Lian Li PC-B71
Lian Li was founded way back in 1983, but it wasn't until 10 years later that their first aluminium case was released. Lian Li have always been popular with system builders and enthusiasts looking for quality, this popularity has grown hand in hand with the case modding community which in recent years has grown tremendously. One of the mile stones for Lian Li was the release of the V2000, with its clean crisp lines it was sure to be a winner. Much of the V2000's success came from its popularity with 'modders', water cooling was becoming very popular and easier to source parts the space in the lower section of the case was a firm favourite to put a radiator an pump. The water cooling popularity of the V2000 even to some respect led to similar designs from Silver Stone with the TJ07. Today how ever we are lucky enough to be looking at the Lian Li PC-B71 full tower case, here are some specifications from the Lian Li website:
Case Type : Full Tower Chassis Dimensions : 220mm x 595mm x 590mm (W,H,D)
Front bezel Material : Aluminium
Colour : Black
Side Panel : Aluminium
Body Material : Aluminium
5.25" drive bay (External) : 5 ( one for 3.5 inch converter)
3.5" drive bay (External) : 1
3.5" drive bay (Internal) : 10
Expansion Slot : 7
Motherboard : E-ATX, ATX, M-ATX
System Fan (Front) : 2 x 140mm blue LED fan (1200RPM)
System Fan (Top) :
System Fan (Rear) : 2 x 120mm Ball-Bearing Fan (1500RPM)
I/O Ports : USB2.0 x 4, IEEE1394 x 1, ESATA x 1, HD+AC97 Audio
Without further ado let's head over the page to get our first look at the packaging and the case.
The box is much larger than you may first expect, and is a fair indication at the size of the surprise it is concealing. The whole box is printed with the main feature being a photo of the B71 itself, to the left of the photo there is smaller pictures containing the main features of the case. The case inside is protected by polystyrene end caps and a thick plastic bag to help keep it safe whilst it is in transit. Our case, despite its size, arrived fine so the packaging works and given its size the box is somewhat lighter than you may first think.
Once you remove the packaging you can get your first look at the externals. The first thought that came to my mind was that its good to have a Lian Li to test finally. The Black Aluminium brush exterior, large plain side panels, clean and crisp lines seem to make me feel at home as it's details like these that, at least personally, I have come to love and expect. The front is dominated by the front grill, which in fact a door to the hot swap hard drive bay. More about that later. One feature I am pleased to see is the optical drive cover which used to be a £15 upgrade option on older Lian Li's. I for one hate the look of a DVD drive exposed at the front of my case, so not having to buy the bezel is a welcomed surprise.
Let's move over the page and take a look at the finer details of the B71.
At the front of the top panel on the B71 is where you will find the power and reset switches. There is also a small flap which conceals the 4x USB, e-SATA, Firewire and headphone/microphone connections.
The B71 is an upgrade from the A70 & A71, because of this there are many similarities and also quite a few changes. On paper it's these changes I was most worried about as I've had the pleasure of working with many A70's and felt the changes Lian Li had made would be losing the cases simplistic purity but I don't mind admitting I was very wrong. I tried my hardest to find fault with the new additions but I'm afraid they completely won me over. The first and foremost is the PCI fixing latches because I thought they would feel cheap and loose, and to me unnecessary complication. They are however very good, they have a positive locking mechanism that supports even the heaviest cards in place.
Another feature that I was somewhat reserved about is the adoption of the door locking mechanism from the v2000 and V2010 series. This was a very successful system on those cases, but the B71 is made of a much thinner aluminium and I was concerned of flex or even that it wouldn't feel quite so secure. Again I was proven wrong as the doors secure and latch perfectly, and if I'm honest the doors being slightly lighter actually helps make the fitting of the doors easier. The side rails make it very easy to align the door, once in place you simple slide the top rail to latch and secure the door, then just screw in the thumb screw and that's it, the door is on and locked in place! The backs of the doors are also covered with noise absorbing foam to add to the quality feel and quiet operation of the case.
The hot swap bays are a primary feature of the B71, I had my reservations here as well. One with the way the drives would be fixed in the case, and two with the airflow over the drives seeing as the front fans also feed air into the case. Something I have found disappointing was the fact the power for the hot swap PCB's is provided by soldered in molex connectors on 50mm of cable. I think it would have looked much better of the molex was just off the pcb and not dangling off loose as you can not really do anything with them. I appreciate 3 molex is better than 7 SATA power cables but a small change could have made a big difference here.
Here you can see the simple HD rails, they just screw into the sides of the hard drive. The case come with 7 hard drive rails, all the screws and fixings needed and a spare PSU plate should you wish to run dual power supplies.
Lets move on to see what the case looks like with our testing hardware fitted.
With its single large main compartment it was very easy to fit our test system leaving the kit plenty of room for airflow. We purposely choose the Nexus HOC-9000 heatsink as it is quite difficult to fit in many cases. The B71 has a secondary hard drive cage right above the motherboard, but the Nexus cooler has about 2mm of clearance so it was tight but it squeezed in. The only other issue was with our full length PSU as the cut in the motherboard tray for cables was completely concealed. If you want an anally tidy cable install then you will have to break out the dremel.
The hard drives are cooled by two 140mm fans, the fans swing open on a lockable door, which would be handy for an office environment where security may be needed but I can't really see the need for a home PC, I'm sure I'd lose the keys myself! The fans have a switch inside where you can select low, medium or high fan speeds. I have had a look about for exact speeds but nothing is available. The best I can do is low is silent, medium is pretty quiet with a reasonable amount of air, and high is more than bare-able with good air movement that should help keep even the hottest system cool. The hard drive cage has many ventilation holes, and with my hand as the most sensitive flow meter available was easy to feel the fans airflow on all settings on the back side of the cage. The Lian Li flow design is far more free flowing the the Corsair 800D hot swap system.
With our multi card system successfully installed with ease, I think it's time to move on to see how the case performs.
Idle temperatures were taken after thirty minutes of sitting idle, and load temperatures after thirty minutes of torture tests using Prime95 to max out the 4 cores. Ambient temperature during testing was 22°c controlled by an air conditioner. The B71 was tested against a Cooler Master HAF 922 and Corsair 800D for comparison. The hard drive temperatures were tested by cutting and pasting a 100GB random text file between the 2 hard drives 4 times and recording a maximum temperature over the course of the test. All fans in the both systems were run at 12v.
• HW-Monitor - record and monitor all temperatures
• Prime95 - CPU & Ram testing
• 100GB Random text document copied & pasted 4 times between the 2 drives
• ATI Tool - GPU testing
Even with the hot swap bay at the front of the case right in front of the fans looking at the temperatures its easy to see that this case has no problems cooling our test system. In some of the tests the B71 actually manages to beat our bench mark case the 922 which is built to be a high airflow chassis. I think the extra space within the case is what helps keep the parts that bit lower, where they are fully able to breathe, therefore you don't necessarily need to force feed the components with fresh air like the 922 does.
Load results can sometimes be a case's downfall. They perform well on the idle tests but as soon as the component fans spin up or require airflow to help keep them cool they start to fail miserably. I'm happy to say that the B71 did not suffer with anything like this. Yet again it either matched or even bettered the 922. I have put the 800D comparison temperatures in there just to show you how well the B71 actually does perform.
It just goes to prove you don't need a case covered in fans to keep hot components cool. You just need a company to design a case that works well, rather than what's cheap and just cover it entirely in fans hoping that new enthusiasts will buy it because more must equal better. Before I slip into naming and shaming such plastic clad cheap and nasty chassis that should be avoided like the plague lets get over the page quickly to the conclusion.
I've had the pleasure of working with many cases in my time, both for OC3D and my own personal PC based activities. I don't mind admitting that I am incredibly picky, the amount of work I actually turn away just because it happens to be from a brand that to date have not actually produced anything that I would even take a second look at. Even fewer cases actually manage to get my creative juices flowing, and get that grey matter up stairs I use so little thinking 'what can I do with this'.
Lian Li's generally always get me envisaging whats possible with their cases. Far too often will people overlook a Lian Li because it is too bland. If there was a study into these people I'm sure they would be the type of people in love with cars that look like they have ram raided Halfords, unsure what way round a baseball cap should be fitted, and unless their case has more lights than Blackpool seafront and more fans that a gig at Wembley stadium they wouldn't even look at buying it. I'm happy to say that these people can just switch off now and head over to one of the inferior review sites if you haven't already. Those that are left that are lucky enough to have an ounce of imagination will no doubt already have in their heads whats possible with a chassis like this. I've made a couple of videos, one to go over the points of the B71 but one also to break the mold with reviews and try to show you whats possible with these cases should you have the time, money and imagination to create something unique.
I really like the Jekyll & Hyde ability of the Lian Li's, you could easily build this as a work station, or home server straight from the box and it will do the job impeccably. You will experience no problems building the machine, and it will perform much better than you may expect. Lian Li even managed to win me over with the new additional details to the B-series, I started out thinking I would hate them but they quickly won me over.
Because of my personal tastes with Lian Li I had to add emphasis on the ability to mod these chassis and create something completely unique. If I could add a score for 'Possibilities' then the B71 would easily score a 10.
Thank you to Lian Li for providing the sample for review today. You Can discuss the points raised in the review in our forums.