Lian Li PC-Q08B HTPC ITX Case

I built my first specialized home-theatre PC in early 2009. Back then, ultra-small form-factor PCs were limited, or very crippled. Mini-ITX motherboards were starting to hit the mainstream custom-build markets though, so I decided to use a J&W 780G board with an integrated Radeon 3200 HD GPU. I paired this up with a 45w dual-core AMD 5050e and stuck these together in a relatively tiny Aywun case (seen below), which allowed for a standard 3.5" HDD and a standard 5.25" optical drive. These features were necessary as at the time slim-line Bluray drives were prohibitively expensive.

I also went to a bit of trouble to keep system noise down to a minimum. The biggest culprit was the cheap fan in the cheap 150W PSU that came with this cheap case. The PSU had a very unusual form-factor and the case was so cramped for space, that it was impossible to replace with anything else. I ended up using a picoPSU with an external 110W DC power brick.

This set-up served me well for over two years, but now I wanted a bit more power for running some low-end games and other things on my HTPC. I started out by upgrading the CPU to a 65W 3.4GHz dual-core AMD 570. The case struggled to handle the extra heat generated in power-hungry applications though, and the limited space meant there was nothing I could do about it. Even with all fans at 100%, the system would sometimes overheat and reset. I also wanted to put in a dedicated PCIe GPU but the 110W power brick was insufficient to power this, and other external PSU options were limited. So to get more power and better cooling, I had to upgrade the case.

This is where the Lian Li PC-Q08B came in (pictured below). It was the only case that supported a 3.5" HDD and a 5.25" standard internal optical drive, while maintaining a somewhat small cubic form-factor.

This case was just the right size to fit into my TV table in the same slot as my old case. Any longer or wider or taller wouldn't work. So my options were pretty limited. The main advantage of this case is that it supports standard sized components, and a standard size ATX PSU, which lets you push your ITX system to the max. 

However, this is not a small case by any means. It's bigger in real life than expected. There are many standard sized ATX desktop cases that have a smaller volumetric profile than this. So if you're starting out from scratch, and considering building an ITX system and using this case - ask yourself why. You gain nothing from it. ITX motherboards usually have far less expansion capabilities (mine only has one PCIe slot, no PCI slots, and only 2 laptop-sized SODIMM slots). The case is chunky, and it's not cheap either. For those already stuck with ITX gear though, its a good option. 

The case has a nice polished aluminium look to it, and it's also lighter than expected. Installing the components is a bit of a pain though. Each side panel has 6 tiny screws that you need to remove to open. The HDD and Optical cages also have more screws that need to come out for you to put the components in. Once the motherboard is in place (mounted on the right-hand-side panel vertically), things get a little easier, until you put in the PSU that is. The size of an ATX PSU, and number of cables, really contrasts against the small ITX motherboard. Once the PSU is in place, you basically can't touch anything else. Thankfully the PSU mounts on a panel that can be independently unscrewed so you can slide the PSU backwards to get some space for your hands to go in and connect your SATA cables, fan cables and other stuff.

Took me about 2 hours in total to transplant everything from the old case to the new one. I also chucked in a HIS 6570 PCIe card, which fits in the case just fine, but presses against the front-USB cable connected to the motherboard. If the card was any fatter, it would hit the capacitors and AUX heatsink, so again, if starting from scratch and you want to create a power-HTPC, you may want to avoid ITX...

Now that everything's running smoothly though, I have no regrets. The case is stylish and does the job well to cool my gear. As a media-PC however, you may also want to consider if the blue LED fan at the front is going to be a distraction when watching your Bluray movies in a dark room. It personally doesn't bother me, but could be annoying to others.


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