It seems that the further down the chain of PC components, the more companies there are to produce the hardware.  For desktop PCs we have two main CPU manufacturers, three main GPU manufacturers (including Intel), half-dozen mainstream motherboard manufacturers, about the same memory manufacturers (many smaller ones), a dozen storage manufacturers and a couple dozen main chassis manufacturers (with even more getting involved in CPU cooling).  To this extent, more competition requires more innovation and brand recognition to differentiate the company: over the past several years, we have seen Lian Li come out with a variety of unique case designs, and the PC-A51 today is a little more conservative in that respect.

The PC-A51 is a 44 litre ATX mid-tower design suitable for CPU coolers up to 175mm (6.8”), 160mm (6.2”) PSUs and 400mm (15.7”) GPUs.  The brushed aluminium commonly associated with Lian Li is here, with a side window on the PC-A51WX and PC-A51WRX models.  The chassis comes in at 4.9 kg, measuring 230mm*393mm*489mm (WxHxD), with space for five storage drives (2.5” or 3.5”) in the main section and two 2.5” drives in the cable management area.

The thermal design is based around a reverse airflow system – air comes in through the rear 120mm fan, passes through the CPU cooler (make sure it is mounted the right way, this should also give the bigger temperature delta between hot/cold), and through the storage drives out the front panel ventilation holes.  The system also has liquid cooling grommets and space for a 240mm/280mm radiator on the top.

This layout is a little odd, as the intake of air comes above the outtake of the GPU airflow, suggesting that warm GPU air will come in at the CPU level, re-entering the case.

The chassis is also designed for a front mounted PSU, with an internal cable being routed through the 30mm of cable management space behind the motherboard.  Two of the storage bays have to be removed for an initial GPU longer than 280mm, and GPUs beyond the first have a 280mm limitation depending on the PSU.

The chassis is a tool-less design, with the front panel featuring four USB 3.0 ports, audio jacks and space for one 5.25” drive.  As seen in the images, these four USB 3.0 ports use two cables rather than a hub, meaning that in order to get full use of these ports, the user needs a motherboard with at least two USB 3.0 headers.  This combination is commonly found on the more expensive Intel 8-series motherboards that advertise 10 USB 3.0 ports or more.

The PC-A51A (silver, no window) and PC-A51B (black, no window) will be available in North America from the end of February at an MSRP of $149.  The PCA51WX (black, window) will be released at the same time for $189, and the PC-A51WRC (red and black, window) will be available in April at $199.

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  • GokieKS - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    *Designed for mATX, rather. This case will fit an ATX board, but the size is really much more suited for a mATX build.
  • CrimsonFury - Saturday, February 15, 2014 - link

    LOL. 44L is MASSIVE for mATX. Putting a smaller board inside won't make it less cramped, because the expansion slot area isn't the part that's cluttered. This case is actually quite easy to work on compared to compact mATX cases.
  • anonymous_user - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    It'll be interesting to see how well this case can handle thermal loads.
  • The PC Apologist - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    The exhaust of blower-style video cards reentering the case through the rear intake is an excellent observation Ian. Did Lian Li offer any explanation or reason as to why the case is designed this way? Because if this is nothing more than a gimmick (which it would appear), then shame on Lian Li.
  • JBVertexx - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    Ahhh, Lian-Li. I love Lian-Li cases, but they always have a fatal flaw. Usually it's ventilation. This one has two. First, ventilation. How on earth did they come up with the convoluted ventilation flow. At first glance, you might think it's easy enough to reverse it. Problem is, you'll be sucking in PSU exhaust right into the front intake, although that's probably better than sucking in hot GPU blower exaust into the rear.

    This case would actually work better with a non-blower GPU. I would setup a negative pressure flow with cool are coming in the back and bottom (there is a fitting for a 120 or 140mm fan in the bottom under the GPU) and blowing out the top and front.

    But that now brings me to the 2nd fatal flaw. A 2nd GPU would be limited to 240mm (9.44in) in length due to the PSU, and that is not even accounting for cable or modular plug-in space.

    To make that work, Lian-Li would have had to pull Silverstone-like acrobatics with it's component arrangement. I think moving the PSU to the top front would be an innovation that would work well with airflow as well as optimizing expansion room.

    Overall, it's a heartache, because this case is beautifully designed, and I would buy it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the flaws make it so it just won't work. Damn.
  • flemeister - Saturday, February 15, 2014 - link

    I think they got it right with the PC-A05N (reverse/inverted ATX layout), where the PSU is in line with the CPU part of the motherboard, and the graphics cards are only limited by the 5.25" bays. If they had kept the same inverted ATX design with this PC-A51, then graphics card clearance would be limited only by the 3.5" drive trays. =)

    Anandtech reviewed the PC-A05FN, which has a normal motherboard orientation. Here's a review and interior shots of the PC-A05N:
  • Gsa700 - Saturday, February 15, 2014 - link

    You guys are forgetting the dual fans at the top. You can set up an AIO 2x240 at the top as intake, and the front and rear fans as exhaust, or whatever.....
  • iTzSnypah - Saturday, February 15, 2014 - link

    Take the feet off the bottom, put them on the front. Reverse the fans then put the case on its face an viola, everything solved; except you can't add a second GPU.
  • Charles6616Anand - Monday, February 17, 2014 - link

    air comes in through the rear 120mm fan, passes through the CPU cooler (make sure it is mounted the right way, this should also give the bigger temperature delta between hot/cold), I can see this being true for the processor, Would really like to see an study for the reverse air flow and its effect on the graphics card! Low power processors have no where near the cooling needs of the Graphics cards!
  • lgeorg - Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - link

    How about reversing the front fan as intake, put 140mm fans in the bottom and top and leave the rear fan as intake. That way the case draws cold air in from the rear(to cpu), the front(to hdd+gpu), and bottom(to gpu) and exhaust it from the top.

    Or you could leave the front fan as exhaust if the bottom fan provides enough cooling to the gpu

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