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Written by Bruce Normann   
Sunday, 24 April 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Lian Li PC-AO4 Aluminum Mini-Tower PC Case
Closer Look: Exterior
Detailed Exterior Features
Closer Look: Interior
Detailed Interior Features
Build Notes
Lian Li PC-A04 Testing
Final Thoughts
Lian Li PC-A04 Conclusion

Lian Li PC-A04 Aluminum Mini Tower Case

Manufacturer: Lian Li Industrial Co., LTD
Product Name: PC-A04 Aluminum Mini Tower Case
Model Number: PC-A04A
Price As Tested: Available from NewEgg for $109.99 in Silver or Black

Full disclosure: The product used in this review was supplied by Lian-Li

Just for a minute, we're going to stop looking for the biggest, baddest, most ferocious PC gaming case and look at something a little less hardcore. It's not even black, if you can imagine that..... Another thing that sets the PC-A04 apart from the norm is that it's limited to micro-ATX motherboards. Two or three years ago, this would have been a showstopper, but in recent times there have been some excellent uATX boards hitting the market. There are even some offerings that forgo integrated graphics in favor of more performance-oriented chipsets. ASUS and MSI both make X58 boards for instance, and there are also several P67 choices available. So, don't feel that you have to reign in your performance expectations just because you want a smaller, more attractive box beside your desk.

Lian Li has an enviable reputation for fine metalwork, particularly in aluminum. They also offer a very wide range of designs, from massive eATX towers, to special editions with AMD dragons decorating the side window, to tiny iTX hatboxes, and finally the middle ground. Today we're looking at the PC-A04 Aluminum Mini Tower Case, in silver. With its clean and sleek profile, it could pass for an Apple product. In fact, it's probably the perfect case for that hackintosh you've wanted to build after reading this article.

Lian_Li_PC_A04A_Mini_Tower_Aluminum_Case_Left_Front_34_Logo.jpg

The outside of the case is a very strong visual statement that will appeal to a certain segment of the market that longs for the Apple style, but can't stomach the closed architecture or the pricing that goes along with it. In black, which is the other available color, it probably blends in a bit more with modern decor, but in silver it really stands out and says, "Hey, look at me!" So far I've focused on the exterior, but don't worry; we'll spend equal time looking at the interior and even look at a build sequence to show how it all fits together. Next, let's take a look at the actual features and specifications for the PC-A04, direct from Lian Li.

Lian Li PC-A04 Mini Tower Features

  • Small Case with Two 120mm Intake Fans -The fans push cold air through the case in high volumes with low RPMs
  • USB3.0 Multimedia I/O ports - User can easily access USB3.0, e-SATA and HD Audio
  • Change the HDD Module Racks' direction - Up to seven 3.5-inch HDDs. Hard disks can face right, left or backwards
  • Switch the HDD Module Racks - Either hard disk module can be on the top of the other, with anti-vibration thumb screws
  • 370mm Maximum Video Card Space - Remove the HDD cage to allow 370mm long high-end video cards
  • Top 120mm Fan x1
  • Air filters (Front + Base)
  • Tool-less Optical Drive Mounting
  • Anti-Vibration PSU mounting rails
  • Fan Speed Controller mounting location

Lian Li PC-A04 Mini Tower Specifications

  • Model: PC-A04
  • Case Type: Mini Tower Chassis
  • Dimensions: (W) 188mm x (H) 386mm x (D) 460mm
  • Front Bezel: Aluminum
  • Color: Black or Silver
  • Side Panel: Aluminum
  • Body Material: Aluminum
  • Net Weight: 4.1KG
  • 5.25" drive bay (External): 2
  • 3.5" drive bay (External): None
  • HDD bay: 7
  • Expansion Slot: 4
  • Motherboard Type: Micro-ATX / Mini-ITX
  • System Fan (Front): 120mm Fan x 2
  • System Fan (Top): 120mm Fan x 1
  • System Fan (Rear): None
  • Front I/O Ports: USB3.0 x 1 / USB2.0 x 1 / e-SATA x 1 / HD Audio
  • 2.5" drive bay (Internal): 1
  • Maximum Video Card Size: 370mm



 

Comments 

 
# ExcellentJustin MacQueen 2011-04-24 23:22
Just wanted to say thankyou for an excellent in-depth review Bruce. Photography is also superb and you really do this case justice. I have one currently and found (similar to what you stated earlier on) that two black optical drives makes for a good look. Thanks again!
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# ThanksBruce Bruce 2011-04-25 07:33
Glad you liked the review; we try hard to get the images right on Benchmark Reviews. A picture tells a thousand words, etc.....

I'm curious what CPU cooling solution you ended up with, on your build. I bought the Coooler Master COOLER MASTER Hyper N 520, which looks like one of the better 92mm units out there.
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# People more talented than me.....Bruce Bruce 2011-04-25 07:41
Our associate Werner has solved the ODD fascia problem with some nice case mod work that he posted here in our forums. Thake a look at the first three posts to see how he took it to a new level. It's in the "First SFF.Gaming PC Build" thread in the Modders Showroom, if the link doesn't work....

#forum.benchmarkreviews.com/showthread.php?t=17082
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# Great reviewJeff 2011-04-24 23:51
But I prefer my Lian Li PC-A05N ATX Mini Tower. Its not that much larger and gives me a lot more options in hardware. Regardless, Lian Li makes some pretty amazing cases.
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# Can't go wrong......Bruce Bruce 2011-04-25 07:49
The PC-A05N is also a very nice case; no doubt about it. The 3.5" drive bay on the front panel is problematic for me, though. If I needed a card reader, it makes sense to use that slot.....

You're right about Lian Li; as I said in the review, they may have some equals, but there are none that are better.
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# Filing cabinet styleBill 2011-04-25 05:32
This has the same style as a filing cabinet. Who is making these designs?
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# Bored by the classics...?Bruce Bruce 2011-04-25 07:52
What style of case do you prefer? This case is so far removed from the basic "Gaming Style Sheet" that it's bound to seem a bit foreign to some.
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# I don't see this as classic unless ..Bill 2011-04-25 08:18
I don't see this as classic, to me it looks more like a sheet metal project from the 8th grade. The kind of case I prefer is one that is both functional and aesthetic. The only case I have seen that I like is the Thermaltake Level 10. On a functional point, The level 10 has easily accessible drive bays - I don't have a level 10 case (I intend to buy one later) but it would appear I could use the drive bays like a raid or use them to hold bare drives instead of using external enclosures. I love the compartmentalized sections they look very accessible. I like the "control line" down the side that includes the power button and usb etc. If you plug in a usb cord it can hang off to the side. I really dislike the usb on the very top of the computer in this review because of what it will look like when you plug something into it and then where will you put the device and how will the cord follow? Its like there was no thought put into the design. Esthetically, the thermaltake aesthetics follows directly from its function and for that its beautiful.
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# I think I understand.....Bruce Bruce 2011-04-25 08:45
I am also a fan of the Level 10. Even if it gets a couple of things wrong, which is unavoidable, it still represents original thinking.

It'll be interesting to see if others move towards that type of modular architecture. One problem with it, is cost. To me, that's one of the required functions, and I don't see how to make a case like the level 10 as cheaply as you can make a rectangular box. Sadly, most consumers will buy anything, as long as it is cheap!
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# RE: I don't see this as classic unless ..David Ramsey 2011-04-25 10:09
The Level 10 is striking, no doubt about it (I bought one myself). However, the Level 10 GT (reviewed here, check our "Cases" section) is less than a third the price, offers much better cooling, a SATA power backplane, and similar removable drive caddies. It's not as good looking, and there's tons of plastic (the Level 10 is pretty much all aluminum), but price and performance are just better.
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# Great review. Too bad about the caseEd 2011-04-25 11:05
Superb review, from noting the space behind the mb tray in mm, both the tray and the tray edge (bravo!) to noting the fit of gpu cards to the interference between the left panel and the cpu heatsink to the interference between the top fan and the cpu heatsink . . . Wonderful.

The case: needs to be 12mm wider, to provide room for full tower cpu coolers and to provide a little more space behind the mb. 210mm would be better still, of course.

The rear fan opening is just right . . . for a front-to-back heatsink setup. It should be bigger, of cousre, which it would be if the case were wider. And it needs a fan fingerguard rather than a grill to facilitate easy outflow.

I continue to be disappointed by Lian Li's providing cases only with rear fan positions on the tops of many of their cases. With provision for two fans you could have a top intake in front and block off that rear top fan position. That would allow room for a cpu heatsinkk to be mounted front to back. Then with three intake fans the air would easily and quietly make its own way out the back, no exhaust fan required. Air goes where you push it. It need not rise.

I like reviews like this. They tell me when I should not buy a case. For this I am grateful. Thanks for this review.
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# Thanks for actually...Bruce Bruce 2011-04-25 12:00
Thanks for actually reading through the review, Ed. Some folks post comments and ask for info that's already been included in the article.

It's funny, I don't think I've ever seen the perfect case. Logically I think it must exist, somewhere.

I think I'm going to pick up an 80mm finger guard for the back; the mesh part is easily removed and replaced, if desired. Should work nice with the Hyper N 520 I just got.
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# RE: Lian Li PC-AO4 Aluminum Mini-Tower PC CaseTukzar 2011-05-07 08:00
I chose Lian Li PC-A04 for my computer case and I'm planning to build mATX PC from following components:

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz, 6MB, LGA1155, BOX
+ Zalman CNPS 10X Performa Cooler
RAM: GoodRam 4GB (2x3GB) 1333MHz CL9
MOBO: AsRock H67M-GE/HT mATX
GPU: Sapphire ATI Radeon HD6950 1GB DDR5/256bit DVI/HDMI/mDP PCI-Express
AUDIO: Asus Xonar DX
WLAN: D-Link DWA-131
HDD: Samsung SpinPoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATAII 7200rpm 32MB cache
SDD: Ocz Vertex 2 OC2SSD2-2VTXE90G 90GB SATA II
PSU: XFX Core 550W
ODD: Liteon iHAS124 SATA (black)
CASE: Lian Li PC-A04 + Lian Li USB3.0 connector UC-01

And I'm wondering if mentioned graphic card and cooler will fit in this case. What do you think Bruce?
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# Well Done !!Bruce Bruce 2011-05-07 17:46
Congratulations on finding the lowest profile 120mm upright PU cooler! The manufacturer lists the height at 152m, which should just fit, with 1-2mm to spare. Of course, I am a cynic, so I will ask you to come back after your build and verify for all of us that the published specification is correct.

Since you are only looking at two drives, the graphics card possibilities are unlimited. Unfortunately, Sapphire does not publish the dimensions of the card you mentioned, so I can't say if it will fit without removing one of the drive cages. My ruler says anything less than 250mm will fit, and the Sapphire has the power cables at the top of the card, so that's not an issue.

Sounds like a nice build.
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