LIAN LI PC-90 The Hammer Review
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.