LIAN LI PC-Q05 Thin Mini-ITX Chassis

Jun 04 2012

When Intel introduced the Thin Mini-ITX form factor with the DH61AG board, we were impressed with the performance and potential of the platform; however, the innovative form factor lacked any accompanying chassis to take advantage of the extra thin profile. Fortunately, that situation is changing with the introduction of LIAN LI’s PC-Q05 which supports the new Thin Mini-ITX form factor.

Specifications

Material

  • Aluminum (Black or Silver)

Motherboard

  • Thin Mini-ITX

Drive Bays

  • Internal: 2 x 2.5”

Cooling

  • Intel HTS1155LPLP

Expansion Slots

  • None

 I/O Port

  • None

Power Supply

  • 1 x External 19V 150W AC Adapter (for DH61AG, not included)

Weight

  • 1.76 lb (0.8 kg)

Dimension

  • 12.09" (307mm) D x 11.18" (284mm) W x 1.85" (47mm) H

 

Test System

Motherboard

Intel DH61AG

CPU

Intel Core i3-2100T

CPU Cooler

Intel HTS1155LP

Memory

8GB (2x 4GB) G.SKILL SO-DIMM DDR3 1333 F3-10666CL9S-4GBSQ

Hard Drive / Solid State Drive

60GB Mushkin Chronos MKNSSDCR60GB SSD

160GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD1600BEVT

Power Supply

Dell 150W-DLJ007 AC Adapter

Operating System

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

 

Packaging and Hardware

The LIAN LI PC-Q05 arrived on US shores from Taiwan inside a creased box, but the contents were adequately protected. The full package includes the following items:

  1. PC-Q05 enclosure
  2. Package of screws (eight drive + four motherboard), two zip ties, eight drive grommets, internal speaker
  3. Two PC-Q05 stands (required for vertical orientation)
  4. LIAN LI logo sticker

The PC-Q05 is suspended in foam inserts inside its cardboard box and easily removed from the packaging. Unveiling the chassis from its plastic wrap reveals an attractive anodized aluminum enclosure that imparts an essence of simple elegance and quality.

Two small holes in the right front of the chassis have stamped logos for the blue power and red hard disk drive activity LED indicators. The power switch is located on the right side of the chassis near the front and illuminates with a blue LED when powered. The rear of the chassis accepts the Thin Mini-ITX I/O shield insert provided by Intel in the DH61AG package. The bottom of the chassis has four machined aluminum feet. Overall, the chassis has a solid and rigid feeling when handling.

Removing the top lid of the enclosure is accomplished by unscrewing three #1 Phillips head screws. Inside, we can see the cross beam which explains the rigidity. The beam is held in by four #1 Phillips screws and must be removed when installing the motherboard or servicing anything below the beam.

Our handling of the chassis did leave behind traces of oil from our hands, which is a nuisance although the problem is easily remedied with a bit of isopropyl alcohol. This problem is in no way unexpected as anodized aluminum surfaces tend to show oil. Overall, the aesthetic qualities of the finish are well worth the tradeoff.

 

Build

Before placing the DH61AG into the LIAN LI PC-Q05, we installed the Intel HTS1155LP CPU cooler onto the board since it has a backplate that can only be accessed with the board outside of the chassis. The cooler is specifically designed for the Thin Mini-ITX profile and can accommodate up to 65W CPUs. The retail cooler package also includes the unique fan that draws air from the bottom and blows it through the cooling fins.

The I/O shield was easily placed and securely held by the chassis. When we slid the board in, there was some difficulty aligning the rear ports with the shield while simultaneously trying to slide the cooler under the square aluminum heat isolation cage. Success was achieved after several minutes of wrangling and finding the correct angle at which to slide the board and cooler. We next placed the cooler fan but found that there were no included screws to secure the fan and the screws provided by Intel in the HTS1155 package were of the incorrect size for the chassis. We found that M3 screws (typically used with optical drives) worked well.

While the Intel DH61AG offers an mSATA port that is ideal for an SSD system drive, mSATA drives tend to be higher-priced and not as ubiquitous in today’s market; thus, we chose to take full advantage of the PC-Q05’s drive mount by installing a 2.5” SSD system drive along with a 2.5” mechanical recording hard drive. LIAN LI provides grommets and screws allowing the drives to be easily slid into place. Installing SATA cables onto the bottom drive was a challenge due to the location of the cage with relation to a USB header on the DH61AG. In fact, some of the header pins ended up getting bent in the process. The drive cage does unscrew from the bottom and even though the instructions do not specify unscrewing the cage, we recommend this if the bottom drive location is to be utilized.

Unfortunately, LIAN LI completely neglected to provide a solution for an internal infrared receiver even though one of the main use cases of the DH61AG is for home theater PCs. Using a bit of trial and error along with a CIR header that we modified, we were able to cobble together a solution by using super glue to stick the CIR receiver directly behind the top hole in the lid. LIAN LI intended this location to make use of its included blue power LED, however, we found this LED to be redundant due to the blue power LED embedded into the power switch which is on the right front side. Additionally, the included power LED is of the three-pin variety which is not present on the DH61AG!

Instead of using the red HDD LED for its intended purpose, we chose to modify it for use with the DH61AG’s HTPC header recording LED in conjunction with the LCDWriter utility for controlling the LED. The proper connection simply involves placing the positive LED wire on pin 5 (+3.3V) and the negative LED wire on pin 1 (RECORDING_LED).

Utilizing a board speaker is a matter of preference. LIAN LI’s included speaker doesn’t fit the DH61AG so if you find yourself in the camp that prefers a board speaker, you’ll need to modify the included speaker with a new header and pay close attention to the DH61AG board pinout for the internal speaker!

 

Performance

For performance testing, three different scenarios were chosen in an attempt to simulate real-world HTPC applications: idle, simultaneously recording four programs while viewing a fifth at 1080p and simultaneously recording four programs while viewing a fifth at 1080p while also performing commercial skip analysis with an approximate 50% CPU load. A fourth torture test scenario was added as a worst possible case. The torture test involved using Prime95 In-Place FFT, Passmark Workstation Disk benchmark and Furmark GPU burn-in test to maximize the thermal load of the 35W i3-2100T and mechanical hard drive. Since the Intel  HTS1155LP is also rated to handle 65W CPUs, our torture test results could have been worse.

 

Idle

Record 4, Watch 1

Record 4, Watch 1, Commercial Skip Analysis

Torture

Ambient

24 C

24 C

24 C

24 C

 

 

 

 


CPU

33 C

50 C

55 C

63 C

VR

40 C

55 C

59 C

69 C

Memory

50 C

67 C

71 C

80 C

PCH

61 C

76 C

79 C

77 C

HDD

31 C

41 C

44 C

47 C

SSD

37 C

45 C

47 C

50 C

 

 

 

 

 

Fan

1171 RPM

1171 RPM

1171 RPM

1757 RPM

 

In every case, the thermal loads were kept within specifications.

The system fan that comes with the Intel HTS1155LP is so quiet in operation even when the system was performing our most demanding tasks that it is all but inaudible. The more troublesome noise comes from the mechanical hard drive’s spinning platter. Unless using the vertical chassis orientation, the LIAN LI PC-Q05’s machined aluminum feet provide a conduit for the rotational noise of the hard drive resulting in an audible hum against a wood shelf. The problem can be alleviated by simply placing something such as a felt “floor saver” to dampen the noise underneath the feet. Alternatively, the feet could fairly easily be replaced with some alternative since they are merely screwed into the chassis.

We also found that the aluminum feet were a poor choice because they allowed the chassis to easily slide around on a shelf without applying much force. Additionally, the sliding marred a white shelf by leaving behind traces of aluminum though the gray colored marks were easily cleaned up with a wet sponge.

 

Conclusion

LIAN LI has finally brought to market our first look at the exciting Thin Mini-ITX form factor in the PC-Q05. The chassis lacks any provision for an optical drive or internal expansion capability in favor of a smaller size which we are thankful for as there are use cases for each type of system in the Thin Mini-ITX arena. After building a system in the PC-Q05, it is evident that LIAN LI could have done an even better job in this regard if they had mounted the drive cage horizontally which would have both allowed the depth of the chassis to shrink and made the drives easier to install.

The lack of an internal infrared receiver provision is the most glaring issue in the PC-Q05 for HTPC applications. The poor design choice of the aluminum feet also confounds us. While we were able to overcome these issues along with the more minor flaws we encountered such as lack of proper screws for the Intel HTS1155LP fan, redundant power LEDs (one using an incorrect header), LED/switch cabling too long for chassis, the build experience poses more challenges than it should. We expected a near perfect execution from LIAN LI considering that the PC-Q05 has been designed for a single board and CPU cooler yet the chassis seems to have been rushed out the door with little testing or consideration of the build experience from start to finish.

At the end of the day, the final result is what matters most and the PC-Q05 delivers for the enthusiast willing to work around the niggles. The enclosure looks at home amongst home theater equipment without being garish or looking like a PC. It’s also a lot smaller than the typical cable or satellite provider DVR, though to be fair, an external tuner will take up some additional space somewhere, but externalizing provides its own benefits. Our system was cooled adequately and there is no worry about the fan creating too much noise.

Currently, the market price for this chassis is in the $80 range. The Intel HTS1155LP cooler is also required which can be purchased for around $25. The pricing is reasonable considering the quality of build, materials and lacking competition in the Thin Mini-ITX space.

 

Pros

  • Thin Mini-ITX form factor
  • Handsome and understated appearance
  • Accommodates two 2.5” drives
  • Quality construction and materials
  • Adequately cools typical HTPC DVR use cases
  • Available in black or silver

Cons

  • No provision for internal infrared receiver
  • Machined aluminum feet translates drive noise to surface and makes chassis easier to inadvertently slide around
  • Lacking included screws for holding Intel HTS1155LP fan
  • Included power LED has incorrect header type
  • Switch and LED wiring too long for chassis
  • Included speaker doesn’t fit DH61AG

The LIAN LI PC-Q05 can be purchased from Newegg.

Thanks to LIAN LI for providing the PC-Q05 review sample.

Comments

The Morex 887 looks like a much better HTPC case for the DH61AG. How about a review on this one?

Great suggestion. I'll reach out to Morex and see if they'd be willing to supply a review unit, thanks!

I have this case, and I really like it. I make some modifications to it to fit a internal Ceton InfiniTV 4.

Great mod!

Very nice mod.

Do you have any heat issues?  What kind of drives do you have in the case?

 

I also use HDMI-CEC, so no IR needed for me.

Thank you for the superb review.   I used the newer BOXDQ77KB instead of the BOXDH61AG and am super happy with it.  I pulled out the 2.5" drive tray and fit a 3TB Seagate. I sourced some rubber stick-on feet, replacing the metal ones to cut down on vibration.  I swapped the pins of the power button LED and front-panel LED for a more modest presentation and am using it for home theater duty.

Cheers

Thanks for this great review--I've used your build as the basis of my own.  I know I'm late to the party here, but can you tell me how you modded the CIR receiver to fit in the lid?  I assume it's an Ineset.  Thanks!

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