The TARDIS of PC Enclosures
Over the last few years Lian Li’s O11 line of enclosures has taken the PC Case market by storm. You can’t do a web search for “custom PC build” or watch an online video of people showing off their PCs, without seeing a multitude of PC-O11s, or another model based on the design.
Unfortunately, I’m a bit stubborn. Like so many people in the world, I often let my desire for uniqueness get the better of me. I had this “everyone is building in that case” mentality, so I’ve gone out of my way to avoid it. Let it never be said that stubbornness and stupidity did not have a link, because if the O11 Dynamic Mini is typical of the other der8auer badged cases, I’ve really been missing out (or possibly stupid).
I realize that the O11 Dynamic Mini has been out for over a year at this point (see above re: stubbornness/stupidity), but I was recently given a build problem and the O11D Mini looked like the solution. My best friend’s son came to me a few weeks ago wanting to build a new PC, and talked about wanting to get into water cooling. He doesn’t have a tremendous amount of desk space available at the moment, but he wanted a high end gaming machine that he could also use for streaming and video editing.
His lack of desk space presented a bit of a challenge. I’ve reviewed some smaller cases that, with some compromises, could be used for a basic water cooling system. I’ve also reviewed some monster cases with tons of water cooling support, but those wouldn’t really be ideal for his current location. What I really wanted to find was that unicorn so many enthusiasts have been hunting for decades, a compact case that offers zero compromises to hardware or cooling. The O11 Dynamic Mini is that unicorn (well, with the exception of one small compromise, but I’ll get to that later).
Update, 06/22/22: Hardline build complete:
Never one to compromise, Kent completed a hardline build in the O11D Mini after this review was initially published. Consider this another build suggestion, and it’s one that might have you green with envy. – Ed.
- PRODUCT NAME: O11 Dynamic MINI
- MODEL: O11D Mini-X (black), O11D Mini-W (white), O11D Mini-S (snow white)
- DIMENSIONS: (D)420mm x (W)269.5mm x (H)380mm
- MOTHERBOARD: E-ATX (Max 280 mm wide)/ATX/ Micro-ATX/ Mini-ITX
- PSU: SFX/ SFX-L
- 4 mm Tempered Glass
- 2mm Aluminum (top and left panel)
- FAN SUPPORT
- Top: 3x 120mm or 2x 140mm
- Side: 2x 120mm or 2x 140mm
- Bottom: 3x 120mm or 2x 140mm
- Rear: 1x 120mm
- RADIATOR SUPPORT
- Top: 360mm or 280mm or 240mm radiator
- Side: 240mm or 280mm radiator
- Bottom: 360 or 280mm or 240mm radiator
- COMPONENT CLEARANCE:
- GPU length: 395mm
- CPU cooler height: 170mm
- VGA length: 370mm
- DRIVE SUPPORT: Right side 2 x 2.5″ SSD + back plate 2 x 3.5″ HDD (or SSD)
- EXPANSION SLOTS: 3 or 5 or 7 slots (depends on back panel)
- IO PORTS: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 TYPE-C, 1 x HD Audio, Power Button
- DUST FILTERS: 1 x Top, 1 x Bottom, 2 x Side
The O11 Dynamic MINI
First off, we’ll take a closer look at the O11 Dynamic Mini. It is a cube style, steel chassis with brushed aluminum top and rear panels, and 4mm thick tempered glass front and side panels. It measures 14.96 inches (380 mm) in height, 10.61 inches (269.5 mm) wide, and 16.54 inches (420 mm) front to back.
Robinsons Brewery TROOPER Premium British Beer for scale.
At 38 liters of displacement, the O11D Mini isn’t exactly a small form factor build, but in comparison to a traditional pint of English lager, it is certainly not a large case either. Ten years ago if you wanted a case in this size range you would have been limited to something like the Thermaltake Lanbox Lite (about 30 liters) which had a maximum CPU cooler height of around 90mm, and accepted one 90mm intake fan and two 60mm exhaust. Needless to say, case design has come a long way.
If purchased as a standalone chassis the O11 Dynamic Mini comes in this all black model, a white chassis with black and silver highlights, and also a rather stunning all while “snow edition.” At the time of writing, the O11 Dynamic Mini in either black or white was available for around $130 from various retailers.
The model I have is the Mini-X combo which comes only in black, but includes a Lian Li SP750 watt, gold rated SFX power supply, which has a matching brushed aluminum finish. The O11D Mini X kit with the PSU included (O11D MINI750-X, as reviewed) is selling for $189.99 (Newegg) and has been on sale for as low as $170. Either price is a great deal considering that the SP750 PSU alone sells for $119.
The O11 Dynamic Mini accepts Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX and E-ATX motherboards and up to nine 120mm fans. In the right configuration it can accept two 360mm radiators, one 240mm and one 120mm. It’s amazing to think of how many varying configurations of hardware and cooling that can be configured in a case that is this small.
Lian Li even offers additional accessories to allow for more versatility. There is, of course, a vertical GPU bracket kit, available in black or white, and either PCIE 3.0 or 4.0. The 3.0 versions sells for $60 US and the 4.0 sells for $80. Then there is the RB-001 offset bracket kit, which allows a top radiator to be used with a full ATX motherboard (without these brackets, a top radiator is only possible when using Micro ATX or Mini ITX motherboards).
I picked up the offset kit for $9. Lian Li also offers a dual PSU kit for the O11D mini that allows for the use of two power supplies, both controlled from the main power switch. The dual PSU kit is $12, and becomes important in my assessment of the O11D Mini.
Build Quality and PSU Limitations
The build quality of the O11 Dynamic Mini was very good, but not quite perfect. The removable top panel had one stamped edge (just above the right glass panel) that was very sharp, and I could easily see someone getting cut by it if they weren’t careful.
I also found both the top and rear panels to be a bit tricky to reattach after removal. I also wish that the CPU cutout in the motherboard tray were larger. If you have either an ATX or Micro-ATX motherboard installed, you cannot fully access the motherboard socket from the rear, so if you wanted to swap coolers, the motherboard would have to be removed entirely.
This would not be a problem with a Mini-ITX motherboard. Both of the tempered glass panels have nice steel reinforcement braces at the top and bottom, as well as some sound isolation foam along the sides. Despite my minor issues, the O11 Dynamic Mini is still an exceptionally well designed and built chassis.
Now we will come to the one compromise which I feel was made with the O11D-Mini. It only allows the use of SFX power supplies. I would have gladly sacrificed another millimeter or two of width to allow for full size ATX PSUs to fit in the chassis.
SFX power supplies, while much better than they were a few years ago, still produce a lot of internal heat due to the higher component density. They must also use a smaller, louder fan. Even the best modern SFX power supplies are going to create more heat and noise than a quality ATX unit. Currently the Silverstone SFX-L 1000 watt is the highest power SFX PSU on the market (although CoolerMaster has announced 1100 w and 1300 w models are on the way).
Lian Li did address this issue somewhat with the dual PSU bracket kit they sell for the O11D Mini, but I would still rather have a full, single ATX power supply.
With all that said, this would only be a problem if someone wanted to build a system with some of the more power hungry hardware on the market. There are plenty of quality 750 watt and 850 watt SFX power supplies on the market right now that can power all but the most extreme hardware systems, but you will still be looking at more heat and noise due to the drawbacks of the form factor.
Assembling the System
Building in the O11 Dynamic Mini is a great experience. Everything about the process was very straightforward. The fact that you can essentially remove all four sides of the enclosure, leaving only the basic frame means that everything inside the case is easily reachable.
I was also able to connect the 8+4 pin CPU power to the motherboard more easily than in any other case I can recall, and overall the experience of building in the O11D-Mini is almost like building a system on an open test bench, and then building a case around it afterwards. This is true up to the point that I started building the final system, which uses two 360mm radiators and an ATX motherboard.
While this configuration is doable (thanks to the previously mentioned offset bracket kit that Lian Li makes), working space within the chassis begins to come at a premium, and you will need to plan out your build very carefully, and then build it in a specific order. You don’t want to forget to plug in something to a motherboard header, then have to remove a radiator and fans just to access the header later on during the build process.
Test System Specs:
- AMD Ryzen 7 3800x [@4.0 Ghz, all core, 1.138 volts (1.08 Vdroop under load) 90 watt package power]
- ASRock X570M Pro4 Motherboard
- Be Quiet! Dark Rock TF2 CPU Cooler with middle fan only fixed @ 1400 rpm
- 16 GB (2×8) G Skill Trident Z 3333 (@3600) Memory
- Zotac GTX 1080ti Amp Extreme fans speed fixed @ 1200 rpm
- WD Black Edition 500 GB NVMe SSD
All tests conducted at a controlled ambient temperature of 23.5° C.
- Standardized airflow test: 3 x Be Quiet Pure Wings 2 120mm Fans (2 intake, 1 exhaust at 1000 rpm)
- CPU temperature testing: OCCT set to Small FFT Extreme Steady for 30 minutes
- GPU temperature testing: Unigine Heaven set to Ultra Detail, Extreme Tesselation, and 8x Anti Aliasing at 1440p for 30 minutes.
Sound testing conducted with microphone placed 30 cm from system. Measured ambient noise floor is 28.5 db. All fans set to same speeds as with temperature testing.
Note: As the O11 Dynamic Mini does not come with any stock fans, testing was only conducted with the standardized airflow parameters.
The temperatures in the O11D Mini were actually outstanding for such a compact chassis, especially the GPU temps. Of course, that shouldn’t be too surprising as the bottom intake of the case blows directly on the GPU. Given the temp results and the ability to use up to a 170mm cooler on the CPU, you could make a completely competent air cooled system in the O11D Mini.
If you like this size chassis, but you want to stick with all air cooling, or nothing more than a 280mm AIO cooler, I would probably recommend the slightly newer, O11 Mini Air. It does lose support for 360mm radiators, but includes a perforated front panel, two front fans and a rear exhaust, and some additional changes to allow for a support of full size ATX PSUs.
As to noise levels with these components, these were recorded as 40.7 dB on the open test bench, dropping to 36.4 dB in the Lian Li O11 Dynamic Mini.
After a long period of test fitting different hardware, doing three different complete builds, and testing the Lian Li O11 Dynamic Mini, what are my final thoughts? If the O11 Dynamic Mini is representative of the rest of the O11 product line, I have been missing out.
I truly loved building in this case. It’s relatively small, but with the ability to build a high end system without compromise. Honestly, when it’s time for my next personal upgrade, this could very well be my next enclosure… Curse you, der8auer!
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