Compact System Cases from Lian Li and Chenbro

Miniature Mini-ITX systems become increasingly popular these days: even in a small form-factor you can easily put together a fully functional system that will be just as powerful as a low-end and sometimes even mainstream full-size computer. Today we would like to introduce to you four Mini-ITX system cases like that from Lian Li and Chenbro.

by Dmitry Vasiliev
02/29/2012 | 09:59 AM

Generally speaking, all mini-ITX system cases, however different they may be, fall into two main categories. The first and more popular category covers flat desktop cases designed mostly for compact components such as low-profile expansion cards, slim optical drives, 2.5-inch hard disks, miniature power supplies, etc. You cannot expect such a computer to be anything more than a home multimedia center that takes as little desk space as possible. A system case of this kind cannot accommodate top-end components. And even if it does, there are going to be serious problems with their cooling and power supply.

 

The second large category of mini-ITX enclosures is more interesting for users who are willing to replace their bulky full-size computer with something smaller, yet comparable in performance. We mean tower-design mini-ITX products. They are not as small as their flat desktop counterparts but instead offer better compatibility with standard components as well as broader cooling and expansion opportunities. Of course, a devoted gamer will hardly choose a mini-ITX case, even though some models do allow to install a serious graphics card. But a tower-design mini-ITX computer is surely an attractive option if you want to combine compactness with high performance.

We are going to cover products from both abovementioned categories in this review. One of the Chenbro system cases is a typical representative of the first category. It is a small multimedia center for compact components. The other Chenbro is a rather original miniature enclosure that allows building a high-capacity network attached storage device. The “towers” from Lian Li represent the other approach, offering you the opportunity to assemble a compact but high-performance system out of standard components.

 Testing Participants

Chenbro PC78131

The first and smallest product in this review is manufactured by Chenbro.

The PC78131 doesn’t look much more than a dull black box with a silvery edging of the front panel. Its appearance is only enlivened by the blue rim of the Power button (when the computer is turned on). The Reset button is missing.

Stiff and deep-sinking, the Power button would be perfect for any full-size system case but is too stiff for the compact PC78131. When pressing the button, you have to hold the system case in place with your other hand to prevent it from sliding backwards.

The PC78131 can be installed horizontally and vertically. There is a metallic stand in its box for the latter variant.

The stand has rubber pads to suppress vibrations from the system case but lacks any vibration-absorbing elements on its sole.

The abovementioned Power button, accompanied with an HDD activity indicator, is located on a smooth silvery piece which is different in color and texture from the edging of the front panel.

Placed below the optical drive slot, the I/O connectors include two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, and two audio connectors (microphone and headphones). They are placed with wide spacing so that you could easily use all of them simultaneously.

To the right of the optical drive you can see two slots of the integrated card reader. Based on a Realtek RTS5186 chip, the card-reader supports SD, Mini-SD, MMC and MS formats. There is no official information about SD HC/XC compatibility, but the reader had no problems working with a 32GB HC card we had at hand (we didn’t have an XC one to test, unfortunately).

The product accessories aren’t numerous. Included with the system case are an external power adapter with cord, the abovementioned stand, and some fasteners. There is no user manual even. You are supposed to download it from the manufacturer's website.

Well, you don’t really need a manual to assemble a computer configuration in this system case. Notwithstanding its small size, the PC78131 is very easy to deal with thanks to the pre-routed power cables and limited expansion opportunities. It is just simpler to install one hard disk than two or three, for example.

Despite the compactness (the manufacturer mentions that the PC78131 is a mere 3 liters in volume), the system case is compatible with tall memory modules. A Corsair XMS3 memory stick with a tall aluminum heat-spreader fitted in perfectly as if designed especially for this chassis (of course, such high-performance memory is not really meant for tiny system cases but we just didn't have any other stick at hand).

You can only have some difficulty installing and connecting your hard disk. You can install two devices, actually: two 2.5-inch HDDs or SSDs or one HDD/SSD together with a slim optical drive. They are fastened to the detachable frame under the system case cover.

You may find it hard to put the frame with installed drive(s) back into its place. And you should also be careful not to damage your SATA device's connectors when putting the frame back or plugging cables into the device.

 

The power adapter is manufactured by Seasonic and looks like a typical compact power adapter for a notebook. Instead of 19 volts necessary for notebooks, it delivers 12 volts, though.

The other voltages required by desktop PCs are produced by the power system residing on a PCB inside the chassis. We can see a couple of chokes and high-quality electrolytic capacitors from Rubycon and United Chemi-Con here.

The developers have made a slip when designing the power system of this system case. While it can accommodate two SATA devices, there is only one SATA power connector available. There is no appropriate power adapter in the box, either. It must be an adapter from a floppy-drive plug to SATA or a splitter from one to two SATA power connectors (there are no other power connectors in the system case except for 20+4-pin and 4-pin cables for the mainboard) but the most popular variety is a PATA-SATA power adapter, which cannot be used here. So, if you really want to install a pair of SATA drives into this system case, you may have to make such an adapter yourself out of a PATA-SATA one.

It is going to be simpler to install an optical drive along with a hard one, but you have to look for an adapter from a slim optical drive’s connectors to a standard SATA interface cable and a floppy-drive power connector. An adapter of this kind is included with the other Chenbro but the PC78131 lacks it. You have to buy this adapter separately.

The PC78131 comes without any fans but has a seat for a 60mm fan on the side panel (with a dust filter) and another seat for a 40mm fan on the rear panel. We don’t think such fans would be of much use, though. They are too small to be efficient unless you set them at a very high speed, in which case they will be way too noisy. On the other hand, our test configuration, which seems to be even excessively advanced for such a system case, had no cooling related problems.

 

The ventilation efficiency depends on the location of the mainboard’s CPU socket. It was away from the largest vent grid with our mainboard (the position of the grid in the top panel of the case is indicated by the mounting frame for 2.5-inch devices in the photo above). That was not optimal in terms of cooling.

There are a number of optional accessories available for the PC78131, for example a VESA mount that can be used to attach it to the back of a VESA-compatible LCD monitor. If you like to have everything neat and tidy, you may want to purchase the plastic box that helps hide the cables going out of the system case.

The working Chenbro PC78131 looks almost as dull and unassuming as in its out-of-box state except that the blue highlighting of the Power button adds a lively touch to its otherwise plain appearance.

The photo of the back panel makes it clear how very small this system case is. Just note how much space is occupied by the standard mainboard's back panel.

Highs:

Lows:

Chenbro ES34169

A home file-server in mini-ITX form-factor seems like a logical idea even though such solutions aren’t widespread. Chenbro seems to take this not very large but surely promising market seriously as is indicated by the very existence of this product.

 

As opposed to the previous model, the ES34169 has an eye-catching appearance. Its front panel is covered by a dark plastic door with silvery edging. You can find a lot of LED indicators behind that door.

  

 

The front panel is densely populated. Half of it is occupied by four hot-swap bays for 3.5-inch disks.

  

These are in fact the key feature of this product. Being very small (smaller than the two system cases from Lian Li, for example), the ES34169 allows building a very advanced disk subsystem – and with the hot swap capability!

The other half of the front panel is where numerous buttons, indicators and connectors reside. Besides the conventional pair of Power and Disk indicators, we can see indicators of two network adapters and a special indicator that warns about system failures (that's not a typical feature of home devices but you can often see it on server equipment). Of course, the extra indicators need appropriate mainboard connectors to work (the mainboard we used lacked them).

The Power and Reset buttons are complemented with a button that turns off the sound warning about system failures. Resetting or turning the warning signal off calls for something long and thin: the buttons are too small and deep-sinking to be pressed with a finger or nail.

There are no audio connectors on the front panel because the ES34169 is positioned as a server, even though a small one, but that’s somewhat disappointing. After all, it is a home server and you want your home equipment to be versatile and functional in many respects.

Moreover, the ES34169 has a card-reader, which is not a typical server feature. The card-reader’s slot is on the front panel. It is based on a Realtek RTS5156 chip (the previous Chenbro model was equipped with a RTS5156-based card-reader).

Also on the front panel we can see two USB ports. They are placed very close to each other, so you may find it impossible to use them both concurrently.

The rest of the front-panel elements refer to optional extensions and take up the right part of the system case’s façade. It is a faceplate for a slim optical drive at the top, a vent grid for a 60mm fan at the bottom, and a translucent piece in between – you can install an optional infrared receiver behind it.

The accessories to the ES34169 are somewhat better than those of the above-discussed PC78131: mounting frames for a slim optical drive, an adapter card from the connectors of a slim optical drive to a standard SATA interface connector and a floppy-drive power plug, an Y-shaped adapter from a 4-pin PATA power connector to SATA and floppy-drive power connectors, a couple of keys for the front door, a single-use cable strap, and some mounting screws. Like with the previous model, the user manual is only available in electronic format.

The side, top and bottom panels are all two-layered. There are 3mm sheets of gray plastic on the outside and 0.7mm steel sheets on the inside. The panels have a lot of small vent openings.

The ES34169 stands on four elastic rubber feet that suppress vibrations and keep the device steady on a desk surface. The weight of the ES34169 helps keep it steady, too. Many cheap full-size system cases are actually lighter than Chenbro's home server.

It is very easy to put your components into this system case unless you have to install an optical drive (it is not an obligatory device anymore, though) or a 2.5-inch disk. You just take off the side panel which is secured with one screw only, install your mainboard on the mounting plate and plug in power and interface connectors.

   

After that, you fix your 3.5-inch hard disks in their bays with four screws each and insert the bays into the chassis.

 

Installing a 2.5-inch disk is rather easy, too, but you have to work more with your screwdriver. First you unfasten six screws on the back panel that secure the T-shaped piece consisting of a mainboard mounting plate and a back panel with fans. Then you take that thing out of the chassis.

After that, you fix your 2.5-inch disk with two prongs from the face panel of the chassis and fasten it with screws on the other side (that's the reason for all this trouble: it is impossible to reach to the screws with a screwdriver otherwise). To finish the procedure, just put the T-shaped piece back and secure it with screws.

Installing an optical drive involves taking the face panel off, but that’s the only inconvenience.

The power supply unit is preinstalled inside the chassis. Having a wattage rating of 120 watts, it doesn’t take much space inside, but its low wattage may turn out to be insufficient for configurations with a discrete graphics card (you can install a low-profile one into this system case by means of a riser card). The PSU seems to be a high-quality product, though. It has first-class KZH series capacitors from United Chemi-Con at its output.

 

Overall, the ES34169 is quite easy to assemble a computer system in, except for the time-consuming installation of a 2.5-inch disk as described above.

One more note: the card-reader’s cable may turn out to be too short to reach to the mainboard’s USB headers. This was the case with our mainboard, for example. So you may want to check out beforehand that your mainboard’s onboard USB ports are not at its back panel.

We also could not connect the front-panel USB ports of the system case because our memory module with tall heatsink blocked the way. This problem wouldn’t exist if we used a normal memory module, though.

The HDD bays and the integrated PSU are cooled with two 70x70x15mm fans from Young Lin Tech that have a rated speed of 3000 RPM (which agrees with our measurements that produced a result of 3050 RPM).

Unfortunately, the fans can be easily heard as soon as you turn the system case on. The ES34169 is far from quiet. We wouldn’t even call its comfortable. We guess the noise factor is going to be the main obstacle on the product’s way to market success. A home file-server that makes itself heard from an adjacent room is not what a customer wants, especially for a price comparable to that of a modest full-size system case.

 

When assembled, the ES34169 looks even more impressive than right out of the box. And we guess it would look even better if we had a mainboard supporting all of its front-panel buttons and indicators.

 

One thing must be noted here: when the system was shut down but not disconnected from the mains, the LED indicators of the hot swap bays would blink once every 15 seconds.

Highs:

Lows:

Lian Li PC-Q07

The first tower-design system case from Lian Li to be discussed in this review is not appropriate for high-performance PC configurations as it is not long enough to accommodate a fast graphics card. Besides, it only has one expansion slot bracket in its back. The lack of active cooling raises our doubts about its ability to cool advanced and hot components.

We wouldn’t call it really compact, though. It is comparable to many micro-ATX products in its width and height but only differs in its much smaller length. This is the natural outcome of being compatible with widely available standard PC components, though.

The PC-Q07 looks very serious with its rough black aluminum case that lacks any decorations. The single exception is the original disk and power indicators that highlight the Power and Reset buttons.

We could only check out the disk indicator, which is under the Reset button, because the system case only allows to connect its power indicator via a 3-pin connector whereas our mainboard has a 2-pin power LED connector.

The PC-Q07 stands on cheap-looking feet of hard plastic.

There is a minimum of accessories included with this product: some fasteners, a self-adhesive loop for cables, and a single plastic strap. As opposed to the Chenbro products, we’ve got a printed user manual here.

 

The interior design is extremely simple. However, it is also practical except for a few small, yet annoying, shortcomings.

The chassis is reinforced with the aluminum pieces at the back panel. When assembled, the PC-Q07 is indeed very robust (it has six screws per each panel!) but its carcass wobbles under your hand if the side panels are removed.

Your optical drive goes into the single 5.25-inch bay and is secured in it with ordinary screws, simple and reliable. You have to align the drive yourself as there are no fixed mounting holes in the bay. The holes you can see in the photo only serve to fasten the faceplate.

Take note that you should connect power and interface cables to your optical drive prior to securing it in its bay. Otherwise, it may be hard to reach into the small gap left between the back panel of the chassis and the back of the drive.

  

Your mainboard is installed right on the side panel of this case using non-detachable fasteners.

This installation method is handy when it comes to system maintenance (unless you’ve got an expansion card in your configuration). You can carefully (to avoid damaging some cable or connector) flip the side panel with mainboard down to install or replace a memory module or clean your CPU cooler.

Before installing a standard 3.5-inch hard disk, you should attach the included vibration-absorbing rubber pads to its sides.

 

Then you insert your HDD into the aluminum frame at the bottom of the chassis (the sides of the frame go into the slits in the rubber vibration-absorbing pads). You can also fix your drive with screws at the middle mounting holes.

Right below this 3.5-inch HDD you can additionally install a 2.5-inch hard disk or SSD (without any vibration-suppressing elements, though).

A standard ATX power supply can be installed onto the thick aluminum piece which is fastened to the back panel of the case with four thumbscrews.

This helps you easily reach any power connector within the system: just put the PSU halfway into the chassis, connect all cables, and finally fix the PSU with screws.

The photo of the assembled system makes it clear that a standard-sized modular power supply would be the most optimal choice for the PC-Q07.You’d have a smaller tangle of cables inside the chassis then. The problem is that finding a modular PSU of modest wattage (below 500 watts) is going to be difficult. You may have to put up with the tangle of cables or buy a PSU which has higher wattage (and price) than you actually need.

The cables of the front-panel USB connectors are very short. They didn’t reach to our mainboard’s onboard headers, for example. The front panel also lacks audio connectors, which is a definite downside of this model.

 

Overall, the PC-Q07 is quite easy and comprehensible when it comes to assembling a computer configuration in it, but the process involves a lot of screwdriver work (there’s a dozen screws in the side panels only).

The PC-Q07 looks solid and serious when assembled.

Highs:

Lows:

Lian Li PC-Q11

This “tower” is considerably larger than the previous one but is designed in a similar way. Its surface is rough black aluminum without any decorations.

This photo helps you compare the two Lian Li products with their back panels aligned. It’s easy to see that the senior model is taller and longer and has differently positioned front-panel ports (which now include audio connectors). It also has a decorative faceplate for an optical drive.

 

The configuration of vent openings has changed in the PC-Q11, so its side panels are absolutely symmetrical.

This is the result of the PC-Q11 having active cooling which requires a different configuration of air flows. We’ll discuss the ventilation system shortly, closer to the end of this section of our review.

You may have noticed a second expansion slot bracket in the back panel. It suggests that you can install a dual-slot graphics card, even though not a very long one. The chassis is 26 centimeters long, so your graphics card must be shorter than that.

Thus, the PC-Q11 seems to be intended for more advanced configurations than its smaller cousin. Well, it is also less compact than the latter.

On the other hand, the PC-Q11 is not just a larger PC-Q07. As is indicated by a number of small improvements that combine to produce a much better overall impression, Lian Li positions this product as a higher-class solution.

For example, its accessories are better and even come in better packaging: a glossy box with plastic handle instead of the rough unpainted cardboard packaging of the other three products.

Besides what we’ve seen with the junior Lian Li, the accessories include a USB 3.0->USB 2.0 adapter, a PC speaker and a black aluminum (like the system case itself) sticker with silvery letters of the manufacturer’s name. There is also a promo leaflet with descriptions of Lian Li products.

The USB 3.0-2.0 adapter is supposed to be used for the front-panel USB 3.0 ports if your configuration doesn’t have USB 3.0. You can connect those ports to the USB 2.0 headers of your mainboard.

The adapter can also be useful for USB 3.0-enabled configurations. It can help you output two more USB 2.0 ports through the same hole that the cables of the front-panel USB 3.0 ports use. Perhaps not a very beautiful solution, it can really help if you’ve got a highly integrated mainboard that has a lot of video outputs at its back panel (ours even has a Wi-Fi antenna there) at the expense of USB 2.0 connectors.

The PSU mounting frame and its thumbscrews have become black like the rest of the external details. This is an example of nuances that differentiate top-class products from their cheaper counterparts. On the other hand, Lian Li forgot to include black mounting screws for the PSU itself.

Feet are one of the details that help you find out if the manufacturer has tried to make the system case cheaper to make. As opposed to the junior model, the PC-Q11 has composite feet with soft soles.

The optical drive bay has a spring-loaded faceplate trimmed with aluminum to match the rest of the front panel. This faceplate makes it harder to install an optical drive as compared with the installation procedure of the PC-Q07. First, you have to take off the bay out of the chassis by unfastening four screws. Then you secure your optical drive in it and put them back into the chassis.

 

It’s become simpler to align the front panel of the optical drive with the front of the system case. If you’ve got a standard drive, you just have to fasten the screws at the farther end of the mounting slits. Otherwise, the drive will press against the faceplate, keeping the latter a little open all the time.

The disc eject button has no mechanism for adjusting to the position of the optical drive’s own eject button. You have to choose an optical drive with a standard position of that button for this system case.

The disk subsystem has doubled its capabilities compared to the PC-Q07. Now you can install two 3.5-inch and two 2.5-inch devices. But like with the optical drive, the installation procedure has become somewhat more difficult. You have to remove the aluminum mounting plate for HDDs if you install 2.5-inch disks. And you may have to do so with 3.5-inch disks as well.

The installation method has changed, too. 3.5-inch devices are fastened in the PC-Q11 using the bottom rather than side mounting holes. Rubber pads are employed for suppressing vibrations.

2.5-inch devices are attached to the other side of the mounting frame, below 3.5-inch ones. This is similar to the PC-Q07 in terms of the position of the drives, but 2.5-inch disks are not fastened to the bottom panel now.

Of course, you have to install 2.5-inch devices first because 3.5-inch ones are going to block their mounting holes.

Nothing prevents you from connecting cables to 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch disks.

One good thing about this system case is that it can accommodate a fast graphics card with a dual-slot cooler. No other product in this review can do that. The Radeon HD 3870 card we use in our tests, being 230 millimeters long, fitted into the chassis easily. We only had to connect the additional power connector to it before fixing it in the expansion slot. Modern graphics cards usually having power connectors at a side rather than back edge, every model up to 240 millimeters long is going to be compatible with this system case.

Thanks to the larger interior, the tangle of cables is not as awful as within the PC-Q07.

You can take the power supply halfway out of its bay when assembling your configuration to make it easier to connect power cables.

Your mainboard is installed right on the side panel but you won’t be able to service your system by simply flipping that panel down, like with the PC-Q07. We mean, you will hardly want to buy such a large system case (it's indeed large for its mini-ITX form-factor) unless you want to put a discrete graphics card into it.

The screwless fastening mechanism of the expansion card is rather dubious. You just can’t fix the card normally with it: you can’t press down hard enough with one hand whereas your other hand has to be turning the fixing screw.

As a result, the fixing thumbscrew doesn’t do any good but only gets in the way of your screwdriver as you are trying to reach to the ordinary screw to normally fix the graphics card with.

The PC-Q11 features active cooling. There is a 140mm fan behind its front panel. You can connect it to your mainboard via a 3-pin cable or to a PATA power connector of your PSU via the included adapter. The fan is labeled as LI121425BE-4-A.

The fan is fastened in the same way as 3.5-inch drives in this chassis: the round rubber vibration-absorbing pads fit into the matching slits. The impeller is protected with a mesh dust filter. On the other side it has a steel wire grid that prevents cables from getting into the fan.

The air flow configuration seems to be optimal. The fan is located in an isolated compartment and pumps the air in through the vent slits in the front part of the side panels. The hot air goes out through the vent openings opposite the drives and in the top back part of the chassis. There are more vents near the drives, though.

The fan speed was 940 RPM irrespective of how the fan was connected (the specified speed is 1000 RPM) as our mainboard cannot regulate the speed of 3-pin fans. Although the speed was quite high, the fan was quiet and didn't resonate.

  

When assembled, the PC-Q11 looks almost the same as its junior cousin (and its Power indicator doesn’t shine for the same reason with our configuration: it uses a 3-pin connector). However, you have to do about twice the amount of work to assemble the same configuration as with the Lian Li PC-Q07 (there are eight screws in each panel here and it is more difficult to install an optical drive and hard disks).

Highs:

Lows:

Testbed and Testing Methodology

We test assembled system cases at a constant ambient temperature of 23°C maintained by an air conditioner. As we assume that most users prefer low-noise computers, we set the speed of the CPU and system fans (those connected to the mainboard’s 3-pin connectors) into Silent mode (the quietest mode in the mainboard’s BIOS). If a system case has its own speed controller, we switch it to minimum speed, too. We do not change the default configuration of air flows determined by system case design.

The following components are installed into each system case:

We test system cases with their bundled PSUs if they have one. If not stated otherwise, the HDDs are listed in the order of their placement from the top main HDD bay downwards without any gaps.

The temperature of the CPU is measured with Core Temp 0.99.8. HDD, GPU and mainboard temperatures are measured with CPUID Hardware Monitor. The speed of the fans is measured with an optical tachometer Velleman DTO2234. There are the following test modes:

Every temperature is read after the system has worked for half an hour in the current test mode. The following table shows the temperatures of the components if the system is assembled without an enclosure (“open testbed”).

Open Testbed

The noisiness of the systems is evaluated subjectively.

Test Results

Configurations available for the tested system cases differ very much, so we will only show you the results of three common tests in the comparative diagrams. Besides that, we will run each product throughout all the tests it can support. For more readability, the nonstandard Seagate ST9500420AS disk, which differs dramatically from the WD Raptor series in terms of operating temperature, is marked with an asterisk (*) in the tables below.

Chenbro PC78131

Chenbro ES34169

Lian Li PC-Q07

Lian Li PC-Q11

The different system cases turn out to be rather similar when it comes to cooling our test configuration. That’s why we don’t want to comment on the performance of each of them. The only exceptional results we can note is that the CPU and mainboard’s chipset are not cooled as effectively in the Lian Li PC-Q11 as in the other system cases and that the Chenbro ES34169 is the best one at cooling our 3.5-inch hard disk drives.

While the latter’s superiority as a file server could have been predicted, the poor performance of the Lian Li with its active cooling system is quite a surprise. It has the largest interior and a high-speed fan but turns out to be less effective at cooling than its opponents. Its developers must have done something wrong with the air flow configuration although it seems logical enough.

By the way, the lowest chipset temperature at peak CPU load is also the result of the poor ventilation of this system case. The CPU cooler would just accelerate to a higher speed than in the other system cases, ensuring better cooling of the chipset along the way.

Anyway, the difference of a few degrees of temperature cannot be viewed as a critical downside of the Lian Li PC-Q11. This system case can hardly be preferred by hardcore overclockers, but when it comes to non-overclocked mode, it can keep the CPU and mainboard cool enough.

The next diagrams compare the system cases with each other and with the open testbed.

 

Conclusion

We will now give you a brief summary on each of the tested system cases in the order of their appearance in this review.

The Chenbro PC78131 is obviously not meant for building a high-performance configuration or a high-capacity file server. In fact, our configuration is the best that this system case can support in terms of power consumption with the bundled power supply. We guess an Intel Atom or AMD Brazos platform would be the most appropriate for it. Considering that the PC78131 is designed to accommodate only one 2.5-inch drive, the configuration you can assemble in it is going to be limited in the multimedia aspect. On the other hand, if you do not plan to run anything heavier than office applications and web-browsers and your multimedia collection is limited in size, this model can be a good choice for reasonable money.

The other Chenbro, ES34169, is a very interesting product for a very specific application. Being compact, it provides broad opportunities for building a large disk subsystem. It has four 3.5-inch disk bays with hot swap capability, so you can have a high-capacity file-server whereas an internal 2.5-inch drive can be used as a system disk. So, this product is going to be perfect as home multimedia storage combined with a player and browser. The downside is that the 70mm exhaust fans are too noisy and the price is too high (two or three times as high as that of the other tested products).

The junior Lian Li model can accommodate one 2.5-inch and one 3.5-inch disk and is compatible with standard desktop components which are cheaper and more available than slim optical drives and other exotic devices. It is comparable to the Chenbro PC78131 in price (but you have to additionally purchase a power supply for the Lian Li), offers better expansion opportunities and has a prettier exterior. However, its dimensions have grown up as the consequence of its support for standard components and it is more difficult to assemble. It’s up to you to decide which features are more important to you.

Finally, the Lian Li PC-Q11 is a system case that is obviously meant to be a replacement for a conventional full-size desktop PC capable of running modern video games (except that it cannot match systems with CrossFireX or SLI configurations built out of top-end graphics cards). Its expansion opportunities are close to those of ATX system cases. It’s got a restrained exterior design and its price is reasonable. We can also name a couple of downsides. It is not very easy to assemble a PC configuration in the PC-Q11 and its ventilation is far from effective despite its rather large cooling fan. On the other hand, you can put up with the difficult assembly if you do it just once whereas its ventilation should suffice for standard operation mode. A compact computer is not meant for hardcore overclockers anyway.