Introducing the Lian Li PC-A05FN

If you're willing to shell out the money for them, there are a lot of interesting alternative enclosure designs on the market. Companies like SilverStone, Thermaltake, and Lian Li are happy to sell you more experimental and exotic cases once you get past $150 or so, but what if you want something a little spicier without breaking the bank? At $99 Lian Li has you covered with the new PC-A05FN. There are a lot of good (or at least interesting) ideas at work in the PC-A05FN, but how well do they pan out?

From the outside the PC-A05FN looks like a fairly typical midtower enclosure, albeit one made entirely out of aluminum, but the dimensions are a little unusual. This is a surprisingly short, surprisingly deep enclosure, and one you wouldn't expect to be able to fit a full ATX motherboard. But appearances can be deceiving, and when you pop it open you'll see it's anything but typical.

Lian Li PC-A05FN Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25", 1x 3.5"
Internal 3x 3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Rear 1x 120mm intake fan
Top 1x 140mm fan mount
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 8
Front I/O Port Power and reset buttons, mic and headphone jacks, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Top I/O Port -
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearance 10.5" (Expansion Cards), 165mm (CPU HSF), 160mm (PSU)
Weight 9.7 lbs (4.4kg)
Dimensions 8.27" x 15.16" x 19.69" (210mm x 385mm x 500mm)
Price $99

As you can see from the specifications, there isn't that much that seems noteworthy for a basic midtower. The PC-A05FN seems a little shy for hard drive mounting space, but not that many users need more than three 3.5" drive bays, especially with how frequently people are using SSDs now; we have space for two of those as well. Something unusual should catch your eye, though: the PC-A05FN has flipped the traditional airflow design. Instead of taking in cool air from the front and exhausting hot air out of the back, Lian Li has opted to bring cool air directly into the CPU heatsink fan and then blow it over the hard drives out of the front. It's definitely a shift in priorities.

In and Around the Lian Li PC-A05FN
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  • MadMan007 - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Lian-Li cases always seem to have too large dimensions. I know for this example the depth is because of the front-mounted PSU and the height is short for being able to fit a full ATX motherboard, but this observation holds for many Lian-Li cases. Theyt always seem to be rediculous in one dimension which throws off much of the appeal.

    What I would love to see is the same case in an mATX version. Place the PSU below or above the motherboard and reduce the excessive length from 20" to about 16". That would be a nice-looking and functional mATX case.
  • renosablast - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    What is the point of reviewing a product assembled with components that it is clearly not designed to handle? Your testbed is obviously not a one-size-fits all proposition either. You cannot pass judgement on a particular design when you start off deviating from that design. How about a re-review assembled with the components it is designed for?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    If we take a lesser setup (maybe a 6870 GPU, a smaller PSU, and change out the CPU while we're at it), power and heat and noise all go down. That doesn't necessarily tell us much about cases other than that lower end equipment doesn't require as much cooling. Our rationale with the test configuration was to put together a reasonably high-end setup without going overkill. The GTX 580 is a fast GPU and more than what a lot of users need, but at the same time I know I wasn't happy with my single HD 5870 and I'm doing much better with a 580.

    Even without testing lower end hardware, the inclusion of both stock and overclocked testing gives us a good idea of how a solution scales. The idle noise, temps, and power will only drop marginally while load will be somewhere in between. The PSU will have better clearance, which we don't even need to test. Basically, the point of a standardized testbed is exactly that: to have a standard. Changing the standard would change the results, but you can compare the cases regardless. It doesn't "invalidate" anything.
  • renosablast - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Sorry, Jarred, I beg to differ. What a reviewer has to remember is that the perception of the READER of the review is what is important. A READER looks at a review to decide if a product performs AS IT IS DESIGNED and FOR THE PURPOSE IT IS DESIGNED; not for a comparison of how well it works with obviously above-the-design-level components.

    No computer builder or enthusiast in their right mind is going to consider stuffing a case such as this with components the likes of the test bed used. To do so to satisfy your own curiosity is one thing; to consider it a "review" of the product is quite a stretch and lacks VALIDITY.

    That's my story and I am sticking to it!
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Except that knowing that it CAN handle these components (albeit with work) suggests that it should perform much better with a component selection much more appropriate to it. I've given you the information you need by going above it.

    And as far as I'm concerned, the individual perceptions of the readers (which can vary wildly) isn't important to me. What is important is producing a review that is fair, understands what the hardware being reviewed is intended for, and as factual as possible. I can't tell everyone what they want to know, but I can tell most of you what you NEED to know.
  • 996GT2 - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    This case is one of the smallest ATX cases you can buy, and you can really fit a whole lot in there if you do some research beforehand. Of course it's not for everyone, but then again, not everyone is a case enthusiast.

    With regard to GPUs: you can mount any GPU you want to in there if you remove the hard drive bay. I am using a 11.5" Gigabyte GTX 570 Windforce without any issues. I have a DVD drive, 3.5" HDD, and 2.5" SSD in the 5.25" bays.

    All of your concerns about GPU cooling would be alleviated if Lian Li included a side intake by default. I cut a side intake on my A05NB (the last revision of this case, with the inverted design), and GPU temperatures are excellent.

    Lastly, I wish Lian Li didn't ditch the inverted ATX design with this new revision. The older inverted design had a number of benefits, such as:

    1) No chance of PSU blocking any SATA ports
    2) Intake fan at the rear is placed lower than exhaust fan in the front, allowing hot air to rise
    3) Room for a radiator at the top or bottom of the case.
    4) If you have a liquid cooling system on the CPU and it leaks, it won't leak onto the GPU because the GPU is located above the CPU in the A05NB.
  • cjs150 - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    The old design resulted is some truly beautiful water-cooled mods - I only wish I was half as talented.

    The inverted ATX design worked really well.

    Lian Li go back to the old design but with the following changes:

    1. More room behind the motherboard tray
    2. Bit more space (as per Fractal Arc mini) up top so radiator fits comfortably
    3. I like the front mounted PSU concept but experiment with it being across width of case not the normal way, there are two ways of doing that, intake fan on bottom or intake fan facing front of case. Big advantages are, much cleaner cable routing and much more space at bottom of case (ideal for pumps, SSDs
    4. Not sure we really need 2x 5.1/4 and a 3.5 external bay. Any chance of cutting one out and increasing size of front fan (nice location for front mounted radiator)
  • Stas - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Used it on 3 or 4 builds. Very nice case. It is a bit thin for my liking. However, I wouldn't hesitate to use it on my own rig, if I didn't have 5 HDDs, 2 optical drives and 4 expansion cards in the mobo.
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    I have to say that reading the reviews of small enclousures on AT is always something. You manage to point out the difficulties of those cases, but i often get the feeling that Most people who choose a small case for potent hardware already know the limitations anderen build around them. still, great to see reviews of more normal (read : sub-150) cases, since i dont think you need to spend a lot on a case even if you use expensive components . :-)
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - link

    Typing on a smartphone with German dictionary in the background messes things up. Hope it's still readable. :D

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