Lian Li PC-A04 Building A Gaming System
One of the first issues we spotted is that there's very little space to route and hide cables in the PC-A04, as the rear side panel sits almost flush against the motherboard tray. You'll be able to get a fan cable down there, but forget anything fatter or with connectors. This means that a modular PSU is an absolute must, and cable routeing is also limited to the small area at the front between the drive bays and side panel.
On one hand we can see why Lian Li has made this decision; the PC-A04 would look overly portly if it was any wider, and the bulging side panels would simply appear ridiculous with Lian Li's styling. Plus, the high cost of aluminium could push a fatter case from the 'affordable' range into the 'too expensive' line-up. However, with a wealth of similar cases on the market accommodating better build features, the PC-A04 does feel a little bit like it's stuck in 2005.
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Unfortunately, the case also features hard-wired front-panel cables, so even if you don't need eSATA, USB 2 or USB 3, you'll have to keep the cables in the case. This could prove awkward, given the limited room inside, but thankfully they're also thin enough to fit behind the motherboard tray.
At the top, you'll also find two little holes that are meant to provide space for routeing cables, but the lip of the top panel is positioned directly on the other side of these, resulting in a frustrating and cuss-inducing experience. Also, don't assume that everything will fit, and measure everything before you try to install it. As you can see, we failed with the USB 3 connector because the return hole isn't big enough.
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You'll need to measure your CPU cooler before fitting it too. Our Titan Fenrir fitted inside, but only by the skin of its teeth - anything taller is a no go. The Fenrir will fit the other way around as well, but we orientated it this way around because the PC-A04 has a top fan fitted, but not a rear one. We also found that the Fenrir didn't perform to its full potential in this case, as it ends up being so close to the graphics card. In fact, Titan's smaller Skalli CPU cooler performed just as well, while keeping down the noise and providing more breathing space.
Next came the hard drives. Despite the seven-drive capacity being a major selling point of the case, we immediately realised that the PC-A04 doesn't come with the easy-swap rails found in other Lian Li cases such as the V1020
, which enable you to pull out any hard drive on a whim. With the PC-A04, you have to unplug everything, unscrew and remove the entire drive rack and then unscrew all the drive screws just to remove a single hard drive. We had just one drive here, but imagine the tedium of filling all seven bays.
Still, despite all the aforementioned issues, the end result turned out much tidier than we originally anticipated.