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.
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.
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.
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.
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. -
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.