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.
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.
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