It’s been busy here, but we finally have a brief window to talk about something other than GPUs. Today, we’re reviewing Lian Li’s Lancool 215, internally nicknamed the “P400A killer” despite a design that visually takes more inspiration from Cooler Master’s H500-whatever cases, as we’ve seen some other cases do recently. We’ve been very interested in this design since we first saw it during a visit to Lian Li’s headquarters back in March, when they showed us around several of the factories they work with. The design was made public back in July, but some (understandable) production delays have prevented it from hitting the market until now, with preorders currently open for an October 12th release date. The nickname comes from the 215’s airflow-focused design at a target price of $70, which directly competes with the two-fan P400A, currently $71 on Amazon and Newegg. The four-fan P400A Digital, the one which we reviewed highly last year, is currently more in the $80-$90 range in the stores where it’s actually in stock. The Lancool 215 has addressable RGB LEDs and three stock fans, two of which are 200MM intake fans that cover the entire surface of the front panel, making it potentially a very strong competitor to Phanteks’ offerings. As we’ve already reported, Lian Li has been able to keep the price low by contracting out case production rather than making the 215 in-house (as they would for their more expensive aluminum cases).
The Phanteks Enthoo Pro 2 is a case that we last saw at CES 2020, back in January. It’s a giant liquid cooling-focused enclosure built on the existing P600S chassis and, as such, it differs from our usual case reviews in much the same way that the O11 Dynamic XL review did. Incidentally, the Phanteks reviewer’s guide suggests that this case is intended to directly compete with the XL, as well as Fractal’s Define 7 XL, be quiet!’s Dark Base Pro 900, and Corsair’s Obsidian Series 1000D. Today, we’ll be discussing the airflow and some unusual features of the Enthoo Pro 2, including our first hands-on testing of Phanteks’ self-dubbed “High Performance Fabric.”
The Lian Li Lancool II Mesh is a revision of the original Lancool II, which we reviewed in December of last year. For the most part, the Mesh is a simple panel swap, so the build notes from that earlier coverage still apply. We first saw the prototype Mesh edition during our tour of Lian Li’s Taiwanese factories earlier this year, and the updates we discussed back then have made their way to the final product. We’ll mostly limit this build section to differences from the original case.
As a reminder, the Lancool II is a chassis that already exists and was already reviewed, but this mesh version makes significant changes to the exterior paneling. For these reasons, we won’t fully recap our build quality thoughts from the original review, but we will go back over what has been addressed by Lian Li. This means that, for the complete picture, you should also check our original Lancool II review.
AMD's been in the news a lot this week, but for various reasons. One of the bigger stories was that of the Threadripper 3990X and its compatibility with various Windows versions, like Windows 10 Pro versus Windows 10 Enterprise. AMD has officially responded to some of those concerns, all discussed in our news recap today. AMD was also in the news for Google's adoption of more Epyc CPUs. Accompanying AMD, Samsung makes the news for advancements in its EUV fabs for 7nm and 6nm products, and Phanteks makes the rounds for its blatant rip-off of the Lian Li O11 Dynamic.
Show notes continue after the embedded video.
The last case we reviewed from Antec was the P8, so we started out with very low expectations for the P120. The P8 performed badly, but its greatest offense was being a boring version of the same chassis everyone was selling that year. It had the feel of a cheap rebrand from an old company (by PC hardware standards) that was unwilling or unable to keep producing the weird concepts that they did in The Old Days, like the Skeleton or the Razer Cube. The P120 Crystal we’re reviewing today is a mixture of solving and doubling down on that problem, by making a relatively exotic chassis that just so happens to look the same as an existing one.
The Antec P120 Crystal takes some obvious inspiration from the Lian Li O11. That’s the first thing we noticed when we saw this case, and that’s why we bought one to review. It doesn’t use the same tooling, it doesn’t even use exactly the same layout, but one glance is all it takes to reveal the inspiration. We regard the original O11 Dynamic and the O11 Dynamic XL highly--check our reviews for more in-depth analysis--which makes it hard to accept a design that borrows so freely from them. That doesn’t make the P120 a bad case, and we’ll do our best to give it a fair shake.
The Lian Li Lancool II is another budget case effort from Lian Li--budget relative to the rest of Lian Li’s past cases, at least. It’s the successor to the identically MSRP-ed $90 Lancool One, a case that we were mildly pleased with at the time but lacked the wow factor of Lian Li’s O11 line. The white version is $5 more, but Lian Li wisely sent the black one for review. The Lancool II has already gained a few points in our book just by being a “sequel” case that doesn’t look the same or worse than the original. In 2018, the year the Lancool One launched, our award for Best-Worst Case Trend went to pointless refreshes.
There were some fit and finish issues with our review sample, but let’s cover the features of the case first to provide some context.
It’s that time of year again where we decide which case manufacturers deserve our praise and a GN Teardown Crystal, and which deserve eternal shame and have to pay $19.99 for their own Teardown Crystal from store.gamersnexus.net. Last year, the Lian Li O11 Dynamic took the prize for Best All-Around, and the Silverstone PM02 and Fractal Define S2 took home the “Best Worst” Trend award for the unforgivable sin of being pointless refreshes. Also, the PM02 is just a bad case. This year’s award nominees pick up from where we left off, starting with the lackluster Thermaltake Level 20 MT in December of 2018. Spoilers: it didn’t win anything.
With over 220 rows of case data now -- or maybe more, we haven’t really checked too recently -- there’s a lot to consider in our round-up of the best cases for 2019. Fortunately, that list instantly gets whittled-down to, well, just 2019’s data, which is still populous. With the prevalence of several bad cases this year, we can narrow the list further to focus on only the most deserving of recognition. This article will continue after the embedded video.
The O11 Dynamic was a case we liked enough to keep around for housing one of our work PCs. The layout is nonstandard, from the side intake vents to the placement of the PSU and storage, but it works. It may be the only case we’ve ever tested with a completely sealed-off glass front panel that still managed to perform actually well in testing. The O11 Air variant impressed us somewhat less, but improved substantially when the dust filtration was removed. Now, in 2019, Lian Li is introducing the O11 XL, a larger version of the original case, still bearing the Der8auer badge for his initial work on the O11 Dynamic.
Like the Dynamic, this case is meant to be used for water cooling builds, but our standardized test bench is used for air testing. This is still useful to determine the performance capabilities of the case, as it’ll all scale when comparing one case to the next, but note that water cooling can obviously brute-force its way past a lot of thermal issues. Still, the O11 Dynamic made an actually good air-cooled case thanks to the bottom intake and side intake options, so even though it looks best as an aquarium, it didn’t have to be one.
The Corsair Crystal 680X is the newer, larger sibling to the 280X, a micro-ATX case that we reviewed back in June. The similarity in appearance is obvious, but Corsair has used the past year to make many changes, and the result is something more than just a scaled-up 280X and perhaps closer to a Lian Li O11 Dynamic.
First is the door, which is a step up from the old version. Instead of four thumbscrews, the panel is set on hinges and held shut with a magnet. This is a better-looking and better-functioning option. It’d be nice to have a way to lock the door in place even more securely during transportation, but that’s a minor issue and systems of this size rarely move.
Removing the front panel is a more elaborate process than usual, but it’s also unnecessary. The filter and fans are both mounted on a removable tray, and everything else is easily accessible through the side of the case. Fan trays (or radiator brackets, or whatever you want to call them) are always an improvement. If for some reason the panel does need to be removed, it involves removing three screws from inside the case, popping the plastic section off, and removing a further four screws from outside. The plastic half is held on by metal clips that function the same way as the plastic clips in the 280X, but are easier to release. Despite appearances, the glass pane is still not intended to be slid out, although it could be freed from its frame by removing many more screws.
Lian Li’s Lancool One is a case we’ve seen multiple revisions of, first at CES (under the name Fusion Elite) and then again during our pre-Computex factory tour. “LanCool” is/was a subsidiary that was treated like a distinct brand for selling cases which were less exotic and more affordable than Lian Li’s standard fare. This is the first use of the name in several years, and it’s now more of a prefix than a separate entity. The version we were sent for review was the Lancool One Digital, which has a few minor differences from the base model as seen below.
The Lancool One ships at $90 for the non-”Digital” version, with the Lancool One Digital offering addressable RGB LEDs for an extra $10. Our Lian Li Lancool One review works with the Digital version, but the cases are the same aside from lighting changes.
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