The Lian Li PC-X2000FN is a gorgeous piece of equipment. Its curved, black aluminum body resembles a carved sculpture more than a traditional ATX full tower. From the front, the X2000FN might be a single piece of gleaming metal. It’s the kind of case that raises eyebrows, particularly those of your spouse unless they signed off a $500 price tag. Lian Li itself needs little introduction—the company has been building high-end PC cases for over a decade. The PC-X2000FN is clearly meant to hit a new high water mark in ambitious case design, but it doesn’t really hit the mark.
Lian Li clearly wanted to build something unique and the PC-X2000FN departs from the ATX tower tradition in multiple places. The case is divided into internal zones, with less opportunity for mixing than in conventional towers. This theoretically helps to ensure that hot components in one area of the case don’t adversely impact temperatures in another area, but it leads to some odd decisions in this case. 5.25-inch drives, for example, poke out of either the left or the right side (your choice) but never from the front. Internal 3.5-inch drives mount mostly at the top as well. All of the available ports are on the top of the system and consist of four USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, and a pair of audio jacks. Even these are hidden behind a small door; the goal here was clearly to minimize visible ports.
The case panels are another oddity. Different manufacturers have experimented with rails, levers, and thumbscrews for tooless entry, but Lian Li eschewed those methods for plug/clamp method that requires a fair bit of force just to pull the panel free. These kinds of designs are prone to failure or damage if pressure is improperly applied while the case is being closed. It’s a bizarre choice for a $500 case—yanking on the sides of case panels to pop them open doesn’t have the kind of elegant feel you expect from a case that costs as much as entire finished systems.
On a positive note, the PC-X2000FN has fairly high vertical clearance, which ensures the PSU fan won’t have problems pulling air into the chassis The PC-X2000FN has a set of front-mounted fans, but the actual air these fans push is drawn from a series of vents down the front left-hand side of the case. The air currents have to make a 90′ turn to flow into the case body. This was presumably an aesthetic decision, meant to keep the front smooth and featureless. There’s also no way to mount any of the popular high-end liquid coolers and no top-mounted exhaust fans. It might be possible to mount a liquid cooler with a 92mm radiator and single fan to the back of the case, but the high performance options are a no go.
One of the strengths of X2000FN, however, is the enormous motherboard tray. The chassis is designed for a motherboard with up to 10 PCI-Express slots and can handle anything up to an E-ATX motherboard. These are typically larger workstation boards, some of which have multiple CPU sockets. Dual-socket, 10-slot boards aren’t exactly common, but if you need the space, the X2000FN can provide it.
The case also offers a removable brace that runs through the main compartment and offers additional support for any extra-long expansion cards. Screws and the PCI-E slot itself only reinforce a card for part of its length; we’ve heard horror stories from OEMs about shipping damage if cards aren’t properly supported during transport. Lian Li also nails the included set of tools and screws; the PC-X2000FN contains multiple sets of thumbscrews, noise-dampening grommets, and other necessary implements. The all-aluminum construction means the case is relatively light, at 27 pounds. A conventional steel case of this size would typically be between 40 to 50 pounds.
An Inconsistent Effort
The problem with the PC-X2000FN is that for every high-end luxury it gets right, it misses the mark on another. It includes a great many components for mounting hardware internally, but the actual instruction booklet that describes the mount process in this decidedly non-standard case is a bottom-end black-and-white printout with unclear pictures, small print, and six different languages.
The front panel styling is beautiful, but it’s ruined if you have optical drives—you’ll have to position the case in a way that lets the drive open to the left or right. That’s impractical with most desks and it ruins the narrow visual styling—there’s no point to having a tall, thin chassis if you have to leave a six-inch gap on one side so you can access the DVD-ROM.
The included fan controller is a great idea, but it sits on the back of the system and can’t be moved. That’s possibly the worst possible place for a fan controller, unless you count the bottom of the chassis. The aluminum side panels are gorgeous, but you have to pull them on and off using an attach system that feels chintzy, not unique. The total lack of venting options on the top of the case may not impact the case’s thermals very much, but it ignores the surging popularity of closed-loop liquid coolers from manufacturers like Corsair and CoolerMaster.
Is the PC-X2000FN a bad case? Not in the slightest. It’ll take practically any motherboard, it’s light, packs a great deal of storage capability, is gorgeously styled, and comes from a manufacturer with over a decade of experience in the enthusiast case market. But it’s not a good value, either. Any luxury product has to offer features and capabilities that justify the luxury price or enable additional functionality that standard products don’t. This case does neither. While it’s definitely non-standard, it’s non-standard in a way that damages its own usefulness.
If you love every aspect of the styling, don’t care about the downsides, and have no plans to use a top-mounted liquid cooler, the Lian Li PC-X2000FN is a case you might consider. Everyone else is going to be better served with cheaper cases from other vendors. Lian Li has an ironclad reputation as a top-notch enthusiast designer, but this chassis doesn’t justify its premium.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc