I had a chance to quickly go through the Lian Li booth today, and scope out what new products are on the horizon for the well respected computer case manufacturer.  Even at first glance, I thought the TU-200 was a good idea:

This is essentially the same inside as the PC-Q08 case we have recommended in our small form factor buyer guides, but built with a sturdier outer shell and a handle for easy movement.  The most obvious application for this product is for LAN gamers who often move their machines about.  The TU-200 is a mini-ITX with space for a full length dual slot graphics card and 4 SATA drives, like the PC-Q08, or space for 6 SATA drives if a small card is used.  Expect to see the TU-200 in markets soon, though unfortunately no word on pricing, nor how much weight the handle can take – Lian Li tell me this is still to be tested.

The other main new Lian Li case on show, this time in a large size form factor sufficient for XL-ATX size motherboards, was the PC-100: a new design concept on how a case should be built.  Lian-Li have decided to change the position of the motherboard mounting such that the IO panes are at the front of the case, thus having all the USB ports available for immediate use.

This raises a few questions, namely how the airflow is arranged in the case.  I pointed out that as the case still has an intake at the front, the warm air from the GPU would rise into the front fan and blow warm air over the CPU.   A quick chat with one of Lian Li’s engineers and I found out that this hadn’t been thought of – ultimately the PC-100 is still in the engineering phase – they’re expecting to put a door on the front of the case for easy access to the I/O panel, and as I pointed out the heat issue, they may place the board on the other side of the case so the GPU is at the top – and thus the motherboard is upside down.  However, there are still concerns with what to do with Ethernet, audio and everything else to do with the I/O panel – but it’s interesting to see a different design perspective from a case manufacturer.

One other point of note is the HDD bay design.  I’d never seen this before on a full size case before today, but on both the PC-90/100 (as well as an Enermax case at Computex) the mounting of 3.5 inch drives has been taken towards the vertical, against the case, to free up some space in terms of case length for high end graphics cards.  This could result in more case manufacturers following suit, and less cases only being as long as the high end GPUs.

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  • Aloonatic - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    Why don't more small form factor cases have slot loaded slimline 5 1/4 inch bays? Maybe it's just me, but those standard 5 1/4 inch bays always look poorly fitted, whereas a slot could be made to look so much better, and aren't looks a part the appeal of these small cases? Making them slimline only would just give you more room too.

    I understand that they are a fair bit more expensive, but if you're buying one of these cases the odds are that you are not doing it on the cheap anyway.
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    The Silverstone SUGO cases feature slimline optical drive slots. I'm awaiting more cases that get rid of the optical drive bay altogether; I can't remember the last time I used the optical drive on my system for something other than ripping a DVD. And for that I can use an external drive, which allows for more flexibility anyway, and doesn't cost any more than a slim drive.
  • tecknurd - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    The problem with slot loading optical drives is they fail a lot. Also they scratch the discs even when they are clean. Tray loading optical drives works a lot better. My tray loading drives lasts ten years and still works. I have tried slot loading drives and they fail in a few months.

    There is a functional and stupidity. Slot loading is stupid and tray loading is functional. If you want bling, go for stupid, but do not go crying to anybody when your drive fails all the time.
  • IlllI - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    hi, could you possibly get some pics of the Silverstone SG08 ?
  • Doltmoopsie - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    Turing the motherboard I/O plate toward the user is a logical idea. Having everything on the front panel is a big convenience. I hope that they solve the video cable problem; perhaps by including many short custom cables with 90 degree connectors.

    I have been using a setup like this PC-100 for years, by having an external 5.25 optical drive and turning my regular desktop case around. (The only problem is that the graphics card and power supply exhaust from the case now faces the user.)
  • nubie - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    Thank you Lian Li for building the case I have been wanting.

    Front panel Motherboard connectors.

    It is beyond stupid to have all the connectors in the back, then fill the front of the case with all kinds of extra connectors.

    I have compromised by having the Power button on the rear of the PC and using mine backwards, or as I do now, have the PC sideways to me so I can access the front or rear equally well. Which is to say, not very well at all.

    Kudos, I am always impressed by Lian Li, I don't think there is any problem with the airflow in the new case, I would have two opposing wind tunnels, the lower goes from back to front for the video card, the upper goes from front to back for the CPU, seperated by the video card and a filler panel. Would be fantastic.
  • Blaster1618 - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    Love the Io On the front, but wont most video cards be upside down? or will it not affect there axial fans performance.
  • ArtShapiro - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    That looks like a quite attractive case; it seems to have softened some of the boxiness (if that's a legitimate word) that is so typical of MITX cases; I find the Q08 to be rather ugly for that reason. Bet it would really look spiffy in Lian Li's usual optional red finish.

    I've personally been torn as to whether to build an ultra-small Sandy Bridge machine in, say, an Antec 300-150 or to go slightly larger with something like this newfangled TU-200 or an Antec 3480. My current machine (now 4 1/2 years old...time flies) is in a massive Chenboro SR105 server case, and I detest its size. If it were a car, it would need a backup camera and running lights. The really small cases and most MITX motherboards seem to need the laptop-sized drives, memory, and optical units. That's a bit of a turnoff. On the other hand, it makes things delightfully small. As I foresee no plugin cards, as the inbuilt video on the 2500K processor is fine for me, even the Lian Li is bigger than I need. Decisions, decisions.

  • dacollins - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    My current desktop/htpc uses Lian Li PC-V351A case,. which is the third Lian Li case I have purchased. They make excellent products that look great and have top notch workmanship.

    The V351A case is small enough to look great in my living room but supports a full sized GPU, even dual GPUs if you get cards with top of the line cooling. I run a GTX 460 and a first gen Core i5 with a mild overclock and have no heat issues. The case was a little cramped to build initially, but the design made excellent use of the limited space.

    I highly recommend Lian-Li cases. They are the gold standard in my opinion.
  • Zap - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    I think I like the idea/theory of the HDD mounting. This will make cases less deep. With HDDs hitting 3TB and how common 2.5" drives are (SSD), I think being able to hold a half dozen drives (like in the first picture) pretty much completely out of the way of anything else can make for a nice compact case.

    Not so sure of the backwards motherboard, however.

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