Skip to main content

Take The Train: Lian Li PC-CK101, Built, Tested, And...Driven?

Motherboard #2: Common Sense Prevails

Attempt #2: An Almost Perfectly-Quiet HTPC with an AMD E-350

Because our first shot at this turned into a noise competition between the CPU and case fans, I wanted to step down a notch in a couple of different ways. An HTPC does not require a massive desktop processor. So, a lower-wattage CPU is still apropos (not to mention a lot easier to cool in the confines of a cramped case).

AMD's E-350 APU isn't going to incite envy amongst any of your friends. It has even been superseded by newer models. The good news is that E-350-equipped motherboards sell for lower prices now, even as the APU's performance remains adequate for a lightweight media box. Yes, we could have used a more modern processor, but we had MSI's E350IA-E45 in the lab, and it let us do what we set out to achieve with thermals and acoustics.

Of course, I couldn't leave the platform well enough alone. Bothered by the stock cooler's noise levels at high RPMs, I removed MSI's heat sink cover and swapped out the default fan with another model from Noiseblocker (the extremely quiet XM2). Its power consumption and speed are very similar to what MSI had on there, but the XM2 is barely audible, even at 100% duty cycle.

With the fan replaced, we end up with a fairly ideal little HTPC. The low-power APU doesn't need a ton of airflow, so we have the option to throttle the 12 cm case fan, remove it completely, or even swap it out for something with LEDs, giving our train a fiery glow. After all, a steam locomotive needs a fire under its boiler.

  • Trueno07
    I am so jealous right now, this looked like it was a blast to put together!
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    I am surprised you didn't use the model with the moving train!
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Not the first time I've seen it, but I still think this case is just an exercise in sheer ridiculousness.

    But since the PC era is coming to an end, who can blame Lian Li for having a little fun while they still can?
    Reply
  • edogawa
    This thing is so awesome...if it wasn't for the noise I would get one...I love trains...
    Reply
  • ASHISH65
    awesome! i want to drive that train
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    The Little Engine That Could...
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    *Ozzy Osbourne Voice* ALL ABOARD!!! HA HA HA HA....
    Reply
  • bambiboom
    Just brilliant. Finally, a computer case with a bit of style suitable for grownups.

    Taking the mobile computing theme further, and addressing the limitations on computing power, if you had a Dell Precision M6600 or 6700 laptop with a broken screen, how about mounting the components, motherboard , PSU, batteries, drives, Wifi and all? Then, there could be an i7 CPU and a Quadro 4000M, all very quiet and still getting more air than it's used to. And, appropriately, no power cord!

    The idea of a serious, self- propelled workstation steam train model seems the best use possible of this fantastic enclosure idea. That the computer is itself the game is on the borderline of being art.

    And congratulations to Igor Wallossek for an excellent description of something so wonderfully out of the ordinary.
    Reply
  • shikamaru31789
    I remember when I first saw this on Newegg. I thought I'd lost my mind for a moment. It's definitely a unique case.
    Reply
  • ojas
    Tom's Hardware's German team has a lot of fun, i can see :D

    Really enjoyable read, Igor! Also got to know about that Gigabyte wireless streamer, should prove useful!

    Nice house btw :)
    Reply