Our trip to Computex wouldn’t be complete without a visit to our friends at Lian Li. Lian Li have always been known for their exotic case designs. The big trick up their sleeve is that they have their own aluminum fab capabilities—very nearly every PC case on the market today is made at the same handful of OEM fabs, based on specs provided by the various companies. Of course, they can customize them however they want, but the basic structure and foundation are the same and are dictated by the capabilities of the OEM manufacturer. Lian Li, unlike most of their competition, can design, prototype, fab, and finish their own products from scratch.
This allows them a great deal of flexibility as well as creative freedom to explore. They make some crazy stuff, and let’s face it: some of it is too weird to be useful, and some of it is exceptionally innovative and trendsetting. It could be argued that Lian Li helped move the industry forward in many ways (such as putting the PSU on the bottom of the case instead of hanging it from the top).
This year’s booth was no disappointment in either department. On the ‘wtf” front we had the Lian Li CK-101 concept case. It’s a PC case shaped like a Japanese locomotive. The one on the showfloor even had a working smokestack, a motor, and moving wheels. It was quite a crowd-stopper:
On to more practical cases:
My personal favorite was the PC-TU200, a small form-factor case with a handle on it for easy transport:
They also had the newly-announced PC-V355 and PC-A55. The A55 is a full ATX chassis with a front-mounted PSU to save space, while the V355 is Micro-ATX and has a removable motherboard tray. Both come in black or silver, and the A55 will be $119 while the V355 will go for $139. Both will be available in June.
The “Big D”… The D-8000 was on the showfloor as well. It’s an enormous server case that holds something like 26 hard drives. This is something someone like Nick Mertes could use.
There were many other cases; every form factor and use case was represented. Lian Li has a consistent look, fit, and finish, and the attention to detail is good in some parts and not so good in others. Here’s an example of a tremendously good expansion card clamp system:
These things clamp down with an extremely solid and satisfying “ka-chunk”. Your cards are not going anywhere, and this is way classier than screws or plastic. This is the Lian Li advantage: They can fab this stuff economically, in-house.
The only disappointment with Lian Li is that in cases that have extremely good aesthetics and finish, there are some features that younger case companies have used to raise the bar a bit and Lian Li hasn’t caught on to yet. Interior cable management is still pretty much up to you; new cases coming out of Taiwan have all kinds of options for behind-the-tray cable management and Lian Li hasn’t seemed to implement things like extra cutouts with rubber grommets for cable management and easy motherboard access. The other downside of Lian Li is, as always, the price.
Lian Li is one of those “love ’em or hate ’em” companies, although they’ve toned down a lot of their extremely exotic flair and come out with some relatively “standard” cases for a more mainstream PC builder who still wants the legendary Lian Li quality. And that’s really it: Lian Li is synonymous with quality in this industry, with the cases they were showing on the Computex 2012 show floor being no exception.