While the removal of the power supply mounting plate is tool-less, each side panel has 8 tiny screws to remove before getting access to the insides. Internally the case is finished to the same exacting standards as the external manufacturing, but as this is a Lian Li product we would be surprised to find anything else.
Immediately it is noticable that Lian Li are supporting the installation of a full sized optical drive at the top, which is going to appeal to many enthusiast users as some ITX chassis require slim line optical drives due to restricted space.
When both side panels are removed, we can get a good overview of the design. Which is quite beautiful in its simplicity. It is constructed from two pieces of aluminum. The panel on the right (if you were looking at the case from the front) is removed to allow for easy installation of the motherboard, more on this shortly.
The 140mm fan is mounted with a dust filter on front of it, and it can be removed by simply pulling it to the right. This makes PSU installation much easier later and its a nice tool less design concept. The only issue is that removing this for cleaning after the system is built is very difficult.
2.5 Inch drives are mounted to the underside of the removable tray at the bottom of the chassis. 3.5 inch drives can be fitted at the same time, on the other side of this plate – which is another fantastic forward thinking idea. Lian Li have included some special screws for the larger 3.5 inch drives, these are rubber mounted to stop vibrations and subsequent noise pollution from this.
Installing our Zotac motherboard is a straightforward process. Simply line up the PCB with the four mounting standoffs and attach with the supplied screws. As you can see above we initially tried to use the Noctua NH U9B cooler, but it didn't fit, unless we removed the power supply from the chassis.
We therefore reverted to our Thermaltake Slim X3 which is a decent low profile heatpipe cooler. It looks small, but unless you are overclocking/overvolting it adequately cools any of the i5 processors we have tested.
The HDD Drive tray is installed with two thumbscrews and takes literally 30 seconds. We used a Corsair AX850 power supply for this build, which is slightly overkill for our media center but it makes for a very quiet, efficient heart of the system.
We also decided to use a passively cooled Sapphire HD5670 Ultimate Edition for this system build – we love this video card and recommend it to anyone looking to build a high performance media center with a focus on image quality.
At this stage it is important to spend a little time routing the cabling and maximising the air flow from the front mounted fan. Obviously with such limited space, there will be some compromises made but it was a reasonably easy process.
We rarely install optical drives in our machines anymore, prefering to handle operating system installation from a USB drive. With a good network and USB devices there is very little need anymore for an internal optical drive, especially with fantastic bluray USB 2.0 players such as the Asus SBC 06D1S-U.In this particular build it also helps to remove cabling and enhances airflow a little. Many people will probably use onboard graphics support on these motherboards, which will allow for more internal space for routing.
The finished system build took a little longer than normal, but as long as you spend more time with preparation, rather than rush the build then you are less likely to run into cabling issues later. Its important to make sure that the processor cooler fan doesn't have a cable blocking movement also. If a graphics card is installed with a fan, then this also needs to be watched, especially as routing is often in this area.