LIAN LI PC-90 The Hammer Review

Conclusion

 LIAN LI PC-90  The Hammer

 

Conclusion

So the PC-90, where does it get it right, and where does it get it wrong?

When reviewing a case, or any other component for that matter, one of the most important factors I consider is quality, after all the money we spend is hard earned and we like to know we're getting good quality when we're spending a bit of our hard earned wedge.  If you fork out the £155 required for the PC-90 you won't be left disappointed with the quality, or left wondering where your money was spent.  With the possible exception of some of the Silverstone cases I've not seen quality like this in a case.  The finish and attention to detail is first class.  There are no marks, no blemishes, no tool marks, no scratches, no imperfections, no dodgy fits, nothing, absolutely nothing.  I like to be picky, I really do, and I can usually find a small something that I can pick up on that lets the side down quality wise.  But here....Nothing.  When you come to attach the side panels they slide on nicely, the holes at the back then line up perfectly with the thumb bolts, which then proceed to engage their threads perfectly.  The front of the case can be eased off with well...ease, without the feeling that you're about to snap something expensive.  For Jebus sake they've even put fan guards on the inside of the case.  Even the screws and bolts used look to be of engineering grade rather than made out of the usual monkey metal.  I think you get the picture.

Thermally the case performs well, despite the amount of wiring potentially dangling around, somehow the case can still move a decent amount of air from front to back.  A small concern is the roof mounted PSU especially as it's situated directly over the CPU cooler.  That said I've noticed no ill effects during testing.

Continuing with the high quality theme as you would perhaps expect this case is quiet.  The front 140 fans spin round at a leisurely 1000rpm, whilst the reat 120 is a little faster at 1200rpm.  With the PC-90 sat on the desk next to me, no more than a whisper can be heard from it.

So with such attention to detail and obvious design flair what I really can't understand is why Lian Li made such poor decisions when it came to cable management.  Sure there's a small amount of space behind the motherboard, but not enough to really be of any use, and the fact that there's no routing holes makes it kinda pointless running cables back there anyway as there's nowhere to bring them back out.  The central cable management strut is another half hearted effort, too small to be of any real use.

Aesthetically the PC-90 is sleek without actually being sexy.  Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for me the fan grill at the front stops the "sexy" that usually accompanies the "sleek".  But then, I don't get the feeling that this case is meant to stand proudly on the top of you desk, more likely it's natural habitat is going to be under the desk, quietly going about it's business.

And what exactly is it's business?  Lets take a moment to think about what this case is.  The PC-90 is really no bigger than a 690 II, yet it's able to accommodate the biggest Motherboards on the market.  It's not an in your face gamers case, yet it's clearly built to accommodate high end gear and lots of it.  So what is it then. 

I've re-written this conclusion a few times trying to get a handle on exactly what Lian Li were trying to do with the PC-90 and what lead them to make the design decisions they did. The only way I've been able to rationalise the decissions is that the design team at Lian Lian Li were given the design spec of coming up with the smallest case possible that would take the very largest Motherboards (HPTX and XL-ATX).  In doing so they've made some brave design choices.  They've had to think outside the box whilst remaining inside the box.

What we have here is a case that can be used just as an unassuming gamering chassis but is probably more likely to be used as a home office workstation or perhaps with it's decent hard drive capacity a small office server/workstation. A machine for the chap who wants a beast but doesn't necessarily want to have a monster sitting next to him.

A good case, but not a great case.  Some genuinely innovative ideas and yet some really glaring omissions.  That Lian Li have managed to find a way of accommodating HPTX and XL-ATX in a case this size deserves recognition, it really does, just a shame they let themselves down a little when this case could have been so much better.  8-10 more mm behind the motherboard and a few cable management holes and the PC-90 would have been heading towards a gold, as it is however it scrapes a silver. 

     

Thanks to Lian Li for the case on review today, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums. 

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Most Recent Comments

24-04-2012, 07:19:46

tinytomlogan


Let's take a look at one of the latest offerings from LIAN LI. The PC-90. AKA "The Hammer"

Continue Reading

24-04-2012, 09:04:51

sheroo
I think you've been more than generous giving it a silver. I wouldn't pay that kind of money for a case, knowing that no matter how much effort I went to that the cabling is still gonna look like a dogs breakfast. Lian-Li need to take their quality and get more innovative the way Silverstone have.

24-04-2012, 09:07:50

tinytomlogan
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheroo View Post

I think you've been more than generous giving it a silver. I wouldn't pay that kind of money for a case, knowing that no matter how much effort I went to that the cabling is still gonna look like a dogs breakfast. Lian-Li need to take their quality and get more innovative the way Silverstone have.
Think you are missing the point of this case though fella, its deffo not a show off case, more a compact but still get a huge rig inside kinda case.

It fits HTPX and EBB boards (dual socket) and yet its still midtower!

24-04-2012, 10:43:47

sheroo
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinytomlogan View Post

Think you are missing the point of this case though fella, its deffo not a show off case, more a compact but still get a huge rig inside kinda case.

It fits HTPX and EBB boards (dual socket) and yet its still midtower!
Ok, but would you use this for your possible future dual socket setup? Or would that top mounted PSU and the cable spaghetti drive you nuts?

If they had left sufficient space behind the motherboard tray, and even mounted the hard drives behind it as well - then it'd be a different story.

24-04-2012, 11:24:22

CrissTM
Agree with u sheroo,

but if u can look at the results u will see that exactly the price range take the all thing down, ok the performance also.

And yeah, ill still buy the Silverstone Raven 02 (wich i have) 100x more.

Tom u r right with motherboard sizes, the raven does not suport this ones... but hey, for Ivy Bridge its TOP.

10x for a super review again !

24-04-2012, 15:27:53

tinytomlogan
F*#$ sake boys its a case for proffessional use!!

How can you not see that FFS?

24-04-2012, 15:36:11

I Hunta x
If the "professional" cared enough to build a tower as apposed to buy one from say dell then they would more than likely want it to be at least semi tidy. or are you implying most professionals who TAKE THE TIME to build there own tower dont care about the inside aslong as it looks sleek on the outside??

EDIT: i like the drive mounting personally but how hard would it be to put in some space behind the mobo tray so you can keep the wires for the mobo and stuff AWAY from the cables for the HDD's with them being in that position to make things easyer to swap in/out if something dies.

24-04-2012, 17:00:38

ionicle
i think that is a stunning case, full of features, and lian li's usual attention to detail, its smart, but understated, its sleak, but not flashy, its, in my eyes, damn-neer perfect.

24-04-2012, 18:47:08

badtaylorx
instead of naming it "the hammer",,,, maybe they should'of given it "the axe"

24-04-2012, 19:24:50

Ghosthud1
Functionality is what this case aims for guys.

This is obviously 100% driven towards the workstation side of computing, the big hdd columns are a dead giveaway lmao.

If lian li intend to release a case what should look good then they would include a nice side window with pre drilled cable routing holes.

It's a practical workstation case that is actually executed fairly well.

25-04-2012, 04:24:25

sheroo
Professional use or not it still could have been executed better. If you were to take the Lian Li name off it and it was made out of steel we wouldn't even be having this conversation - as you wouldn't even bother to review it - because it'd just look like any other oem carcass out there that by chance happened to fit a dual socket board.

25-04-2012, 05:22:48

YogevSkill
Solid ready to mod case, fits crazy big form factors out of the box.

overall 6.5/10 pre modded.

could be cheaper though...

25-04-2012, 06:09:36

King Damager
Lian Li cases are expensive. It's well known. But you buy quality. It's not like other Aluminium cases are particularly cheap...

I agree the cable management is a bit of a pain, however it's not the end of the world having to cut out some cable management holes, especially if you're going to spray the internals anyway (which I know plenty will)....

HDD storage is novel, and frankly it's a huge improvement for them to get so much into so little space.

Review says it scrapes a Silver, which I think is fair. It's probably at the bottom of the silver category, but probably deserves that position.

kd

25-04-2012, 07:21:47

Rastalovich
@Gary, does that mobo tray come out ?

25-04-2012, 17:08:21

jamdox
I just got this case's "little brother," the PC-100. Don't have the CPU yet, so I don't know about noise etc, but the rest of the build is in, and cable management was not a problem at all. And I don't have a modular PS.

The PC-100 has a "reversed" motherboard design, where the motherboard IO and the PCI slots lead out the front, then there's a grommeted track for passing the cables out the back, which is mostly a couple of 140mm fans.

This actually makes cable management very easy, since the 24-pin and video card cables get passed around the back of the mobo tray. All the unused cables fit behind the mobo tray, and there's a hole on the bottom where I routed all the cables for the case lights and switches, and the floor-mount SSDs.

The downside of the reversed motherboard is that centrifugal fan graphics cards blow out air that gets sucked back in. But my card has the down-fan style heat sink, so I expect it's not an issue.

The real brilliant aspect of this design is that I will never have an obsolete front IO panel. When I upgrade my motherboard, e.g. to a board with Thunderbolt, my "front" panel will have it.

I could go on. Basically, I think I got the better of the "Hammer Bros," especially on sale for $130.

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27-04-2012, 15:06:29

G-Dubs
@Rastalovich

No the Mobo tray isn't removable. Not without a Dremel any way

28-04-2012, 06:16:10

equk
cool review

I think it looks ok, the only weird thing is the drive mounting.

The 2x140mm radiator in front support is brilliant tho & the case looks nice from the outside.

it looks very much to me like it would be an easy job to mount a 2x140mm rad and fans in this area. enough room perhaps even for a push pull set up



Looks like there's loads of room in the bottom also for pump etc if you wanted to go watercooling.

The only problem I have had with lian-li brushed aluminium cases is vibration

28-04-2012, 08:29:51

Jujumonkey
Good review as usual mr Logan......... the build quality is lovely, and being a craftsman myself it makes my heart happy to see the pride they display in their quality of craftsmanship, it's a rare thing these days. The hard drive placement seems counter productive to the purpose of the case though, am i right in thinking that there's only room for 3 hard drives? A 3 drive raid system in a case that can hold a dual cpu board seems a little bit pointless

(edit) my mistake, it's 6 hard drives......... then yes i would say the case is fit for purpose and deserves its score

29-04-2012, 07:15:52

yassarikhan786
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jujumonkey View Post

Good review as usual mr Logan......... the build quality is lovely, and being a craftsman myself it makes my heart happy to see the pride they display in their quality of craftsmanship, it's a rare thing these days. The hard drive placement seems counter productive to the purpose of the case though, am i right in thinking that there's only room for 3 hard drives? A 3 drive raid system in a case that can hold a dual cpu board seems a little bit pointless

(edit) my mistake, it's 6 hard drives......... then yes i would say the case is fit for purpose and deserves its score
The review was by Gary

29-04-2012, 12:48:10

G-Dubs
Yup
Reply
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