Review: Superb craftsmanship, no nonsense layout
Lian-Li is something of an icon when it comes to computer cases and it was one of the first, if not the first case manufacturer to make computer cases out of aluminium. Lian-Li cases have improved vastly over the years thanks to improved manufacturing processes and thanks to Lian-Li’s modular production system; the company can offer a wide range of aluminium cases at a reasonable price.
The most expensive part of making a case is the tooling and this is why many case manufacturers have very similar internal structure in their cases. Lian-Li’s manufacturing process avoids this to a degree, especially as many of the parts are used in more than one model, something that isn’t the case with say regular steel cases.
But enough of the history and technology lesson, let’s take a closer look at the PC-B25F which is the latest addition to Lian-Li’s range of cases. Starting with the packaging, the case comes in an easily recognizable box with clear model name branding and information about the various features of the case. The case is packaged with the usual Styrofoam protection and it comes with a quick setup guide that takes you through the assembly steps. As the PC-B25FB has some unusual features, it helps having a look through this before you start building your system.
Lian-Li supplies a selection of accessories with the PC-B25F that you don’t normally get and apart from a bag of mixed screws, you get a bag of small thumb screws, a bag of larger thumb screws, a bag of rubber grommets, two different size cable management clips, a power supply clamp, a speaker and an extra Molex to fan adapter. The first bag of thumb screws is used for installing the motherboard, while a second bag of thumb screws are combined with the rubber grommets and then attached to the hard drives before sliding them into place in the hard drive bays.
All the mounts for the motherboard are pre-fitted in the case, although there are spare locations for more mounts in case you have a motherboard with a different layout of the holes. Fitting the motherboard is just a matter of fitting it in the case and screwing in the thumb screws. There are three slightly longer thumb screws supplied for hard to reach places. The thumb screws can also be fitted with a Philips head screw drives if preferred.
Lian-Li has also come up with an interesting design when it comes to securing the add-in cards and this on its own is a good enough reason to consider getting the PC-B25F or any other Lian-Li case using the same system. Simply lift the leaver up, slot in the card and close the leaver and you’ve secured the card. We’ve seen similar systems in the past, but not a solution this good and robust. The PC-B25F has eight rear slots, although the eighth slot doesn’t feature the card retention system, but relies in a thumb screw instead.
Installing the hard drives is a matter of fitting the aforementioned thumb screws and robber grommets to the drives and then sliding the drives into place. Lian-Li has designed a locking mechanism for the drives which consists of unscrewing a thumb screw, sliding it alongside with the drive locking mechanism upwards and then securing the thumb screw again. This locks all six drive slots. The hard drive rack can be removed and it’s held in place by two thumb screws at the top as well as a thumb screw at the bottom and a locking latch at the rear of the case.
The two top 5.25-inch drive bays feature tool-less mounts, although they only secure the drives on one side. Screws can be fitted to the other side if the device fitted into the drive bay needs to be secured tighter. Even the drive bay covers can be removed without tools, as they simply snap in and out of the chassis. The bottom 5.25-inch drive bay relies of four thumb screws as it comes pre-fitted with a 5.25 to 3.5-inch converter.
This is something of a hassle to fit and remove, but it’s no worse than any other solution of the same kind that we’ve seen. The only noticeable thing here is that the hole seems to be a little bit small, as you can’t slide a 3.5-inch unit in from the front and anything you fit here ends up being slightly recessed into the case.
At the top of the case are two USB 2.0 ports, a pair of audio jacks as well as an eSATA connector. The location makes it very easy to use these ports if your case is on the floor next to you, but it also means that they’re prone to collecting dust. This is also where the power and reset buttons are located and we like the finish of the silver buttons. The top comes off easily and has to be removed before the front of the case can be removed. Both the top and the front of the case can be removed without having to remove the side panels first.
When it comes to cooling, then the PC-B25F has plenty to offer, as it has no less than two top mounted 140mm fans, a rear mounted 120mm fan and two front mounted 120mm fans. The fans are mounted with rubber grommets to reduce vibration. The front mounted fans are protected by two dust filters which are easy to clean and prevents at least some dust from entering your system.
The power supply is mounted in the bottom of the system and draws in cool air from the bottom and as with the front fans; Lian-Li has fitted a dust filter at the bottom of the case, although this one is a bit more awkward to get to. The power supply fits on top of two stands with rubber padding to reduce any vibrations from the PSU.
Other little touches includes two holes for water cooling pipes at the rear, some cable management holes in the motherboard tray and a hole for access to the rear of the CPU cooler, as long as the CPU socket is positioned toward the top rear of the motherboard. We’re not sold on the cable management clips, but they do at least help a little bit in keeping the wiring tidy, but we’ve seen better systems from other manufacturers.
There are very few things that we managed to find that we didn’t like with the PC-B25F, but if Lian-Li were to make some improvements, we’d like to have the option to fit the hard drives the other way around in, as this would allow for an even tidier build. A SATA backplane as an add-on upgrade option could also be a potential candidate here which would make it even easier to install the hard drives and it should reduce the cable clutter to a degree, as it would require less power connectors to be used.
There’s also no native support for 2.5-inch drives, but at least Lian-Li is offering an optional kit for 2.5-inch drives to be fitted into the 3.5-inch drive bays, although it’s limited to one drive per rack which seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity. While on the subject of optional extras, Lian-Li is also offering a noise reduction foam kit, but the noise levels from the PC-B25F are quite reasonable as it is, despite the five fans. Several side panels with windows and extra fan mounts are also available, not to forget a wide range of card readers and fan controllers. The great thing with Lian-Li and its accessories is that they all match in terms of colour and materials used, although they won’t be as cheap as other third party accessories.
Click for hi-res
The build experience was very positive with the PC-B25F and it really is a pleasure to work with a well crafted case like this. There’s no concern that you’ll cut yourself on sharp edges and everything fits together neatly. It’s the attention to the little details that will make or break a high-end case like this and Lian-Li definitely delivers where it counts. The overall design of the case is quite clean and somewhat industrial, with a backlit blue circle on the front of the chassis. It might be too plain to some, but we like the clean lines and understated design.
At €158,- this PC-B25F isn’t cheap, although it feels robust enough to last many years. Yes, you can find something similar for less money, but you won’t get the same craftsman ship nor the same amount of features thrown in as standard. Overall we’re very impressed by the PC-B25FB and we’d whole heartedly recommend it to anyone that is looking for a well built, long lasting case.