Page 4 - Installation and Conclusion
Throughout the entire review, it has been stressed that the exterior and the interior of the case includes many convenient features and designs. The LanCool PC-K9, with the exception of installing hard drives, features excellent tool-free mechanisms around the entire chassis. As well, the case features the build quality and the design inspiration seen on their more exclusive, all aluminum offerings from Lian Li.
During the installation process, these tool-free devices have played a large role in making the installation process faster. First, I decided to install my PSU before installing the motherboard and CPU. To do this, I clamped in my OCZ ZX Series 850W using the clamp mechanism. This tool-free implementation is extremely straightforward to use, and I was able to install the power supply in a short moment. The pre-fitted standoffs made installation of the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P motherboard also very simple.
Instead of using stock cooling, I went for an aftermarket cooling option, using the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO scheduled to be reviewed in the next few weeks. I did not have the chance to test out the motherboard tray cutout directly for installing aftermarket CPU heatsinks, since I have the habit of pre-installing the CPU heatsink onto the motherboard before placing it into the chassis. There is, however, adequate space for installing the CPU backplate onto the motherboard with a quick visual check.
The case features a small array of front port connectors. Therefore, a small amount of cables was easily able to route into the motherboard area without much effort. The internal USB 3.0 connector is a nice feature to have, as it allows users to route the cord directly into their motherboard's internal USB 3.0 header, rather than through to the back of the case. If your motherboard does not have any USB 3.0 headers, a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter is included. Next up, I installed my Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB OC, which allowed me to get a feel for the tool-free expansion slot system. This system is particularly nice, and is one of the best that I have come across.
From the above photo, you can see why the cable management pillar in the LanCool PC-K9 is such a great addition. Even with the open motherboard design, I was able to create a somewhat organized system. The majority of the power and data cables were routed through this area, and it made the installation process to be much cleaner and more enjoyable. There were a few small issues with the plastic clips; being at times a little flimsy. The overall end result of the cable column, however, was nothing short of a brilliant feature, and one that other manufacturers should take notice. As I have mentioned before in this review, although having an open motherboard tray design is great for cable routing options, the end result usually means a somewhat messier-looking final product. Again, the provided cable routing options -- not just the pillar -- made this open motherboard design both convenient when routing cables, and bearable when dealing with cable tidiness. One issue I did encounter was plugging in the motherboard power cord. The top part of the motherboard tray features a small opening. However, this opening cannot fit any cables, because the top of the case covers this area. Therefore, I had to unscrew and remove the top of the PC-K9 in order to make use of this area.
As you can see above, I have removed the top HDD rack in order to create a more open interior. Not only does this make the entire system a fraction of a bit lighter, but it also gives allows a little bit more airflow between the front intake to the back exhaust. I would recommend removing the HDD rack if you only use a maximum of three 3.5" drives and two 2.5" drives. Although LanCool has implemented several tool-free mounting and installation systems around the case, the process of putting together a new system is not entirely tool-free regardless. With this in mind, one needs to make sure to have his/her screwdriver handy.
Once it was all set up and plugged in, I pushed the power button, and everything started working superbly. On a scale from 0.0 to 10.0, where 0.0 is silent and 10.0 is the loudest, the LanCool PC-K9 would come in at around 3.5. When the CPU fan increases to a full blast, however, be prepared to deal with sound at around the 4.0 scale (But that's another story). The three fans provided with the case run quite fast at stock speeds. If you were to tone down the speeds to reduce the noise, then you can plug the fans directly into your motherboard using the 3-pin header, or just use a third party fan controller. Since we here at APH Networks are fairly sensitive to sound -- where the sound level of a case is crucial to the purchasing decision -- the LanCool PC-K9 is actually quite audible. This is not much of a surprise, considering the case does not feature any sound isolation.
Cases from Lian Li have always been held in high regard. The manufacturer's all-aluminum chassis lineup has for ages been desired among most PC enthusiasts. In many ways, Lian Li is the Louis Vuitton brand when it comes to computer cases. Quality, design, material, and branding. Lian Li always had it all. However, the exclusive brand also meant an exclusive price tag. Today's review on the LanCool PC-K9 gives us a great look at the company's goal to provide Lian Li-like quality at more affordable price range. What we can see different in the PC-K9 at the get go is the material composition. First off, the frame of the chassis is made of steel rather than aluminum. The bottom feet lack the sparkling touch seen on Lian Li cases, as they are no more than regular rubber feet. The internal design features little design inspiration except the standards. The case itself, however, does have its Lian Li features that do make the average user "ooh" and "ahh". For one thing, although the frame is made entirely of steel, the exterior is constructed completely out of aluminum, giving the illusion of a full aluminum case. The tool-free mechanisms seen all around the case are extremely well designed, and will definitely save time and effort -- I mean, c'mon, when was the last time you installed a PSU into a case in less than thirty seconds without needing to take out a screwdriver? The cable management features inside are quite spectacular and noticeably stands apart from most manufacturers in this area. Lastly, there are still quite a few small but design elements worth mentioning on this case like quality air filters, lockable side panel, rubber washers used between every fan installation and thumbscrews make this case worthy of coming out of the Lian Li factory. Of course, there are small hiccups here and there, like the motherboard tray opening at the top being unable to route cables through until the top panel is removed, or the plastic clips from the wire column being somewhat flimsy. With an MSRP of no more than $120 USD at press time, the case has also been shaved off of the crazy expensive price tag that usually exceeds a minimum of $200 USD on all-aluminum Lian Li cases. Believe it or not, we have seen today that it is possible for Lian Li to produce something somewhat affordable -- of course, under an entirely different name.
LanCool provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.0/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
Take a $200+ USD mid-tower Lian Li refined case, change the expensive and exclusive core materials to something more conventional, and wha-la! You've got the LanCool PC-K9 for $120 USD.
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1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion