Lian Li PC-V650 Review: The Mini Tower That Fits a Full Tower
1/30/2013 by: Anshel Sag
When we got the Lian Li PC-V650, we wondered to ourselves what we would do with it. After all, the PC-V650 is Lian Li's case that is about the size of a MicroATX case, but fits a full-size ATX motherboard and power supply. Not only that, but it has room for seven hard drives and two graphics cards. Granted, if your graphics cards are extremely long, you're limited to three hard drives because you have to remove the 4-drive cage.
What we decided to do was to see if I could transfer my full-tower NZXT Phantom daily computer into Lian Li's PC-V650. In addition to that, it would have to compete with my NZXT which was probably the best case I had ever owned and was incredibly easy to build in. Looking at the NZXT, it looked daunting to switch from the Full-Tower to what I like to call a half-mid-tower, perhaps a quarter tower? Nevertheless, we'd be swapping a full-sized X79 motherboard, 32GB of RAM, a 240GB SSD, a 3TB HDD, a GTX 670, a 1000w PSU and an Intel stock liquid cooling system for the CPU (an i7 3820).
First, we wanted to take a look at the case overall and check out it's different features beyond it's diminutive size.
As you can see, on the front we've got a single 5.25" bay drive for a CD/DVD drive, as well as two 140mm fans for intake. We'll go over the front-panel I/O detailing exactly what Lian Li did there. Notice, there's also a 140mm top blowhole fan, to help exhaust heat out of the small case (always a good idea).
Focusing on the front panel, we can now see that it features (from the top) a power button, restart button, USB 3.0 port, memory card reader, microphone jack, headphone jack and two USB 2.0 ports. The one really interesting thing about this, is that this is the first case we've encountered that actually has a USB 3.0 powered card reader on the front of it. Most cases don't even have card readers to begin with, but the majority that do, generally have them with USB 2.0. In the past, this was okay as most SD cards did not surpass USB 2.0 speeds, however we've reviewed countless SD cards that more than fully saturate USB 2.0 and are being throttled by it. Now that we've got 100MB/s+ memory cards, USB 3.0 is a must and Lian Li going with an integrated USB 3.0 card reader not only reduces the amount of clutter on my desk, but it also makes my life a lot easier. Bravo to Lian Li for making photographers like me very happy.
Do note that this case also comes with nice little brushed aluminum feet, which add height to the case and also make it look much better.
Here is another place where Lian Li paid attention to detail and they put a 140mm fan in the top of the case, but they also recognize that some users may want to mount their water cooling in the top, or a different fan. So, they also provided for holes for a 120mm fan. This feature was unfortunately not present in our PC-TU200, so we had to throw out our water cooler for it and go get a 140mm.
Moving on to the back of the case, we once again see some interesting things. This includes a rear exhaust 120mm fan. This may seem odd for some considering that all of the other fans are 140mm, however, most current watercooling setups support 120mm fans, so Lian Li clearly did their homework and made it easy for us to mount water cooling to the rear of the case (where we prefer to mount it).
Also, note the fact that this case has 7 PCI-E slots, which means it can support three-way graphics cards or even three-way with proper cooling solutions (watercooling). Also, you can see that Lian Li did opt for a full-size ATX power supply bracket, which essentially enables the user to use any ATX standard power supply they want. Not having a power limitation in a video and photo editing machine is absolutely critical. Finally, looking at the rear 120mm, you can see that Lian Li once again put more watercooling features here with two grommets for water cooling that actually lead into the fan, allowing for easy water cooling installation and removal.
Looking inside, we can see more of the same things that we saw from the inside, with the addition of the motherboard tray. We're glad to see that Lian Li is adopting a CPU cut-out in all of their motherboards to enable for easy CPU cooler installation when a bracket is necessary. This is good for both water and air cooling solutions, and should make swapping coolers a snap.
After taking out the anti-corrosive paper, we can see that the first two bays in the hard drive cage are actually hot-swappable with a backplane. This backplane doesn't necessarily make it easier to connect hard drives, but it does reduce the amount of cables needed.
Below, we have our NZXT Phantom along side our Lian Li PC-V650B (the B indicates black).
Here are ALL of the componenets we'll be moving over. Note how neatly they all fit inside this case.
Next, we decided to stack our PC-V650B on top of our NZXT Phantom to see what the real size difference was. Do note that we rotated the PC-V650 sideways as it was almost as long as our Phantom was tall. As you can see from the picture, the PC-V650 almost fit inside of the motherboard tray area of the NZXT Phantom, which is what we were trying to accomplish. (compare against the photo above)
Let the swap begin! First, we moved the Intel DX79SI motherboard, in conjunction with the CPU cooler and fan. Do note, that installing the CPU cooler on the top would likely be more difficult, but still quite doable.
Installing the SSD.
Next, we installed the hard drive, and then the GPU, followed by the PSU. As you can see, the GTX 670 just barely fits with the hard drive cage installed and any long of a graphics card would require the cage be removed. We wanted to create a scenario where you could have your cake and eat it too.
The Lian Li PC-V650 sells for $229 on Newegg which is without a doubt a pretty steep price considering the size of the case. But in the case of the PC-V650, you're actually getting the same, if not more than you would out of a full tower case, which to us is a big deal. Not to mention that Lian Li's cases simply look cleaner than the majority of the competition and the fact that this case not only saves desk space, but it also reduces clutter outside by integrating the USB 3.0 card reader. I do believe that this case is worth $229 if you are in need of a full tower featured case, but don't want to take up the space of one. We will agree that the cable management on the PC-V650 could be better, but if you ask anyone building in very compact places, it's very hard to do.
Based on the fact that we were able to swap our entire photo and video editing computer into the Lian-Li PC-V650 from the NZXT Phantom, we wanted to award the PC-V650 with our Editor's Choice award for not only going smaller without any compromises, but actually adding features at the same time.
Lian Li, PC-V650, Review, Reviewed, ATX, Motherboard, PSU, Graphics Card, GPU, Fit, Big, Small, Mini-ITX, Case Review, Photographer, Photography
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