So there you are, thinking you’ve pretty much seen everything that a PC case can throw at you. Every variation of tool-less and tooled, motherboards flipped all over the place, fans in “how did they get that in there” configurations and more. You get a little jaded, a little “Oh – it’s just a case”. And then, you get that ray of light, that ‘Eureka!’ moment that you didn’t even know you were waiting for.
In other words, you open up a case like Lian Li’s new Hammer, and it’s almost literally like a blow from that tool straight to your frontal lobes – in a good way!
From the outside...
The Hammer – or the PC-90 if you want to get all model-number and act like The Man – is, from the outside, a pretty standard Lian Li design. It’s got a brushed aluminium exterior broken up only by the untreated bare metal back plate. Even here, however, we’re starting to see some hints that set the Hammer apart, like its top-mounted PSU bracket.
The top surface features a neat and well-cut removable plate if you want to add another exhaust fan, while the two side panels are unimaginative matte black brushed aluminium. The front panel features a non-standard mesh cut-out to protect two 140mm fans, IO ports – including two USB3 – and a couple of neat little clear rubber power and reset buttons. They’re tiny, so you’ll likely lose them when you’re turning on your PC drunk and in a dark room (we all do that, right?), but we like it anyway.
It’s when you take the side panel off that you really start to see what Lian Li’s been cooking though – the hammer has a whole new way of securing drives.
A few years ago we saw a sweet bespoke Alienware case that stashed drives behind the motherboard tray. The Hammer does something similar, except they’re mounted over the tray, attached to two brackets that orient the drives in the same plane as the side-panel. There’s a third two-part bracket that houses some cable-management clips, and all of these can easily be unscrewed and removed to give access to the interior.
It’s a great design, and opens up the Hammer’s airflow immensely – there’s nothing to get in the way of cool air at all. Every mounting point is rubber-grommeted to cut down on vibration, and the HDD mounts themselves will each fit a normal 3.5in drive or a smaller 2.5in SSD. In total, there are six slots, so you can mix and match up to the maximum count. We heartily approve.
The rest of the case is similarly solid. The expansion brackets all use reliable thumbscrews, there’s a handy cutout on the mobo plate to make heatsink installation easier, and room for good cable management. And if the boosted airflow inherent in the Hammer’s design isn’t enough to keep your gear cool, you’ve got the option of that top-mounted fan.
Lian Li’s done a great job of bringing not only a fresh design perspective, but a truly useful change as well. It’s not a design that’s going to show off your rig – quite the opposite – but it is one that’s going to keep it cool and secure.