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Lian Li PC-Q33 Mini ITX Enclosure Review: A Small Aluminum Case with Hinged Construction

Manufacturer: Lian Li

Introduction and First Impressions

The Lian Li PC-Q33 is a mini-ITX enclosure with a cube-like appearance and a hinged construction that makes it easy to access the components within.

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Introduction

When a builder is contemplating a mini-ITX system the primary driver is going to be the size. It’s incredible that we've reached the point where we can have a powerful single-GPU system with minimal (if any) tradeoffs from the tiny mITX form-factor, but the components need to be housed in an appropriately small enclosure or the entire purpose is defeated. However working within small enclosures is often more difficult, unless the enclosure has been specifically designed to account for this. Certainly no slouch in the design department, Lian Li is no stranger to small, lightweight mini-ITX designs like this. The NCASE M1 (a personal favorite) was manufactured by the company after all, and in some ways the PC-Q33 is reminiscent of that design - in build quality and materials if nothing else. The Q33 features aluminum construction and is very light, and while compact the design of the enclosure allows for effortless component installation. The secret? A hinged design that allows the front of the enclosure to swing down providing full access to the interior.

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This approach to accessibility with a small enclosure is a welcome one, and especially so considering the price of the PC-Q33, which retails for $95 on Newegg and can be found for around $105 on Amazon as well. This is still a high cost for many considering a small build and enters the premium price range for an enclosure, but remember the Q33 features an aluminum construction which typically carries a considerably higher cost than steel and plastic. Of course if the case is frustrating to use or has poor thermals than the materials used are meaningless, so in this review we’ll look at the build process and thermal results with the Q33 to see if it’s a good value. My initial impression is that the price is actually low, but that’s coming from someone who looks at a lot of cases and develops a familiarity with the average retail prices in each category.

Continue reading our review of the Lian Li PC-Q33 SFF Chassis!!

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First let’s take a look at the full specs from Lian Li:


Specifications:

Front bezel Material: Aluminum
Side Panel: Aluminum (Q33W with Window)
Body Material: Aluminum

HDD bay: 2.5” HDD x3, 3.5” HDD x2
Expansion Slot: 2
Motherboard: Mini-ITX, Mini-DTX
System Fan (Rear): 120mm x1
I/O Ports: USB 3.0 x2, HD Audio

Maximum Compatibility
VGA Card length: 220mm
PSU length: 200mm
CPU cooler height: 180mm
PSU support: ATX

Dimensions (WxHxD) 229mm x 328mm x 240mm (9” x 12.9” x 9.4”)
Net Weight: 2.18 kg (4.8 lbs)


Our thanks to Lian Li for providing the PC-Q33 enclosure for this review!

First Impressions

The PC-Q33 is a fairly small enclosure and it feels very light. There is a monolithic quality to it in this black color, and a silver finish is also available (as well as a windowed version).

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Front I/O has the usual USB 3.0 and audio ports

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Around back we see the horizontal orientation of the motherboard, which will sit above the power supply. Full-size ATX PSU’s are supported in depths of up to 200mm, which would allow most people to reuse an existing PSU with the Q33.

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The case arrives with detailed build instructions and all necessary hardware.

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The sides of the case are attached with a snap closure and are easy to remove. The same system was used with the NCASE M1 and it works equally well here.

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The aluminum side panels of the PC-Q33 simply snap into place

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Once open we see a lot of vertical space which allows for some massive tower air cooling if desired.

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With both side panels removed (along with a couple of thumbscrews holding things in place) the case folds down easily and presents an ideal setup for the build with no obstructions.

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Next we’ll look at the build process and see how the enclosure performed!


March 16, 2015 | 03:34 PM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

So many great looking mITX cases, so few mATX cases that can hold a half dozen drives. :(

March 16, 2015 | 03:43 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

That's definately been the trend. Last few smaller mid-tower designs I've looked at only support 2-3 HDDs... Curious to see what's out there with that kind of storage support for mATX

March 16, 2015 | 03:48 PM - Posted by Vilties (not verified)

I just did a build in the Lian-Li PC-V359. Its a nice MATX case.

March 17, 2015 | 03:46 AM - Posted by Dood (not verified)

Try my world at the moment. I want one that can do 12 drives for a FreeNAS box upgrade. With the move to SSDs, it seems case manufacturers are seeing that the space is better suited to 240mm radiators than drive bays. The search continues.

March 17, 2015 | 05:50 PM - Posted by Squuiid (not verified)

12 drives? Then this is the case you want ;)

http://www.neowin.net/forum/topic/1245336-new-build-2x-2620v3-supermicro...

March 16, 2015 | 06:48 PM - Posted by dangerous (not verified)

The NCASE M1 is superior to this in basically every way save for maybe ease of building, long psu support, and tower fan support.

The M1 can handle more hard drives, longer graphics cards, and is way way smaller (the Q33 takes up roughly 50% more volume).

March 16, 2015 | 10:11 PM - Posted by -- (not verified)

except that you can't buy one.

March 16, 2015 | 10:12 PM - Posted by -- (not verified)

i'd really like to find a nice matx case that isn't less case for more $$$$

small mid towers are plenty cheap..so why is a smaller case more cash?

March 16, 2015 | 10:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

These smaller cases should cost less, not more than a larger case. With things like laptops and other sff systems you are paying more for low power CPUs and such, but none of this applies to just a small case. The only thing that should increase the price is that it may be a lower volume part.

Similar thing annoys me about water blocks. I would rather build a custom loop, but they want as much for a super simple, tiny water block as a large heat pipe air cooler. There isn't much to a water block. Tempting to buy a cheap air cooler and machine it into s water block myself.

March 18, 2015 | 08:07 AM - Posted by collie

With a case like this you arent paying for raw materials you are paying for innovation. Everything had to be carefully planned out, lotsa math, lotsa models, prototypes, feedback, rinse and repeat.

The we look at the actual product. This isn;t just pressed aluminum cheaply soldered together (like every case I own) this is well thought out smooth edged custom made parts with very specific screw placements very solidly assembled. That means more-expensive machinery AND labor.

And finally they are well aware of the limited demand so they need to recoup those extra costs on as few sales as possible.

Basic economics, you get what you pay for, and with this case you are getting alot of thought, innovation and convenience "We work harder so you don't have to"

March 16, 2015 | 10:12 PM - Posted by -- (not verified)

i'd really like to find a nice matx case that isn't less case for more $$$$

small mid towers are plenty cheap..so why is a smaller case more cash?

March 17, 2015 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Only video card with external exhaust should be considered for such a small box, trust me.

March 18, 2015 | 08:14 AM - Posted by collie

It looks to my eyes that The way it's setup the GPU exaust is right next to a mesh wall, should blow right out without ever affecting other parts. Actualy now that I think about that you could probably ramp up your fans and create a little air flow around your desk

March 18, 2015 | 09:27 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Totally. Vented side panels are convenient for desk cooling - sweaty hands are a thing of the past!

March 18, 2015 | 05:05 PM - Posted by collie

hahaha

March 18, 2015 | 04:49 PM - Posted by DIYEyal

Good job with the review.

I really don't see the point of having a full size ATX power supply in mITX cases. There are up to 650W SFX PSUs on the market, and I don't think you could fit hardware that would require more than that in an mITX and short GPUs.
This is why I think the NCASE M1 is such a nice case for an enthusiast who wants to put a high end gaming system in a small enclosure (you could put up to a Titan X, a 4790K with a 240mm AIO liquid cooler and 16GB of RAM, a high capacity HDD and an M.2 PCIe SSD for boot and you got a very high end system in a tiny enclosure).
The Q33 isn't trying to compete with it. It's designed for people who are looking for a good build quality case for lower end systems (although you could still fit some high end components like a mini GTX 970 and upto a 4790K with a large tower cooler (although not sure how tall). If you wanted to put a larger cooler like the noctua D15 you would have a problem with the graphics card, but if you rotate it 90 degrees it could possibly work if there's enough room on the top, Maybe it will require a slight mod).
Edit: I'm dumb, didn't realize from the photos that the fan was 120mm and there's no chance in hell the D15 would fit unless you mod it and replace the full-size ATX power supply with an SFX one.

Also, I absolutely agree about buying short cable kits for the power supply if they are available. Maybe even custom cut the cables to the right length to make it nice and tidy. Good opportunity to sleeve them if you want.

March 20, 2015 | 02:35 PM - Posted by Chaython Meredith (not verified)

There's so much wasted space in this case, I wish I could be a case designer, this case is beautiful but there's many areas I could help improve.

For example, they should've made the HDD either hot swappable or vertical so you could fit another tray.
The front panel should have had vents near the top and bottom with a bumped out hollowed face for front fans, they should have also vented the top for a top mounted fan.
Instead of just venting the sides, they should have made screw cut outs, for 2x140mm on the sides, if you removed the HDD cage you could fit a vertical h110/kraken x61 by the looks of it.

March 22, 2015 | 11:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This case IS bigger than it needs to be .. but the access and build quality is 2nd to none. I sort of agree about the PSU, but SFF PSU are quite expensiive and the ability to re-use an existing PSU is a great cost saver. I wanted this case but bought an antec isk600, cos it was 1/3 of the price. You should only really need ?room for one SSD and One HDD, everything else goes on a NAS, No? The fan in the antec is nice and quiet and intel stock cooler is fine. Will fit m-itx 960 soon. reat htpc..

May 10, 2015 | 05:56 PM - Posted by Redd (not verified)

I am considering this case for my ITX build, but I am concerned about the air flow and dust. The lack of air filters and the lack of an intake fan - are something that I consider a weakness.

July 28, 2015 | 06:48 AM - Posted by Gadgety1 (not verified)

I could imagine the AsRock X99E-ITX/ac with the AMD Fury card in a build. I'd like Lian Li to bring out a line of PC-Q33 based cases. One with a mounting for a slot in optical drive, and, possibly, water cooling. In addition, during development they got the suggestion to include dust filters, but didn't. Should at least sell as an add on.

September 6, 2015 | 10:28 AM - Posted by Stephen Huxtable (not verified)

What is the motherboard that was used I can not see it mentioned.

October 25, 2015 | 08:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have this case. It is superb. I used a full atx power supply because at the time no smaller psu met my list of psu needs. The psu I have is criticized for too much cabling (FSP 400w gold rated). The routing was very easy. Everything was easy about this build. The case can't be any smaller without compromising features. It allows for excellent air cooling for mini-itx and moderate sized graphics cards. I wouldn't go for anything greater than a GTX970 and Intel 84 watt processor because I like quiet cases. I believe it can cool 300 watts of processor and video card without blinking. I'll find out soon as I am ordering an Asus small 970 card to replace a 750ti.

May 1, 2016 | 03:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I will be purchasing this case in the next few weeks.
It was a choice between the Chiliblast Nano (Raijintek)
Or the Lian Li Q33, do not want to go down the liquid
cooling route, and want to install a Noctua air cooler.
Although I particularly like the Chiliblast set up it
Would mean setting up the air cooler so that it
directly into the PSU, which would then exit the warm
along with the warm air produced along by the operation
of the PSU.
I think I prefer going with the Q33 firing the warm
air directly into the exhaust fan.Mind you the Q33
Case will operate on purely negative air pressure
with all the problems that brings.
So I suppose it's a toss up between positive air
Pressure from the Chiliblast or Negative air pressure
from the Lian Li.
Which one would you lot choose?

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