Lian Li's distinct style and use of aluminium still pokes some people's happy soft spots. If you've been building PCs for as long as us, you'll remember the days when you could drop into Maplin and pick up a PC-60 for £65. That silver aluminium box with its rectangle of carbon fibre on the fascia set the foundation of Lian Li love for many PC builders.
Why have we donned the rose tinted specs? Simply because the PC-A04 harks back to that era, with its simple square styling and plain front grille. It's smart and minimalist, we'll give it that, but the photos can be deceptive until you look inside: it's a micro-ATX case.
The PC-A04 comes in both black and silver. The silver version is likely to be slightly cheaper
It's not all like the PC-60, though - there are definitely some elements of the Fractal Design R3 in there too. For example, the ratio of 5.25in to 3.5in bays, with the large amount space dedicated to the latter, is very R3-esque. However, the PC-A04's 188 x 386 x 460mm (W x H x D) dimensions are 10-13 per cent smaller than the R3's 207 x 440 x 521mm dimensions, yet it can still house seven 3.5in hard drives.
You'll have to be a little more creative if you want to install 2.5in SSDs, though, as the standard hard drive mounting system can't hold them. Instead, you'll need to screw your SSD into the bottom 5.25in bay, or remove one of the drive caddies. This looks like an after-thought to us, but small form factor cases have always involved trading freedom for the price of your extra desk space.
Click to enlarge
The hard drive racks can't be swapped around either. You have to put the three-drive cage at the bottom, and the four-drive cage on the top, but you can install one without requiring the other. The three-drive bottom rack can also be angled so that the drives either face the side panels or the PSU.
Addendum 17th Feb 2011: By removing a tiny bracket at the bottom, Lian Li informs us you can in fact swap around the drive bays to have the 4x rack at the bottom instead.
Click to enlarge
One of the PC-A04's features that Lian Li is particularly pimping is its ability to handle long graphics cards. By removing the top four-drive rack you gain 370mm of space for a super-long, high-performance graphics card. In fact, if you use a motherboard such as the Asus Rampage III Gene, you could even build a micro-ATX SLI or CrossFire machine, with the second card in the bottom 16x PCI-E slot. However, it's worth noting that a fan at the end of the card will give it less than 1cm of clearance above the bottom three-drive rack.