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Lian Li PC-Q08 Mini-ITX Mini Tower Case

The new Lian Li PC-Q08 supports up to six hard drives, a standard ATX power supply, and even a 30cm long graphics card in a stylish, well-crafted, 21-liter mini-ITX/DTX enclosure.

September 27, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Lian Li PC-Q08
Mini-ITX/DTX Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$110

The Lian Li PC-Q08 is not your average mini-ITX/DTX case. It comes down the
same well-trodden path as the Shuttle breadbox style cases and the latest Silverstone
Sugo cases, but stands substantially taller than most of them. At almost 11″
tall, it can hold up to six hard drives, more than any other case of 21 liters
volume that we know of, enough to make a good small file server. Like Silverstone’s
Sugo SG07, it also supports
standard ATX power supplies and extra long graphics cards, making the PC-Q08
a jack-of-all trades type chassis. The case is available in three different
colors: black, silver, and red.


The box.

The PC-Q08 follows in the Lian Li tradition of quality construction. The case
is composed of 1.5 mm thick anodized brush aluminum, giving it a slight shine
that accentuates the crimson red paint job on our sample. The corners are stylishly
rounded on the outside, giving it less of a clunky, boxy appearance.


The PC-Q08R (Red).

The side panels are flat sheets held on with a series of tiny black screws
lining the edges. Cooling is provided by two fans, a 14 cm model acting as a
front intake, and a 12 cm model at the top acting as an exhaust. Both are constructed
of translucent plastic and feature red LEDs (the fans in the black and silver
versions of the PC-Q08 sport blue LEDs).


From another angle.

The layout places the power supply on its side above the motherboard, something
that used to be common in shorter ATX cases of old, perhaps around the Pentium
III and Celeron era. The power supply can be flipped so the bottom 120/140 mm
intake fan on modern units can pull air from either the inside or outside (thanks
to a well placed vent on the side panel).


Accessories.

The package accessories include an external USB to internal USB 2.0 header and
a metal spacer that is used to replace the bottom hard drive cage in case it
interferes with a long graphics card.

Specifications: Lian Li PC-Q08
(from the
product web page
)
Model PC-Q08
Case Type Mini Tower
Dimensions (W) 227 x (H) 272 x (D)
345mm
21.3 liters volume
Front bezel Material Aluminum
Color Black / Silver / Red
Side Panel Aluminum
Body Material Aluminum
Net Weight 2.73KG
5.25″ drive bay (External) 1
3.5″ drive bay (External) none
3.5″ drive bay (Internal) 6
Expansion Slot 2
Motherboard Mini-ITX / Mini-DTX
System Fan (Front) Black, Silver / 140mm Blue
LED Fan x 1
Red / 140mm Red LED Fan x 1
System Fan (Top) Black, Silver / 120mm Fan
x 1
Red / 120mm Red LED Fan x 1
System Fan (Rear) none
I/O Ports USB3.0 x 2 / HD Audio
Maximum Video Card Size 300mm
Package Dimensions (W) 279mm x (H) 333mm x
(D) 407mm

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The PC-Q08 measures 345 x 227 x 272 mm or approximately 13.6 x 8.9 x 10.7″
(D x W x H) and weighs 2.7 kg or 5.9 lb. Its footprint is similar to that of
the Silverstone Sugo SG07, but because the Lian Li features a vertically mounted
motherboard, a standard size optical drive bay, and a large hard drive cage,
it stands more than three inches taller.


The front of the case is fairly plain with a large intake vent for
a 14 cm fan and a stealthed optical drive bay.

 


The rear of the case is heavily ventilated.

 


Fresh air for the graphics card is provided by the many holes punched
into the case floor. There are four accessible screws near the front side
securing the bottom hard drive cage inside.

 


The motherboard standoffs are built directly into the right side panel.

 


The drive bays are broken into three removable sections, one for the
optical drive at the top, one for four hard drives at the center and one
for two more hard drives at the bottom.

 


The front fan pulls air in from the outside past the hard drives where
it exits either through the rear or up through the top exhaust fan.

INTERIOR & ASSEMBLY

Working inside the PC-Q08 is easy. All the edges are rolled to prevent cuts
and scratches and the front fan and drive cages can be removed without tools.
In addition, the power supply bracket is held on with thumbscrews.


A cleverly designed metal frame facilitates easy front fan installation
and removal. The frame has four screws with two washers a piece that create
a dumbbell configuration.

 


The space between the washers allows the fan assembly to simply slide
into holes located behind the front bezel. Less attention was paid to
the top fan though — it mounts using standard fan screws.

 


The case has a pair of front USB 3.0 headers but as most motherboards
do not have internal USB 3.0 headers, external cables are provided that
can be routed through the back and plugged into the back panel. An internal
header USB 2.0 adapter is included.

 


The main drive cage is mounted using a single thumbscrew. It sits
atop a smaller cage that is screwed into the case floor. The mounting
holes have stiff rubber grommets to dampen vibration.

 


Our test motherboard with a Scythe Samurai ZZ cooler installed in
the case. There was about 15 mm between the top of the fan and the power
supply that slides in above it, making total clearance approximately
110 mm.

 


Installed and ready to go. The blue power LED ruins the red color
scheme. It seems Lian Li forgot to change it from the black/silver versions.

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 Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise

Baseline Noise Level
Fan Speed
Power Supply
SPL@1m
Intake & Exhaust fans
CPU Fan
5V
off
off
13 dBA
7V
18 dBA
9V
23 dBA
12V
28~29 dBA
off
8V
off
16 dBA
off
idle
14 dBA
8V
idle
16 dBA
7V
8V
idle
19 dBA
9V
24 dBA
12V
29 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.
Idle system power consumption: 40W AC.

The baseline acoustics for our test system were fairly low thanks in part to
our choice of components. The Samurai ZZ CPU cooler was very quiet at 8V, only
16 dBA, and the Coolermaster Silent Pro M700’s fan spins very slowly when the
load is under 200W.

The included 12 cm and 14 cm LED fans spun at about 1200 and 1000 RPM respectively
at full speed. Together they are fairly loud at full speed but thankfully they
undervolt very well becoming what we consider to be quiet at between 9V and
7V. Despite their translucent plastic construction, they sounded very smooth
throughout their range, though the top fan did develop some tonality especially
at higher speeds. While its filter is raised for some breathing room, no such
consideration was given to how the fan physically attaches to the case; we wish
they had decoupled it like the front fan.


The stock fans at 7V measured ~18 dBA@1m inside the case.

Test Results: GeForce 9300 IGP


IGP test system (lower drive cage replaced with spacer).

 

IGP System Measurements (Load)
System Fan Speeds
off
7V
9V
SG07*
5V
SPL@1m
17 dBA
20 dBA
23 dBA
18~19 dBA
System Power
93W
91W
91W
93W
CPU Temp
52°C+
44°C
42°C
38°C
GPU Temp
95°C+
88°C
87°C
82°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C.
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.
CPU fan speed: 8V.
Dark gray boxes indicate testing failure.
*Equipped with SST-ST60F-SG power supply.

Like the Sugo SG07, the PC-Q08 couldn’t manage to cool the integrated GeForce
9300 graphics adequately on our test board when running Prime95 and FurMark
simultaneously without additional airflow. With the system fans off, the GPU
temperature reached 95°C at which point testing was stopped (the display
signal usually cuts out at around that temperature).

With the system fans at 7V and 9V, the system stabilized but the GPU temperature
was still quite high, 5-6°C hotter than the SG07. The PC-Q08 also could
not match the SG07’s noise level; the Silverstone’s giant 18 cm downblowing
fan provides much better board and CPU cooling.

The overall acoustics were fairly smooth at 7V/1m, though there were some slight
tonal elements noticeable at closer distances.


Our IGP test system measured ~20 dBA@1m on full load with the stock
fans at 7V.

Noise Level with Multiple Drives


IGP test system with three hard drives.

 

Test Drive Noise Summary
Drive
Vibration
1-10 (10 = no vibration)

Idle Airborne Acoustics @1m
WD Caviar Green 750GB
7
14 dBA
Seagate DB35.3 250GB
6
15~16 dBA
Samsung F3 EcoGreen 2TB
7
15~16 dBA

To test the PC-Q08’s suitability as a quiet server, we loaded it up with three
quiet hard drives to see what effect it would have on the system’s acoustics.

IGP System Measurements (Idle)
Drive Configuration
SSD only
SSD + 3 test drives
SPL@1m
16 dBA
20 dBA
System Power
40W
54W
Ambient temperature: 23°C.
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.
CPU fan speed: 8V.
System fan speeds: off.

The addition of three drives increased the noise level of the IGP test system
by an appropriate 4 dBA@1m while system power consumption increased by only
14W. The drives chosen have fairly good acoustics, so the overall sound of the
system remained smooth for the most part.


Our IGP test system measured ~20 dBA@1m with three hard drives installed
and the stock fans turned off.

We noticed the system was generating some pretty heavy resonance. Do to its
rhythmic nature, it was difficult to pick up through frequency analysis, but
the vibration effects were clearly audible in our noise recording. This recording
starts with 5 seconds of ambient noise followed by alternating 5 second segments
of the test system with the side panels compressed manually, and the test system
undisturbed:

If you listen closely you will hear the system sounding fairly smooth and innocuous
with our bare hands squeezing the case side panels, then when the side panels
are left in their natural state, the rhythmic pulsing of the hard drives interacting
with the case; the difference is actually dramatic.

Given the anatomy of the case, it is not hard to see why the HDD vibrations
have this effect. The side panels are secured at six tiny points along the edges,
and not supported at all in the corners, making it prone to shaking. The drive
bays are broken up into three removable parts so that when the hard drives vibrate,
they don’t just shake a single cage, but the other two sections that are loosely
secured to it as well. If the bottom cage is removed in favor of the spacer
to allow longer video cards, the vibration gets even worse as the spacer only
supports the main drive cage on one side. There is a lot of metal-on-metal contact
and nothing inside to help aside from the rubber grommets. Finally, even though
the outside panels have a generous 1.5mm thickness, the entire chassis is made
of aluminum, which has only about 30% of the density of steel. (For it to have
the same mass as 0.8mm thick steel, the panels would have to be 2.4mm thick.)
Higher mass and/or density in case panels does make a difference. We’ve noted
often in the past how aluminum cases tend to resonate more in response to HDD
and fan vibrations. (See section on Aluminum on p.2 of Case
Basics and Recommendations
.)

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870


HD 4870 test system (lower drive cage replaced with spacer). There
was 15 mm of clearance underneath the graphics card.

 

HD 4870 System Measurements (Load)
CPU Fan Speed
8V (idle)
8V
10V
System Fan Speeds
7V
9V
7V
9V
12V
SPL@1m
21 dBA
29 dBA
31 dBA
31~32 dBA
32~33 dBA
System Power
110W
270W
268W
268W
264W
CPU Temp
33°C
56°C
53°C
52°C
49°C
GPU Temp
77°C
86°C
86°C
86°C
85°C
GPU Fan Speed
860 RPM
1790 RPM
1800 RPM
1780 RPM
1710 RPM
Ambient temperature: 23°C.
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.
Dark gray boxes indicate testing failure.

The acoustics of the system at idle after adding a Radeon HD 4870 was very
similar to the system without it, increasing the SPL by only 1 dBA@1m; it would
be difficult for us to tell the difference in a blind test. On load we ran into
a snag as the system shut itself down once the CPU temperature exceeded about
55°C, which is unusually low. We had to increase the CPU fan speed to 10V
to get it stable with a small amount of breathing room (increasing the system
fan speeds didn’t cut it). This problem may be specific to our test processor,
which appears to run fairly hot.

On load, the noise difference was quite high, measuring 31 dBA@1m with the
stock fans at 7V. The quality of noise was fairly smooth and broadband —
it was only the volume that we had issue with. Similar hardware in a typical
ATX tower would run 3~4 dBA lower. Increasing the speed of the system fans had
almost no effect on the GPU temperature — it hovered in the mid-80’s throughout
load testing. Given the design of the case interior, the graphics card is on
its own, thermally speaking..



With the exception of some low frequency tonality at about 300 KHz,
the addition of a HD 4870 did little to alter the overall broadband
acoustic profile of our test system.

 

HD 4870 System Measurements:
Lian Li PC-Q08 vs. Silverstone Sugo SG07
Case
PC-Q08
Sugo SG07*
System State
Idle
Load
Idle
Load
CPU / SYS Fan Speed
8V / 7V
10V / 7V
8V / 7V
8V / 7V
SPL@1m
21 dBA
31 dBA
21~22 dBA
35 dBA
System Power
110W
268W
115W
270W
CPU Temp
34°C
54°C
37°C
40°C
GPU Temp
78°C
87°C
77°C
87°C
GPU Fan Speed
860 RPM
1800 RPM
960 RPM
2080 RPM
Ambient temperature: 24°C.
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.
Dark gray boxes indicate testing failure.
*Equipped with SST-ST60F-SG power supply.

On load with a HD 4870 installed, the CPU fan speed had to be increased to
keep the system stable unlike in the Sugo SG07. Despite this, the overall noise
level of the PC-Q08 in this state was much lower. The Sugo’s large intake fan
keeps the CPU area very cool, but having a side mounted video card in a smaller
enclosure means poorer GPU cooling, resulting in a higher GPU fan speed and
an increased noise level. However, we don’t think the GPU fan running an higher
by 200~300 RPM is completely responsible for the 4 dBA difference; the Sugo’s
stock power supply might take some of the blame. The Cooler
Master Silent Pro M700
is a tested, proven quiet power supply while
the ST60F-SG included with the Sugo is an unknown quantity.

The 4870 is more comfortable in the Lian Li case, but the heat coming off the
back of the card rises toward the CPU. This coupled with the power supply sitting
directly over the CPU cooler makes for a more thermally challenging situation
for the processor.

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.

Comparable System sound files:

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Lian Li PC-Q08 has several qualities that make it a great mini-ITX/DTX
case. What we noticed most compared to other cases was its impressive overall
fit and finish. It has a sturdy, all-aluminum exterior construction that not
only looks great, but is noticeably less flimsy than the Silverstone
Sugo SG07
. Everything on the inside seems to be fairly well thought
out, making installation of components inside the enclosure a breeze. The capacity
to hold up to six 3.5″ HDD is very impressive; we’ve never seen a case
so small with such high storage potential — 12 TB with today’s 2 TB drives.

While support for a large hard drive cage seems to have been the main driving
force for the development of the PC-Q08, the resulting size made it big enough
to house an ATX power supply as well as a 30 cm long graphics card. CPU heatsink
clearance is better than average as well, and the included LED fans have good
acoustics and are very quiet when undervolted. The PC-Q08 is also one of the
first cases to offer front-mounted USB 3.0 ports.

As a gaming case, it is more or less a match for the Silverstone SG07, but
closer to less than more. The stock cooler on our Radeon HD 4870 test card was
not as thermally taxed in the PC-Q08, allowing it to run at lower speeds at
both idle and load. This is due partially to the Lian Li case’s larger size,
and how the VGA card is oriented, pulling cool air from the vents on the case
floor rather than from the side in the SG07. However, the heat radiating off
the card rises toward the CPU socket, resulting in higher CPU temperatures than
in the SG07. The power supply’s presence impedes airflow around the CPU as well,
and the stock fans are no match for the SG07’s 18 cm downblower, either.

With the option to install so many HDDs, the 21.3 liter Lian Li PC-Q08 could
be the ideal small, energy-efficient, file server. Half a dozen hard drives
are difficult to keep quiet, regardless of case size, but it is always more
of a challenge in a small case. Unfortunately, the loosely secured drive cages
transmit HDD vibrations easily to the side panels, which amplify them audibly.
The provided rubber grommets do little to alleviate this problem. A more securely
supported solid one-piece drive cage riveted to the top/bottom of the interior
with a well-damped tray or rails for each drive would probably be a big improvement.
Still, it may be worth exploring creative ways to improve the sturdiness and
vibration resistance of the cage, as the PC-Q08’s HDD capacity is simply unmatched
any case even close to its size. Consider the >$1000 of the typical >4
HDD NAS box (without drives), and it is easy see why we’re interested in solving
the HDD vibration issue in this innovative new case. Only the multiple HDD vibration
issue stopped us from awarding the PC-Q08 an Editor’s Choice award.

Lian Li PC-Q08
PROS

* Quality construction
* Fans have good acoustics
* Supports ATX power supply,
* Very small size to hold up to six 3.5″ HDDs
* Good
clearance: 11 cm CPU cooler, 11.8″ graphics card
* Front USB 3.0 ports

CONS

* Prone to vibration
* CPU area gets hot

Our thanks to Lian
Li
for the PC-Q08 sample.

Recommended by SPCR
Lian Li PC-Q08 is Recommended by SPCR.

* * *

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Silverstone Fortress FT02 ATX Case

* * *

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