Lian Li stick-on aluminium drive bezelsReview date: 29 March 2002.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Aluminium computer cases - like the ones made by Lian Li, about which I keep writing reviews because they seem to release about two new models a week - have a problem.
The problem is, they tend to look at least somewhat dorky.
Well, the ones that actually show off their expensive aluminium panels do, anyway.
It's not the aluminium's fault. Clear-anodised brushed aluminium looks great, provided you don't prefer wood-panelled ambience.
It's not the fault of the manufacturers, either. Most aluminium cases are very well made; Lian Li's certainly are.
The problem is the drives.
CD-ROM, DVD-ROM and floppy drives - and the menagerie of other removable media devices that people install in PCs - don't have brushed aluminium front bezels. They have plastic ones. Beige plastic, almost always, to match most of the world's PCs (and old Macs).
If you've got a black-anodised aluminium case, it's possible to find black-bezeled drives. They won't quite match the case's finish, but they look good enough.
If you've got a silver-anodised case, though, black drives look very dodgy, and beige ones aren't a whole lot better.
To overcome this problem, you can:
- Remove the drive bezels and paint them silver. This is fiddly, and will probably not look great.
- Use stick-on model detailing foil to get a proper brushed-silver look. This is even more fiddly than painting, and you may have to do some surface preparation to get the foil to stay stuck.
- Spend ages hacking slots in bay covers, sticking them to the fronts
of drive trays, and so on. You can see some well done modifications
of this sort - plus various other tweaks and twiddles -
here and here.
NOTE: This level of attention to the cosmetic appearance of your computer may lead to harder drugs.
- Take the beige bits off your drives, carry them to your local metal shop, and get them remanufactured in the metal of your choice. If all that's needed is a bit of cutting and bending of light sheet stock, then new bezels ought to cost rather less than the drives you're putting them on. If you want anything fancier than that, though, I suggest you get yourself thrown out of some casinos for being too good at blackjack before you attempt this project. You're going to need that kind of money.
- Give up on the whole silver case idea, and get something like the sliding-front black box I review here.
If you're looking for a solution a bit more, well, peel-and-stick, then Lian Li have one for you. Provided you've got the right kinds of drives, that is.
These are stick-on aluminium faceplates, specifically made by Lian Li to match their cases. There were originally only three CD-ROM drive models and one floppy drive model..
...but now you can get another three CD-ROM flavours.
If you've got a drive that matches one of them, you just stick the appropriate faceplate on, and enjoy your newly silvered storage. Aus PC Market here in Australia stock the three CD-ROM faceplates for $AU16.50 delivered, and the floppy one for $AU14.30 delivered.
The "C-2" bezel matches the Sony CDU5211. The "C-4" bezel suits the Pioneer DVD-116. The "C-6" bezel is for the Teac CD-540E. The newer "C-8", "C-10" and "C-14" bezels fit, respectively, the LG CRD-8484B, the AOpen DVD-1648, and the AOpen CD-952E. All of these are tray-load drives. The "F-7" floppy bezel fits Teac and Mitsumi drives.
The floppy bezel is a one piece unit, but all of the CD/DVD-ROM bezels have one piece for the front of the tray, and one for the surround. There are holes and notches for LEDs and buttons and insert-paper-clip-here-to-eject points.
If you don't have one of the specified drives, you're probably out of luck. Not necessarily, though; you may have a drive that's got the same front panel layout as one of the supported CD-ROMs. This might happen by coincidence, but it's more likely to happen because both drives are actually made by the same company.
If you've got a slot-load drive of any sort, though, you're definitely sunk. As it happens, the C-4 bezel without its tray cover actually quite neatly fits the slot-load AOpen DVD-1640 Pro in the machine on which I'm typing this. But, of course, the slot and the beige plastic around it are visible through the hole in the C-4's surround. And so the drive still looks... questionable.
All of the bezels are simple self-adhesive jobbies, and also have a layer of protective plastic film pre-applied to the other side. So you can stick them onto your drive, rub enthusiastically all over the front of the bezel to encourage the adhesive to stick, and then just peel off the plastic to get a lovely unsmudged pristine silver finish.
Well, that's the theory, anyway.
Do these things actually look good?
Well, from some angles they do.
Here's a C-4 bezel stuck on a drive that's installed in a PC-60USB (which I review here). If you're more or less in front of the case, and the light isn't coming from a really peculiar angle, the bezel matches the case finish very well indeed.
Look closely and you'll notice the beige load/eject button and the other glimpses of plastic here and there, but it's really a very good effect.
There's more than enough adjustability in the mounting screw locations to let you get the drive dead flush with the front panel, too.
I was less impressed when I started looking at the thing from other angles.
It's not difficult to see this peculiar edge-emphasis effect. It looks a bit like something that's got protective film on it that someone's forgotten to peel off. The film has been peeled off this bezel, but the flat parts don't reflect the incident light the same way as the case metal around them. And the lightly bevelled edges really stand out.
Mind you, even from the least flattering angle, it's arguable that the stick-on bezels still look better than a beige drive. And, while they're not dirt cheap, they're not stupidly expensive either.
If you've got a silver Lian Li case, and you've got drive(s) to match one or more of these things, they really do provide a simple and straightforward way to make the computer look better. They don't pass truly close inspection, but neither do they make you muck about with a nibbling tool, Dremel, punch press and strangely attractive hydraulic shovel. If you've got the rudimentary level of coordination necessary to stick the things on straight, they've got the best case mod effort-to-result ratio I've seen so far.
Are they useful? Heck, no. But nobody buys a Lian Li case purely for its functional benefits.
If any of the silver-cased machines I've got here had a drive in it that one of these bezels fit, I'd use them. As it happens, none do, and I'm not about to buy new drives just so I can silver-ify them.
If I were building a new box, though, the existence of the stick-on bezels would be a factor in my drive purchasing decision.
They're neat. They're nifty. Check 'em out.
Readers from Australia or New Zealand can purchase Lian Li products from Aus PC Market.
(if you're NOT from Australia or New Zealand, Aus PC Market won't deliver to you. If you're in the USA, try a price search at DealTime!)