Lian Li PC-6277B computer caseReview date: 9 July 2004. Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Lian Li make a lot of different PC cases. I've reviewed plenty over the years.
Here's an oddity, though.
At a glance, the PC-6277B (the B, as usual in Lian Li product codes, is for "black"; there's a silver no-B PC-6277 as well) looks like yet another of Lian Li's mainstream case products based on the PC-60. That case hasn't changed a great deal since I played with pimping one out a few years ago, and much of Lian Li's popular line of sleek, lightweight, well made, aluminium cases still resemble it in one way or another. The all-new V-series cases won't take over the Lian Li lineup that quickly.
The 6277 has more 5.25 inch bays than usual, and fewer 3.5s, but it still looks fairly PC-60-ish.
If you look for a 6277 on Lian Li's site, though, you won't find one.
You'll find a PC-6077 and a PC-6077B, which are pretty similar (the bonsai versions are the 3077 and 3077B) . But they're not the same thing.
The PC-6277, you see, is specially adapted to make it easy to install a water cooling kit. That's not all this case is good for, but it's why it exists.
It's possible to add water cooling to pretty much any PC case, of course. Kits exist that'll fit in a couple of 5.25 inch drive bays, provided there aren't any intrusive mounting rails, or a lack of space behind the bays. It doesn't get much simpler than that.
Small water cooling rigs like that, though, don't actually work terribly well. If they're the size of an abbreviated shoebox, and well designed, then they can deliver better cooling than any regular heat sink and fan, and make a lot less noise. But plenty of them aren't that well designed, or just aren't big enough.
Water doesn't actually magically cool things all by itself, after all, unless you hook the inlet pipe up to a cold tap and poke the outlet pipe down the drain. In the normal, non-water-wasting sealed recirculating kind of water cooling rig, the water just moves the heat to a radiator. That radiator needs to be large, and needs a decent amount of cool air moving over it. A tiny radiator, or a big one with lousy airflow, can easily work worse than a conventional air cooler.
(Cases in point: This one, and this even worse one.)
If you don't give a toss what your water cooling rig looks like, and don't care whether the computer's portable or not, you can of course run pipes out of the case and set up an ugly external system with as big a radiator as you like. This ridiculous monstrosity ran 24/7 for six months, some years ago now; if not for the fact that I failed to prevent galvanic corrosion, it might still be running today.
If you want a capable water cooler that doesn't make your computer look like a still, though, you'll probably need an extra hole in the case for the radiator, and some space to install it (well, OK, unless you've got mad skillz).
You can hack up a case suitable for internal water cooling easily enough. Start with a regular tower case, and get busy with the power tools. If you'd rather have something neater and simpler, though, the 6277 could be for you.
It's got the space, for a start. Lian Li's regular line of PC-60-descended midi-tower cases are all unusually deep - about 210 by 450 by 490mm (8.25 by 17.7 by 19.3 inches) is standard now. The PC-6077's that size, but the 6277 is 590mm deep (23.2 inches).
And, yes, it's got a window in the side. Well, you're not going to pay for all that tubing and such and then just hide it away, are you?
The 6277 front panel's the same as the 6077's. Seven externally accessible 5.25 inch drive bays, two of which have factory-supplied "stealth" faceplates - one for an optical drive, one for a floppy. These faceplates are functionally identical to the separately sold ones I've reviewed before, except the floppy one's got a 5.25-to-3.5-inch reducer kit behind it.
Like most Lian Li cases these days, this one has front ports under a little door. Two audio, two USB, one IEEE-1394a (the original large-connector FireWire standard). They all go to motherboard header plugs, with a choice of one-piece and split single-pin plugs that ought to let you connect them to any mobo with the appropriate headers, provided you can find out what the pinout is.
The PC-6x77 front panel breaks no new ground for Lian Li, but it's perfectly good. It's got their usual oval high intensity LED power and disk activity lights, it's got snazzy silver power and reset buttons, and the front bezel...
...is easy to remove, though there's not a lot of reason to do so. There's no intake fan speed control, and this isn't how you access the intake fan dust filter, either. Popping off the bezel does let you get at the mounting screws for the top drive hider, though, in case you want to remove it.
From the back, the PC-6277B's almost standard basic Lian Li fare. The only oddness is that it's got a big 120mm exhaust fan, with a 0.24 amp, 2.88 watt nominal power rating. As usual for Lian Li, this fan's an Adda product, and also as usual they've picked a quiet, low power model. This time they've made it even quieter by mounting it on rubber grommets, though.
120mm fans move more air per watt than smaller units; this one's got a 72 cubic foot per minute (CFM) free-air flow rating, which you'd need a couple of three watt 80mm fans to equal. Those'd make considerably more noise than the bigger fan (higher pitched, as well as louder); a single 80mm fan with a 72cfm flow rating would be really loud.
Apart from the fan, the rear of the 6277's like many other Lian Lis. Thumbscrews for easy access, removable power supply mounting plate (so you don't have to thread the PSU into place from inside the case - especially helpful if you've cluttered up the interior with water cooling gear and then need to replace the power supply), better-than-nothing padlock security tabs for the important side panel (the right one, as you look at the case from behind), and, of course, pretty shiny expansion slot covers.
There's no slide-out motherboard tray, though; Lian Li have economised there. In a case this deep, it's not too hard to work on the mobo in situ, anyway. Lian Li have made some use of the resultant blank metal next to the expansion slots; there are a couple of mounting points for extra 9 and 25 pin D-sockets. Hey, someone might use them.
The big difference between the PC-6277 and the common old 6077, besides its size, is here on the top. This is one of Lian Li's standard, simple, fan filter covers, that're easy to remove yet stay solidly in place when the sliding clips are engaged. This filter cover's just a lot bigger than the usual two-80mm-fan versions.
The filter under this one's about 43 by 16 centimetres (16.9 by 6.3 inches) in size, big enough to cover a very large PC radiator, if not for the fact that the back portion of the filter actually covers the PSU mounting location.
The rear hole under the filter lines up with the PSU. Because of the removable power supply mounting plate, you can easily install the PSU either way up. So you can point a PSU's "top" or "bottom" grille out of the case, if you like. The 6277's 120mm exhaust fan should provide more than enough ventilation for the air-cooled parts of a typical water-cooled PC (even if you're truly hardcore and water cool your video card, drives and motherboard chipset in addition to your CPU, there'll still be at least a couple of dozen widely distributed watts in there that'll need a breeze to dissipate). So you can use a super-quiet, super-low-air-flow PSU in the 6277, and keep that low-flow PSU cool by letting it breathe the outside air, rather than making it contribute to moving warm air out of the case.
The front hole under the filter is for a radiator with a 120mm fan on it. Or just for a 120mm fan, if you want to be boring. That's what the mounting holes fit.
Inside, there are a few more surprises. First, there's a bewildering panoply of mounting holes for Lian Li's trademark click-in motherboard standoffs. Between them, they let you install the usual ATX, MicroATX and FlexATX motherboards, plus larger (up to 12 by 13 inch) Extended ATX boards.
And then, there are the drive bays. Which are... flexible.
At first sight, not too odd. Lots of 5.25s (one with the floppy drive adapter rails), three 3.5s at the bottom. Most of Lian Li's cases now have a lower 3.5 inch drive cage with room for five vertically-mounted drives; this is an old-style horizontal-mount cage, which is why you can only fit three.
The lower drive cage comes out, of course, but instead of being thumbscrewed to the bottom of the case as is normal, it mounts with normal screws - and what it's mounted into is yet more 5.25 inch bays.
Here's the drive cage, with integrated 80mm fan (it's the 6277's only intake fan). The cage is slightly wider than usual, which leaves room for more rubber vibration-absorbing grommets for the drive mount screws. This fan's rubber-mounted, too.
The front switch and filter assembly is a separate part, again retained with screws. Once you've got it out, it's easy to slide the filter foam out for cleaning. If you think you're likely to forget to do that, it's a better idea to just remove the foam entirely and surrender your PC to the dust bunnies than to leave the foam there and end up bunging up the air intake.
What's really neat about this arrangement is that you can buy the bay/fan/filter arrangements separately. Lian Li sell them as the EX-23, and that's exactly the same thing as the stock PC-6277/6077 unit, but without the buttons and lights on the front.
When Lian Li say that these EX-23 is "Compatible with Lian-Li case only", by the way, they're serious. Their 5.25 inch bays have extra mounting holes fore and aft, for screws and for the little nubbins that let their blanking plates just clip into place. You could probably hack an EX-23 into another manufacturer's case if you really wanted to, but it'd require significant effort to get it lined up nicely.
If you've got a PC-6077 or 6277, though, the EX-23 arrangement makes it theoretically possible to install nine 5.25 inch devices, though you'd have to make other arrangements for the front switches and lights if you did. You're probably going to want at least one 3.5 inch bay for a boot drive, of course, but if you don't want a floppy drive (and many people don't, these days) then your boot drive could install in the floppy drive adapter rails, you could put one of the five plain faceplates in front of it, and you'd still have eight 5.25 inch bays free.
More realistically, you can buy some more EX-23s, and convert other pairs of 5.25 inch bays into triplets of 3.5 inch bays, in the 6x77 cases or practically any other PC-60-descended Lian Li you like. In a 6x77, you could install up to 12 3.5 inch devices using the standard bottom bays and three EX-23s, and fit one more drive in the single remaining 5.25 inch bay.
It's not hard to find the PC-6077 and/or 6077B; here in Australia, for instance, Aus PC Market stock the 6077 for $AU275 including Sydney metropolitan delivery (Australians who feel an uncontrollable urge to order one right now can click here to do so).
The mysterious special-order 6277 is, as you'd expect, harder to find. Aus PC don't stock it and aren't likely to start, and the same probably applies to most other Lian Li resellers.
If you're in Europe in general or Norway in particular, though, you're in luck, provided you don't mind navigating a Web site in Norwegian (it ain't that hard; even I can figure out what "Logg inn" and "Klikk her" mean). Microplex Norge AS stock the PC-6277 and the PC-6277B, for 1795 Norwegian kroner (about $US260, as I write this), not including shipping. Which, for people outside Europe, would of course be impractically expensive.
If you can find another place that stocks the 6277, you're a better product-hunter than me. Microplex seem to be it at the moment.
(Microplex stock the 6077 and 6077B as well, by the way, for 1595 kroner; about $US230, as I write this. They've got the EX-23 too, for 295 kroner; about $US43. The Microplex guys also speak perfectly good English; they just don't use it on their site.)
I suspect that most people who're interested in the 6277 will never be able to buy one. If you're within practical shipping distance of Microplex, then great; if not, forget it. Even if Lian Li stockists outside Europe order some in, they're unlikely to get enough to satisfy demand, lest they be stuck with expensively-imported excess stock.
Readers outside Microplex's market should, therefore, try to read this review as if it were about the much easier to find 6077. The 6077 lacks the super-deep case and factory-modified top grille, and it's got boring 80mm fans, but it's got a slide-out mobo tray, and it's also got the 6277's interesting convertible-bays layout.
If you can buy a 6277, though, and you want yourself a quiet, compact, elegant, water-cooled Lian Li (or just want room for an E-ATX server board and low-noise 120mm-fan cooling), this special-issue case fits the bill.
Microplex have been good enough to send me a full kit of water cooling gear to go with the 6277, and I'll be reviewing that shortly. I'm already confident about the 6277's suitability to the task, though; if the resultant system isn't a world-beater, it won't be the case's fault.
Review PC-6277B kindly provided by Microplex Norge.
Microplex's page for the PC-6277