For those who don't remember or just aren't old enough to remember the Cold War, the Nuclear Football is something that went right over your head. Let me try to bring you up to speed. There was a time in this country where thick aluminum cases were used to house all of the world's top information as it was being transferred from place to place. Remember, this was even before digital transfers were as common and secure as they are today. For the US, during the Cold War, we had to have the option for our president to be able to have access to our nuclear capabilities at all times. This is where the nuclear football comes into play. We actually had an aluminum case that was handcuffed to a man who went everywhere the president did that was capable of launching a nuke from anywhere.
This doesn't exactly play into the realm of a computer case, but the principle is exactly the same for its portability and the fact that you are also housing important information in this along with maybe a thousand dollars worth of hardware - just like in the 80's where the aluminum cases took on an industrial look with the bare essentials on the outside and with reinforced corners and a handle to make portability super easy. Now while I don't expect you to handcuff this case to yourself while you travel with it, it would be pretty cool to walk into a LAN event with a "sleeper system" built inside of this chassis.
Today we are looking at a new chassis from Lian Li that has been nicknamed the Adventurer on the packaging. The actual naming of this all aluminum chassis is the PC-TU200 Mini Tower chassis. As with the cases that used to house our remote nuclear launch capability, or even thinking back to my musically inclined days, a lot of the electronics shipped from gig to gig in cases much like this. The rugged look of reinforced corners with aluminum plates riveted to the frame over the sides of the case for added protection against any accidental abuse this case may encounter in its travels. Taking this one step further, the PC-TU200 has a large comfortable metal handle on the top as to not only fully support the weight of its contents, but also to make lugging it from place to place a breeze. With the idea of an industrial aluminum briefcase in mind, let's look and see just what Lian Li has inside and out of their Adventurer.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The PC-TU200 is an entirely aluminum Mini Tower chassis that offers a 5.25" drive bay along with the I/O panel installed flush with the front sheet of aluminum behind the Lian Li logo. Unlike the Q25 we've seen, the side panels on this version are not exposed on the edges, again they are built to keep that flush appearance. Where the top, sides, bottom, front and back all meet each other, Lian Li added reinforcements with a layer of aluminum that is curved to round the corners while adding extra structural integrity to the small chassis. It also receives four round aluminum feet to support the chassis while also being industrial enough to be able to take a few hard knocks and still keep doing what they are intended to do.
On the inside, the layout reminded me a lot of the PC-Q25, but again there are some major differences in what is actually included. With the PC-TU200 you get a single 140mm fan in the front acting as the intake to do all the cooling for the chassis. Right behind the fan is a removable hard drive assembly that can house four 3.5" drives and one 2.5" drive on the floor of it. Helping to support the rack on the floor of the chassis, you can find a GPU support system that has been added to this model for longer graphics cards, and behind it, on the floor of the chassis is room for another 2.5" drive installation. On the left of the PC-TU200, as you look into the chassis, the motherboard, cooler, PSU and video cards all go into a relatively compact area. While you can stuff a 300mm video card in here, dual slot at that, you do have an 80mm CPU cooler height limitation and a 140mm PSU length to deal with when choosing components to go inside.
Lian Li made news of the release just over a month ago now, and while I would have expected to have seen the product on the shelves, it just isn't so as I type this out. Looking through Google and actually using e-tailer search engines, I couldn't even locate a pre-purchase listing. That being said, we should expect to see the PC-TU200 hit shelves any day now. I was able to ascertain a price point for the Adventurer and that is an MSRP of $199 that Lian Li has set. My gut reaction is "that is a lot of money for such a small object", but I have seen really good things come to my door in small packages. At this point, I want to go back through everything myself one more time before I give you a thumbs up or thumbs down on Lian Li's Adventurer PC-TU200.
Mobility is the theme with Lian Li's packaging of the PC-TU200 and the slogan "redefining portable" leaves no question that this is geared for those on the go. There is a large image of the chassis on the road to the left while the right side has images of six features and an inside look with the 300mm of room shown.
Here the panel starts with the Lian Li logo next to both the silver and black versions of the chassis with boxes to denote which is included. Under the handle in the box Lian Li placed the multi-lingual specifications charts.
Since we are seeing it all again, I can go into more detail. Native USB 3.0, door latches, removable HDD rack, the VGA supports, dust filter and aluminum feet are covered in the smaller images to the right.
As with the front and back of the box, both sides are a copy of each other as well. With a chassis so small, there isn't a whole lot to cover. The thing missing for the average buyer is the CPU and PSU limitations; to me those are important measurements that will be needed at the time of purchase.
Protecting the PC-TU200 inside of the box, Lian Li chose stacks of dense foam to constrict an enclosure for the front and back of the chassis. Inside of the foam, the case is surrounded with a plastic liner that contains the paperwork about the chassis and protects the brushed aluminum finish of the PC-TU200.
The Lian Li PC-TU200 Mini Tower Chassis
The Lian Li PC-TU200 Mini Tower Chassis
With all the packaging out of the way, we get our first look at the PC-TU200. The front of it is topped with the 5.25" stealth cover and a backlit power and reset switch. The bulk of the panel is taken up by the vented area with the Lian Li plaque in the middle of it. At the bottom is where you find the front I/O.
The front I/O panel contains connectivity for e-SATA and two USB 3.0 ports on the left and has a pair of 3.5mm jacks on the right for the HD Audio. Also notice the corner reinforcements. It's rather simply an extra layer of aluminum that gets riveted to the chassis, but gives it a real industrial feel.
Stepping back to get a better feel for the outside, you can see the rivets go all the way around the side panels that get mounted flush with the body in this chassis. Both sides of the chassis are exactly the same, and in case you missed it, the PC-TU200 comes with the large handle on the top.
There is a lot going on in the back of the chassis. The top starts off with a pair of thumbscrews that lock the door releases in place for now. In the large mesh area, the rear I/O and power supply holes come next. There is a removable plate for the power supply to make installation a bit easier. At the bottom there is a pair of expansion slots with a cover to help keep the card locked in place.
Looking underneath the chassis, we find a large dust filter to keep this area from dumping dust into your GPUs. The keyed holes at the right are to allow the mounting of a 2.5" drive. In the four corners you get half sphere shaped feet made of aluminum as well. While it may slide a bit on some surfaces, you can be sure there won't break off like plastic ones would.
On the top there isn't much to see but the large metal handle. I like that the handle self-centers, so when you let it loose, it doesn't just clank against the top of the chassis. After the build was complete, I gave this handle a workout and I can tell you it is very structurally sound!
Inside the Lian Li PC-TU200 Mini Tower Chassis
Inside the Lian Li PC-TU200 Mini Tower Chassis
With the ball and socket design of the door mounting, and the fact that on the PC-TU200, they sit flush with the frame, there is no way to open the doors. That is why the latches are on the top of the back of the chassis. Removing the thumbscrew allows the lever to move and it sends a bar into the back of the panel "popping" the corner out to remove it.
Once the panels are out of the way we can see there is quite a bit going on inside this Mini-ITX chassis. The hardware comes strapped to the rear panel, and the paperwork was outside of the case.
Behind the front of the chassis there is the 140mm fan that blows through the 4+1 bay, hot-swappable, hard drive cage. Above this removable hard drive rack there is room for one 5.25" drive and below it is an element that allows for a GPU support system to be used.
In the back of the PC-TU200 the top is flanked on both sides with the mechanisms the "pop" the top corners of the door so they can be removed. Once the motherboard is in, you have 80mm of room for the CPU cooler before you install the PSU over the top of it. At the bottom you find two expansion slots with ventilated covers installed at the moment.
The floor of the chassis is well ventilated to the left allowing the expansion cards to get some fresh air. Lying on the floor are the USB 3.0, HD Audio, and e-SATA connection all in black. The wires for the buttons and LEDs is pre-routed and run along the back edge of the chassis.
If you don't have access to the 2.5" drive mounting position in the hard drive rack because you planned to remove it, you still have a place on the floor to mount a 2.5" drive using grommets and screws supplied in the hardware.
Behind the motherboard tray there isn't much more than a few mm of room, so wiring here isn't going to happen. Behind the two hot-swap panels, there is just enough room to plug in the SATA cables and the Molex connections for power, and bend them tight to fit them in here. There is a bit of room up the left side, but my tip with this case is having a modular PSU, there is little room for extra anything in here.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of the hardware box there are three bags with all the mounting hardware and securing mechanisms along with a motherboard speaker. The bag on the left has screws to use with rails for mounting the hard drives. The middle bag with the speaker in it also contains a few rubber grommets for the 2.5" drive installation along with parts for the GPU support mechanism. The bag on the right has the motherboard screws, 2.5" drive screws, PSU screws and ODD screws.
Bundled with a rubber band, the hard drive rails are closest in the image. These line up on the side of the drives and work with the rails in the hot-swap drive cage for securing them in the chassis. If your motherboard doesn't have the native 20-pin USB 3.0 port, you do get an adapter to convert that 20-pin to a USB 2.0 9-pin connector.
The paperwork we saw wrapped on the outside of the case with the plastic liner has many languages over the two part, fold out guide. There is a parts list that verifies how much of each part you should have. After that there are many images and descriptions of how everything in the PC-TU200 works. Lian Li also covers all aspects of their case wiring with diagrams so there is no way you can mess up the positives with the negative wires, and in this tiny space, that is a good thing.
Preparing the 3.5" drives for installation is easy. Grab yourself a pair of the plastic rails and then align it so that the two holes are showing and the pin in the plastic rail is in the third hole on the side of the drive. Once that is done you screw in a pair of the provided screws and you are ready to slide it into the hot-swap cage.
Inside of the removable hard drive rack two hot-swap panels have been installed to simplify wiring a bit. Each of the panels powers two drives, and the reverse has the Molex connection on it. You can also see the holes in the floor that will allow a 2.5" drive to go in here as well.
The Build and Finished Product
The Build and Finished Product
The installation needs to go in well planned steps as I learned the hard way. I gutted the case so I had room to wire things and get the card in place. However, the card cannot be in place to re-install the hard drive rack. Something else to do, since I already advised using a modular PSU, when you do put the card in, have the power leads clipped into the cards ahead of time.
After a bit of rearranging the puzzle pieces I was able to get this far along without any real hassle. After the hard drive cage is mounted, you can slide the card back in through the gap left under it. With the card in, you can replace the GPU support plate and use the support pins if the cards are long enough to use them. In the case of the GTX460, it is not long enough to benefit.
I had to go back to the old reliable HX520 PSU due to both the modular factor, and that it fit with the wiring in the 140mm constraints. Having a modular PSU allows you to run all the wiring from each unit to the PSU, and as you slide it in the back to install it, you then make all the connections to the PSU. You can go with a normal PSU, but I had issues with room only hiding the excess length of 24-pin and the 8-pin EPS cables.
The rear of the chassis gave me no issues during the installation process. The rear I/o plate went in relatively easy, and the removable PSU mounting plate makes sliding the PSU in a cinch to do. The screws for the expansion slots are a bit close to the case and require a longer screwdriver to get straight at them, other than that, I got my GTX460 in there and mounted securely.
Like I said, there is room here for the SATA cables, the Molex connections to power the hot-swap panels, and that's about it. Even if you were to store wires on the left, you need to find a way to keep them out of the fan, and attaching them to the chassis will cause issues with the fit of the door panel.
With the side panels back in place, we are back to that industrial, natural aluminum briefcase looking chassis. It really is structurally very sound in this state, and gives you that "it can go anywhere" feel once you have messed around with it a while. If I was the type to run anywhere with a desktop PC, this chassis is a solution that offers a professional looking solution that looks like it can take anything you can dish out to it.
Since the Intake fan does not have LEDs in it, the only indication that the PC-TU200 is operational are the back light of the power button denoting the system is on, and the occasional flicker of the red backlit reset button. The minimal lighting keeps with the industrial feel I am getting from this chassis.
For such a tiny mini tower chassis, it really packs in the features. USB 3.0 is expected, but native USB 3.0 in a Mini-ITX case, it's something I like to see. The dust filter on the bottom to help keep the graphics card fan clean is a nice feature as well. What I really like is the modularity inside with the hard drive cage and the GPU support piece. If you don't want to have the hard drive assembly in this case, you don't lose functionality, as the PC-TU200 has options. The GPU support system is connected to the front of the hard drive rack, but with four thumbscrews into the floor of the chassis; even with the push of a heavy graphics card, it can be used as a standalone system. That's one reason to go ahead and remove the rack, and the second is that Lian Li also offers a spot on the floor to install an SSD. I mean if this system is to be taken on the go, it will be gobbled up by techies and LAN goers. Techies already have the latest in tech, so for a portable rig that can go anywhere they go, and look professional about it; for those going to a LAN, this is definitely a case that will make your buddies envious!
The installation process was a bit of a learning curve, but I got everything installed with a level head and didn't end up damaging anything making mistakes as I went. The 140mm fan in the front offered my system a fair bit of air and in combination with the fan on the PSU acting as the exhaust, the airflow inside is sufficient for me to even overclock the card and CPU if I wanted to. The way the side doors are fit inside of the frame gives the case a very finished exterior, and its only weakness is the rear of the chassis to get anything snagged if you accidentally brushed it against something. The trick latches in the back of the chassis that will pop the panel lose is very cool, and much more elegant than me trying to pry off the door with a screw driver. The time I did spend with the chassis was very enjoyable and I absolutely loved the handle for spinning the case around for images, and when I swung the case around like a five year old on sugar overload. I can tell you, as long as you don't lose your grip, this chassis isn't going anywhere, the handle is very secure.
As much as I like this chassis, I don't use my Mini-ITX system in a way that I need it to really be portable. On the flip side of that, this chassis makes me want to keep this build together and try to find a motherboard that will go along with one of my more powerful processors so I can have my own portable "sleeper" that can not only get my emails and log me into Facebook, but it would be much easier toting this than my TJ11 with my next trip to Chris Ram's house. The case just has that cool factor that can't really be described in words. There is one thing I can't deny, with or without a handcuff, this case is the coolest thing I think I could tote into a room full of my tech savvy friends.
As of this moment there is no availability for the PC-TU200 Adventurer chassis, so we have to go off of the MSRP of $199 currently set with Lian Li. I will say this. For the average user, this is a lot of money to house an email retriever or Facebook gamer. For those who need to tote a PC for their job, this case offers that professional grade feel that I would take anywhere I needed to go, as long as I wasn't setting it in any liquids. For the LAN goers, this is a very cool looking offering to go in with a GTX 580 and a 2600K pushing you as you score those headshots on the competition, and afterwards everyone will want to see just what it is you have there. Even for $200 I would have no reservations getting this chassis, as you aren't going to find another quite like the PC-TU200.
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