Lian Li PC-V1000 computer caseReview date: 5 June 2004.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
I reviewed Lian Li's original PC-60 computer case almost four years ago, now.
The PC-60 was, and is a good product. Actually, it's rather better now than it was then, because Lian Li have been tweaking its basic design ever since. They rotated the bottom 3.5 inch drive cage to fit another two bays in, they improved the front panel retainers, they added ports to the front panel; the list goes on. They've also released a host of variants on the PC-60 design - different front panels, side windows, cheaper versions with a few features deleted, and so on.
Even Lian Li's quite non-PC-60-ish cases - full towers, super-quiet variants, little microATX boxes - have had a lot of PC-60 DNA in them. And other manufacturers eager to horn in on the funky aluminium case market have made some boxes that aren't, when you get right down to it, exactly dissimilar to the PC-60.
There've been sparks of innovation here and there, but nobody ever came up with anything really different.
This is Lian Li's PC-V1000. It's completely different from the PC-60 and its multitudinous relatives.
Well, OK, not completely different. The V1000's still mainly made of aluminium, it still accepts regular ATX PC components, and it's not much bigger than a PC-60; it's 210mm wide, the same as the PC-60, but it's 490mm tall and 525mm deep (50mm and 40mm more than the PC-60, respectively). That's about 8.3 by 19.3 by 20.7 inches.
The PC-V1000 also isn't a whole lot more expensive than the older cases. When the PC-60 first came out here in Australia it cost around $AU400, ex delivery; now, Aus PC Market will be selling V1000s for $AU374 including Sydney metropolitan delivery (but, as is traditional for fancy aluminium cases, not including a power supply).
Well, they will when the shipment finally shows up. It hasn't, as I write this; unlike practically every other Lian Li product, the new V-series cases have been available in the USA and Europe for rather a while, but will only be hitting Australia in a week or two.
Aussies can pre-order a V1000 now, though, and I recommend they do. This new Lian Li is a really, really good piece of gear.
The guided tour
The V1000's perforated front panel gives a nod to Apple's recent "cheese grater" Power Macs, but that's as derivative as this box gets. Pretty much everything else is new, and innovative, and interesting.
Forget, for instance, about Lian Li's affection for realistic, but nonetheless fake, carbon fibre end-plates on their front bezels. The V1000's front bezel - which isn't detachable - curves smoothly around to meet the top and bottom panels, and the fit and finish is excellent. Lian Li have always made cases that look great and don't rattle, but the V1000 takes it to a new level.
Look at the delicately scalloped edge of the side panel, for instance. It's as close to perfectly even as you could ask, and it's actually got a bit of a purpose, as well; it lets you get a better grip on the edge of the otherwise-magnificently-featureless panel when you're removing it.
You might also notice that there are rather a lot of little holes in the front panel. In the back and bottom panels, too, as you'll see shortly.
All of these holes lead straight to the inside of the case; they're not blanked off by more panels inside. So this is a very well ventilated case.
I haven't, in my cutting-out-the-background Photoshoppery for this review, bothered to make every little hole as white as the main background for each image, so the true sieve-like nature of the PC-V1000 may not always be obvious.
But trust me - it's cheesecloth. It's a colander. It's hardly there at all. There are one zillion computer cases out there where air has to take a circuitous path to get in, and has limited places where it can get out; this is not one of those cases.
The PC-V1000 has a modest collection of front ports - two audio, two USB, one FireWire - and you'll only be able to use them if you have motherboard headers to match. They all expect to plug into pin-connectors on a mobo, not rear panel ports. Every halfway normal motherboard for ages now has had USB headers, but audio and FireWire headers are less common.
If you've got the headers, though, you'll definitely be able to connect the ports, because their cables terminate in both one-piece plugs for motherboards with the appropriate pinout, and separate single-pin plugs for motherboards with some other arrangement.
The power button is steel, not silver plastic. There is no reset button. The power and drive LEDs are tiny little understated things (though they're still high intensity LEDs, clearly visible in anything less than direct sunlight). And the floppy bay has an aluminium bezel, to avoid The Curse Of Beige.
The floppy bay is set in the middle of the bottom 5.25 inch bay; you can remove it entirely if you like and install a 5.25 inch device there instead. Without the floppy, there are five 5.25 inch bays.
The top 5.25 inch bay has an aluminium drive-hider, as well. Both aluminium drive fronts are, as far as I can see, the same as the C-01 and F-01 I reviewed here.
The PC-V1000 does not have feet; it has wheels (and, as I mentioned, more vent holes on the bottom panel). No more dragging your case forward across the carpet when you need to get at the back panel. The wheels are solid spun aluminium; they're quite weighty.
Does this mean the case'll roll around all the time? No, because...
...this sliding brake lets you immobilise the rear set of wheels at will.
I still wouldn't be too sanguine about setting the V1000 up on the deck of a small boat in high seas, but it'll stay put well enough in an ordinary computer room.
If you really don't like the wheels then you can unscrew them, but that's a waste of some very slick bits of aluminium, if you ask me. Without the wheels the case is only about 450mm (17.7 inches) high, though, so if you've just discovered you can't fit it under your desk, removing the wheels is an option.
This is the back panel. And yes, it's the right way up. Lian Li have decided to flip the usual ATX case arrangement around, apparently in pursuit of better air flow and more efficient use of the interior space. The PSU's at the bottom, and the motherboard slots are at the top.
The aluminium box sticking out of the back of the case is a noise reducing air diverter for the rear exhaust fan.
You can easily unclip the diverter if you don't want to use it. Without it, and ignoring the thumbscrews sticking out, the V1000 is only about 490mm (19.3 inches) deep.
Removing the diverter reveals an unexpectedly large fan grille. The PC-V1000 has only two fans, but both of them are medium-power 120mm units, instead of the 80mm fans that most cases use. As usual for Lian Li, the fans are made by ADDA.
Also as usual, the major removable components of the PC-V1000 are retained with thumbscrews. There's only one thumbscrew for each side panel, though, up close to the top of the case.
Undo that thumbscrew and it won't fall into your hand; it's captive. Pull on it when it's undone, and a latch pops out. Now, you can just hinge the side panel down and lift it out; you don't have to slide it fore or aft. Little pins sticking out from the panel locate it properly. The latch mechanism works very well indeed.
Note, by the way, the padlock tab on this latch (and this latch only), which makes this case as secure as every other padlock-tabbed box. Which is to say, not very secure at all, as anyone with a chunky screwdriver can hook it through the padlock and twist the whole tab off. It'll probably keep casual LAN party miscreants out while you visit the bathroom, though.
The PC-V1000 side panels are, essentially, just a flat plate of aluminium. The metal's not rolled around the edges, like normal Lian Li panels; there isn't even an indentation for use as a handle, because the latched attachment method doesn't require one.
A flat unfolded sheet of metal isn't strong, so to stop the side panels vibrating and flexing and maybe even getting dented or bent, Lian Li have made them out of hefty 2mm thick aluminium, instead of the 1.2mm metal they normally use.
The mounting rails add to the panel's weight, because they're steel. They're attached to the panel with screws, fastened into shallow tapped holes in the aluminium. Like everything else in the V1000, this is a really neat fabrication.
But it's not a light one. Each side panel weighs about 1520 grams (3.35 pounds) by itself. A PC-60 side panel weighs only about 720 grams (1.6 pounds).
The whole V1000, however, isn't particularly heavy by aluminium case standards. Lian Li don't publish a weight figure for the V1000, but if my bathroom scales can be believed, it's about 8 kilos without power supply. That's a couple of kilograms more than the old PC-60, but it's still pretty light.
In the great scheme of things, the weight of a case doesn't matter that much. Steel cases often don't actually weigh that much more than aluminium ones; it's not hard to find a well-built steel midi-tower that only weighs in at nine kilos. Many steel full towers only clock in at about 12.
This is because although aluminium is only about a third as dense as steel, it's not nearly as strong. The very best aluminium alloys are only about as strong as the mild steel used in cheap PC cases, and aluminium cases don't use those alloys, because they're really expensive. So to achieve the same strength, makers of aluminium cases have to use more metal, and they end up not saving a whole lot of weight. Especially when you take into account the weight of the rest of the components that make up a PC.
Oh, I'm sorry - were you waiting for the shots of the inside?
There you go.
There's weirdness inside the V1000 beyond its topsy-turvy layout. It's divided into two compartments, partially sealed off from each other. The lower one is fed by the intake fan and contains the 3.5 inch bays, exhausting some air into the rest of the case, a little into the separate PSU sub-compartment, and some out of the bottom vents.
The upper, larger compartment is where the 5.25 inch bays and motherboard tray live. Air's sucked through this compartment by the rear exhaust fan.
There's plenty of room for air to leak between the compartments, because there's a gap between the edge of the compartment divider and the side panel, and also a decent-sized plastic-edged hole through which you're meant to thread your power and data cables. But this still definitely isn't an open-plan case.
The layout of the V1000, by the way, is likely to cause problems with most motherboards and Parallel ATA hard drives. A standard 18 inch PATA ribbon cable is unlikely to reach from the mobo to the 3.5 inch bays. There's no chance at all of it reaching if you want to plug two drives into it.
SATA cables will reach with no trouble (and be easier to route, too), so this isn't likely to be a big deal for people using new hardware. SATA connectors are standard equipment on most motherboards today, and SATA drives aren't much more expensive than PATA ones any more.
If you want to move your old PC into this new case, though, or just re-use a PATA hard drive or two, then you're probably going to have to use at least a 24 inch, slightly-out-of-spec cable to do it. As I've written before, over-length PATA leads do generally work OK, but they're not the choice of champions.
The 5.25 inch drive bays aren't very remarkable. The only slightly odd thing is the PC speaker, lurking there under the lowest bay.
(No, the PC speaker magnet does not pose a risk to your data, no matter where it's mounted.)
Here's the floppy bay by itself. It's retained by four screws; the drive-hider at the top of the 5.25 inch bays is screwed in place too, but the other blank bay panels are just click-in units, as is normal for Lian Li.
The lower bays are much weirder. There are six of them, and they're not removable. They don't need to be. To install a drive, you thread special mounting screws into the sides of it, then just slide the drive into the plastic rails that define a bay, and then click down a retaining latch on either side. This is a neat, low-vibration arrangement, and the proximity of the big front fan should deal with any drive cooling issues created by the lack of metal-to-metal contact with the chassis.
You get 24 of the special screws with the PC-V1000, enough for all six bays, provided you don't lose any. If you do lose some, you should be able to make do with ordinary flat-headed drive mounting screws of reasonable length; you'll just have to be careful to thread them in the right distance.
The V1000 bits box, by the way, also contains four expanding push-pins (for mounting another fan, I think, though I don't know where...), three little cable ties and one self-adhesive adjustable wire clip to help you marshal your cables, one spare thumbscrew, a collection of Lian Li's signature clip-in mobo mounts, and plenty of regular drive and motherboard mounting screws.
Because the V1000's front panel isn't removable, you have to open the case to get at the front fan and its dust filter. It's retained by two more captive thumbscrews, one on each side, so you need to remove both sides of the case to extract it. The latching system makes that easy enough that it's not a big deal, but you won't be able to tell how clogged the filter is without taking the whole assembly out. Regular removable-front Lian Lis make it rather easier to check the filter status.
The filter retainer is a simple clip-in arrangement; Lian Li use a similar filter box on many of their other current cases.
Here, for your information, is the latch bar that holds the side panels on. It doesn't just hook into the back corner of the panel; it engages the top mounting rail all the way across, and holds the panel firmly in place.
And yet, forsooth, it's easy to unlatch.
There's that big exhaust fan, and Lian Li's usual ultra-shiny rear expansion slot covers. As normal for Lian Li cases, the PSU mounts on a removable plate, which lets you install it without threading the whole awkward object through from the inside.
Unusually, though, there's no removable motherboard mounting tray. The info sheet that accompanied my review case shows one, but the tray in the case itself is firmly pop riveted in place.
The V1000's PSU sub-compartment, by the way, is sized for standard ATX power supplies. If your PSU is deeper than about 165mm (6.5 inches), it won't fit. This won't be a problem for most people, since normal PSUs tend to be about 140mm (5.5 inches) deep. If you've got some monster four-fanned LED-lit one-kilowatt uber-PSU, though, expect it to dangle out the back of the V1000. Chunky fan grilles on the top or bottom of your PSU may also make it difficult to install it, by fouling on the hole in the back of the case.
Cooling and noise
Lian Li have made a bunch of midi-tower cases with three or four 80mm fans in them, and those cases are pretty good at shifting a ton of air through the enclosure without making a hideous racket.
The standard 80mm Lian Li fans have a 1.8 watt nominal rating (they use lower power fans in some cases). The 120mm units in the V1000 have a 2.88 watt nominal rating, which isn't much for a fan of this size.
ADDA specify (PDF datasheet here) these 25mm thick 120mm fans to move 72 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air, when just hanging there in space. They'll shift rather less than that between them through the PC-V1000, because each fan only has a 0.095 inches of mercury (inHg) static pressure rating. ADDA's 38mm thick 120mm fans with the same motor achieve 0.135 inHg.
One fan on intake and one on exhaust gives no change in the theoretical airflow figure, but twice the static pressure capability. That'd be 72CFM and 0.19 inHg for the V1000, if its fans were in a true push-pull arrangement, but the two-compartment interior means they're not, really.
The older Lian Lis do have a pretty straightforward push-pull setup. Recent fan-filled Lian Lis have two fans on intake and two on exhaust, with one exhaust fan on the back panel and one in the lid. That gives double the airflow and double the pressure of one fan.
The old 1.8 watt, 25mm thick 80mm fans are rated at 31.4 CFM and 0.114 inHg, so the four-fan config gives 62.8 CFM and 0.228 inHg.
So if the V1000 fan setup were push-pull, it'd be quite likely to move pretty much the same amount of air through the case as the old four-fan config did. A bit more theoretical airflow, a bit less pressure capacity; overall, it's a wash.
The two-compartment setup messes up this back-of-an-envelope calculation, but the extreme leakiness of the V1000's multi-perforated case means the two fans probably do move plenty of air, and probably also manage to move most of that air past things that actually need cooling.
The super-ventilated design of the V1000 inescapably means that there'll be a certain amount of air short-circuiting happening - warm air exiting the bottom and being sucked back in at the front, and cool air being sucked in at the back and then blown straight out again. But there's just so very much ventilation there that I doubt this'll matter.
On to noise.
The old 80mm fans are rated at 28.3dBA (at one metre), while the 120mm ones score only 34.4dBA.
Decibels are a logarithmic scale, so when you double a noise figure - by adding another identical fan, for instance - you get a result that's exactly 3dB higher. Two 34.4dBA fans makes 37.4dBA. Four 28.3dBA fans makes 34.3dBA.
Human hearing is roughly logarithmic, too. Good perceived loudness figures are exceedingly difficult to work out, but in this situation 37.4dB won't sound a whole lot louder than 34.3dB. Anything below 40dBA qualifies as "pretty quiet".
Of course, all of these facile airflow and sound level measurements only really work in Physics Experiment Land, where there are no other factors to consider.
Fans blow most of their noise out the back with their air; intake fans therefore don't sound as loud as outlet fans. And noise levels vary with the amount of work the fan's doing, and with the construction of the case, and with the way the fans are mounted.
The PC-V1000 can be expected to let more sound out than an earlier Lian Li, because of all of those vent holes. Install a loud high-power CPU cooler in this case and you'll hear more from it than you would if you put it in a PC-60. If the overall ventilation's better, though, you won't need as loud a cooler.
And the PC-V1000's fans are both mounted on rubber vibration isolators - little rubber washers on the expanding-pin mounts of the rear fan, and rubber pads on the sides of the bracket for the front one. This quietens them significantly.
Overall, the PC-V1000 is likely to work out a bit quieter than a four-fan PC-60-series case - especially if you leave the rear deflector in place, to fire the exhaust fan noise into the carpet.
(Anandtech, by the way, found the V1000 to only be marginally louder than the noise-reduced PC-6070. If I assume they made reliable numbers, it means I won't have to leap around with my sound meter figuring it out for myself. So I will.)
The V1000 is not the only V-series case - though it may be the only one a lot of people will be able to buy for a while.
The rest of the V-series lineup includes the PC-V1200, which is the same as the V1000 only deeper, to accommodate the seen-once-in-a-blue-moon-these-days full length expansion cards. Then there's the equally deep but taller full tower PC-V2000, the quieter PC-V1100 (with a front door, and sound damping foam inside), and the PC-V2100, which is the full-tower version of the 1100.
There's also a black-anodised PC-V1000B, and I dare say there'll be silver and black variants of most, if not all, of the other V-series cases as well.
If someone had told me that the PC-V1000 was one of those super-exotic, ultra-expensive Japanese PC cases for the computer aficionado with a great deal more money than sense, I would have believed them. OK, it isn't a pyramid, it doesn't have a glossy automotive-paint finish, and it doesn't have drive bays made from clear-coated shiny copper - but it's definitely a step up from every other enthusiast case I've seen.
As with many previous Lian Lis, this case will appeal to J. Random Overclocker, and to people who want a really nice looking bespoke computer for their home office, and to corporate types who want to impress visitors. It's new and interesting, it's easy to work on, its fit and finish are excellent, and all of its new features are actually useful, not just changes for their own sake.
For $AU374 (or a bit more, for shoppers outside the Sydney metro area), the PC-V1000 is a bargain. Highly recommended.
Review PC-V1000 kindly provided by Lian Li.
Australian readers can purchase the PC-V1000 from Aus PC Market.
If you'd like to order the silver version I reviewed, click here. If you'd like the black version, click here.
(if you're NOT from Australia, Aus PC Market won't deliver to you. If you're in the USA, try a price search at DealTime!)