Building The Lian Li DK-04X Gaming Desk

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Igor Wallossek

Igor Wallossek is a Senior Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware DE. He tests and reviews CPUs, GPUs, games and headsets.

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  • bambiboom
    Igor Wallossek,

    The general idea of desk that also acts as the system chassis is, on the surface, practical and presents good visual opportunities.

    However, coming from a workstation and industrial designer's perspective, I think there are some opportunities that were miscalculated:

    1. I would find a complex, fairly brightly lit volume under the keyboard extremely distracting.

    2. The noise-making components are about as close to the users' ears as possible, although the radiator fan are tucked under and are oriented away.

    3. Although the system is heavily liquid-cooler oriented, the cooling air stream has a good pattern although it appears diffused over a very large volume.

    4. It would have been interesting to see a configuration using 7.1 surround sound. The speakers in the photos are too far apart for proper stereo imaging.

    5. Aesthetically, I've long thought Lian Li strike a nearly ideal clean and neutral aesthetic- attractive and purposeful, but not distracting. However, for this use- and cost- it might have some more fizz in the appearance- it could be the computer desk in a dentists office. It should be the computer desk in Frankenstein's dentist's office, or in better- in Dr. McCoy's sick bay...

    6. Is it my imagination or is it delivered in the box with the stand / legs attached? It's the size of an apartment refrigerator. Who can move that size box in a home without two or three people? To get it up stairs, the stand would have to be removed anyway.

    Not bad at all, but some missed opportunities.

    BambiBoom
  • scannall
    I like the idea. And it is very nice looking. But the two biggest drawbacks for me are price, and I'd rather not have a glass top. I know some people have to have their computer bling, and that's fine. Just isn't for me is all.
  • cryoburner
    This case-desk does look rather cool, though I had some of the same thoughts about it potentially being a bit distracting and possibly a bit noisy.

    I suppose you could turn off the lighting to reduce distraction though, or simply build the system with less-extreme lighting. It might be a bit less distracting in a brightly lit room too.

    Noise-wise I get the impression that any vibrations could easily get passed to the desk surface, and in turn to anything on the desk. And speaking of things on the desk, if you want to get into the case for any reason, it looks like you'll need to remove everything from the desk's surface, which isn't exactly ideal.

    It also looks like you would need to clean the surface a lot, since dust and smudges would be quite noticeable on that glossy black surface.

    As for the price, if someone wanted a similar-looking desk, but didn't want to spend $1500 on it, I don't think it would be particularly hard to convert another, much cheaper desk into something like this.
  • Fulgurant
    Interesting article. Would have liked to see some air cooling numbers, but I understand it's a niche product.

    As for the table itself, it seems like it suffers from the same malady that afflicts so many other computer-enthusiast products -- over-design, gimmickry for its own sake. As if a table that doubles as a computer case wasn't enough, they have to make the height adjustment mechanism electric (and thus more easily breakable), and apparently Lian Li's quest for component bling led to their trapping the motherboard's IO ports within the table.

    This is the kind of thing I might buy if I felt it would be a practical long-term investment. Real desks aren't exactly cheap, after all. But sadly as it stands, this Lian Li desk looks like just another in a long line of luxury computer products that you're expected to discard a few years down the line, when the next version comes along.
  • Crashman
    668971 said:
    I like the idea. And it is very nice looking. But the two biggest drawbacks for me are price, and I'd rather not have a glass top. I know some people have to have their computer bling, and that's fine. Just isn't for me is all.
    Glass does a great job of reflecting noise, far better than most metal panels. Practically speaking, you'd want either a 1/4" glass or 1/2" MDF top (with Formica surface). Of course the MDF top could capture some of those noises instead of bouncing them back...
  • Graham42
    What are the ergonomics of the desk like?
    Height adjustment is good, but only means that the desk height can be changed to accommodate the correct chair height for the user.
    I have helped quite a number of people with sitting position at work computer workstations and most need to have the chair seat to desk top distance as small as possible. The relatively thick front edge of the gaming desk limits that, which could lead some users to need to raise their forearms to use the keyboard and mouse, which leads to shoulders strain especially during long gaming sessions.
  • bit_user
    If you don't place the back against a wall, the fans strike me as somewhat unsightly. This thing would look better in an executive's office if they'd placed a long vent on the back and located fans only on the bottom. Possibly quieter, as well.
  • drwho1
    Way overpriced.
    I rather spend that money on a REAL wood desk.
  • elbert
    It would have to house 2 PC's and atleast one console. Have a fully integrated KVM system and mounting for upto 5 monitors. Also is it to much to ask for a cup holder and all the heat routed to an area of the desk to heat my pizza?
  • FormatC
    At first: it is nearly unherable, it is silent! The fans are spinning not more than 800 rpm, the both pumps are running not on their max. speed, but much lower. Try this 700W rig with air coolers and you will be shocked. This heavy glass plate is a perfect noise insulation, much better than any metal. ;)

    7.1 might be good for gaming, but it is nothing for music. This speaker setup is one of the best active speaker systems that you can buy in Germany. But it makes totally sense from the acoustics side, to put the speakers not an the desk but on own stands with spikes at the bottom. I can rotate the speakers in my direktion, if I'm playing.

    The price, yeah.... It is a good point. But I can use the table for years and the craftmanship is really excellent. This makes the price more relative. People are changing VGA cards every year and nobody is discussing about it. Such a table is a longliving product, like excellent headphones or expensive speakers like mine. 10 years warranty from manufacturer. I also bought a setup with Klipsch (2.1), but these Chinese speakers are real crap in direct comparison with my Nubert.

    My office desk:
  • bit_user
    482859 said:
    This speaker setup is one of the best active speaker systems that you can buy in Germany. But it makes totally sense from the acoustics side, to put the speakers not an the desk but on own stands with spikes at the bottom. I can rotate the speakers in my direktion, if I'm playing.

    Ideally, you should have the speakers pointed at you. Near field monitors are designed with wide dispersion, but you might notice an improvement with them pointed at you. The only reason not to do this is if multiple people are frequently present (and even so, I'd still point them slightly towards the center).

    For desktop speaker setups, I'd still use stands. Try something like this:

    http://www.isoacoustics.com/products/iso-l8r-series-speaker-isolation-stands/iso-l8r130-speaker-isolation/

    They're a bit pricey, but I'm sure you could rig up something comparable, with a bit of creativity.

    482859 said:
    The price, yeah.... It is a good point. But I can use the table for years and the craftmanship is really excellent. This makes the price more relative. People are changing VGA cards every year and nobody is discussing about it. Such a table is a longliving product, like excellent headphones or expensive speakers like mine.

    Agreed. I spent a lot on ergonomic chairs for home and office. Still using them after more than 10 years.

    Same with hi fi equipment. I bought used Parasound gear from when they still had 10 year warranties that they've long outlived. My professional monitor speakers and headphones are also going strong. The only things that died on me were a belt-driven CD player and transport (whoops... didn't occur to me you had to replace the belts).

    But my home office desk is still a solid oak door on two saw horses. It's rock solid and goes nicely with my 20-year-old Steelcase keyboard arm (weighs like 30 pounds) that I bought used for less than it'd probably cost to ship today.

    BTW, I love that wall-mounted PC. It looks so classy hung like that.
  • Davil
    So, counterpoint to this, I built my own desk which is made of wood, custom sized to how I wanted it and it only cost about $250 in materials. It did take around 2 hours to build but it's pretty nice. Video below.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJRyVpVm4XI
  • GamerMan101
    Things like this... LOVE IT!
  • FormatC
    Wooden desktop... IF you like ist, it is ok. But the taste of people is very different :)
  • zthomas
    Desk combo is an odd the big lump of a thing .. wouldn't be good for me.. I had suffered just carrying the case to the shop several times of virus removal that was on going headache that went on and off for a couple of weeks. Would be difficult to carry this desk to the shop.. having nightmares at just the thought of carrying this lump of a thing..
  • iamacow
    I built my computer desk for $75 from Home Depot. PEXI top and everything else is wood. Way easier and you can control the height and size.
  • Xenophage
    723236 said:
    Igor Wallossek, 4. It would have been interesting to see a configuration using 7.1 surround sound. The speakers in the photos are too far apart for proper stereo imaging. BambiBoom


    Actually, Bambi, those are near-field monitors. They are positioned about right, except that they should also be angled towards the listener, and they are close enough to the wall that they would require some bass attenuation. Igor is obviously interested in audio production.
  • FormatC
    Normally they are angled to me. Distance is approx. 1.5 meters to my ears. To hear the bass waves right, you really need a distance to the speakers . :)

    The low cut was set to 80 Hz for the both A200 speakers, the AW350 sub is working from 70 Hz down to... haha. The gap of 10 Hz in both DSP settings was set to correct some room issues. I also corrected the phase angle after a longer measuring session, good to have a Nubert with a lot of professional options, not only 180° for sub. Both A200 ara also a bit dampered with a foam part in the bass tubes. I have the Klipsch in the same room (opposite site on my desktop) an can compare both rigs. Klipsch is totally low-end in direct comparison (not only the craftmanship) ;)
  • bit_user
    In my dreams, this is what I'd use:

    https://www.genelec.com/studio-monitors/sam-studio-monitors/8260a-sam-studio-monitor

    If I were more serious, I'd at least use some form of digital EQ with my current setup (Mackie HR624):

    https://supportloudtech.netx.net/loud-public/#asset/9054
  • FormatC
    Haha, you can burn a lot of money with audio... but to be honest: it is worth each Cent :)
    I like the old-school speakers from a few companies, combined with latest tech. Explain this my wife... :D
  • bambiboom
    Mr. C.,

    Yes, it's difficult to convince others that audio hardware has the extreme range of quality and the reason someone would pay thousands for a single silver crystal speaker cable. At a certain point sound quality- as for computer performance follows a pattern of diminishing return for the cost but careful hardware selection can make important subtle differences to timbre, pace, and imaging..

    Computer audio is an aspect that might be worth a forum at some point and the desirable traits are different from a pure music system.. For years I struggled trying to use a conventional analog sound system with the computer, but I resisted any configuration but 2.0 as imaging is a prime consideration. A subwoofer because of the phase shift relative to the other drivers dilutes the image / soundstage focus.

    In one office system the hardware was quite good: Cambridge Audio 640 CD / McIntosh MR67 tuner / Streaming > Audio Research LS3 > Audio Research D130 > Vandersteen 3A, and very good Audioquest interconnects and speaker cables, but I could never arrange anything close to a good speaker placement. The quality of the hardware couldn't overcome having the wrong relationship of the speakers to the seating position.

    Since I bought my first dedicated sound card, an Audiowerk 2 iin 1998 I think, computer sound continued to improve. I had a couple of M-Audio PCI 2496 and 192 cards- that were quite decent recording cards with MIDI and I still use those in secondary systems. Several years on, I bought a Logitech z2300 2.1 amp/speaker system , a Creative X-Fi Titanium, and best of all the current ASUS Essence STX sound card. Those pieces combined with a good speaker placement of the satellites next to the monitors and a reasonable subwoofer location create a better sound experience than all the high-end separate components. That's mostly the result of better speaker placement.

    The current home all tube / vinyl system though still wins but, I spend so much time listening while at the computer, the attention is shifted in that direction.

    BambiBoom
  • bit_user
    723236 said:
    Mr. C., Yes, it's difficult to convince others that audio hardware has the extreme range of quality and the reason someone would pay thousands for a single silver crystal speaker cable.

    Okay, you lost me on that one.

    The lack of conclusive double-blind tests supporting the claims of cable manufacturers or objective testbench measurements lead to the conclusion that buying RGB lighting products or a better looking case might be more cost-effective ways of improving your sound quality.

    Now Tubes at least do something - they add distortion. You might like the effect they have on music, but I wouldn't use them in a VR setup or home theater.
  • bambiboom
    328798 said:
    723236 said:
    Mr. C., Yes, it's difficult to convince others that audio hardware has the extreme range of quality and the reason someone would pay thousands for a single silver crystal speaker cable.
    Okay, you lost me on that one. The lack of conclusive double-blind tests supporting the claims of cable manufacturers or objective testbench measurements lead to the conclusion that buying RGB lighting products or a better looking case might be more cost-effective ways of improving your sound quality. Now Tubes at least do something - they add distortion. You might like the effect they have on music, but I wouldn't use them in a VR setup or home theater.


    bit_user,


    My audio mantra is something to the effect that all audio gear distorts and the task is to find the distortions you like better. I can definitely hear differences in cable sound and in fact, interconnects especially can change as they warm up. As you mentioned, tubes have an obvious character as does vinyl vs. digital, plus the sound also varies from tube to tube- one ECC83 sounds different from another ECC83. Some of it is connoisseur fetishism- like the world of vintage wine- that goes too far: for example, there is a Telefunken ECC803S - 12AX7 miniature 9-pin that has sold for $600 each and it just isn't that impossibly thrilling to justify the price. But, to each his own, and I like a particular Siemens E83CC that other people feel is too fast and analytical to be worth $90.

    The problem is that most people never have the exposure to really good systems. I was skeptical, thinking I could never hear the difference, but when I first heard a really solid stereo image- on a tube/vinyl system- it was magic. Each performer and instrument could be aurally located three dimensionally and the timbre was smooth and natural, I was hooked. It's due to the same reason bat can navigate by sound- phase shift. The other critical parameter are the transients which digital doesn't seem to do very well.

    You're also correct in that a high end 2-CH audio system would be completely wasted in VR and home theater as movie sound tracks are highly edited- I was told by a film director client they can have three edits per second: they're multi-channel, multi-tracked, highly textured, and multi-mixed out of digitally altered components, so there's no soundstage left. Masterful in their way, but as a component in support of visual content and not intended to stand alone in the way a record is done. Sometimes though they are in the realm of art: I have a bright red LP of the 2001- A Space Odyssey soundtrack and that is quite amazing on it's own, but that was of course an analog synthesizer and recording.

    The place where good sound is really wasted is in cars.

    BambiBoom
  • bit_user
    723236 said:
    I can definitely hear differences in cable sound and in fact, interconnects especially can change as they warm up.

    You should spend your money on what makes you feel the best, whether it's on nice furniture, a fast PC, or pretty cables. I just think the sound difference is in your head. Whether it is or not doesn't really matter to you, though. As long as you think it makes a difference, it's basically equivalent to it really making a difference.

    What makes me feel the best is finding a good solution for a decent price. I don't need the 99.999% solution. I can't build or even customize a room just for stereo listening. Whether it's computing, audio, video, cars, etc. I want the 90% or 95% solution that's a decent value and also not too much hassle to be impractical.

    Here's where I get most of my cables:

    http://www.bluejeanscable.com

    You get real quality without outrageous prices. If you read their site, they really know their stuff. They are solid, no-nonsense engineers and always nice to deal with. I've had them make me a few custom cables, even.


    723236 said:
    home theater as movie sound tracks are highly edited- I was told by a film director client they can have three edits per second: they're multi-channel, multi-tracked, highly textured, and multi-mixed out of digitally altered components, so there's no soundstage left.

    I have to disagree. With a good mix, I can get pinpoint imaging of sounds all around me. Certainly better than stereo. But, with so many more speakers, it should be! More impressive is how the sonic character of the environment changes from one scene to the next.

    It's not even that hard. Just get a receiver with an auto-calibration microphone and use it! Then, don't go and modify the settings it computes. I have a 2013 Yamaha that I bought used, under warranty. That turned out to be a good move, because it broke and I had to get it fixed. Due to that and various quirks, I'm not sure I'd buy another Yamaha, but the automatic speaker calibration & room correction is fantastic!

    723236 said:
    The place where good sound is really wasted is in cars.

    Heh, I'll even disagree with you on that. In about 2004, I installed an Alpine head unit with 6-channel parametric EQ and time correction. It probably cost about $350, IIRC. No outboard amp. I even kept the speakers from the mid-range audio package that came with my car.

    The difference was night-and-day. When the engine was off, or you're stopped at a light and there's not much traffic noise from outside, you could close your eyes and the stereo image would open up before you. The time correction allowed sounds to seem as if they came from outside the car. The parametric EQ effectively eliminated most of the resonances.

    I only set it up for the driver, though. If I had many passengers, I could've done another preset for the middle of the car, but it wouldn't have been much good. If you want good imaging for more than just the driver... just make everyone else wear noise-cancelling headphones!