As with many recently designed cases, the PC-9 places the PSU mounting in the base of chassis, which improves case stability and can improve cooling by placing the PSU outside of the case’s main cooling system with the use of a well placed 120mm vent.
However, Lian Li has chosen to instead mount the PSU upside down, with the 120mm facing into the case and acting as an additional exhaust fan. This seems like a strange choice to us, as a low RPM PSU fan isn’t really going to have an impact on cooling your core hardware and would have benefited greatly from its own dedicated 120mm vent in the base of the case.
There are more disappointing design choices elsewhere too, with only the most half hearted effort towards tidy cable routing in the use of a single small routing hole on the motherboard tray and absolutely no option to fit a 3.5” drive of any kind. While there are places to hide away excess power supply cables beneath the hard drive cage and PSU itself, they’re tricky and fiddly to squeeze cables into and the large bundle of cables extending from the front panel doesn’t really help matters.
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As we’ve also mentioned, the cooling system for the PC-9 is a little odd too and looking inside we can see that Lian Li has fitted just two 120mm cooling fans into the PC-9 and strangely both of them are exhausts.
While the placement of the rear exhaust fan is pretty standard, the front exhaust is positioned to suck air over the hard drive rack and then exhaust it out of the right hand side panel’s meshed vent. Obviously Lian Li is relying on the negative pressure caused by the use of more exhaust fans to passively draw air in through the ventilated front fascia, but in our experience this can lead to some extremely high hardware temperatures, especially for the GPU whose cooling is often dependant on a reliable flow of cool air.
There are also no mounts for any additional fans either, so the cooling solution that the PC-9 ships with is the maximum it's capable of without whipping out the Dremel. However, what really baffles us is why Lian Li is going to so much unnecessary efforts to specifically cool the hard drives. Surely that 120mm exhaust fan could have been better placed elsewhere like in the case roof or side panel, especially as hard disks are arguably the least cooling dependant component in a modern PC.
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On the upside though, Lian Li has fitted the PC-9's fans with a nifty three speed fan controller, allowing you to adjust the fans between low, medium and high RPMs. Frustratingly though there are some pretty crucial flaws with it - most importantly that the rear 120mm fan's three-pin power cable doesn't actually reach the header on the front mounted fan controller, meaning you'll only be able to adjust the speed of one of the two included 120mm fans out of the box.
The fan controller is also bafflingly positioned behind the front fascia rather than somewhere sensible like the recessed front panel, which means that when you decide to adjust the fan speed of the one fan that actually reaches the controller, you'll need to take the front of the case apart. While we appreciate Lian Li intends the switch to be a "set and forget" type of feature, how hard would it have been to place in an easily accessible spot?
While there might be plenty design shortcomings, the build quality inside the PC-9 is very still good, and meets the usual high Lian Li standards. The chassis is solid as far as aluminium chassis go, everything fits together very well and there’s a gratuitous use of thumbscrews throughout. There are also plenty of fittings and extras included with the case, with four black 90 degree SATA cables a very welcome inclusion considering the four drive SATA hot swap bay that sets the PC-9 apart. However, while the build quality is good, the thin aluminium that Lian Li has used for years now lacks the overall feeling of quality and toughness found in competing aluminium cases like the Akasa Omega or Coolermaster ATCS 840, which use thicker materials in their construction.