Lian Li PC-7 first impressions
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  1. #1
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    Lian Li PC-7 first impressions

    So it's time again to appease the retail gods. For the sake of my eardrums (and for lack of a better idea), this time it's a case with less fans. Might as well make it an aluminium one while I'm at it.

    Now he PC-7 isn't the latest Lian Li case, and definitely not one of the new ones with the mobo turned around and separate compartments.

    On the bright side, this means it's _relatively_ cheap for a Lian Li aluminium case. It also means that any PSU will fit just fine, whereas the newer compartmented cases would be unfit for any PSU with a fan on the bottom.

    (Read: unfit for over 90% of PSUs nowadays. Gotta wonder what Lian Li's engineers were smoking.)

    Like all aluminium cases, it's lightweight. It's also pretty thin aluminium, which makes it _very_ lightweight.

    It comes standard with three 80mm fans: two on the front and one on the back. Which is plenty. I'll take the time to point out that two good 80mm fans match the airflow of an 120mm one, at less noise.

    As a bonus, the Lian Li has rubber pins to hold the fans, instead of the old fashioned screws. Which basically means that the only connection between fan and chasis is via rubber. That ought to dampen vibrations.

    Side note: don't ask me if Lian Li's original fans are silent. Replacing them with 12 dBA Papst fans was the first thing I did after unpacking the case. (Yes, I'm a Papst fan. Pun intended.)

    As a curiosity, the front fans are side by side, rather than the usual vertical setup. So for my two hard drives that means both fans blow on both hard drives. That's plenty of airflow over the hard drives. (In fact, probably more than enough to cool even stacked 15,000 RPM SCSI drives, if you're that rich.)

    They also have a very unobstructed intake. Instead of trying to suck the air through the space between two panels, like most other cases do, this one just has big old fashioned cuts in the front panel. Again the keyword is: maximum airflow, and probably less noise too.

    The case sports four 5" bays, 3 external 3" bays, and just enough space for 3 internal hard drives. Surprisingly enough, they're the old kind with screws, none of the newer plastic rails and such. Not mounted sideways either.

    On the bright side, though, the old fashioned longitudinal setup does maximize air flow over the hard drives.

    The side panels and drive cages are fixed with thumb screws, though. Well, at least that doesn't need a screwdriver.

    A nice touch is that the PSU can go in through the back, rather than via inside the case. That ough to greatly simplify changing the PSU after you already have a big mobo in.

    Strangely enough, the front panel only has two USB ports, but nothing else. No sound jacks for example. (Not an issue for me, though, since I already have the Audigy 2 Platinum for that.)

  2. #2
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    It also means that any PSU will fit just fine, whereas the newer compartmented cases would be unfit for any PSU with a fan on the bottom.

    - Depends which model you're talking about. The V1000 will have trouble accommodating a oversized or non-standard length PSUs. That's why they have the V1200 (which is deeper and will accomodate any PSU) and the V2000 (which is deeper and taller) - its a tower case. Again no problem with PSUs with either case.

    (Read: unfit for over 90% of PSUs nowadays. Gotta wonder what Lian Li's engineers were smoking.)

    - completely disgaree with the 90% estimate. The V1000 will be fine for about 90% of PSUs, although wiring is much tighter than one would like. It's the <10% non-standard or overlength PSUs that won't fit.

    Like all aluminium cases, it's lightweight. It's also pretty thin aluminium, which makes it _very_ lightweight.

    - but there's far more 'case hum' that a steel case due to the lower density of the aluminium.

    I'll take the time to point out that two good 80mm fans match the airflow of an 120mm one, at less noise.

    - absolutely complete disagree.

    As a bonus, the Lian Li has rubber pins to hold the fans, instead of the old fashioned screws. Which basically means that the only connection between fan and chasis is via rubber. That ought to dampen vibrations.

    - you can buy EAR isolators or silicon grommeted pins from practically anywhere nowadays. Although fitting them is very fiddly.
    - its odd that manufacturers supply rubber pins for fans but don't make any attempt to properly decouple the HDDs or optical drives, depending on the circumstances, will have more vibration sourced noise than any fan.

    Side note: don't ask me if Lian Li's original fans are silent. Replacing them with 12 dBA Papst fans was the first thing I did after unpacking the case. (Yes, I'm a Papst fan. Pun intended.)

    - Agreed. The Adda fans which came with my V2000 had pretty good airflow but sucked noisewise.

    As a curiosity, the front fans are side by side, rather than the usual vertical setup. So for my two hard drives that means both fans blow on both hard drives. That's plenty of airflow over the hard drives. (In fact, probably more than enough to cool even stacked 15,000 RPM SCSI drives, if you're that rich.)

    - I not convinced that that the fan layout is necessarily the key factor here. An unobstructed air path from outside directly to the HDD is far more important.

    They also have a very unobstructed intake. Instead of trying to suck the air through the space between two panels, like most other cases do, this one just has big old fashioned cuts in the front panel. Again the keyword is: maximum airflow, and probably less noise too.

    - it's all a balancing act. Greater airflow = less sound barriers. More sound barriers = less airflow.

    The case sports four 5" bays, 3 external 3" bays, and just enough space for 3 internal hard drives. Surprisingly enough, they're the old kind with screws, none of the newer plastic rails and such. Not mounted sideways either.

    - Case hum. Case hum. Case hum. Manufacturers really need to think about providing HDD bays that allow for decoupling. Particularly for alu cases which have a lower density (and thus more case vibration) that steel cases.

    On the bright side, though, the old fashioned longitudinal setup does maximize air flow over the hard drives.

    - Agreed!

    The side panels and drive cages are fixed with thumb screws, though. Well, at least that doesn't need a screwdriver.

    - Useful.

    A nice touch is that the PSU can go in through the back, rather than via inside the case. That ough to greatly simplify changing the PSU after you already have a big mobo in.

    - Don't quite a few decent quality cases have this?

    Overally, I have to say that I'm disappointed with alu cases - apart from weight and looks, they really don't offer any noticeable advantages over steel and the reduced sound reducing functionality is disappointing. Having said that, I have to admit that the Silverstone Temjin 3 looks lovely:-



    It's just a shame its cost 235......
    Athlon XP 3200+, TT Silent Boost (its rubbish as well as loud) Gigabyte nForce2 mobo (stable but lacks tweaking options), GF4 Ti4200 128mb, Lian-Li V2000

  3. #3
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    1. The lowest noise 120mm fan from Papst is an 18 dBA. Two 12 dBA 80mm fans match the airflow, and are only 15 dBA together.

    It seems to me like a clear cut case of "80mm wins nowadays", no?

    Yes, you could slow the 120mm fan even more, but under a certain speed airflow drops like a lead brick. That fan is already pretty close to that limit.

    2. As for case hum, dunno, it was the least of my problems with any case. A good Seagate drive doesn't hum _that_ much to start with, decoupled or not.

    On the other hand, old drives are noisy enough to not matter if they're decoupled or not anyway. For example the old WD in the other computer sounds like a circular saw even if you put it on a sponge.

    3. Re noise obstruction vs air obstruction.

    My point is that any air obstruction is generally a source of noise on its own. You force air to flow through cramped places, it goes "whooosh". A badly thought air obstruction, doubly so.

    Such as the completely idiotic design for Xaser III's side fans. It sucked the air through a narrow flat tunnel between the side pannel and a plastic panel with the fans. This made the whole goddamn side panel vibrate, basically turning it into a white-noise speaker.

    _And_ the more you obstruct airflow, the less airflow you get out of a fan. Yes, it may sound like stating the obvious but bear with me. You may have a fan rated for 45 cubic metres per hour, but only get 10 to 20 out of it due to the idiotic design.

    Why does it matter? Because the more obstructed airflow is, the more fans you need to get the same airflow through the case. Whereas a non-obstructed design could do well with 2-3 fans, including the one on the PSU, a very obstructed one might not move as much air even with the 7 fans on a Xaser III.

    And all those fans _are_ a source of noise. So air obstructions translate almost directly into extra noise.

  4. #4
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    Off topic

    Going off topic in my own topic again, but I just noticed in your sig "TT Silent Boost (its rubbish as well as loud)".

    I had the exact same problem, namely that TT's fan royally sucks. It's loud and the cuts on the sides serve more to let air be pushed to the sides, rather than be sucked in from the sides as TT's marketting says. Think: radial fans, or the VGA card coolers with the fan in the middle. You have a big fast centrifuge from the middle, and, well, it pushes the air to the sides.

    Have you considered replacing the fan with a good silent one? I'd say that the heatsink itself isn't bad. Plenty of surface and it's solid copper. Even with a low speed 12 dBA Papst fan, I'm very pleased with how well it cools my A64.

    Or since the XP 3200+ is a bit on the higher side of the thermal dissipation range, you could try a 19 dBA fan.

    You could also get some teflon pins to hold the fan to the heatsink too, basically decoupling the vibrations a little.

    I don't know where to buy the pins separately, but some VGA coolers come with 4 of them. E.g., the Revoltec or, I think, the Sharkoon ones. I got mine off a Revoltec one.

  5. #5
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    2 12db fans are better than 1 18db fan. Man at those db ratings you have to stick you finger in there to see if it is still spinning. Also do not trust db ratings. There really is no "set in stone" way of testing fans right now, so it is pretty subjective. at this point. TT rated that Silent Boost fan with way too high of an airflow and way too low of a db rating. They did adjust the numbers later, but they are still not very accurate.
    AMD Phenom II x4 945 3Ghz | ASUS M4A77TD | 2X WD 1TB SATA 2 hard drive | 2x2GB Corsair XMS3 | nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS | ATI TV Wonder Theater Pro 550 | Antec P-160 case | Antec 650w Earth Watts | LG Blu-ray Super Drive | LG DVD RW | Windows 7 Pro

  6. #6
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    Moraelin - I agree that the basic silent boost HS is not too bad, although it would be much better if there was more copper and allowed you to fit larger fans ie 92mm or 120mm. The stock Silent Boost based on the Panaflo 80mm M1 fan (more airflow but louder) rather than the Panaflo 80mm L1 fan (less airflow but much quieter).

    One big problem is actually my motherboard because you can't reduce vcore in the bios, so I end up with 1.74v pumped into my CPU, whereas I could easily get the CPU to work at 1.6v and possibly less. That's probably worth a 5-8C reduction in temps alone. Currently, with the TT SilentBoost, M1 fan at 7v, and vcore at 1.74v, CPU temps are 55C idle and 60-52C under load which is disappointing.

    I've tried swapping the 80mm CPU fan out, but I'm not getting any particularly significant improvements in temps at low noise levels. Basically, I think I've hit the performance ceiling when it comes to this HS - either I reduce vcore, getting a bigger HS or get a quiet / silent watercooling setup eg. Zalman Reserator. Good thing about the SilentBoost is that its cheap.

    Todd - the dB ratings on the Pabst are definitely over optimistic. There's no way its 12db, well, unless it was measured from the house next door. Still, I like Pabst fans - the 4412FGL is a very good 12cm fan and works well at 7v.

    dB is only one factor though. The type of sound it makes is equally important IMO. A smooth sounding 20db fan is far more preferable to a 18db clicking, spluttering inconsistent sounding one in my opinion. I run 2 Nexus 120mm fans in my case at 7v. One is excellent - the quietest fan I have ever heard with reasonable airflow. The other one (bought from the same retailer 6 months later) makes a buzzing sound at anything over 800rpm either because the motor's faulty or the something was damaged in transit and the fan became unbalanced.

    My biggest gripe with the PC industry is that there's is so much bullsh!t marketing out there, and whilst I'm having a rant, the fact that so many hardware sites do not take a critical eye to any products they review. If it's new and shiny, they'll give it a 9/10 or 10/10 without critically evaluating the product.
    Last edited by davidstone28; October 20th, 2004 at 06:05 PM.
    Athlon XP 3200+, TT Silent Boost (its rubbish as well as loud) Gigabyte nForce2 mobo (stable but lacks tweaking options), GF4 Ti4200 128mb, Lian-Li V2000

  7. #7
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    Well, about the TT heatsink, dunno... so far it cools _my_ CPU well enough. And after changing the fan it's silent too. So maybe it's just me, but I can't really see a point in getting a bigger one.

    That said, let's rant about dBA.

    Well, I don't know if 12 dBA is actually accurate or not, but basically the point is that I can't hear those fans. The 18 dBA one I can already sorta hear, and the stupid original fan on the TT was to me unbearably loud.

    Out of my very limited subjective experience, so far Papst fans are the only ones I'm content with.

    I don't know, maybe Papst's marketting exagerates. Heck, being marketting and in the IT industry, it _probably_ exagerates.

    From my experience, they exagerate less than other manufacturers. At comparable dBA claims, Papst is actually more silent. Heck, here's a direct comparison I made: Papst's "26 dBA" fan is actually more silent than TT's idea of a "21 dBA" fan. I think it says something.

    But basically I just couldn't care less what their marketting says, I only care about what my own two ears say. It my limited experience Papst fans _are_ more quiet at comparable airflow than other crap I've used, including, yes, SPCR's beloved Panaflo.

    In fact, they may well be the only fans I'd call "quiet". Again, out of those I've personally tried.

    Most other stuff is only "quiet" when you run it at 7V or even 5V... and lose some 75% of the airflow in the process.

    Thing is, undervolting a fan is _not_ a free meal, as everyone seems to assume. Of course, noone actually says it out loud, but goes and buys a mondo high speed fan anyway. Everyone seems to act as if buying a 3000 RPM fan and running it at 800 RPM still gave them mondo airflow.

    It doesn't. There is no magic in the fan that stays there at any voltage.

    Even an 120mm fan at 800 RPM hardly pushes any air at all if there is any resistance whatsoever, and an 80mm fan at 800 RPM is just a sick joke.

    Everyone seems to also act as if undervolting had some magical sound dampening quality, that _only_ undervolting can bring. SPCR even goes on record to spell out the utter idiocy that "no fan is silent at 12V, they're only silent if you slow them down." (Yes, I don't really like that site.)

    The truth is: If a company sells Fan A at 2400 RPM, and Fan B at 1200 RPM, then slowing down Fan A to 1200 RPM too... will basically produce Fan B. You won't have less noise than Fan B, and you won't have more airflow than Fan B. It's that simple.

    So me, I'll just get a fan that's quiet to start with. So far that means Papst. But if anyone will one day make even more quiet fans, I'll gladly switch to those.

  8. #8
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    To get back on topic

    But to get back on topic, I must say, yep, you were right about aluminium cases being noisy. Even after replacing the noisy soundcard cooler with an AC VGA Silencer 5 (well, admittedly, still the noisiest AC VGA Silencer model), the whole thing is just too loud for my taste.

    I'll try buying some noise dampening mats for the inside of the case, and maybe some rubber blocks to decouple the hard drives too. If that doesn't help either, I can see myself going back to the old steel case.

  9. #9
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Moraelin v2.0
    [B] Even an 120mm fan at 800 RPM hardly pushes any air at all if there is any resistance whatsoever, and an 80mm fan at 800 RPM is just a sick joke.
    [QUOTE]



    I run my front case fan (Nexus) at 7v which is about 800rpm.

    It blows through
    - a mesh/sponge filter and
    - across the sideways mounted HDD cage.

    With the fan switched on, HDD temps are 32C/35C (idle/load)
    Without the fan, HDD temps are 42C/44C (idle/load)

    It makes a big difference even at 800rpm.

    I also run my CPU fan at 7v which equates to about 900rpm with the TT SilentBoost stock fan (Panaflo M1). Cooling is pretty awful - about 52C/62C (idle/load). Cranking it up to 12v makes a big difference (45C/56C). The fan and HS are simply too small to disappate the heat from the CPU.

    Not sure why people are worried about CPU temps though - in about 2-3 years time, the CPU will be pretty much obsolete. When has an modern CPU ever failed because it was run at highish temps (but within manufacturer specs)?
    Athlon XP 3200+, TT Silent Boost (its rubbish as well as loud) Gigabyte nForce2 mobo (stable but lacks tweaking options), GF4 Ti4200 128mb, Lian-Li V2000

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by davidstone28
    I also run my CPU fan at 7v which equates to about 900rpm with the TT SilentBoost stock fan (Panaflo M1). Cooling is pretty awful - about 52C/62C (idle/load). Cranking it up to 12v makes a big difference (45C/56C). The fan and HS are simply too small to disappate the heat from the CPU.
    Actually you've just made my point about the kind of massive airflow drop that undervolting produces. It's not that the HS is too small, it's that the undervolted fan is, well, crap for airflow.

    With Papst's "12 dBA" fan that's silent at 1500 RPM my CPU idles around 41-43 C, in a room that's heated to 30C. (Yes, I like it warm.) That is, with Cool'n'Quiet turned off.

    Admittedly, an A64 3200+ is slightly cooler than an XP 3200+ to start with, but still... that's a mere 11 to 13C above the room temperature. Not bad for a small lightweight HS and a simple fan swap, IMHO.

    So the HS itself seems to me decent enough, if given decent airflow. Not on par with Zalman's 7000A Cu monster, of course, but good enough.

    But even that comparison just proves the point about undervolting. The Zalman 7000A Cu cools better at full speed, but... If you turn a Zalman 7000A Cu to the lowest speed for silence (undervolting it via the supplied FanMate), it actually cools marginally _worse_ than the TT SilentBoost with the Papst fan.

    In spite of, you know, having over twice the weight in copper (and probably twice the surface too) of the humble SilentBoost. _And_ in spite of having a 92 mm fan instead of the 80mm one on the Silent boost. And the Zalman stays marginally noisier too even when undervolted all the way.

    That's the difference between a silent fan and going silent by undervolting a crap fan. The undervolted one pushes less air.

    As I've said, you've just proved my point for me, and I thank you for that.

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