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Lian Li PC-O11 Air Mini Review: An Easy, Sophisticated Alternative

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Do you also like the mesh look more than glass?

Editor’s Choice

(Image: © Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

Tom’s Hardware Verdict

Lian Li’s PC-O11D Mini is now available in an ‘Air’ variant with an additional intake and included fans. In case the score didn’t give it away, we quite like it.

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Cons
  • Ditches aluminum panels for steel

  • No longer as ITX-focused

  • Ugly bottom air filter implementation remains

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Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Back in 2018 Lian Li introduced its PC-O11 Dynamic chassis, designed in collaboration with Der8auer, and it quickly went on to become a classic that still sells well. Then, just under a year ago the company dropped the O11D Mini, shrinking the chassis into a more cheerful format. It still fit ATX boards, but could be modified to be a cooling-focused ITX board too, or anything in between. 

Now, Lian Li is introducing the O11 Air Mini – a variant of the chassis that has an extra front intake and includes fans – at the same $110 price point. Well, the O11D Mini was priced at $99, but the tariffs have pulled that price up, too.  

So, let’s dig in and find out what the differences are, whether the O11D Air Mini is an improvement, which you should get if you’re considering the variants, and whether the Air Mini is worthy of a spot on our Best PC Cases list. 

  • Lian Li PC O11 Air Mini at Amazon for $137.44

Specifications 

Swipe to scroll horizontally

Type Mid-Tower ATX
Motherboard Support Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX
Dimensions (HxWxD) 15. 1 x 11.3 x 15.7 inches (384 x 288 x 400 mm)
Max GPU Length 14.6 inches (362 mm)
CPU Cooler Height 6.6 inches (167 mm)
Max PSU Length 7.9 inches (200 mm)
External Bays ✗ 
Internal Bays 4x 3.5-inch, 2x 2.5-inch
Expansion Slots 7x or 5x
Front I/O 2x USB 3.0, USB-C, 3.5 mm Audio/Mic Combo
Other 1x Tempered Glass Panel
Front Fans 2x 140 mm (Up to 2x 140mm)
Rear Fans 1x 120mm (Up to 1x 120mm)
Top Fans None (Up to 2x 140mm)
Bottom Fans None (Up to 2x 140mm)
Side Fans None (Up to 2x 120mm)
RGB No
Damping No

Features

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

Looking around the outside of the O11 Air Mini , the first thing that stands out about the chassis are its tidy looks. Whereas the original O11D Mini had a glass side and front panel, the steel mesh panel at the front of the O11 Air Mini looks cleaner, almost like the case grew up and pulled on a suit – it’s a much more business-like appearance, offering a more sophisticated look as opposed to the O11D Mini’s playfulness.

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

The glass side panel remains, as does the aluminum strip at the front, but the top and right-side panels are no longer made of aluminum. This isn’t a real issue, but I did like the aluminum panel on the O11D Mini, as it was a big upgrade over the original O11D’s steel panels, especially considering the case’s low price point. That said, this case keeps the same price, does replace the top IO shield strip with aluminum instead of the scratchy acrylic strip on the previous case, and this case comes with three fans – so it’s understandable that a compromise had to be made somewhere. Also, the perforated steel mesh contrasts quite nicely next to the aluminum – I quite like the look.

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

Top IO comprises two USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port and a headphone/mic combo jack. A power button is also present, with blue illumination around it. 

To remove the top and right-side panel, one simply undoes the thumbscrews at the back of the case and they slide right off. The glass side and front mesh panels then come off by simply lifting them out of place, exposing the case’s interior.

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

The case only has one filter, at the bottom, and it keeps the same, not-so-pretty plastic handle as the O11D Mini. This is visible on the side, and although practical, a little unsightly.

Other than that, you will rely on the mesh of the top, front and side panels for filtration, though I expect these will do a good enough job as the mesh there is quite fine.

Internal Layout

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

Once inside, you’ll spot room for up to an ATX motherboard in the main compartment, along with room for radiators and fans along the top, front, bottom and side. Two 140mm PWM fans come installed at the front intake, while the rear exhaust carries a single 120mm PWM spinner. 

In this main compartment, CPU coolers can be up to 6.6 inches (167mm) tall and GPUs up to 14.3 inches (362mm) long. 

There is tons of radiator space here, too: At the top, bottom, and front of the case, you can mount up to 280mm radiators, and the side intake/exhaust spot will happily accommodate a 240mm radiator.

(Image credit: Lian Li)

Keep in mind, though, you likely won’t be able to install a 280mm unit  in the top spot with an ATX board from the factory. This is because the radiator mount isn’t placed all the way near the side panel, and the motherboard tray is pushed slightly inward from the original case. To fix this, you will need to purchase the RB-001 offset radiator mounting bracket (no price is set yet) that will launch alongside the case. 240mm radiators will fit at the top just fine, though, unless you have tall RAM that creates clarence issues.

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

Flip over to the other side, and we spot a few interesting things. Despite being a ‘Mini’ case, this one comes with room for large ATX power supplies (whereas the last case only had room for an SFF-L PSU), and the hard drive cage is moved to the top. A cover is present over the cable management area, with room for two 2.5-inch drives.

Image 1 of 2

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

You can either leave the covers installed on the side intake, creating room for two 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives, with room for another two in the HDD cages, or you can remove them to expose the radiator mount.

Adjustable Rear IO

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

From the factory, the O11 Air Mini comes configured as an ATX case, with seven expansion slots. However, just like the original O11D Mini, the rear IO is adjustable to accommodate different boards.

Image 1 of 2

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom’s Hardware)

However, the O11 Air Mini won’t adjust all the way down to just an ITX layout. In all fairness, that’s fine – the Micro-ATX layout with five expansion slots will work just the same, leaving the lower slots unused to make radiator space. 

Summing up the differences

By now, you’ve probably gathered that the O11D Mini and the new O11 Air Mini are almost entirely different cases. They’re based on the same base principles, but externally and internally they are surprisingly different. 

The biggest difference is that the Air replaces the front glass panel with mesh, and includes 3 fans. But it also cuts back on the motherboard’s rear IO modularity, and has 3mm less width in the main compartment. The new model is also wider overall at 288mm as opposed to 270mm. This is because the rear compartment now has room for ATX PSUs, which is a huge upgrade over the SFF-L only layout in the glass-based O11 Mini, and well worth the extra width. The case is also 4mm taller, though 20mm shallower. 

With these changes, I would argue that the O11 Air Mini isn’t the builder’s modular paradise the O11D Mini was, but rather a tidy, straight-forward ATX case, albeit with an unusual layout. This makes the new O11 Air Mini much more approachable for first-time builders.

Lian Li PC O11 Air Mini: Price Comparison

$137.44

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Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He reviews cases, water cooling and pc builds.

Fractal Design North Review: Mid-Century Mid-Tower

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Wood and Airflow? What?

Editor’s Choice

(Image: © Tom’s Hardware)

Tom’s Hardware Verdict

Combining a unique wood-and-mesh front and lots of airflow-focused features at an affordable price, Fractal’s North is a fantastic case with performance that’s just as impressive as its looks.

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Pros
  • +

    Exceptional thermal performance

  • +

    Solid 3.5-inch drive support

  • +

    Gorgeous design

  • +

    PWM fans

  • +

    Movable fan hub

  • +

    Side fan bracket is included

  • +

    Fair price

Cons
  • Noisy

Why you can trust Tom’s Hardware
Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

PC cases are constantly evolving alongside other components. 5.25-inch drive bays were once a necessity for optical drives, but now are more or less gone. Following that collapse, the desire for glass (and RGB) everywhere came and is now going away as the thermal demand of high-end components went up and people began to take the need for airflow seriously. And now, because airflow is so important, too many cases are starting to look the same, which is frustrating.

Enter Fractal Design, a case manufacturer that often finds itself on our Best PC Cases, and its latest (and hopefully trend-setting) North case. The North is an ATX mid-tower chassis that features wood slats on the front panel (backed by mesh) and the option for a mesh or tempered-glass side panel. Fractal Design’s new case retails for $130 and comes in Charcoal Black or Chalk White. 

While the case is easy on the eyes and the design feels fresh in a landscape dominated by black glass boxes, the North needs to perform to earn a recommendation in these days of thermally aggressive components like the RTX 4090 and 13900K. We’ll put it through our testing later to see how it does but spoiler: Unless silence is your primary concern, there’s a lot to love about this striking chassis.

  • Fractal Design North (Black) at Amazon for $169.99

Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally

Type ATX Mid-Tower
Motherboard Support Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX
Dimensions (HxWxD) 18. 6 x 8.4 x 17.8-inches
Max GPU Length 14-inches
CPU Cooler Height 6.6-inches without fan bracket
  5.7-inches with fan bracket
External Bays X
Internal Bays 4x 2.5 or 2x 3.5-inch 
Expansion Slots 7
Front I/O 2x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1x microphone and 1x headphone jack.
Other Mesh side panel
Front Fans 2x 140mm
Rear Fans None
Top Fans None
Bottom Fans None
Weight 21 pounds
Warranty 2 years

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Fractal’s North is a mid-tower ATX case that disguises itself as a pretty piece of furniture. Obviously, the most appealing feature of this case is its wood front panel. Now, I never took woodshop in high school, but this feels and looks like bamboo. I love it – the North is just as pretty as it is unique.

Case companies often take an existing design and mostly (or sometimes only) change the front panel. This isn’t the case (no pun intended) with the North, which is available in either white or black and with a mesh or tempered glass side panel.

Image 1 of 2

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The top of the North features a removable panel with a leather tab and the back for easier removal. The side panels are removed via two thumb screws, which is a bit disappointing for a case of this price, and it’s almost ironic when you consider the otherwise excellent aesthetics of this chassis.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

While we still like tempered glass, the mesh panel felt more at home here, as it’s almost an atypical choice for side panels over the last few years.

Another reason we chose the mesh side panel: That model comes with a side fan bracket for better cooling. The side fan bracket fits a maximum of 280mm in a radiator or fan configuration, which is generous.

Image 1 of 2

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

And it can be mounted in three different locations (bottom, middle, or top) to best suit the needs of your build. Behind the wood are two pre-installed Fractal Design Aspect 140mm fans, which can be replaced with fans or radiators up to 360mm. The top panel can house the same amount of fans or radiators. And, finally, the rear fan mount can fit a 120mm spinner, although the case only comes with the two fans up front.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The IO on the top of the North is decent, but nothing too special. You get two USB 3.0 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C and separate audio and headphone jacks. There’s also a nice spun-metal power button here, etched with Fractal’s stylized “F” logo.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Internal Layout

The Fractal Design North measures up at 18.5 x 8.5 x 17.5 inches (HWD), so I wouldn’t try to fit an E-ATX board in here. However, this case can fit GPUs up to 13.98 inches (355mm), and our Gigabyte RTX 3070 Ti Gaming OC fits perfectly. The maximum CPU cooler height varies, depending on whether you install the fan bracket on the side. Without the bracket, the North supports coolers up to 6.7 inches (170mm), but 5.7 inches (145mm) with the bracket and fans installed.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Behind the motherboard tray, you’ll find the usual cable tie points, a dual 2.5-inch drive bracket and two 3.5 or 2.5-inch drive trays. The drive trays actually live under the PSU shroud, eacg can fit a 2.5-inch drive and a 3.5-inch drive at the same tiem, and can also be mounted upside down to make room for chunkier PSU cables – a well-thought-out feature by Fractal. Ultimately, the Fractal Design North can support four 2. 5 and two 3.5-inch drives simultaneously, which is very respectable in 2022. If you need more than that you’ll generally have to look to a bigger case. A PWM fan hub is also included, mounted behind the motherboard tray by default. It can be moved to a position above the rear fan mount, but we expect most will find its default location more convenient–and better for aesthetics as well, should you opt for the glass side panel.

Testing Hardware

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Our testing hardware to uses Intel’s 12 Gen “Alder Lake” platform, specifically a Core i7-12700KF, which is cooled by a Noctua U12s air cooler. Our graphics card is a Gigabyte RTX 3070 Ti Gaming OC.

Our acoustic tests consist of three scenarios: We run the CPU at full load, the CPU and GPU at full load, and an optimized mode. The CPU full load test runs the CPU and case fans at their maximum speed. For the CPU and GPU full load acoustic test, we also stress the Gigabyte RTX 3070 Ti Gaming OC and set the fans at 75% speed, because in gaming the fans never run at 100 percent and are far too loud when they do.

For the optimized mode, we run the GPU fan speed at 30% and run the CPU and included case fans at the lowest speed that they will spin.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Fractal Design’s cases generally aren’t all that quiet, and that’s true here as well. During our full-speed test, we got an average of 53 decibels, which is, bluntly, quite loud. However, this can be combated by a simple fan curve adjustment, and Fractal’s Aspect fans pull enough air at lower speeds that, unless something goes wrong or you’re overclocking everything to the bleeding edge, you should never hear that much noise coming from this case. Even though the case is loud, let’s not forget that the side panel is mesh. So it’s likely the tempered glass version of the North is at least a little quieter.

For the thermal tests, all case and CPU fan speeds are set to 100%. The Core i7-12700K is set at a fixed 4.7GHz clock at 1.3v on all performance cores to ensure consistent power consumption across test scenarios. Letting the GPU run at 75% fan speed enables it to maintain its power target while sticking to one set reasonable fan speed, so that the temperature is the only variable.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Cases with mesh side panels are a bit controversial. You might assume the mesh improves thermals, but there’s also evidence (at least in some cases) that air coming in from the side can be detrimental to the front-to-back airflow path. The only other case we’ve tested recently with a mesh side panel was the Azza Aero 480, and that did not perform very well. Fractal’s North, though, performed exceptionally well in our testing – especially with CPU thermals.

It’s unclear whether the improved temps with the Fractal are down to finer mesh in the front, the roughly 4-inch section at the front side that isn’t perforated (possibly helping guide airflow), some combination of both, or just better fans on the Fractal. But there’s no arguing with these pleasing numbers.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

2022 has been a big year for Fractal Design; the Swedish case company started off with the Torrent Compact, which was an impressive start. In the summer, we saw the Pop Silent, which was refreshing, as the case market has become saturated with mesh and RGB. Then we tested the ITX Ridge, which stood out for its console-sized frame and build quality. Finally, just as the temperatures turned frigid and the year was winding down, the company fittingly launched the North. Despite its price of $130, it stands out in a case market that’s become boring by delivering great airflow and stand-out looks.

There’s no denying the North is a niche case, with its wood slats on the front panel, but many more traditional and aggressive-looking cases available (both in the wider market and within Fractal’s own product stack), builders should respect Fractal for launching a case this visually different – I certainly do. As long as the performance is decent, there’s nothing wrong with more traditional basic black PC case boxes or aggressive RGB-and-glass gamer chassis. But it’s great to have attractive and well-performing alternatives like the North, that blend into a living room in a living room instead of standing out like an alien artifact.

MORE: Best PC Cases 2022

MORE: Best Mini-ITX Cases 2022

Fractal Design North: Price Comparison

$169.99

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$169.99

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Myles Goldman is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He reviews keyboards and cases.

PC Case Buyer’s Guide: How to Find the Right Case for You

Choosing a case for your PC depends on what you want to build and how much money you can budget for the chassis. You can avoid having to think too much about a case and pick the simple one you like, while others take into account cooling efficiency, water pump and tank mounting support, and more before making a purchase. There’s no real is the wrong choice when it comes to business, but there are ways to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

Most cases you find in retail stores today offer the same basic functionality and features. These include drive bays (or other mounting options instead), front USB and audio connections, additional lighting effects, and removable covers. You can never go wrong when it comes to choosing a PC case, unless it’s too small and you’re trying to add a full ATX motherboard with a monster GPU that takes up 3 PCI slots.

Size matters when it comes to PC

Contrary to what you may hear elsewhere, size does make a difference, at least when you’re talking about PC cases. Motherboards come in a variety of formats and not all are compatible with every case on the market. With dimensions of 305mm x 244mm, Full ATX motherboards are ideal companions for full-case cases. However, depending on the dimensions, you may have trouble fitting one into a mid-rack or mini PC case. This is where microATX or mini-ITX motherboards come in, with dimensions of 244mm by 244mm and 170mm by 170mm, respectively.

How to choose the best motherboard

The motherboard is the heart and soul of the PC. You need to make sure that you are getting the most out of your purchase and that the chipset installed on your motherboard has all the essential features you need for your build. We’ve compiled some of the best motherboards available today to help you get started at the link below.

Choosing the Best PC Motherboard

Depending on which motherboard you own or intend to purchase, you need to set your case search filters accordingly. Generally speaking, the size of the motherboard and the case are usually the same. For example, if you’re going to use a small mini-tower case, it might be worth taking a look at miniATX boards. For more powerful gaming hardware, choose an ATX or Extended ATX (EATX) motherboard and a medium or full tower case. Be sure to check the specifications and dimensions to see if the board (and related components) will fit.

  • SFF or Mini Tower : Commonly used as network storage devices or multimedia PCs for the home.
  • Mid-Tower : Mid-tower when it comes to expansion, performance and size.
  • Full-tower : can accommodate even enthusiasts. Huge room for modification.

You should also consider future updates and builds. Components may not last a lifetime, but a case can. If you’re planning to upgrade with a more beefy component list in the future, you’ll need to make sure the case you’re investing in has room for more cooling and more internals. Ideally, you don’t want to choose a massive case for a small build, nor do you want to limit space when it comes to building everything.

Great Design

NZXT H500i

Great Case Design Meets Exceptional Functionality

NZXT H Series cases not only look good, they also serve a great purpose of keeping components dust-free, preventing them from overheating (provided you have enough active cooling) and to create unique desktop PCs. The H500i is a great mid-tower with everything you need to get started that costs less than $100.

  • $97 at Amazon

Features of PC Case

The more advanced features, materials and assembly processes are used in a case, the more expensive it will be. While there are some killer cases to be found on a budget, if you’re looking to ditch the tools, enjoy the many connectivity options, expand, and expose the innards with a superior design, it’s worth paying a little more. But again, it depends entirely on your needs.

Cheaper cases can cost $10 to $30, while larger, full-featured beasts can cost $100 or more. And that’s before you’ve filled it with real PC content. Here are some useful features that can make your PC look much better:

  • Integrated Lighting.
  • 3.5″ bays and mounting points.
  • Audio and USB 3 / USB Type-C front panel.
  • Removable motherboard tray.
  • Dust filters.
  • Radiator attachment points.
  • Stand for water cooling.
  • Cable management.
  • Ride a sleigh.
  • Optimal air flow.
  • Adequate CPU and GPU clearance.
  • Distance behind motherboard panel.
  • PSU mounting and orientation.
  • Sound insulation.

Budget full-tower

DeepCool MATREXX 55

Affordability has never looked so good

On a budget but still need a full tower E-ATX chassis? DeepCool has the MATREXX 55 with tempered glass listed at an affordable price. The best part about this chassis is that it looks more premium than ever, allowing you to show off how much you’ve spent on it. Full support for a 360mm radiator on the front as well as a 280mm radiator on top makes it ideal for custom watercooling setups.

  • $45 at Amazon

Building a PC is

imagination

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There are some really cool cases. After all, buying a not PC case is as difficult as it might seem. It’s all about how to properly configure the components you plan to install. In addition to making sure that all internal components are compatible, it is important to make sure that everything will be in reality match inside.

If you want to do a little DIY, especially in the form of water cooling, you will most likely need a full tower case that can house the pumps, tanks, radiators and piping you need. So keep that in mind. These massive boxes offer enough space to hide unnecessary piping and cables, offering an enjoyable viewing experience for any viewer.

For those who don’t want all that bells and whistles, a simple medium tower case will do.

Unique full tower

Thermaltake Tower 900

More box-shaped with unique style

If you want a unique case but don’t want all your components to be outdoors, the Thermaltake Tower 900 can accommodate two custom circuits water cooling and tempered glass on the front and sides of the cubic chassis for a clearer view of everything.

  • $250 on Amazon

More PC Building Resources from Windows Central

  • The Ultimate PC Building Guide
  • Best PC Cases
  • Best PC cases under $100
  • PC Lighting Manual

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