First impressions of a new portable case from Lian Li

Hooray, a new toy! I’ve had my eye on the Lian Li PC-TU200 for some time now, and have been waiting for it to come down in price. It finally has, at least temporarily. Newegg currently has it on sale for $136 shipped (ends 5/23/2012), see here for details. Hopefully the non-sale price of this unit drops as well.

This isn’t meant to be a complete review, just my initial impressions of the chassis. Behold, some glorious cell phone photos:

Front – the handle is folded down and not visible
Back – again the handle is folded down. The white box containing the chassis accessories is zip-tied in place for shipping.
One of the most unique side panel removal systems I’ve seen – first release a single thumbscrew (top)…
…then press the lever and the side panel pops open!
Each side panel is held in place by 8 of these small metal things (well, what would you call them?)
A glimpse of the interior
The drive cage and backplanes. Looks like there’s plenty of airflow vents.

The rear of the backplane – 4 SATA ports and 2 Molex. 120mm intake fan to the left, secured by a single thumbscrew.

Hard drives are secured with plastic rails attached with four large thumbscrews. Not trayless, but at least tool-less!
The hard drive installed in the cage. The single thumbscrew on the left secures the sliding metal rail that holds all four drives in place.
The drive cage also features two mount point for 2.5″ drives in the middle and at the bottom. I’m not sure at this point if the drive will line up with the backplane SATA and power ports, or if it prevents a 3.5″ drive from being installed immediately above it (this photo indicates both limitations are likely true).
Another view of the 120mm intake fan.
The 120mm intake fan. A 3-pin model with a 2-pin Molex adapter and removable dust filter. Fan removal is fairly easy. It is held in place primarily by friction from the rubber anti-vibration mounts, and is locked with a single thumbscrew. Depending on the noise levels, I may replace this fan with a 4-pin PWM model.
The bottom of the chassis. On the left, a second removable dust filter, this one accessible from the exterior. On the right, a third 2.5″ drive mount point. This mount point would only interfere with large or long PCIe video cards, which I won’t be using. The feet are made of metal.
The chassis ships with a handy USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 pin adapter, which I will be using since my motherboard doesn’t support USB 3.0. I’m glad those two front USB ports won’t go unused!
Finally, the chassis ships with a well-designed and easy to follow set of graphical instructions. Always a nice touch.
I was somewhat surprised to find that the exterior corner pieces and handle are made of plastic, while the majority of the rest of the construction is brushed aluminum and steel. The plastic is thick and feels durable, so I’m not worried.
My only real concern is that in unpacking the chassis I discovered two of the plastic clips that secure the side panels in place free-floating in the package, one of which was broken. Given Lian Li’s track record for customer service, I expect that a quick email and photo will be met with a replacement clip sent my way. However, I do wonder how these plastic clips will hold up over time. Since most of the construction is durable aluminum and steel, I wish these clips were made of metal as well.
I won’t have a chance to finish this build for another week or more. I’ll post more photos and comments as the build progresses.

- Stephen

JVC miniBox

If you live in the SF Bay Area and haven’t heard of Urban Ore, you need to check it out.  Something like a thrift store on steroids, the warehouse-sized bazaar vends wares ranging from cabinet doors, construction supplies and tools to early 90s electronics, retro furniture, and large-scale art from theater sets.  All for thrift store prices.  I think I’ll start sojourning there weekly, and hopefully find more gems like this:
JVC miniBox – $2.00

Inside I found a 65W PSU (4A on the +12V rail), a 1.06 GB Seagate SCSI Hard Drive (model #ST31055N), a SCSI CD-ROM drive, and about a pound of dust.


I stripped and cleaned the box with a quickness.  Happily, a miniITX motherboard fits quite nicely in the upper compartment (though there are no motherboard mounts):

Fitting a power supply in that small case will be much more of a challenge.  A PicoPSU might be the only option.  A stock CPU heatsink also probably won’t fit, so I may need to use a board with a low profile passive heatsink, such as a Supermicro Atom board.  The 80mm fan mount in the rear is likely enough to keep the whole box cool, but I may cut out more to accommodate a 120mm fan to improve cooling and reduce noise.  The dual 5.25″ bays will easily accommodate a 3-in-2 cage or two single hot swap cages (there are no tabs separating the bays).  Finally, a paint job is in order as no-one likes that ugly beige…why was that horrid color the standard for so many years?

So, what should I do with this one?  The obvious options in my mind are a 3 drive miniServer, an HTPC, or a SFF desktop computer.  What do you think?