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:
This week's news recap segment features updates from the Super Computing conference 2016, including updates to AMD's GPUOpen and Boltzmann initiatives (ROCm, HIP), an Intel Xeon refresh, and Intel's investment in self-driving cars. Outside of SC16, we also have news pertaining to Lian-Li's (finally) shipping PC-O10 case and Thermalright's AXP-100H Muscle cooler.
The only rumor in this news segment is that of AMD's Summit Ridge naming scheme, which Chip Hell suggested will be branded with numerical 3-5-7 suffixes, similar to Intel's CPU branding. Beyond an allegedly leaked slide, there's no way to validate this rumor -- so take it for what it's worth. It's likely that we'll find out more about Zen at the time of CES, or shortly thereafter. That tends to be when Intel and AMD make some CPU / architecture announcements.
The PC-O10 features a binal design composed of two chambers aimed at isolating heat generating components, comparable in form to other models like the PC-O8 and PC-O9. The PC-O10 exhibits a striking resemblance to the PC-Q37, so much so that the *-O10 appears to be a larger, more rectangular version aimed at accommodating the ATX form factor motherboard. Motherboard support is broad, with Micro-ATX, ATX, and E-ATX all being able to fit in the chassis.
We've made it a habit to cover the best gaming cases at every CES show for a few years now, but our (first ever) visit to Computex has revealed something: Computex is a huge show for PC hardware; bigger than CES, in many ways, and that includes new case unveils.
Following our coverage for Computex 2016, this gaming case round-up highlights some of the best PC towers of the year. Several of these cases aren't yet on sale – and some may never be – but the majority of manufacturers are targeting a 2H16 launch for their enclosures. For this best cases of Computex 2016 round-up, we look at SilverStone, Lian-Li, In-Win, Be Quiet!, Corsair, Thermaltake, and Rosewill. Other manufacturers were present in droves – Nanoxia, Cooler Master, Deep Cool, and others – but these were the stand-out cases of booths we visited.
No particular order to the below listing. "HM" stands for "Honorable Mention."
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