Lian Li is well known for their designs based off purely aluminum built cases. On top of the sleek and sexy look of brushed aluminum, another thing I give credit to Lian Li for is that they have always tried to make life easy with their cases by using screws to compile all the parts into a full chassis. Anyone who has wanted to remove a drive bay system, or even had ideas of grandeur prancing through your mind about an awesome case mod, you can simply remove most of the components in any Lian Li chassis. On top of all that aluminum, on top of the customizability of their cases, and from what I had seen at CES, the new ideas were nothing Lian Li was falling short of.
We are going in the direction of a SFF chassis with the latest case from Lian Li. This chassis is based with a Mini-ITX motherboard in mind, and only Mini-ITX. With the idea to stay as compact as possible, Lian Li brings forth some new tricks that are firsts for me, along with some ingenuity coming forth in older systems, just now incorporated in places you may not have thought of before. In all honesty, this design does remind me of the Silverstone FT-03, but done completely different, and in a way that screams Lian Li throughout the entire chassis.
The chassis that we are going to have the pleasure of gazing at today is the PC-Q27 B from Lian Li. In the most basic sense of the chassis, you are given a cube style case that is slightly taller than it is wide or deep. It is of course glad in brushed aluminum and offers USB 3.0 with reverse compatibility for older systems.
I really don't want to get too deep at this stage about what Lian Li has packed inside of the PC-Q27 chassis. So, at this point we should just cut to the chase, and you can see and read for yourself to see if this is the next SFF chassis you want to buy over the next few pages.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The PC-Q27 is, as I said, all aluminum in every component of the chassis, besides the front I/O components. This is classified as a mini-tower chassis since it is on 200mm wide, 300mm tall and 240mm deep, and because it can only hold a Mini-ITX motherboard. You can get the chassis in natural brushed aluminum, silver as they call it, but we are going to see the black version today. Along with its compact size comes a lighter chassis as the PC-Q27 weighs in at 2.1 kilograms empty. As for the actual exterior of the chassis, the front offers a removable bay cover at the top, a power button in the middle and the Lian Li name at the bottom. The rest of the front panel is just an expanse of black, anodized, brushed aluminum. Both side panels are the same way. All you can see from the outside is an expanse of aluminum with a few Torx head screws on the sides, and a Phillip's head screws at the top edge right in the center. Out back there is room for the rear I/O dust shield, a PSU next to it, and a single expansion slot at the bottom.
Inside of the chassis, let's start at the front. There you will find the single, removable, 5.25" drive bay at the top. Under that you will see the back of the power button and LEDs in a natural aluminum plate coving the rest of the inside. In that piece of aluminum, Lian Li offers the option to mount one 3.5" or 2.5" drive. The motherboard tray is less of a tray, as it is more just two aluminum bars with standoffs already placed on them. The floor of the chassis has two brackets mounted to it that will allow for another 3.5" drive. I almost forgot, the bottom of the ODD rack also offers room for a single 3.5" drive.
Since the front, sides and top of the chassis are completely closed off when the chassis is assembled, Lian Li does not send a single fan inside of this chassis. There are two reasons for this. If you do want to add a fan, the floor of the chassis does offer a spot for either a 120mm or 140mm fan to be installed, but the HDD brackets need to be removed. The other reason is that there is only room for a single slot video card, so we aren't talking tremendous power in that department, and since the PSU sits right over the CPU on the motherboard, you are supposed to cool the chassis and install the PSU fan facing the CPU cooler. This way the PSU draws air in through the floor, and takes the heat from the CPU out through the back of the power supply.
Looking around for a place where you can buy this chassis, I did find a few locations. Amazon came up blank, and Google shows eBay sales at $74.99 no matter the color choice. I also found them at AVADirect at a higher price, but they are still holding stock. I also found them at Newegg with a list price to match the eBay listings at $74.99, and here you do have to come up with another $7.99 for shipping. eBay is the best deal, but I would pay more from Newegg, as I have no idea about the eBay sellers. For this price, I will say, even though compact, you still get your monies worth with this mini-tower that somehow has all the options.
Helping to keep the cost down, Lian Li sends the PC-Q27 in the plain brown box with black screening over a green stripe. They show the company name, logo and the chassis name at the top.
You can kind of see that the black version has been checked on there, and there is a specs chart as well, but USPS tagged the panel pretty well.
Also helping to keep costs down, the front and the back of the chassis packaging offers you the same exact information.
They also do that with the smaller sides. It's a good thing too I guess, at least now you can plainly see the black version is shown to be inside, and you can see the shortened specs charts repeated in four languages in total.
To protect the chassis, Lian Li used a thick plastic liner immediately surrounding all of that sexy brushed aluminum. They then went with two piece end caps for the top and bottom of the chassis. I would assume it is slightly cheaper to make these, but they worked great. Considering how beat up and deformed the box was; the chassis is in remarkably great shape inside.
Lian Li PC-Q27 B Mini-Tower Chassis
The front of the chassis is slightly rounded as it wraps to the left and right, but the top is blunt and even with the solid panel there. In the vast expanse of brushed aluminum, you can see the removable bay cover at the top with the power button just below, and of course the Lian Li badge at the bottom.
The left side of the chassis has the panel between the front and back sections. This means the panels don't slide to the back in this design. You have to remove the screw that is top dead center of the panel and this allows them to slide upwards for removal.
The back is completely ventilated to allow any hot air going in that direction an easy way out of the chassis. They have the rear I/O area at the left with a couple inches until you run into the power supply. The bottom is ventilated as well, and offers the single expansion slot.
The right side of the chassis is a direct match to the opposing panel. The same screw is at the top for panel removal, but at the bottom left of this side you get the rest of the front I/O panel.
Here you have only the pair of USB 3.0 ports for front panel connectivity - there is no audio and the LEDs are worked into the power button. Lian Li does include a native USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter, so don't worry if you board doesn't have USB 3.0 on it.
Under the chassis you have four square feet at the outer most corner positions for the best stability. In the middle you can see the floor is well ventilated. It also offers a place for an optional fan as well as offering key slots for another 3.5" HDD to be installed.
Inside the PC-Q27 B
After removing one screw on each side, you lift the panels out of the grooves in the frame of the chassis. On the back of the panel you can see four tabs that lock into the frame. Inside of the chassis you can see the hardware strapped to the back as well as the moisture absorbing paper and front I/O wiring.
This is the removable 5.25" drive rack. It is held in with four screws, and makes installing an optical drive easy if you plan to hang a hard drive from the bottom of it.
The front inside wall of the chassis is left in its natural state, and you can see the back of the power button and LED system at the top of it. The rest of the panel has these key slots, eight in total. One set of four will allow you to install a 2.5" drive here, or a 3.5" hard drive, but only either or.
The motherboard tray, if you will, is actually a pair of flat sections that run left to right. They are pretty thick, already have the standoffs in place for a Mini-ITX motherboard, and will allow the back of the motherboard to stay cool.
The floor of the chassis has a pair of brackets installed that will allow you to install a 3.5" drive between them. If you would rather, you can remove them to install a fan, or a 2.5" drive in the slots between the brackets.
The back of the chassis offers a removable plate that will easily install on the back of the power supply. Once combined, you can replace the plate and PSU into the chassis, right in front of the motherboard. Choose wisely with coolers, there is very little room for anything normal to cool the CPU in here.
Much closer to the floor, you can see the single expansion slot and its ventilated cover. Removal of the cover and securing a card is done outside the chassis since the slot is slid all the way to the back plane of the chassis.
Looking at things from behind the motherboard support bars, you can see that there is only maybe 2mm of space before you hit the side panel, so any dreams of wire management magic here are not going to happen.
Connectivity of the chassis to the motherboard is kept very simple. There is the Native USB 3.0 plug on the left, the power LED, power switch and HDD LED on the right, all of them black as well.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of the hardware box strapped to the back of the case, you will find this as part of the contents. You get a pair of zip-ties, a motherboard speaker and a large plastic clamp to maintain wires with foam tape on the pack. There are 13 grommets to use with the keyed openings in the various panels. The four smaller ones are for use with the brackets on the floor.
Shipped in three smaller bags you will locate all of the screws. The PSU screws are at top left followed by the 2.5" storage drive screws, and then the motherboard screws as you go right. At the bottom you have thumbscrews for the ODD, a pair of small countersunk screws with no real use, and the 3.5" storage drive screws finish them out.
You are also given this USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter to allow you to still use both of the external ports even if like mine, the motherboard doesn't have USB 3.0 natively supported by it.
While you don't actually have to remove this to use it, it does make life easy if you hang a hard drive and put in an ODD. This way you can put it all back in as one unit, prewired if you want to. It also makes removing the front cover much easier than trying to pick at it through the front bezel.
The main guide is already multi-lingual, but there is an extra insert added that I am showing on the right. Since they cover so many languages, the instructions are more a step by step via images. There is some text along the way, but it is very short in content.
In the second half of the instruction you see much of the same with mainly images to guide you along the build process. At the bottom of this, Lian Li also offers a wiring diagram of the front I/O, the USB adapter and also has the entire assortment of front panel connectors labeled for you too.
The Build and Finished Product
Just for example purposes, I went ahead and threw in an SSD so you can see how they go into the front panel of the chassis.
Same thing with a 3.5" drive. One thing I did notice is that with my specific PSU, powering these drives is near impossible due to the way the wires are clipped into the SATA power plugs; something to ponder when buying this.
Eventually a power supply will be blocking all of this, so I thought once the board and HDD was installed where I wanted them, I figured it was a great time to give you an idea of the amount of room, or lack thereof, inside of the chassis.
If you plan to use a 180mm PSU like I am about to, let me help you a bit. Go modular, and pre-wire everything in the chassis and have the wiring ready on the right side. This way when you slide in the PSU, halfway in you can make all the connections and then finish mounting the PSU.
Now you can obviously see what I was getting at. With the PSU this long, wiring the right side with it mounted is near impossible. You can also see that I have the fan facing the motherboard to draw the only airflow through the chassis.
The rear I/O opening is quite snug, and it did take me a bit of time to get that locked into place, but the PSU slid right into place. It's a good thing the motherboard offers video too, because all I own are dual slot video cards, and they won't work with only one slot on offer.
Looking at the back of the motherboard, you can see now why wiring here is impossible. While you may have room enough behind the board to hide something, it's pretty much just on the left since the other three sides are blocked off.
At that point all I had left to do was to slide the side panels back onto the chassis, and if for nothing else than to not lose the screws, I recommend using them in the chassis. This will also help keep you from accidentally removing the panels when trying to lift or move the chassis.
When the system is powered up, there is very little noise to be heard. I had to get really close to the chassis to even hear the hum of the PSU fan. When the PC-Q27 is powered, the power switch illuminates blue, as you can see above. When the HDD is being accessed, this blue light will flicker red.
It's quite the sexy little beast, if you ask me.
Stability in the chassis is very good. I removed many components trying out various mounting positions for the hard drives, and just to see if once all you had was the shell left, can the chassis still stand on its own. What I found is that it is in fact very solid in its construction. I do believe the compact nature of this specific case helps, but none the less, the PC-Q27 B is solid as a rock and vibration free when in use. There can be hard drives almost anywhere you could think to put them, you have room for an ODD, and with it being fan less, this is also a perfect solution for those looking for something for their HTPC. Inside and out, no matter what part of the chassis, I like what I see.
There are a few sticking points to consider when you plan on building a system inside of this chassis. For starters, look at the power supply. If you plan to go big, also plan big. By this I mean think it out, and be sure to go modular when you buy it. If you have dreams of a monster video card, you may have to reconsider to something like a GTX 660 or similar since most more powerful solutions won't come in a single slot offering even though there is room for more GPU power in here. The last bit of advice is about the CPU cooling. You can fit a stock Intel cooler in here, but you need to remove the fan, or figure a way to reverse it. You do have some aftermarket options as well, but buy the shortest thing you can find, if the stock solution isn't good enough for your needs.
I still think that for the price of $74.99 at most locations, you still are getting quite a bit for your money. Obviously aluminum is more expansive to build with than steel, so that will drive the price up. Then there is the fact that you get a chassis assembled with screws. This takes more time to assemble, which costs more, even if it is better for you in the end, to Lian Li it is worth the little bit extra for their customers. Considering the overall size of the chassis, if done right and thought out very well, you could build a pretty serious gaming system in here. It may not run at maximum settings, but then again, it is sleek, sexy and silent.
This is why I think the PC-Q27 B is not only a great chassis, but a look at where Lian Li is going, and I have to say the future looks bright.