the I/O shield cutout. Just below the exhaust fan, you might notice a hole with “L” and “H” stamped just beneath it. This is where an optional fan controller can be installed.

The Back

The Back

Expansion Slots and PSU Mount

Expansion Slots and PSU Mount

Back Upper Area

Back Upper Area

The front panel is comprised of a large mesh area at the bottom, the I/O ports at the right, and the single 5.25″ drive bay at the top. There are two 140 mm intake fans behind the mesh area, and the 5.25″ drive bay is decked out with a spring loaded door to conceal an optical drive. For I/O connectivity, we have two USB 2.0 ports and the headphone/mic jacks at the bottom. Just above that are the card reader area and the single USB 3.0 Port. The power and reset buttons are located at the top of the I/O area. These illuminate to provide power and HDD activity lighting.

Front Panel

Front Panel

Lower Mesh Area

Lower Mesh Area

ODD Door

ODD Door

Lower I/O Connectivity

Lower I/O Connectivity

Card Reader - USB 3.0

Card Reader – USB 3.0

Power/Reset Buttons

Power/Reset Buttons

The top panel’s only feature is the mesh area covering a 140 mm exhaust fan at the rear. The rest of the top panel is more of that sleek, brushed aluminum. At the bottom of the PC-V650 there are four aluminum feet outfitted with rubber pads. With a PSU that is going to mount vertically, there is no need for a filter or ventilation here.

Top Panel

Top Panel

Bottom Area

Bottom Area

Aluminum Feet - Rubber Pad

Aluminum Feet – Rubber Pad

Ok, let’s get the panels off this thing and have a look inside!

Interior Tour

Both side panels are held in place using nine pins built into the side panel, which in turn engage the nine plastic clips in the frame. This pin and clip method works real well and does a great job of holding the panels tight to the frame.

Pin and clip

Pin and clip

Located at the bottom of the PC-V650, you’ll find the two PSU support rails and a series of holes that can be used for mounting 2.5″ drives.

 

Bottom Area

Bottom Area

Moving along to the back side, we come to the vertical PSU mounting area and seven ventilated expansion slot covers. Above that, you’ll find the 120 mm exhaust fan and the holes for water cooling tubing.

Lower Rear Area

Lower Rear Area

Upper Rear Area

Upper Rear Area

Under the top deck is another exhaust fan, this time 140 mm in size.

Top Deck Exhaust Fan

Top Deck Exhaust Fan

At the very top of the right side is the single 5.25″ drive bay, and directly below that are the two 3.5″ HDD cages. The upper cage supports three drives and the lower cage four. The bottom plate of each cage allows for installation of a 2.5″ HDD or SSD.

5.25″ Drive Bay

3.5" Hard Drive Cages

3.5″ Hard Drive Cages

The lower HDD cage is removable in order to accommodate large video cards up to 370 mm. At the back of the upper cage, Lian Li has provided a dual-drive hot swap connector board. If you prefer not to use this hot swap board, it’s easily removed to clear the way for standard HDD installations. As a side note, I’ve heard tales of people installing a 140 mm radiator and fan with the lower HDD cage removed.

Lower Cage Removed

Lower Cage Removed

SATA Hot Swap Board

SATA Hot Swap Board

Removed Lower Cage

Removed Lower Cage

The two 140 mm intake fans can be easily removed by simply sliding them to the left. When the rubber mounting washers align with the larger side of the slotted hole, the fan comes right out. Each fan has a filter that can be removed by twisting it counter-clockwise.

Two Front 140 mm Fans Removed

Two Front 140 mm Fans Removed

Filter Removed

Filter Removed

The motherboard tray has a huge cutout for accessing a CPU cooler’s back plate, which is a real time saver when replacing a CPU cooler. Motherboard standoffs are pre-installed in an ATX configuration, but holes are also available for mATX motherboards.

Motherboard Tray

Motherboard Tray

You may have noticed the lack of any cable management pass-through holes while looking at the motherboard tray. Things don’t get any better when we turn the case around for a look behind the motherboard tray. There is no room at all between the right side panel and the motherboard tray to route cables, but it probably doesn’t matter with the lack of pass-through holes. Cable management will be a challenge, to say the least.

From the right side of the case, we can also see the power and data cable connection points for the hot swap board. You can hook either a 4-pin Molex or SATA power lead to the hot swap board, giving you a little more flexibility in cable selection.

Also viewable from here is the USB 3.0 hardware, which the front panel card reader and USB 3.0 port share.

Behind the Motherboard Tray

Behind the Motherboard Tray

Hot Swap Power and Data

Hot Swap Power and Data

Shared USB 3.0

Shared USB 3.0

All of the fans included in the PC-V650 come with a 3-pin to 4-pin Molex adapter installed at the factory. You can remove the adapters if you prefer to use the 3-pin cable end for powering the fans. The rest of the included cables are typical for what’s found in most cases.

Fan Cables/Adapters

Fan Cables/Adapters

USB and Audio Cables

USB and Audio Cables

Front Panel Switch and LED Cables

Front Panel Switch and LED Cables

With the exterior and interior tours complete, let’s get a system thrown in the PC-V650. We’ll see what we can do with cable management while were at it!

Putting it All Together

System Components

ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 Motherboard (Overclockers Approved)
AMD A10-5800K APU (Overclockers Approved)
2×4 GB Kingston HyperX Memory
Toshiba HDS721050DLE630 500 GB SATA 6 Gb/s Hard Drive
Super Talent TeraDrive CT3 SSD (Overclockers Meh)
Thermaltake Smart-M 750 Watt PSU (Overclockers Approved)
Sapphire HD 7770 Video Card (Overclockers Approved)
HP CD/DVD SATA Rom Drive
Evercool HPQ-12025 Venti CPU Cooler (Overclockers Approved)

Beginning with the DVD ROM install, there are two option you can pursue. Either option requires removing the spring loaded drive bay cover/door. In order to remove the cover, there are two screws on each side that need to be removed. If you prefer to not use the door, the ROM drive can still be installed flush with the front of the case. The mounting holes that secure the ROM drive are slotted, which allow you to recess the drive far enough back to utilize the spring loaded door feature.

Drive Bay Door Removed

Drive Bay Door Removed

DVD ROM Drive Installed With No Door

DVD ROM Drive Installed With No Door

Drive Bay Door installed - DVD ROM Tray Open

Drive Bay Door installed – DVD ROM Tray Open

Installing SSDs or HDDs in the cages is a relatively painless operation. Special screws and slotted rubber washers are used to attach the drives to the cages. Once the screws and rubber washers are installed, align the grooves in the rubber washers with the appropriate installation points and slide them into place. 3.5″ HDDs are further secured by a sliding lock plate on the left side of the cage.

3.5" HDD - Rubber Washers - Screws

3.5″ HDD – Rubber Washers – Screws

3.5" HDD Ready to Install

3.5″ HDD Ready to Install

SSD - Rubber Washers - Screws

SSD – Rubber Washers – Screws

SSD Ready to Install

SSD Ready to Install

HDD and SSD Installed

HDD and SSD Installed

After installing the motherboard, memory, video card, and CPU cooler, it’s time for the PSU. If your PSU has a fan on the top or bottom, you’ll want to install the PSU so its fan is pointed towards the motherboard. If you install it with the fan pointed towards the left side panel, there is now way it will get enough airflow because the panel will literally be suffocating the fan. In my install this meant the 24-pin and 8-pin power leads were at the top of the PSU. This wasn’t ideal for cable management for obvious reasons. If you have a PSU that has a single exhaust fan at the back, then I suggest installing it so the cables are at the bottom. This will result in the cables being at the floor of the case making them much easier to position. Before installing the PSU, the bracket for it must be removed from the back of the case and attached to the rear of the PSU. Once that is done, simply slide it in and secure it with four screws. You really need to pay attention to the size of CPU cooler you use as well, or you’ll run into a clearance issue with the PSU. The Evercool HPQ-12025 Venti I used is pretty large and just barely cleared the PSU by the slimmest of margins.

PSU Install

PSU Install

PSU and CPU Cooler Clearance

PSU and CPU Cooler Clearance

As I mentioned earlier, there are little to no cable management opportunities offered by the PC-V650. About the only area you have to try and tuck things away is behind the HDD cages. But, even with that, you’re really not going to be able to hide anything. Your main objective with routing cables in this chassis is to clear the way for the air flow design. By utilizing the area behind the HDD cages and a few zip ties, I was able to free the air flow pattern of any obstructions. That’s really all you need to do because the side panels are solid after all, and once on, you can’t see inside anyway.

Here is what I came up with after the system was completed. Certainly not the cleanest cable management I’ve ever seen, but good enough to not hinder the cooling scheme of the case.

Completed Build

Completed Build

Completed Build - PSU Area

Completed Build – PSU Area

Completed Build - Upper Left

Completed Build – Upper Left

Completed Build - Upper Right

Completed Build – Upper Right

Completed Build - Lower Right

Completed Build – Lower Right

Completed Build - Case Rear

Completed Build – Case Rear

Conclusion

When Newegg had the PC-V650 in stock, it was selling for $229.00. I inquired about availability of this product directly to the PR company that Lian Li uses. They told me plenty of these cases are in distributor warehouses and eTailers should have their stock replenished soon. The PC-V650 is a very unique case that requires close attention when choosing parts for the build. I would definitely recommend a modular PSU to help combat the one gripe I have with this case… the cable management. There is enough room behind the hard drive cages to at least get the wiring clear of the air flow, so not all is lost there. You will also want to pay close attention to the size of the CPU cooler as not to interfere with the vertical mounted PSU design.

If you remember that this case is a mini-tower design, then you’ll be quite surprised at all the components it can handle. The PC-V650 is capable of holding as many components as just about any mid-tower case out there, but in a compact, space saving design. There is no compromise when it comes to build quality, this case meets the high standards we’ve come to expect from an all aluminum Lian Li offerings. Every piece fits perfectly inside and out, and the end result is an attractive piece of hardware.

The included four fans, hot swap board, modular HDD cage, and the ROM drive bay door all add an additional layer of value to the PC-V650. If you’re looking for a space saving alternative to larger tower case designs, along with the legendary build quality of an aluminum Lian Li case, then the PC-V650 deserves a good, hard look.

Overclockers_clear_approvedClick the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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Discussion
  1. dude! most excellent review~! Very thorough, as always. Jealous, that you have the top of the line Lian in house. Very sexy case:thup: