Lian Li PC-Q10 Mini-ITX Case

The Lian Li PC-Q10 is a rare double threat mini-ITX case. Its all-aluminum construction and large side window give it elegant aesthetics while its heavily ventilated chassis allows for excellent performance.

Lian Li PC-Q10 Mini-ITX Case

December 27, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Lian Li PC-Q10
Mini-ITX Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$130

Over the years Lian Li has produced their fair share of mini-ITX cases in their well known all-aluminum style. The last three models we reviewed all offered ATX power supply support and more notably, multiple hard drive bays. The latter is great for servers but rather wasteful otherwise. For the many users who only have one or two drives, the drive slots needlessly take up a substantial amount of space inside the chassis. The extra room could have been better utilized or shed entirely to make the cases sleeker.


The Lian Li PC-Q10.

Their latest mini-ITX offering, the PC-Q10, does exactly that, keeping potential storage to a minimum. With a total volume of under 19 Liters and a gorgeous side panel window, it’s easily the slimmest and best looking Lian Li enclosure ever. While its pedigree is well documented, the optical drive slot at the top is reminiscent of the NCASE M1, the similarly elegant and compact all-aluminum case famously crowdfunded, and built on contract by Lian-Li. The PC-Q10 is not quite that small as it can fit a full-sized ATX power supply as well as a 120 mm exhaust fan. Cooling seems to be well addressed with a fully ventilated top and bottom compensating for the solid front and sides panels.


Box and case.


Accessories.

The PC-Q10 ships in a rather plain cardboard box with protective sheets covering both sides of the acrylic window to ensure it arrives scratch free. The accessories are contained in a small white box tied to the interior of the chassis. Inside are all the necessary screws, rubber grommets for mounting drives to bottom of the case, a PC speaker, three zip-ties, and a couple of cable routing hooks. A brief assembly guide and case badge are also provided.

Specifications: Lian Li PC-Q10
(from the
product web page
)
ModelPC-Q10
Case TypeMini Chassis
Dimensions(W) 207mm
(H) 277mm
(D) 335mm
ColorBlack
MaterialFront Bezel: Aluminum
Side Panel: Aluminum
Body: Aluminum
Net Weight2.3 kg
5.25" Drive Bay1 Slim ODD (Slot-In)
or 3.5" HDD x1
or 2.5" HDD x1
HDD Bay3.5" HDD x2
or 2.5" HDD x3
Expansion Slot2
MB TypeMini-ITX
System FansRear: 120 mm x1
Top: 120 mm x1 or 140 mm x1 (Optional)
Base 120 mm x2 (Optional)
I/O PortsUSB 3.0 x2
HD Audio
PSU TypeATX
Maximum CompatibilityVGA Card length: 270mm
CPU cooler height: 140mm
PSU length: 150mm

EXTERIOR

The Lian Li PC-Q10 weighs 2.3 kg or 5.1 lb and is composed of an aluminum exterior with an acrylic side window and a steel interior. It measures 20.7 x 27.7 x 33.5 cm or 8.1 x 10.9 x 13.2 inches (W x H x D) for a total volume of just 19.2 Liters.


The PC-Q10 has a striking aluminum front bezel with a smooth surface so you get the stylish look of a brush finish but not the rough feel. The control panel is located near the bottom and features USB 3.0 and audio ports. The glitzy jewel of a power button is also composed of aluminum with a tiny hole in the center for the case’s almost imperceptible blue power and red drive activity LEDs.


The front and top are actually part of a single L-shaped piece with a bevelled corner. Towards the front is the slot for an slim optical drive while the rest of the panel is covered in ventilation. Mounting holes are provided for two 120 mm fans though the one closest to the front is not usable as it would interfere with the power supply mounting frame.


A 120 mm exhaust fan is pre-installed at the back and covered with an old school wire fan grill rather than the more common honeycomb vent. The AC power cord attaches on the side next to the I/O panel.


The underside is wide open, as ventilation slits abound. Two 120 mm fans can be installed here or alternatively you can bayonet mount three/two 2.5/3.5 inch drives.


The acrylic window is a substantial 3 mm thick and attached using four thin plastic black thumbscrews. The panel is well secured and should do a decent job of keeping noise in.

INTERIOR

There is not much to say about the interior construction as it’s essentially a hollow cavity aside from the fan, motherboard tray, and drive and power supply mounts attached around the edges. The motherboard tray is thin but does stretch from top to bottom, lending the structure some stability.


The interior.


The box protecting the front port connectors is positioned such that it lines up directly with the graphics card, limiting the maximum length.


Cooling is provided by just a single 120 mm fan at the back, a seven blade 3-pin 1200 RPM model.


The power supply is mounted to a bracket with the exhaust side facing upward. Along the front is a vertical drive bracket that can accept either a slim slot loading optical drive or a 3.5 inch hard drive.


The anemic motherboard tray is more like a frame outline and there are no dedicated points for tying down cables. The AC power extension cable runs behind the motherboard.


The border frame underneath the side window and the right side panel are held on using a tool-less standoff/slot system. The top/front panel piece is secured the same way but with screws at the rear and bottom of the case providing additional support. Panel thickness is about 1.3 mm.


There seems to be several errors in Lian Li’s specifications. The max CPU cooler height is closer to 160 mm than 140 mm, a 240 mm radiator at the top would block the power supply, and the fan mounting holes at the top are for 120 mm fans, not 140 mm.

ASSEMBLY

Putting together a system inside the PC-Q10 is easier than most mini-ITX enclosures due to the removable panels. The sides, top and front all come off, so there’s plenty of room to work. Connecting cables to the motherboard may be difficult if you have a large CPU heatsink installed depending on where the connectors are located but that’s true of almost all cases. The assembly process is fairly straightforward otherwise.


Depending on your preference, the power supply can be mounted directly to the bracket from within the case or you can install the bracket outside the chassis and lower the PSU in. The orientation is such that the intake fan faces the motherboard.


3.5 inch drives can be mounted to the bottom of the case using rubber grommets but with a dual slot video card in the way, only 2.5 inch drives fit. The only space for our SSHD is the vertical position at the front of the case. The bottom of the drive is in completely contact with the bracket. With no form of damping or isolation, vibration will likely be an issue.


Our test system fully installed. Normally we would use an Asus GTX 980 Strix or Zotac GTX 970 Extreme Core for the video card but both are too long for the PC-Q10. Our third option is an Asus HD 7870 DirectCU II which measures approximately 27.3 cm across.


Lian Li lists the maximum CPU cooler height as 14.0 mm but our 16.1 cm tall Scythe Kotetsu fits almost perfectly. The heatsink presses on the side window, making it bulge outward ever so slightly.


Bending the front connector cables as much as possible leaves about 9 mm of clearance between it and the edge of the video card, making the maximum GPU length approximately 28.2 cm or just over 11 inches.


Cabling.


21~29 mm of space is provided behind the motherboard tray. It’s a little tight as cabling causes the right side panel to bulge out slightly near the center.

TESTING

System Configuration:

  • Intel Core i5-4690K processor – 3.4 GHz (3.8 GHz with Turbo
    Boost), 22nm, 84W
  • Scythe Kotetsu CPU cooler
  • ASUS Z97I-PLUS motherboard – Intel Z97 chipset, mini-ITX
  • Asus Radeon HD 7870 DirectCU II – 150W TDP
  • Kingston HyperX Genesis memory – 2x4GB, DDR3-1600, C10
  • Seagate Desktop SSHD hybrid drive – 2TB, 7200 RPM, 8GB NAND
    Flash, SATA 6 Gbps
  • Cooler Master Silent Pro M700 power supply – 700W, modular, ATX
  • Microsoft
    Windows 7 Ultimate
    operating system, 64-bit

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital

    audio interfaces.

  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed in two states: idle, and load using Prime95 (2 out of 4 possible threads, large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application or game. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 85°C (at an ambient temperature of 22°C).

Baseline Noise

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU and GPU fans are set to their minimum speeds. The system fan(s) are connected to controllable fan header(s) and are set to a variety of speeds using SpeedFan. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fan(s) sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 600 RPM,
GPU fans at 1040 RPM)
Fan Setting
Fan Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
16~17 dBA
40%
620 RPM
17 dBA
60%
880 RPM
19 dBA
80%
1030 RPM
22~23 dBA
100%
1210 RPM
26 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

When the system fan is disabled and other fans set to minimum speed, our test system measures a very quiet 16~17 dBA@1m. The case fan can bring that figure up to a moderately loud 26 dBA@1m at full speed and can hit any SPL in-between depending on the fan speed. A single moderate speed single 120 mm fan seems insufficient for a small cramped case but the healthy amount of available ventilation should help compensate.

The noise quality is poor. The stock fan is subpar, producing a prominent clicking sound at 50~100% speed that for, some reason, our mic fails to pick up. A low pitched hum starts at 50% speed as well but this dissipates as the fan ramps up. Being hard mounted to the front of the case, our 7200 RPM SSHD’s vibrations can be felt and heard easily as evidenced by the tonal peak at 120 Hz.

If mechanical storage is a must, a low vibration 5400 RPM drive should be utilized. The drive placements on the bottom of the case are better but a 3.5″ drive can’t be used in combination with a dual slot graphics card. Swapping out a fan is easy enough but there’s no simple solution to limit drive vibrations. Placing a block of stiff foam between the power supply and drive helps but not enough to change how the machine sounds.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements: Prime95x2 + FurMark
Prime95x2 + FurMark
Prime95x3 + FurMark
GPU Fan Speed*
1290 RPM (34%)
1600 RPM (40%)
1290 RPM (34%)
1600 RPM (40%)
CPU Temp
52°C
52°C
56°C
55°C
MB Temp
50°C
51°C
55°C
54°C
SSHD Temp
41°C
43°C
42°C
43°C
GPU Temp
85°C
80°C
85°C
80°C
System Power (AC)
266W
262W
282W
281W
SPL@1m
17~18 dBA
19 dBA
18 dBA
19 dBA
* set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
CPU fan at 600 RPM (minimum).
System fan at 620 RPM (40%).
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

A few minutes into stress testing, it was soon realized that the stock fan barely had to do any work to generate quiet results. Under our standard testing parameters (two threads of Prime95 combined with FurMark), the CPU fan running at minimum PWM speed was sufficient to keep the processor comfortable while the GPU fans only required a 250 RPM speed bump to maintain a 85°C GPU temperature. The resulting 17~18 dBA@1m SPL was lower than the 19 dBA@1m produced by the stock fan running at 60% speed during our baseline tests so it can’t get much quieter.

Striving for an 80°C GPU temperature only cost an extra 1~2 dB. Adding a third thread of Prime95 (four threads interferes with GPU usage) made the CPU and motherboard heat up a few degrees more but the noise level was unchanged except for a slight increase when shooting for a GPU temperature of 85°C (the power supply fan probably sped up slightly to deal due to the warmer conditions).

Compared to our baseline tests, the acoustic quality of the system actually improved under load. The SPL is only slightly higher and the GPU fans emit more high frequency noise, helping balancing out the low-pitched hum of the stock fan.

Comparison

Case Comparison: Prime95x2 + FurMark
(85°C Target GPU Temp at 22°C Ambient)
Case
Lian Li
PC-Q10
Lian Li
PC-Q10
(P95x3)
BitFenix Prodigy Black
Fractal Core 500
SilverStone FTZ01
Phanteks Evolv ITX
CPU Cooler
Kotetsu at 600 RPM
Mugen Max at 500 RPM
Kotetsu at 900 RPM
NH-L12 at 1000 RPM
Kotetsu at 900 RPM
System Fan Speed
620 RPM
(1 x 40%)
500 RPM
(2 x 60%)
620 RPM
(1 x 60%)
1040 RPM
(2 x 60%)
620 RPM
(1 x 80%)
GPU
Asus HD 7870 DirectCU II
Asus GTX 980 Strix
GPU Fan Speed
1290 RPM
880 RPM
1040 RPM
1260 RPM
1670 RPM
CPU Temp
52°C
56°C
55°C
52°C
45°C
57°C
MB Temp
50°C
55°C
50°C
52°C
44°C
58°C
SSHD Temp
41°C
42°C
N/A
44°C
42°C
34°C
GPU Temp
85°C
85°C
85°C
81°C
85°C
85°C
SPL@1m
17~18 dBA
18 dBA
20~21 dBA
24 dBA
24~25 dBA
29 dBA
System Power (AC)
266W
282W
278W
288W
279W
308W
Apx. Case Volume
19.2 L
26.4 L
18.6 L
14.1 L
34.1 L
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

A properly cooled system with our usual reference GTX 980 draws around 280~290W. Our HD 7870-equipped PC-Q10 enters this power consumption range when a third thread of Prime95 is added as a stressor, coming close to compensating for the difference in GPUs. With this equalizer in place, the noise difference between the PC-Q10 and competing mini-ITX cases we’ve recently examined is substantial. The black variant of the BitFenix Prodigy comes closest but trails by 2~3 dB. It’s an impressive feat considering the PC-Q10 is much smaller and has just the lone case fan.

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 5~10 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 PC-Q10’s heavily ventilated chassis allows air to pass through the case with ease. As a result, our test system was surprisingly easy to cool sufficiently — the single included case fan only needed to run at 40% speed and the CPU fan never had to exceed its minimum speed. Lowering our GPU temperature standard and stressing the CPU more than usual barely made a dent in the overall results. The noise level was phenomenal, staying below 20 dBA@1m throughout all our torture tests.

From a objective standpoint, the PC-Q10 is a very quiet case purely due to its impressive performance but the noise quality of its lone fan leaves a lot to be desired; it is a clicky annoyance begging to be replaced. The front drive mount needs some kind of damping as the hard mounting is unforgiving about vibration. It’s the only place to install a 3.5 inch drive unless you go forgo a dual slot graphics card.

The placement of the front control panel is unfortunate as it limits GPU length just enough to make some popular high-end cards unusable. With space inside a mini-ITX case being so limited, I wonder why a SFX power option was not offered. An ATX power supply does cover up more cables, but that really should be the motherboard tray’s job. The tray is anemic and doesn’t extend toward the front of the case so it doesn’t hide cabling very well. It should also be noted that there are some mistakes in documentation, the most notable being the maximum CPU cooler height being off by 20 mm, and the Lian Li site touts 240 mm radiator compatibility at the top as a feature despite the fact it would interfere with the power supply.

The Lian Li PC-Q10 is a compact case that perform well while looking elegant. Its striking brush aluminum finish and sizable side window makes it stand out among its shabbier-looking competitors. That being said, the PC-Q10 gives off a vibe that suggests it was designed by engineers focusing on the big picture, rather than PC hobbyists putting extra effort and consideration into the little things. If you had to choose one or the other, it’s hard to argue Lian Li didn’t make the correct decisions. The PC-Q10’s tremendous airflow and attractive aesthetics more than compensates for its deficiencies.

Our thanks to Lian Li
for the PC-Q10 case sample.


The Lian Li PC-Q10 is recommended by SPCR

* * *

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SilverStone FTZ01: Mini-ITX Fortress
Fractal Design Node 202 Compact Gaming Case
Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX Mini Tower
SilverStone RVZ01: A Mini Raven
Quiet Mini-ITX Gaming Build Guide #2: NCASE M1 Edition

* * *

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