There's a reason some brands make their way to the top. With arguably the best understanding of understated industrial design, Lian Li has built its name on solid aluminum enclosures machined to near-perfectionno matter the cost. Sure, this puts off the bargain hunters among us, but by holding its products to the highest quality standards, Lian Li has cultivated an image that ensures it will remain among the favorites for enthusiasts' wish lists.
Recently, Lian Li hasn't had quite the coverage it did years ago with blockbuster products like the PC-1000 or even the iconic PC-60. But the company has kept busy with some more novel designs, the latest of which has spawned a new series of cases known as the TYR line. Like any good high-end exotic, these TYR-series enclosures aim to push the boundaries for what can be expected from a PC case. The roughly $350 PC-X500 we're reviewing today is the most interesting model in the TYR line, a "super mid-tower" that holds up to five hard drives and has two 5.25" bays. Lian Li also offers an even taller, more accommodating, and significantly more expensive (try nearly $800) PC-X2000 that has room for six SATA hot-swap drives, but we figured that might be a little much.
The PC-X500Tall and slender
The TYR series initially caught our attention for its side-mounted drives and monolithic front panel. I've seen a lot of cases over the years, and I don't think I've ever felt quite as strong of a 'how does that work?' moment as when I first saw the X500. Weighing in at just under 10 kilograms, or about 23 pounds, the X500 variant measures 9" wide, a shallow 14" deep, and an intimidating 23" tall.
There isn't much to explain at the front of the X500. Outside air is drawn behind the front panel from both sides, and apart from Lian Li's name at the bottom, only a single chrome strip running right up the center breaks up an expanse of anodized black aluminum.
If you were expecting anything different on the left side, you'll be sorely disappointed. Instead of putting drive bays up front, Lian Li gives you the option of mounting them facing left or right. This arrangement allows folks to run their case on either side for easy access, but if you prefer your tower tucked away in a nook where neither side is accessibleI know I did for a whilegetting at the X500's external drive bays will be problematic. We'll see in a moment whether the X500's novel approach to drive bay placement may be worth relocating your case.
Stealthy is a good way to describe the overall look of the X500, and even the port cluster follows this mantra. A small metal dust cover flap conceals the four USB, single Firewire and eSATA, and dual audio jacks when they're not in use. The power and reset buttons are finished in black, too. This arrangement creates a nice aesthetic, but I'm disappointed to see the USB ports in tightly-packed pairsplug in an average USB thumb drive, and you'll probably block the adjacent USB port.
Lian Li must intend the X500 to be placed on the ground, considering the port and button placement and height of the case, and that makes some sense given the obvious goal of a uniform front panel. The panel isn't completely absent of activity, though; power and HDD activity LEDs are tucked away in the upper-right corner. The former is of the absurdly bright blue variety while the latter is a more tolerable amber.
It goes without saying (and yet I'm going to say it anyway) that the aluminum's finish is of the highest quality. Perhaps too many people complained about abrasions from the scalloped edges Lian Li has had on a number of its recent cases, because the edges of the X500 are decidedly smooth and rolled just enough to be comfortable to hold.
Removing the front bezel is as easy as giving it a slight tug from either side. Taking it off is only necessary when securing one of the external drives or when you need to access the intake filters or fan speed switch.
This little gem is probably my favorite part of the X500, simply because it's been executed so well. Instead of having to mess with an auxiliary fan controller for the case fans, this single selection switch controls up to four fans at once, giving them enough voltage for 1,500, 1,200, or 1,020 revolutions per minute. It's a shame the switch is so well hidden, because users might want to toggle between fan speed settings when firing up a game or starting a movie. I would prefer to see the switch located at the top of the case with the rest of the controls, but since the front panel is easy to remove, the switch is still usable.
Rotating its 5.25" drive bays 90 degrees from normal necessitates a wider stance for the X500, but this layout makes it easier for Lian Li to fit a 120 mm exhaust fan by the motherboard port cluster. An additional 120 mm exhaust fan is centered near the top of the chassis, and you also get four water-cooling tube cut-outs at the rear.