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Build

Lone Wolf

by Jseattle

20
30 Comments

Part List View full price breakdown

Details

Date Published

Sept. 13, 2016

Date Built

Sept. 10, 2016

CPU Clock Rate

3.2GHz

CPU Temperature While Idle

30.0° C

CPU Temperature Under Load

60.0° C

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.83GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

8.01GHz

GPU Temperature While Idle

30.0° C

GPU Temperature Under Load

64.0° C

Description

This build is titled Lone Wolf because it is the only silver Lian Li PC-Q01 on this site (that I am aware of)! This is my second build (despite modifying a Dell PC I currently use) and I will try to write this log to reflect my thinking on this system.

I came across the PC-Q01 while looking into many other Mini ITX boxes. I have always been a fan of small, power packed units, but could never quite find the right box to start. I really like the Fractal Define Nano S, although it is a bit longer than I would like. Benefits sure for higher end parts, water cooling etc ... but nothing I intend to use. Some cases (Silverstone) were sleek but seem to be a cram-a-thon for wiring and typically cost above $100, too expensive there for me.

I have always liked the aluminum design of Lian Li (the first computer I built was in a Lian Li case) and the sizing of this unit seemed perfect for all I intended to ever fit into it. There are a few issues however ...

----There's Something About Airflow----

I could not find much info on this case in particular online (other than the specs on Lian li's website) and a few builds on here. Mostly I noticed people using full sized power supplies, stuffing in a graphics card and complaining about heat. And, this appears to be a give as there is no natural airflow pattern for this case. There is one (1) 120/140mm fan mount on the bottom, intended to bring some fresh air into the case through the base and numerous side vents, however the air doesn't reach but half the case with the fan set at a tolerable speed/noise ratio. It becomes apparent also that, when mounting a graphics card into the case, all of the air brought in by the bottom mount fan will be gobbled up by the GPU. Great for it, but what about for the CPU above?

The standard ATX power supply mount means a 90mm CPU cooler is the largest that can be used, and all will be blower style that spread heat around in the case. You then either have to mount a larger cooler (which sucks air in through the power supply) or turn your power supply around and leave about 5mm of space between the fan and the side panel ... not great if it starts to heat up.

So, many problems inherent in the design of the case. Many things to solve on the task list:

-Top mount fan is a must to aid the CPU in expelling hot air

-Front USB/HD Audio cables are excessively long for such a small case. Remove them entirely?

-SFX power supply (Modular) is an absolute must

----Problems ... Solved?----

The first and easiest ... SFX Modular power supply. The case is small. SFX is small. I already own a Corsair SF450 which I replaced in my Dell system, and it is absolutely amazing! 450w gold rated, no fan spin until 50% load (or unless it gets very hot), modular cables, two (2) PCI 8 pin cables. I already knew from fitting this with an adapter into a standard ATX mount that a ton of room would be spared.

Second, I wrestled with the idea of what to do to retain the front USB/HD connectors. When I received the case I initially had decided they simply could not be used. However, I was always staring at the big metal space next to the motherboard ... if there was only some way to shove all the cables up that wall. While researching ways to cable manage in cases, I found the zip tie mounts as a recommendation, and since I already needed to get some small zip ties from Home Depot, the mounts were hanging right next to them. At 1" each, two of those stuck onto the aluminum wall allowed for the cables to be run up, tied back and extend as best as possible to their mounting points! HURRAY!

Ok, so that top fan. Would it even be possible? Do they even make large, slim fans? Yes, of course! However, in very very limited supply. I wanted a 120 or 140mm fan ... would it even fit? Would the panel become to flimsy? Maybe I could just use a slim 92mm Noctua fan? No, it might run too fast, not get enough air out, make too much noise. Maybe use two of them? Nah, that wouldn't look as good. I looked at the other PC-Q01 builds on here (4 total, all black) and carefully examined via the supplied pictures how much space there is. About 1" from the motherboard/power supply to the case ceiling. There is a support rail sticking about 1" into the side/top cover panel mount.

I had already chosen the Cryorig XT140 due to the constant praise of all their cooler products. It is 140mm (uses 120mm fan holes) and just 13mm thin. WOW! I ordered the fan and the case, and once in hand, traced a stencil on the under side of the top panel. Measured it out with a 120mm fan grill. Lots of tape, clamps, 4.5" hole saw ... and you know what ... the damn thing clears the support rail on the case, sits in the middle of the top panel and just plain came out way better than I thought (considering I have never done this to a case before). I cut the hole for a 120mm fan due to hole saw costs, the Cryorig fan mount holes being built into it's frame design (therefor making them far too fragile on cut aluminum) and because I could then change out the fan with many other options.

----So, How About The Guts----

I originally was going to use an I3-6100 to make this a "low" cost project. However, a few years ago I stuck into my mind a "No more dual core" rule and this kept tugging at me. I watched sales for quite a while and when I saw the I5 6500 hit $170 ... deal! I haven't ever used a stock intel fan, and read only typically terrible things. Keeping to low costs I was planning to replace it later, but you know what ... it's actually really nice. It's plastic, so be careful, but I do not find it loud at all. It is actually very quiet. Now, the Dell computer I have has a modified heatsink. I would have though it would be stock Intel, but it is actually a similar designed heatsink (however double the height) with a standard 80mm fan mounted to it ... it is noticeably quieter, but we are now arguing over two "quiet" things to begin with.

The rest of the components were selected due to quality, size and features offered in their small packages. More can be digested through the descriptions of each, but overall this turned out really well.

Part Reviews

CPU

Great processor. Stays cool, ramps up quickly when it is asked too. The supplied fan, while being plastic, actually is not that loud and keeps the unit quite cool. If you have a decent airflow pattern in your case, you can get by with this for a while ... or forever.

Motherboard

This thing is very tiny. Has all the major connections you would need for a simple or even moderate build (6 sata connectors, M.2 sata on the back, PCI, Wifi module + Bluetooth included, USB 3, USB-C). The only thing not very pleasant is the USB-3 Front header in the middle of the board!

Setup was painless, all drivers downloaded from the Gigabyte website direct. There are lots of "extras" in terms on drivers & Gigabyte utility apps that can be added or skipped. The bios has overclocking capability for CPU and Ram, minor adjustments for fan speeds but no real mapping. I plan on running everything at stock "auto" settings, however I like that I could upgrade later to an I7, 32gb ram.

Memory

Low spec DDR4, does well. My board cannot really accept anything higher - but for very serious gamers Skylake can leverage much higher frequency ram. Installed easily, works great. It is standard "Green" ram, however it cannot really be seen in my case ... and adds a splash of color.

Storage

It is the same size as an 850 (I own a 120gb 850 series) and performance for everyday tasks is exactly the same. The chips inside are newer, the warranty is lower ... but the price is also lower as well.

It is supported by Samsung Magician Software which helps (with the push of a button) migrate all your data to swap an HDD with an SSD (if this is going to replace your current drive), it can monitor SMART performance, drive performance, performance benchmarks and create a power profile based on maximum performance, reliability etc. -

Video Card

This card is amazing at being small and powerful. The fan is hardly noticeable and if you have good airflow it will rarely need to ramp up beyond 50% spin. You can now set a 0DB "Quiet" profile, however lowering the fan to 30% is basically inaudible. Great for 1080p and 1440p with some settings adjusted in a small format build.

Case

What a great little tower. Lian Li thought of everything for a modern system .... almost! -Four (4) HDD/SSD mounting points (with anti-vibration, slide mount system) -One (1) 120mm or 140mm fan mounting point on bottom -Two (2) USB 3 front ports, along with HD audio -Dual slot graphics card support up to 200mm

However, there are two major problems with this case.

1)Standard ATX mounting, while this is great for support, a standard ATX power supply (especially non-modular) blocks almost all available airspace in this case. Also, these power supplies are made for larger cases, so in turn, the cables are much longer. This creates clutter beyond control.

2)Airflow. The only fan option (intake only) is 120/140mm on the bottom. This draws fresh air into the case/processor area (additionally drawing from the lower side panel vents) however the large ATX power supply + cables blocks almost all airflow. Even if you can get fresh air up into the case, there is no venting/fan option up top to get it out.

As you can see from this build, these problems can be solved however.

Power Supply

Super small, 450w Gold (platinum performance at some loads). The fan does not come on until a particular load point or temperature limit ... and I have never had the fan come on.

The only issue I find is that each Sata cable has wires running underneath the connector. While I can see this on the first initial 3 connectors, the final should have been flat. This creates tension when mounting a thin 7mm SSD directly to a side panel or rear panel ... but it still works.

Operating System

It's Windows. Installed easy. Seems to be a mash-up of Windows 7 and 8.1. Best of all, it installs free and besides blocking some personalization features, you can pretty much use it without registering. This is a big bonus, as you can test new hardware, switch hardware etc without buying a windows license until you are ready.

Case Fan

There are not many large "slim" fans on the market, and these do make a bit of noise and a bit more of a mechanical type noise due to the slim design. However, they can be quieted down, and provide good airflow at only 13mm thin.

The top of my case will not mount a standard 25mm fan, and placing a 25mm fan at the bottom would crowd up next to the GPU fans.

I would recommend these for slim/small builds as you can get a quieter fan from Noctua if you have the room.

Monitor

This monitor is a steal for around $99 on sale. Two of them calibrate entirely identical which is a huge time saver! The only issue is the connectivity. (1) DVI and (1) VGA ... that's it, so know what you are getting into.

Comments Sorted by:

MTHD 1 point 23 months ago

Got so excited seeing this case on here, it's been in my favorite parts list for a long time.

Its smaller than the TU100 but just wider and I'm OK with that, I agree sfx and modular is a must but I am thinking of getting modded cables so that everything is clean and fit with no unnecessary length adding to the insides of the case.

I'm not sure about CPU temps, I assume that it will be fine as long as a sufficient cooler is installed, I have the cryorig c7 just laying around, it must be used lol.

I'll install a slim noctua fan at the bottom regardless, it will work, it must...

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 2 points 23 months ago

I have not known about the case for very long, but I found it after not being 100% settled on what is available. There is that Lian Li quality look, the cost (at least now) is quite low also.

Depending on the SFX PSU you choose, you can probably get away with not doing custom cables. You may decide to add them later. Although, this will also be driven by what you want to install. If you get a motherboard with an M.2 sata on the back, you can mount an HDD in the lower slot on the front wall and the cables will have plenty of room to be covering the top front panel HDD mount. In the end, I think for the amount of cables I will need to use, there is no reason to spend the money on custom cables) other than for looks. They don't clutter like a standard ATX PSU does.

As for temps, I cannot judge 100% the final outcome as I have yet to install a graphics card. But, using a standard handbrake conversion for 30-40min gets my system up to about 60c (I have seen it around 71c with the room 'warm' but that is not typical so far). Once the GPU is in there, and you have been running both simultaneously playing games etc, you will probably start to see the cooling inefficiencies of the case.

Anyhow, stay tuned for more pics and you will get an idea of the 'clutter' you are in for.

MTHD 1 point 22 months ago

The cable managment is amazing, please forgive my silly comment on "custom cables" (lol). Case looks amazing, especially with the fan hole mod at the top but what about the bottom? will you be adding a fan there also?

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 22 months ago

Hey David,

I did order a second Cryorig XT140 fan and put it in. It doesn't do much until there is a graphics card but it was cheap-ish so I ordered it and the fan splitter.

Runs great, and will help feed the GPU with fresh air. I updated the pics to show with the fan, should be up now for you to check out.

MTHD 1 point 22 months ago

Great, I quite like that fan. I want to do exactly as you did with the fan up top but with the Lian-Li PC-Q21 case and to also add a fan at the bottom, what do you think? (fans would be really slim ofc)

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 22 months ago

I looked at the PC-Q21 (looked at all the cases Lian Li has on their website actually) and I think there would be a couple problems with that case for the same concept.

1) The bottom fan does have factory supported mounts for a 120mm fan, although the graphics card mounts so low these may touch. The thinnest 120mm I can recall is 15mm and that might not clear a graphics card depending on which one is chosen. You would need to really buy the case and measure the amount of space you would have to work with ... and it may not work.

2) The PC-Q21 case width is 149mm, once you center a 120mm fan up top, it only has about 1/2 inch of aluminum on either side left over. This may cause rattle/vibration noise, but it should work. You would maybe lose the ability to use the DVD tray (if you wanted that).

Is there a reason you chose the PC-Q21 case or want to use it?

Lif3 1 point 23 months ago

This build is awesome! +1

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 23 months ago

Thanks! Will be adding more pics soon hopefully.

Gooberdad 8 Builds 1 point 22 months ago

Very nice. Glad to see you overcome the air flow issues with a top porthole and fan.

Thumbs up.

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 22 months ago

Thanks for the thumbs up and the comment! The airflow issues as of current are non-existent due to the smaller PSU leaving a lot of space. However, once a graphics card gets in there and things are running 60-100% load I have a feeling the airflow will be more than necessary!

Gooberdad 8 Builds 1 point 22 months ago

Oh yes that up draft from your top fan should take care of business. Good job.

TwoGunMoomin 1 Build 1 point 22 months ago

Wow, I like the modifications you have made for this! Is there any possibility of using an AIO liquid cooler by mounting the radiator on top?

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 22 months ago

This would be a yes/no answer. The unit you used w/ the fan seems to be in total 37mm in depth, which is just too much to mount directly.

No, because the top fan clearance is about 24mm (standard 25mm fan just hits/rests on the top of the power supply). So you really need a slim 13 or 15mm fan up there.

Yes, if you were to modify the spacing where the power supply bracket/PSU rests. If you could shift it down a bit and get it to mount properly then you would have clearance. This would require quite a but of cutting/grinding however the small Corsair PSU weights nothing so removing the "holder" brackets would be ok.

You could also mount the radiator on top of the case, and drill holes for the tubing to go through and then mount the fan on the bottom. However, then you have a a radiator sitting on top of the case.

I also originally took the case apart (it comes entirely apart beside 2 stubborn rivets) and looked at drilling a front mount 120mm fan, however you would need to drill both the HDD front inner panel and the outer shell. While not impossible, a ton of heavy modding. If you did that, you could maybe then squeeze in the AIO liquid cooler you used. Big maybe however and then you would lose any way to mount SSD's or HDD's (assuming you use a bottom intake fan, which blocks all bottom HDD mounting spots).

TwoGunMoomin 1 Build 1 point 22 months ago

Thanks for the thorough answer! You just can't find this information from anywhere from the interwebs. I did look the pics again and would it be possible to drill a hole only to the inner front panel plate? There seems to be a small space between the plates, and maybe one could direct the airflow out from the bottom/sides using couple of i.e. 8mm holes.

I really hope that case manufacturers check the builds here and make their Mini ITX cases even better for liquid cooled systems (AIO or not).

Once again, well done with the current build. I will check your build again later to see how the 1060 fit in.

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 2 points 22 months ago

What you are describing with the inner front panel would be possible. It would require rivets and a rivet gun to re-assemble and of course any modification ruins the pre-made SSD/HDD mounts. Once the top/side panel is attached it does cover the gaping from the inner front panel and the front panel itself but does not perform structurally in any way.

You could drill out some small holes in the front structural brace and the side/top panel to move air out. You could also drill small holes in the front to let air escape (similar to how your side panel was made from the factory) but going through all that trouble would be better to let a front based fan act as an intake.

I wanted to provide some answers in my write up as this case is seldom used (on here at least), other Lian Li cases are similar and I had to sort of piece together the info myself on what would work looking at the other few builds listed on here. Back when they were made, the smaller PSU's weren't as common and that is really the key in this case to getting airflow back. Naturally for my design, venting out the top was the best solution (I think even without a fan, just a cut grill on the top would work as well).

Not sure how soon I will buy a 1060, but going for a single fan EVGA unit. Should not add much more "clutter" to the case at all.

Gooberdad 8 Builds 1 point 22 months ago

I used a similar, but slightly larger aluminum case fir my son's college pc modifying it to take an AIO 120mm radiator cooler. If you're intetested click the link.

http://pcpartpicker.com/b/gXWXsY

juushh 1 point 16 months ago

+1

MTHD 1 point 14 months ago

Hmm wonder if the 1080mini and soon 1080ti from Zotac would fit?

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 14 months ago

Well the Zotac Mini 1080 is listed at 211mm and the official GPU support length is 210mm ...

Gauging from the image on Lian Li's website showing the GPU length, it displays metal to metal (end to end) as 210mm. So, perhaps you could shave off some of the mini 1080 and make it fit ... perhaps it would fit touching/pressing up against the sides of the case?

Seems though that the most practical to fit is the Gigabyte mini 1070 for the most powerful card.

MTHD 1 point 14 months ago

I'd only suggested as there is another member on here who had managed to do it, apparently with a "shoe horn" lol.

Unhippo 1 point 14 months ago

How are the monitors mounted on that shelf.

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 13 months ago

The monitors themselves are not mounted, they are just sitting on the shelf itself. Because it is a long picture ledge, there is a notch cut into it where a photo or frame would typically rest. It just so happens to fit the monitors at a good angle and I simply drilled a hole in the middle of it to pass the cables through.

Shelf was from Ikea: Mosslanda 45 1/4" picture ledge $10

gone2bed 1 point 12 months ago

Can you tell me where you found the nice white U-channel edge molding for the 120mm fan opening on top?

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 12 months ago

I wish I could provide a link for you, but I honestly took it off an old Lian Li PC case I had from around 2008. The case inside has fairly rough edges, so Lian Li put that U-channel edge molding on all the inner metal edges. I just took it off and cut it to size.

Maybe someone else will see your question and be able to point you in the right direction!

gone2bed 1 point 12 months ago

Do you have any issues with dust entering the case? If so, how often do you need to clean?

Jseattle submitter 2 Builds 1 point 12 months ago

I have a couple PC's and don't use this one a ton (meaning it is not powered on all that much). Due to RAM prices being so high etc I am waiting for parts prices to come down a bit before I switch it to my main used machine.

That being said, dust does enter the case very easily. I put a dust filter on the fan which helps, but it is very exposed and especially exposed with the top drill out for the fan. I would say, once a month I would blow it out and vacuum the dust off the fans etc. However, enough air moves through that it wont collect big balls of dust. More like a light layer that is visible when you shine an LED flashlight on the parts etc.