Lian Li PC-V1000b Plus Page: 1
Introduction

The computer case market is a fairly saturated one. Over the years manufacturers produce case after case, improving and re-tuning existing models, without old ones really becoming obsolete. At one end of the scale there is a large demand for cheap cases for nothing but serving as a means of mounting hardware, at the other end there is a demand for skillfully engineered, carefully designed and stylish cases. A demand that has for a long time been met by Lian Li, one of the leading companies in the field of high end case production.

Lian Li cases have never been over the top, feature packed or garish things. The name of the game is minimalism, obtaining maximum functionality while maintaining subtle looks and easy to work with design. This may sound simple but only one or two companies actually manage to pull it off.

Extract from Lian Li's About Us page:

Lian Li Industrial Co., LTD was founded in 1983. We are the one of the largest and most reputable manufacturer of aluminum PC case in Taiwan . With over twenty years of experience in the computer products field, our dedicated team of engineers, production specialists and adminstrative staff provide the finest quality accessories available on the market.

Lian Li have in past years produces some outstanding cases, some of which have achieved near legendary status among enthusiasts and modding fans. They have produced awesome server towers, sleek compact cases and ultra cool designs (literally) the later is more where todays review sample falls. The PC-V1000b Plus is an all aluminium construction designed with the same attention to detail as all Lian Li's cases to be as cool and aerated as possible.

PC-V1000b Plus II
 
The V1000b Plus is described on Lian Li's website as:
 
The product which combines industry and art craft, its exclusive design and exterior can serve as a collection for computer lovers.

That certainly does sum up the looks of the case for me. Its unique styling does have quite an feel of functionality to it, ventilation being the most obvious function.

Specifications

Device Accomodation: 5x5.25\", 6x3.5\" internal(removable HDD brackets), 1 x 5.25\" to 3.5\" converter with a FDD bezel , 1x CD-ROM bezel
Fan: 12cm ball bearing fan x 2, 12 cm patent removable cooling kit x 1, Air duct for CPU x 1, Air cover for PSU fan x 1
M/B Type: ATX M/B (max size: 12"x9.6")
Front I/O : USB2.0 x 2, IEEE1394 x 1, MIC x 1, EAR x 1
Dimensions: 210 x 490 x 525 mm (W,H,D)
Net Weight: 8Kg/10Kg
PCI Slots: Slot x 7
Dim. of M/B area: 180 x 327 x 260 (W,H,D)
Dim. of PSU area: 151 x 87 x 150 (W,H,D

Features

1. Aluminum casters with brake make it easier for carrying
2. Front put 12cm ball bearing fan with filter easy for cleaning
3. Plus II version added with patent adjustable cooling kit helps to exhaust the heat from the VGA card effectively
4. 12cm ball bearing fan with air duct at the back panel inhale the cold air directly to the CPU cooler
5. Patent assembling HDD module easy for installation
6. Multi-ventilator design provides a best exhaust effect
7. Compartment design for the HD, PSU and CPU
8. Multi-ventilator design for the front panel with arc edge is a very classical production
 
While somewhat useful, specifications dont really do much in terms of getting a feel for the case so next we will take a look at the package as a whole.


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Packaging

When buying a relatively fragile, well finished and fairly expensive case it goes without saying that packaging and protection from the warehouse to your door is of the utmost priority. Luckily several manufacturers have hit upon a method that we have seen for quite a while now which is the method used here.

V1000b Packaging

The box, as you can see, is fairly straight forward to look at.  Absolutely no pictures or specifications, just a straight forward Lian Li logo, the name of the case and a statement of the cases ISO 9001 status.

V1000 Internal Packaging

The protection is in the form of two large polystyrene inserts, securing the case several inches away from the actual cardboard. Then protecting against any scratches and abrasions is a fairly thick plastic bag. Loose in the box is a sheet with detailed instructions for fitting and using the case, along with a Lian Li brochure displaying all their other products.

Appearance

This is one front where most would be surprised if a Lian Li didn't excel.  The use of simple, well finished materials throughout along with clean and minimalist designs has always been a winner. This case is for me no exception to the trend, I quite like the 'cheese grater' front and smooth edges. I don't get the feeling that everyone else will however, I don't mean that in any negative way whatsoever, I say it mainly on the basis that this case is indeed very unique in its styling and a fair bit detached from Lian Li's neutral designs.

Lian Li front

Whatever your tastes however, there's no denying the obvious build quality. Visible from the moment you take it out of its protective bag, the finish on the outside of the case make it clear where Lian Li have earned their reputation for quality from.

The front of the case sports 5 expansion bays, one equipped with a floppy drive fascia and another with a 'stealth'  optical dive bezel. Unfortunately for those not intending to use a floppy drive there are no addition bezel plates included (flapped or blank). So you'll be looking at buying another if you've not got an LCD screen or fan controller to occupy it with. Here I did come across something I've not seen on any new case before. The opening flap of the top bezel had a sort of residue or powder clinging to the groves made by the brushing effect. The plate needed a good rubbing with a wet microfiber cloth to actually remove whatever it was.

Front Bezel Residue

Further down we find the front I/O panel, accommodating the usual hot-pluggable ports for USB, audio in and out and a Firewire port.

Front I/O panel


A nice finishing touch to the front is the stainless steel vandal proof style switch positioned right under the bottom drive bay, above the blue power LED and red HDD LED.

Front Switch

The side panels of the V1000 are slight step up in thickness in comparison to the chassis. The metal on the chassis measures in at 1mm thick while the side panels are another millimeter thicker. While this doesn't sound much it really does add some weight to them, giving them a real feel of sturdiness and quality. The edges of the panels are slightly serrated, which I assume is in order to increase grip when removing and handling them.

In place of a perspex panel or punched-out fan grill Lian Li have gone for a small mesh vent. Pressed flush with the outer surface the vent is fairly inconspicuous and will serve to both aid cooling and make later modification to the side panels (such as the addition of a window) a bit easier.

Side Panel

Mesh Window

The underside of the case features more of the perforated effect seen all over the case but in smaller blocks. This should greatly aid the cooling of the PSU and HDD areas.

Case Underside

Rear Break

One thing that I think deserves a mention (which you can see above) is the wheel system. The well ventilated underside of the case is adorned with quite an attractive pair of wheels constructed entirely (apart from the sleeve bearings) from metal. The rear axle is fitted with a handy break system to stop the case rolling around when unattended or being worked on.

The back of the case is nothing but further testament to the quality of whats gone into the construction of the case.

PCI expansion slots

Rear Of Case


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Internal Appearance

The inside of Lian Li cases has always been another area where they separate themselves from a vast majority of the market. This particular case makes use of a BTX-style upside down motherboard mounting method. This, while offering improved cooling for the CPU area, does have the disadvantage of both making watercooling difficult and making life a lot warmer for graphics cards residing at the top of the case. Hopefully the airy design of the case will negate these issues.

Case Interior

Case Internals Without Extras

The well ventilated and directly cooled hard drive racks can hold up to a total of 6 hard disk drives with their easy clip-in mounting system.

HDD mounting

The back of the case features 7 PCI expansion slots and the usual i/o plate and fan. Just, funnily enough, upside down.

PCI Expansion Slots

All the most used screws are thankfully thumb screws to help speed things up a bit and for places tricky to get a screwdriver.

The small things inside a case like this really make a difference, for example I cant find a single sharp edge anywhere, everything is rolled, smoothed or fitted with plastic trim

Cable Hole Edging

Cable Hole Edging

Inside the case we find several little accessories. Along with 3 rather large bags of screws, cable ties and tidies and a motherboard spacer screwdriver, the case comes with a sliding extractor fan, a scoop for directing cool air onto the CPU and a guard to go over the PSU fan once it is installed which should divert hot air to the side - which would be useful if using a rear mounted radiator or placing the case in a confined space where hot air could re-enter through the intake fan above the PSU)

Extras Bag 1   Extras Bags 1,2 & 3
 
Adjustable Extractor Fan   PSU Fan Cover   

CPU Air Flow Director






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Installation

With the V1000b being designed with the aim of keeping everything cool inside, it's about time we checked out how easy installation of components goes, in preparation for some temperature testing. Another conclusion I'll be drawing from the installation is the general level of thought that has gone into the layout of the case, such as how much attention has been paid to cable management and dimension.

The equipment that will be kitting out the V1000b is as follows:

Processor: Intel Core2Duo E4300 @ 1.8GHz
Memory: Mushkin XP2-8500 2x1GB
Motherboard: Abit AB9 Quad GT
Power Supply: Hiper TypeR Modular 580W
Hard Disk: Seagate Barracuda 250GB SATA/2 72k-rpm
Graphics Card: Leadtek 7800GTX 256mb
CPU Cooling: Intel E4300 Stock HSF
Additional Cooling: 3 x Supplied Case Fans

The first stage of the installation that I took on was the installation of the motherboard. To do so was fairly standard procedure, the motherboard spacers needed to be screwed in using the very handy specialised screwdriver supplied and the motherboard set in place for screws to fasten it in place. One place that I would say the case excelled here is the openness of the motherboard area. The drive bays do not encroach on the fitting space whatsoever and the upside down mounting system made the usually fiddly task of lining up the rear I/O panel with its protector plate far easier.

Obviously there was very little effect on the installation of the CPU, memory, graphics card or sound card. The PCI expansion slots are nice and smooth around the edges (so no more cuts on the hands from there) and the blanking plates were quick and easy to unscrew with the use of the thumbscrews supplied.
Hardware Installed

HDD installation was a pleasure thanks to the clip in system Lian Li have devised. Wiring the drive up however was slightly concerning due to the distance created between the SATA ports. This is due to both the upside down motherboard mounting and and the direction drives need to be placed. The standard Abit SATA cables reached the top racks at a stretch directly between ports. Luckily I managed to find a longer SATA cable which would route round the back of the motherboard tray for some tidiness - this method however would be unable to reach the lower racks.

Next came PSU installation. The system used to mount the PSU employs and external plate which fits to the normal position on the PSU and then fastens to the outside of the case, allowing for external PSU insertion. This system, while a very good idea, does need further development - simply due to the fact that it's obviously going to have problems with certain power supplies, the one being used is obviously one of them.
PSU external plate

As you can see, the external fan guard on the PSU has raised the middle of the plate a fair bit. While not a problem for installation, I fear that over time this will leave the aluminium bent and ensure that the un-flush fit stays exactly that. Next problem I ran into is the position of the screw holes once the PSU and plate were in place.
PSU Plate Alignment

This did not make fitting impossible but did require some forcing to get the screws to bite. With all that done and it time to wire things up, the final issue is plain to see and that is that this case is not made with friendliness towards modular power supplies in mind....
Modular PSU Fitting Problem

Luckily the PSU compartment divider and second HDD cage have been screwed in so they can be removed in the case that a PSU is unable to fit but getting them out was a bit of a chore. To remove them both panels needed to be removed so the front fan could come out, allowing enough room to unscrew and move the first HDD cage across, up and out. From there the second HDD cage and plate could be unscrewed and with considerable force, freed up and removed.
Second HDD Cage and PSU Divider

While not a great deal of work, this does now leave only 3 HDD slots available.

Lastly to get things running the lot had to be wired up. This was no more difficult than usual (so not very at all) but did expose another advantage of the upside down mounting system over standard systems with the PSU in the lower section of the case in the fact that the P4-12v cable did not need to be run across the full height of the case.

As for cable tidying the options are pretty limited (as you have probably seen from the pictures throughout the review. With some time and effort the front panel connectors could be better hidden but as for the motherboard connectors I'm afraid you will be needing to pluck up the courage to take a dremel to your lovely new cases insides.

Once the lot was wired up I set about installing the CPU flow director and movable extractor fan. The latter of which was very easy, again using thumbscrews. The flow director however ended up as a case of removing the fan, fitting and then installing all as one. This is due to with the CPU cooler on, lining up a screwdriver with the lower left fan screw was impossible.
Extras Fitted
 
Extractor Fan Screw Fixing Method

Temperature Testing

For the temperature testing readings were taken at various points in the case with the flow director and extractor fan installed. The temperature sensors were taped in place and the side panel locked into place 10 minutes prior to readings being taken.

For the load readings, the stability and stress testing application Orthos was used to stress CPU and Memory. This was left to run for 30 minutes after each side panel re-application to ensure temperatures had stabilised.

Ambient temperature was a constant 19.5 degrees centigrade throughout testing.

And here's the results:
CPU area temperatures
 
HDD Storage Area

Top Of Case / PCI Area

PSU area


As you can see the temperatures throughout the V1000b stayed within very comfortable distanced from their idle counterparts. The temperature for the PSU area was taken above the PSU, the air feed to the bottom of the PSU remained a constant 20 degrees. Overall I think its safe to say that the airy design of the case is paying off handsomely.


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Conclusion

When the PC-V1000b arrived at my doorstep I must admit I had very high expectations. Probably unfairly high. Having spent time inspecting other peoples various Lian Li cases and reading many reviews over the years, I honestly did not expect any surprises - on any front.

That being said, the quality that I was met with really is in another league. Not a single panel or surface flexes or groans when the case is lifted. The finish on the outside is immaculate, the fitting of components is on the whole a breeze and the cooling is top notch. The looks, I think, are particularly striking - but in a subtle and tasteful way, just like the similar apple G5 case, many people will adore it, while others will avoid it with vigor. Down to the power switch, I cannot fault a single piece of aluminium or its engineering.

Granted there are several layout problems, such as the PSU area and the SATA cabling. Although with these issues known in advance, accommodation can be made and the task of removing HDD cages will not be an unexpected one if you own a modular PSU. An extra inch here or there though wouldn't be unwelcome.

As you can see from the size of it, water cooling would be slightly difficult without mounting the radiator externally, and that would mean cutting holes. This really isn't that much of an issue in my eyes though. In fact it would almost be a shame to water cool the V1000b and deny the aerated design the opportunity to show what it offers.

Overall the V1000b is a very well made, high quality case and is in those respects, nothing less than what we have come to expect from Lian Li. While the small issues raised may put you off slightly, I can honestly say that this case is worth buying just to handle. At  around £130 at various retailers, the hit to the wallet is fairly easy to stomach and you certainly wont be left wondering where your money went.

The Good
The Mediocre
The Bad

OC3D Recommended Award

Thanks to Lian Li for supplying the case for review.

Please feel free to head over to the OC3D Forums for review discussion.