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LanCool PC-K59 Midtower Case

As LanCool is the budget arm of Lian Li, the PC-K59 midtower lacks the stylish all-aluminum construction and finish of its more expensive cousins. It still shares many popular Lian Li features, making it potentially a good value for those on a budget.

June 9, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
LanCool PC-K59
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$100

For those not familiar with LanCool, it is the name Lian Li uses to market their more budget-oriented products. When we think of Lian Li we picture shiny, stylish, expensive aluminum towers. LanCool cases on the otherhand feature a plastic and steel build like the bulk of affordable ATX towers available for DIYers. That being said, many of the features that make Lian Li cases popular are carried over in some shape or form so while LanCool enclosures might not look as cool, they might offer good value for those with tight budgets.


The box.

It doesn’t look like much, but the PC-K59 is one of LanCool’s more expensive models (street price ~US$100). This black case is made of steel wrapped in plastic molding with contours that turn the top/front corner into a rounded bulge rather than the sharp straight corners of standard beige box. We believe this was done to make it resemble a knight’s helmet as the K59 is part of what LanCool calls the “First Knight” series. They probably were aiming to make it appear noble-looking, but it ends up with a mild resemblance to the alien from “Alien.” The plastic portions are rather thick, making it standout, but not in a good way.


The case.

The K59 is aimed squarely at the enthusiast/gamer crowd, those that build high-end, power hungry systems that require as much airflow as possible. It has a lot of cooling options with 14 cm fan placements at the front, top and side. User-friendliness is also a theme as it boasts tool-less assembly for most of the components and measuring about 21″ tall and 21″ deep, there should be plenty of room inside with which to work.


Accessories.

The case ships with screws, rubber grommets for the hard drives and two extra fans, a few zip-ties, a PC speaker, a 3-pin to 4-pin molex adapter for one additional case fan, and a tool-less locking mechanism for the power supply.

Specifications: LanCool PC-K59
(from the
product web page
)
Model PC-K59
Case Type Mid tower chassis
Dimensions (W) 215mm x (H) 530mm x (D) 530mm
Front bezel Material Plastic
Color Black
Side Panel SECC Steel
Body Material SECC Steel
Net Weight 10.16KG
5.25″ drive bay (External) 3
3.5″ drive bay (External) None
HDD bay 3.5” HDD x 6 / 2.5” HDD x 4
Expansion Slot 8
Motherboard ATX / Micro-ATX / Mini-ITX
System Fan (Front) 140mm Fan x 2
System Fan (Top) None
System Fan (Rear) 120mm Fan x 1
I/O Ports USB 3.0 x 1 / USB 2.0 x 1 / e-SATA x 1 / HD Audio
Maximum Video Card Size 285mm
Package Dimensions (W) 215mm x (H) 530mm x (D) 530mm

 

EXTERIOR

The PC-K59 weighs 10.2 kg or 22.4 lb and measures 21.5 x 53.0 x 53.0 cm or 8.5 x 20.9 x 20.9″ (W x H x D) making the total case volume approximately 60.4 L. The side panels are made of steel and are fairly sturdy, measuring approximately 0.9 mm thick at the thinnest point.


Recessed reset and power buttons are located at the top of the case, next to audio USB 2.0/3.0 and eSATA connectors making the case better suited to reside on the floor than a desk. A large angled exhaust for optional top-mounted 14 cm fans is located at the center stretching all the way to the rear.

 


There are three 5.25″ bays at the top covered with a set of metallic place holders. Underneath is a large vent in front of a pair of 14 cm intake fans.

 


Slits have been cut into the expansion slot covers to provide extra ventilation. There are eight of them to facilitate extreme video card configurations.

 


The case floor is solid except for a restrictive power supply vent at the back covered by a removable dust filter.

 


There are two 14 cm fan placements on the left side panel but they are covered up with metal plate placeholders by default.

 


The front panel pulls away quite easily, allowing access to the front fans. They’re secured in the same way as many other Lian Li cases, mounted using rubber grommets that slide sideways through a set of large and small mounting holes. To avoid blinding users, the power LED at the top is diffused by a square of translucent plastic.

 


Removing the front bezel allows the top cover to pulled off as well. There are a pair of fan positions here, both using the same mounting system as the front. The mounting holes are for 14 cm models only which is unfortunate as there some quality aftermarket 14 cm fans only have 12 cm holes, ironically for better compatibility.

INTERIOR

The layout inside is more or less standard with the power supply at the bottom, 12 cm fan at the rear, two 14 cm fans in front with the option for four more, two on the side and two on the top. It supports three 5.25″ drives, six internal 3.5″ and four internal 2.5″ drives.


The K59 features mostly tool-less assembly. There are a pair of removable hard drive cages, but you can install hard drives without taking them out. Optical drives are secured with a plastic tab that swings inward and braces the mounting holes.
The expansion slots also have a very solid locking mechanism.

 


The only 12 cm fan placement is at the rear where a black stock fan is pre-installed. A 14 cm position here would’ve been nice, for uniformity if anything else.

 


The power supply sits on a pair of padded rails above a vent that has a series of slits bent diagonally, similar to the top of the case. We would’ve preferred a more open honeycomb style grill.

 


As the hard drive cages can hold just three 3.5″ drives a piece, the two 14 cm intake fans provide more than enough airflow around them.

 


Thumbscrews secure the hard drive cages to the case and each other, but there is no other form of support. One cage simply sits atop the other in a pretty loose configuration.

 


There is 16 mm of space behind the motherboard tray and 24 mm behind the hard drive cage and power supply, but clearance for cables isn’t much of an issue thanks to a plastic channel running top to bottom.

 


This plastic spine has a series of flexible locks creating multiple entry/exit points making it easy to keep cables tidy.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the PC-K59 is a straight forward affair. Much of the process is tool-less except for the mounting the motherboard, and getting the screws into hard drives prior to installation. Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar Black 1TB hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply.


To install a hard drive, screws are first threaded through rubber grommets and secured to the drive.

 


The drive is slid into the rails and a metal bar is utilized to block the channels to keep drives from falling out accidentally. The bar slides up and down on the interior of the cage and uses a single thumbscrew to keep it in place.

 


A metal locking system is also employed to keep expansion cards secure. Some rubber padding is included to ensure sufficient tension.


Power supply installation can also be tool-less by using the included metal belt, however the manual states screws should be used if the case is to be transported.

 


Our HD 4870 test system, fully installed. The second intake fan was moved to the top as it was unnecessary to cool a single hard drive. There was 5.4 cm of space to the right of the graphics card, making the total clearance about 29.5 cm, but of course the hard drive cage can be removed for extra 10+ cm. There was a 1.7 cm gap above our FZ120 CPU cooler, making heatsink clearance an ample 17.3 cm.

 


The plastic spine takes care of the thinner cables and there are just enough hooks on the back of the motherboard tray to fasten the thicker power cords with twist-ties.

 


A single demure blue LED indicates that the system is operational. Nothing flashy — just the way we like it.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise


Front fan model: LI121425QE-4-A, 0.14A, 1000 RPM.


Rear fan model: LI121225SL-4, 0.27A, 1500 RPM. Note how they messed up the second set of holes preventing the fan from being uninstalled without using a screwdriver. They should be pointing in the same direction.

The LanCool PC-K59 ships with one 120 mm 1500 RPM fan and two 140 mm 1000 RPM fans, all wired with long 39 cm 3-pin cables. Molex adapters are provided for all three fans (and one extra) adding an additional 7 cm to their reach. The two fan models have similar acoustics, exhibiting very little tonality at one meter’s distance. Collectively they sound quite smooth and benign, though it should be noted the rear fan is somewhat louder due to its higher speed.

Baseline Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
5V
7V
9V
12V
Top (moved from front)
12~13
15
19~20
25
Rear
13
17~18
22
27
Front
15
16~17
20
25
Combined
15~16
21~22
26~27
31
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

If you have fan control at your disposal, the stock fans are reasonably quiet up to about 7V where it measures 21~22 dBA@1m. As the PC-K59 seems to be designed as a value case for a gamer/enthusiast build, 7V is probably a good starting point unless your system has exceptional cooling.


The stock fans at 7V are fairly quiet, together measuring 21~22 dBA@1m.

Hard Drive Vibration


Steadying the hard drive cages.

As there is no frame or structure on the case to give extra support to the hard drive cages, they are loose and bend from side to side with little effort. With two fingers we were able to pull the drive cages 2~3 cm to the left from their normal position. The cages rattle, particularly with a 7200 RPM drive installed, so it would be wise to steady them if noise is a concern. We did this by placing a few pieces of styrofoam around the cages to push against them to keep everything in place.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870


HD 4870 test system.

 

System Measurements (HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
off
7V
CPU Temp
36°C
31°C
45°C
SB Temp
52°C
46°C
54°C
HD Temp
40°C
30°C
30°C
GPU Temp
78°C
74°C
84°C
GPU Fan
Speed
960 RPM
870 RPM
1780 RPM
SPL@1m
21 dBA
23~24 dBA
26~27 dBA
System Power
117W
116W
301W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Without any of the stock fans, our HD 4870 test configuration idled at a fairly quiet 21 dBA@1m with the largest noise contributor, the GPU fan, spinning at just under 1000 RPM. With the stock fans running at 7V the noise levels were bumped up to 23-24 dBA@1m, but there were of course substantial improvements in overall thermal performance, so much so that the GPU dialed its fan back by ~100 RPM. Full load brought a significant rise in all temperatures except for the hard drive and caused the GPU fan to ramp up to 1780 RPM and the overall SPL to reach 26~27 dBA@1m.



Our HD 4870 test system measured 23~24 dBA@1m when idle and 26~27 dBA@1m on load with the stock fans at 7V.

As mentioned previously, the baseline noise level of the case and stock fan was innocuous and it remained so even after being combined with slight turbulence from the GPU, PSU, and CPU fans along with the hum from the hard drive with the system at idle. The broadband acoustics of the reference HD 4870 cooler also meant that on load, the high 26~27 dBA@1m noise level didn’t sound terrible. It generated a bearable soft hissing type noise.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
Zalman Z9 Plus
Fractal Define R2
LanCool PC-K59
In Win BUC
System Fan Speeds
top, rear & front @7V
rear, front & side @12V
top, rear, front @7V
top, rear, front @7V
CPU Temp
44°C
48°C
45°C
43°C
SB Temp
50°C
45°C
54°C
49°C
HD Temp
32°C
34°C
30°C
32°C
GPU Temp
85°C
84°C
84°C
85°C
GPU Fan
Speed
1580 RPM
1710 RPM
1780 RPM
1770 RPM
SPL@1m
26~27 dBA
26~27 dBA
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

Compared to previously tested cases in the same price range, the PC-K59 doesn’t really stand out, producing results somewhere between in the Fractal Define R2/R3 and In Win BUC.

Test Results: 2 x ATI Radeon HD 4870 (CrossFireX)


2 x HD 4870 CrossFireX test system.

 

System Measurements (2 x HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
7V
9V
12V
CPU Temp
33°C
47°C
46°C
42°C
SB Temp
54°C
64°C
63°C
62°C
HD Temp
29°C
28°C
28°C
27°C
GPU #1 Temp
77°C
89°C
89°C
89°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
990 RPM
2300 RPM
2300 RPM
2300 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
64°C
84°C
83°C
83°C
GPU #2 Speed
1000 RPM
1820 RPM
1810 RPM
1800 RPM
SPL@1m
24 dBA
33 dBA
33 dBA
34~35 dBA
System Power
188W
508W
508W
507W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Despite the addition of a second HD 4870, the noise level at idle of the CrossFireX system was just half a decibel higher. There was only one significant change in temperature, the Southbridge, which warmed up by 8°C as a result of its proximity to the GPUs.

On load we found that the sweet spot for the fans was 9V with the system emitting 33 dBA@1m. At this setting, it didn’t produce any more measurable noise than 7V, but less than 12V. The thermal difference between these three speeds had almost no effect on the GPU though; the temperature and fan speed of the video card remained mostly unchanged.



Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system measured 24 dBA@1m when idle and 33 dBA@1m on load.

The acoustics of the CrossFireX system were close to that of the single HD 4870 configuration, but higher in volume obviously. The jump from 26~27 dBA@1m to 33 dBA@1m was significant, but the noise character was similar, just higher in pitch. While not entirely unpleasant, headphones would be advised.

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
In Win Maelstrom*
Zalman Z9 Plus*
In Win BUC
LanCool PC-K59
Fans Speeds
top, rear & side @9V
top & rear @9V, front @7V
top, rear, front @9V
top, rear, front @9V
SPL@1m
30 dBA
30~31 dBA
32~33 dBA
33 dBA
CPU Temp
43°C
47°C
46°C
46°C
SB Temp
51°C
61°C
63°C
63°C
HD Temp
35°C
33°C
30°C
28°C
GPU #1 Temp
85°C
86°C
89°C
89°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
1720 RPM
1780 RPM
2050 RPM
2300 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
82°C
83°C
85°C
83°C
GPU #2 Fan
Speed
1620 RPM
1590 RPM
1780 RPM
1810 RPM
SPL@1m
30 dBA
30~31 dBA
32~33 dBA
33 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

*Note: After analyzing the data we’ve collected over the last year or so, we’ve found that in the CrossFireX configuration, our HD 4870 cards have been putting out more heat and requiring higher fan speeds for the past couple of months. We speculate that this may have been caused by a driver update or the fan performance degrading over time (we push them very hard for long stretches of time in less than optimal conditions).

Whatever the reason, the HD 4870 coolers are now spinning 200~300 RPM faster at minimum to maintain the same temperature in recently reviewed cases, a much larger difference that we would expect considering the subjective level of airflow provided by said cases. As a result, older cases like the Maelstrom and Z9 Plus have lower noise measurements by 2~3 dB and thus we don’t believe they should be used for direct comparison. We’ve greyed them out in the comparison table above to make that clear.

Our CrossFireX configuration in the PC-K59 ended up being comparable to the In Win BUC in thermal performance, but at the cost of a little extra noise. In the K59, the stock cooler of the HD 4870 in the upper PCI-E 16x slot ended up spinning 250 RPM faster to keep the temperature the same. It is likely that the BUC’s large side panel vent gave it a cooling advantage, enough that it outweighed the level of extra noise escaping. This is interesting as the opposite was true of the same test system with just a single HD 4870.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The LanCool PC-K59 shares many features with its hoity-toity all-aluminum relatives from the Lian Li branch of the family such as the PC-B25S. Though composed of steel and plastic, it is solidly constructed and has ample clearance for both tall CPU coolers and long graphics cards. Hard drives, optical drives, expansion cards and even the power supply are installed using fairly secure tool-less methods. Cable management in the K59 might actually be superior as we were greatly impressed with the ingenious plastic spine with flexible locking vertebrae.

Like most Lian Li cases, the stock fans have sound acoustics and install using a clever sliding rubber grommet system, but it also shares the same design flaw in the PC-B25S with the rear position requiring a screwdriver to extract the fan. In addition to the one rear 12 cm and two 14 cm front fans, the K59 has four more 14 cm placements that can be populated, two on the side and two at the top. They all require fans with 14 cm holes which is unfortunate as many popular models like the Noctua NF-P14, Thermalright TY-140, and Scythe Kaze Maru series only have 12 cm holes. With the stock fans, its thermal performance was average with a single HD 4870 and struggled a bit with two HD 4870’s in CrossFireX, at least compared to the In Win BUC which has a large vent on its side panel. One or more 14 cm side fans would probably help in this regard.

Sadly the K59 also shares many of the deficiencies we’ve encountered in previous Lian Li cases. The hard drive cages are very loose and rattle against each other unless extra steps are taken to steady them. They have no additional support other than each other and four thumbscrews attaching it to the case. This is the third time we’ve had to create some extra padding for a Lian Li case to deal with this issue and this time was the probably the worst. We were amazed and unsettled to find that at the connecting point between the cages they could be pulled to the side by an inch. Additionally, though airflow isn’t an issue, both the power supply and top fan vents have washboard designs that are more restrictive than necessary.

Priced at about US$100, the PC-K59 makes a fairly good budget enthusiast/gaming case. Its build quality is above average, the tool-less assembly options are solid, cable management is a breeze, and there are plenty of cooling options. Our main beef is the hard drive vibration issue which can be dealt with in a few minutes with some foam; this isn’t the most attractive solution but as the case lacks a side window, it would be out of sight, out of mind.

LanCool PC-K59
PROS

* Solid construction
* Secure, tool-less assembly for most components
* Stock fans have good acoustics
* Four extra fan placements
* Excellent cable management
* Good clearance: 17.3 cm for CPU heatsink, 41+ cm for graphics card (without drive cage)

CONS

* Loose, vibration-prone drive cages
* Middling thermal performance on heavy load
* Restrictive power supply and top fan vents
* Fan mounts incompatible with fans with 12 cm holes

Our thanks to LanCool for the PC-K59 case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
In Win BUC ATX Tower Case
Silverstone Fortress FT03 mATX Tower: Redux
Fractal Design Define R3 ATX Tower
Silverstone Fortress FT03 microATX Tower
NZXT H2 Classic Silent Midtower Chassis
Zalman Z9 Plus ATX Tower Case

* * *

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