LIAN LI LANCOOL 215 Mid Tower Airflow Case Review
A Pair of Massive 200mm ARGB Fans Front This High Airflow Case
What a year 2020 has been. Due to all the human malware, trade wars, and miscellaneous other issues, this will be my first review since April, and frankly it was a very interesting process on the Lian Li LANCOOL 215 mid-tower.
There are some really good things about this case, and a few issues that popped up as well – so without further ado, I’ll get to it.
The LANCOOL 215 is designed for optimal thermal management. Starting with the front, the removable fine mesh panel, which covers the two pre-installed 200mm ARGB fans, allows for plenty of airflow. Similar to the LANCOOL II Mesh, a honeycomb-like perforation pattern is featured at the top, back, and bottom of the case, as well as on top of the PSU shroud. Also included are a top magnetic dust filter and a pull-out full-length bottom dust filter tray, and the back is equipped with a 120mm PWM fan.
Users have the option to build their system with air cooling or water cooling, as the LANCOOL 215 offers a wide array of configurations. At the front, users can opt for either additional three 120mm fans or a 360mm radiator with fan combo of up to 70mm thick (without interfering with the two 200mm front-mounted fans), and at the top, up to two 140mm fans or a 280mm radiator with fan combo of up to 55mm thick, as well as two 120mm fans above the PSU shroud for improved ventilation of the GPU.
- Model: LANCOOL 215
- Color: Black
- 0.75mm SGCC (MB tray, and most of the interior)
- 4.0mm tempered glass (both sides)
- Motherboard: E-ATX (width under 280 mm) / ATX / M-ATX / ITX
- Expansion Slots: 7
- Storage Support
- Behind MB Tray: 2 x 2.5″ SSD
- Hard Drive Cage: 2 x 3.5″ HDD or 1 x 2.5″ SSD
- Fan Support
- Front: 2 x 140mm or 3 x 120mm
- Top: 2 x 120mm or 2 x 140mm
- Top of PSU chamber: 2 x 120mm
- Included Fans
- 2 x 200MM 3-PIN 800 RPM ARGB fans (front)
- 1 X 120MM 3-PIN 1100 RPM Fans (rear)
- Radiator Support
- Front: 1 x 280/360mm
- Top: 1 x 240 / 280 mm
- Dust Filters: 1 x Top (magnetic), 1 x Bottom (tray)
- Component Clearance
- VGA Length: 370mm
- CPU Clearance: 166mm
- PSU: 210 mm
- I/O Ports
- Power button
- Reset button
- LED button for lighting mode control
- 1 x HD AUDIO
- 2 x USB 3.0
- Dimensions: (D) 462 x (W) 215 x (H) 482 mm
$69.99 USD List
“LANCOOL 215 features two pre-installed 200MM ARGB fans and a 120MM fan, combining with mesh panels, honeycomb vents enable efficient ventilation.”
Case Design and Build Process
I’ll start with the elephant in the room; those two huge 200mm ARGB fans out front, covered only by a very free flowing mesh panel (the “OH!” pair). The perforations in the panel are tightly spaced, and small enough to catch larger particulates, but there is no dust filter behind it. Everything about this case is designed with airflow in mind. Even without a dust filter at the main intake, that’s completely fine. Most cases have gotten to the point that it’s not a problem to open them up and blow them out with some compressed air.
The LanCool 215 is a reasonably compact mid-tower enclosure with dimensions of 462mm D x 215mm W x 482mm H (that’s 18.18′′ x 8.46′′ x 18.97′′ for the SAE enthusiasts out there). There are two removable 2.5 inch drive mounts in the rear, and a bracket in the basement that can hold up to two 3.5 inch hard drives. Given the short front to back dimensions of this case, I found it was necessary to remove the 3.5 inch drive bracket to help with cable management when using a PSU longer than 150mm.
There is plenty of space above the motherboard for routing and plugging in your CPU power. I’ve encountered too many cases where there isn’t enough space there to comfortably plug in the CPU power without scraping several layers of skin from your fingers. The LanCool 215 also supports up to E-ATX motherboards, unlike the majority of budget enclosure in this size range.
The LanCool 215 tower is very open. It also has a very solid feel and build quality. The rear panel is thick and has little flex. The top panel is fully ventilated and covered with a magnetic dust filter, but unless you’re using the top as an intake, I’d recommend removing the filter and letting the heat flow out the top. The bottom of the case if fully ventilated and includes a full length, slide in dust filter.
At this point, I’ll also mention the poor location choice for the “Front” I/O. The LanCool215 has an illuminated power button, a reset button, an RGB control button, two USB 3.0 ports (which look like USB 2.0 because they’re black), and a 3.5mm combo headphone/microphone jack. I don’t really have a problem with the choices, but these are on the top right side of the chassis. If someone has a PC with a tempered glass panel on the left, then it’s probably going to sit to the users right, meaning that you will have to reach all the way across and over the top to access the I/O.
There is also another issue with the front I/O. The wiring for the front panel is a nice, flat ribbon cable. Unfortunately the RGB controller connector is attached to this. That wouldn’t be a big issue except that cable needs to plug into the fan/RGB control hub in the back, and the other cables need to connect to the motherboard. You know, so you can power the system on, reset it if necessary, etc. So if you’re going to use the included controller and the button on the chassis to control lighting modes, you will need to peel the two wires away from the rest of the ribbon so that they can be connected.
Wait…what’s that? Budget enclosure? Yes, the LanCool 215 can be yours for only $69.99 plus applicable taxes and shipping (a quick check of retailers shows that a single 200mm ARGB fan from a reputable manufacturer currently retail for around $27 each.) Yes it comes with those two massive ARGB fans, a 120mm exhaust fan, a nice ARGB logo, as well as a full size tempered glass side panel for $70.
Speaking of the side panel, I was quite impressed by the color neutrality of this panel. It is lightly tinted, but does not appear to have a greenish tint like you will find on the panels of most budget cases (if you can find one with tempered glass at all). On the inside, the glass panel is edge with metal braces that allow it to attach to the chassis in the same way as most metal panels, with rear thumb screws. The thumbscrews on both the rear panel, and the tempered glass panel are nicely machined, and captive as well, so you won’t drop them and have to chase them around.
One cosmetic issue I do have with the side panel is how it sits at the front edge when installed. It does not sit quite flush at the front edge and because of the frames design light spills out the gap between the glass and the front panel. It really detracts from the appearance if any case lighting is being used.
So, at first glance this looks like it could be the best $70 chassis on the market, but lets look inside, build in it and test the temperature and noise before jumping on the bandwagon. I’ll just take this rear panel off and “OH MY GOD…what kind of Lovecraftian nightmare of cable mess is this.” Yeah, the cables in back were just a tangled bundle from the factory.
Ok, well let’s just undo the wire tie and pull them all free. Hmmm…that didn’t make things much better. At this point I could already tell that trying to make the cable routing look tidy was going to be an adventure. The two biggest problems are the fact that the cables come from several locations along the front and top edges of the chassis, and the location of the fan/rgb controller that is included (more on that later).
One other thing I noticed during pre-build inspection of the chassis is that there is a lot of the chassis’ frame blocking airflow behind those two front fans. Large portions of the top fan are completely blocked in the rear.
The lower fan is somewhat less obstructed, but still has a lot more metal impeding airflow than it should. It looks as if the case were originally designed for three 120mm or 140mm fans, and then they decided to put in the two larger fans, but didn’t change their tooling to take full advantage of those big fans.
Despite the cable issues, and some odd choices in ergonomics, the LanCool 215 was a breeze to build in. The ample room inside seems to belie the outer dimensions. I had no problems installing either the Micro-ATX test system or the full ATX system for final photos. Lian Li claims the LanCool 215 has 166mm of CPU cooler clearance, and this seems accurate within reason as I measured just over 168mm to the top of the test system Xeon processor.
According to documentation, you can fit a 280mm or 360mm radiator in the front, 240mm or 280mm in the top. There is certainly room in the top for a 280mm AIO, and a 360mm AIO could fit in the front provided the tubing were long enough. There is conceivably room for a full custom loop, but I do think things might get a little tight, especially with a longer graphics card. You could also mount 120mm or 240mm fans in the top and front, as well as two additional 120’s positioned on top of the ventilated power supply compartment.
I’m uncertain as to the effectiveness of the rear fan in this use case, as it would be positioned right above the Power Supply and have very little space for air flow. The front could prove useful if you needed the extra airflow, as both the power supply shroud and bottom panel of the chassis are ventilated.
During the build process, if you’re planning to use that Fan/RGB control hub you will notice something odd (I did say that I’d come back to that). There is no motherboard connection for the fan control. This means that any fans you plug into the hub will spin at their highest rpm unless you use low noise resistors to cut the voltage. As this is how the chassis comes, that is it was tested.
During the build for the photos, I completely removed this hub and connected the fans and ARGB to the motherboard and let it take care of fan speed and lighting control. This allowed for much easier cable routing and management.
Upon booting the system I was struck by how loud it was. The 200mm front fans spin at only 800 rpm, but still made more noise than I would have thought prior to startup. I am uncertain, but I do have to wonder if the portions of the chassis that block the rear of these fans might be causing turbulence that makes them louder than 800 rpm fans should be.
Specification of Test System:
- Intel Xeon E3 1245 V2
- ASRock Z77 Pro M Motherboard
- 16 GB (2×8) GSkill Ripjaw DDR3 1666
- EVGA GeForce GTX 980 SC
- Intel 520 Series 120 GB SSD
- Scythe Choten CPU Cooler with Be Quiet Silent Wings 3 fan at 100%
- Arctic Cooling Twin Turbo II GPU cooler fan speed set to 33% (highest fan speed reached on default curve during open bench stress test)
In the documentation, Lian Li says the rear fan maxes at 1100 rpm. The one in my test system spins up to 1450 rpm, so it also contributed to the additional noise. On a positive note regarding the sound, while it is a loud enclosure, I did not find the sound to be unpleasant. It just sounds like a lot of airflow, with no noticeable droning or harshness.
Now that we’ve dealt with how loud it is, lets talk about the byproduct of those big fans, the temperatures. Simply put the LanCool 215, in stock configuration is the best performing chassis I’ve yet tested. Both CPU and GPU temps were lower than the same components on an open test bench.
Despite the obstructions, those two big fans move a lot of air, and with the compact size of this enclosure, that air is going right to the hottest components. Out of curiosity, and something that I normally don’t do, I added low noise resistors to each of the fans to see how it affected the noise, and the temperatures. The case was much quieter in this configuration, but the temperatures changed very little and still outperformed every other case I’ve tested yet.
Standardized Airflow Testing
The goal of my “Standardized Airflow” testing is to determine how much of an enclosure’s thermal performance can be attributed to the design, and how much is attributed (or in some cases penalized) by the included fans. Essentially it puts all cases on even ground.
Test Setup / Methodology:
- 3 x Be Quiet Pure Wings 2 120mm Fans (2 intake, 1 exhaust at 100%)
- Ambient temperature: 23 C
- CPU Temperature Testing: OCCT set to Small FFTs for 30 minutes
- GPU Temperature Testing: Unigine Heaven set to Extreme at 1080p for 30 minutes
- Sound testing conducted during run of 3d Mark Time Spy Extreme
Even without the 200mm fans in the front, the LanCool 215 still posted the lowest CPU temperatures of any case I’ve tested, but GPU temps were about middle of the pack. In stock configuration the LanCool 215’s lower 200mm fan really feeds air to a graphics card, and that’s a really good thing.
This brings us back to the beginning. Is the LanCool 215 the best $70 Enclosure on the market? I can’t say that, but it is REALLY great from a performance standpoint alone. There are some odd design choices and some that are just poor design choices, and a few minor fit and finish issues. Still, we are talking about a $70 case with an attractive design, a mesh front, and those two 200mm ARGB fans that keep your components well supplied with air.
While it takes a little patience by the builder to get things nice and neat in the LanCool 215, it can be done. The performance alone should get this an Editor’s choice. It does not have as nice of a fit and finish as some of the other cases I’ve tested in this category, but even it’s most glaring problems are still acceptable. For the price I don’t think you will find anything that matches this performance. So despite a few minor issues, I’m giving the Lian Li LanCool 215 a PC Perspective Gold Award.
This disclosure statement covers the way the product being reviewed was obtained and the relationship between the product's manufacturer and PC Perspective.
How Product Was Obtained
The enclosure is on loan from LIAN LI for the purpose of this review.
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The enclosure remains the property of LIAN LI but will be on extended loan to PC Perspective for the purpose of future testing and product comparisons.
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