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.
Lian Li’s O11 Air is one of the most awaited cases this year, first shown at CES in January. The O11 Air is advertised as an airflow-focused case, the counterpart to the O11 Dynamic (~$130). This is done by removing the tempered glass on the O11 Dynamic (reviewed here), and instead opting for two intake fans and a grill. Our performance test results for the O11 Air might surprise you, though.
The Lian Li O11 series uses the same tooling for both the O11 Dynamic and O11 Air, with some subtle changes to tooling on the O11 Air. Other primary changes include, obviously, the inclusion of fans and front/top-panel grills for airflow, contrary to the Dynamic’s glass focus.
A quick outline of the differences between the O11 Air and O11 Dynamic are below:
- Mostly the same core tooling, but there are some new screw holes in the back (to support 2x 80mm or 1x 92mm rear fans)
- 2x80 or 1x92mm rear mount (noise is an issue)
- Adds 3x120mm or 2x140mm front fan mounts
- Includes 2x 120mm fans at 1500RPM max
- O11 RGB includes 2 1500RPM 120mm fans and 3 Bora Lite fans to install wherever you want, but costs an extra $20-$30 (which isn’t bad, really).
Most of the build quality and ease-of-installation features remain the same, and our analysis and review of those features also remains the same. We’d encourage you to check our “The Build” section of our Lian Li O11 Dynamic review for more thoughts on overall quality.
Manufacturing a single case can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to design and develop, but the machinery used to make those cases costs millions of dollars. In a recent tour of Lian Li’s case manufacturing facility in Taiwan, we got to see first-hand the advanced and largely autonomous hydraulic presses, laser cutters, automatic shaping machines, and other equipment used to make a case. Some of these tools apply hundreds of thousands of pounds of force to case paneling, upwards of 1 million Newtons, and others will use high voltage to spot-weld pieces to aluminum paneling. Today, we’re walking through the start-to-finish process of how a case is made.
The first steps of case manufacturing at the Lian Li facility is to design the product. Once this process is done, CAD files go to Lian Li’s factory across the street to be turned into a case. In a simplified, canonical view of the manufacturing process, the first step is design, then raw materials and preparation of raw materials, followed by either a laser cutter for basic shapes or a press for tooled punch-outs, then washing, grinding, flattening, welding, and anodizing.
After seeing dozens of cases at Computex 2018, we’ve now rounded-up what we think are the best cases from the show, with the most interesting design elements, price points, or innovations. As always, wait until we can review these cases before getting too hyped and pre-ordering, but we wanted to at least point-out the top cases to pay attention to for the next year.
Prior to the Computex rush, we stopped by Lian Li’s case manufacturing facility in Taiwan, about 30 minutes outside of Taipei. A near-future content piece will show our tour of the case factory (and detail how cases are made), but for today, we’re talking about the products for Computex. Other than pushing RGB to the next level – namely by attaching it to cables – Lian Li also provided us an opportunity to look at an updated O11 Air and Lancool One.
We first saw the Lian Li O11 Air at CES 2018, then reviewed the O11 Dynamic after that, and we’re now approaching launch for the Air variant. The Lian Li O11 Air has gone through spec finalization, with a target of $130 for a 3-fan model, or $150 for a 6-fan model (which is highly competitive, we think). The O11 Dynamic was more focused on water cooling, but the O11 Air goes for large, plastic paneling with grills cut throughout, with otherwise identical tooling to the O11 Dynamic. We think this enclosure is one of the most interesting for the latter half of this year. It’s presently due for “before August, probably,” with a possibility of a July launch.
We covered Lian Li’s O11 Dynamic at CES earlier this year. It’s related to the older PC-O11 model, but this new version was designed in collaboration with professional overclocker Der8auer, whom we’ve interviewed several times. It’s obvious that he knows how important good cooling is, and his delidding tools make it clear that he wouldn’t carelessly put his name on a low quality product, so we were very interested in getting our hands on one of these cases for review.
Lian Li also has a reputation, and it doesn’t involve making enclosures that are normal looking or affordable by mortals. They took a step away from that reputation with the Alpha 550X and 330, cases that at least approach a competitive price. The O11 Dynamic goes a step further, with the Newegg pre-order price set at an affordable $100, or $130 by the time this is published.
Our Lian Li O11 Dynamic review precedes the inevitable O11 Air review, which is due for a release date in May or June. The O11 Dynamic will begin shipping immediately, and is targeted more for liquid cooling enthusiasts than air-cooled builds -- but you could still buy fans, obviously, and air cool the O11 Dynamic.
This year’s CES saw content expansion for us, adding a second video producer to the road crew. This allowed us to better split article/video load, and balance sleep marginally better with work – up to 5 hours average for everyone, rather than the usual sub-5.
Anyway, there were plenty of products we covered in video format that didn’t make it into articles, and that was entirely due to physical limitations of the time-space continuum. We wanted to bring reader attention to some of the must-watch videos from the show, including our coverage of the Lian Li O11 chassis (the best case we saw at the event), the SilverStone Micro-STX form factor case, and Enermax’s updated Saberay.
Here they are:
Lian Li is known more for unusual cases -- enclosures shaped like yachts, trains, or desks -- rather than more practical everyday midtowers, but the new Alpha 550 ($190-$220) and Alpha 330 ($100) cases may change that. This is our second attempt at reviewing the Alpha: the first review sample came with no side panel and a box of free diamonds, courtesy of the shipping service. We’re reviewing the second one today, a shiny new Alpha 550X, and will be looking at thermals, noise, and build quality, with comparisons to the Alpha 330.
This year’s Computex featured the usual mix of concept and prototype cases, some of which will never make it to market (or some which will be several thousand dollars, like the WinBot). We particularly liked the “Wheel of Star” mod at Cooler Master, the “Floating” from In Win, Level 20 from Thermaltake, and Concept Slate from Corsair – but none of those are really meant to be bought in large quantities. This round-up looks at the best cases of Computex that are in the category of being purchasable, keeping cost below $400. We’ll be looking primarily at ATX form factor cases, with one Micro-STX co-star, with a few “needs work” members in the mix.
This case round-up won’t include everything we saw at the show and will exclude the more exotic cases, like the Concept Slate and the In Win WinBot, but still has plenty to get through. Before getting started, here’s a list of the relevant coverage of individual products and booths that are discussed herein:
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