Assembling a small form factor PC can be a pain in the rear sometimes. Even if you generally enjoy such builds, you can still find yourself briefly cursing because you’ve installed something out of order—and it’s an order that didn’t become crystal-clear until that moment.
Fortunately, you can now largely avoid such build annoyances with Lian Li’s launch of the A4-H2O, an 11 liter case created in collaboration with DAN cases.
This scaled-up version of DAN’s popular 7.2L A4-SFX (a case well known among SFF enthusiasts) not only provides support for up to a 240mm AIO cooler, but also features a couple of design tweaks to simplify building. Cases that share the A4-H2O’s sandwich layout may already seem straightforward, but Lian Li amplifies that vibe tangibly.
Willis Lai / IDG
In a typical sandwich case, you have two long chambers, with one side allocated for a PCIe expansion card (a GPU, for example) and the other the motherboard and power supply. That makes all the components very accessible. However, you can still run into stickiness around the correct time to plug in power and data cables, or routing them and your AIO tubes along the most ideal paths. The inevitable result: You have to backtrack and uninstall components, which burns additional time.
The A4-H2O helps you bypass that headache with the inclusion of more removable panels than usual. Lian Li lets you pull off the front panel and bottom panel, not just those on the top and sides. It makes for more forgiving builds, where you don’t have to plan your steps with laser precision. Getting burly graphics cards into the case is easier, too, especially since the A4-H2O supports triple-slot cards up to 322mm in length.
That’s not to say you can go at your build completely willy-nilly. You’re still building in a small-form-factor case, after all. But between its surprisingly good manual and those extra removable panels, folks new to SFF should have a much less frustrating experience. And old hands will appreciate the lower mental load.
There is one catch with this case, however—you have to be careful about which graphics card you choose. An especially chunky card may give you a rough time for fit. I detail my own misadventure (and failure) with one particularly Hulk-sized Radeon RX 6800XT in our video above. Our hands-on tour also covers more building tips and tricks, like the best type of power supply cables to use in this case and a radiator-bracket installation mistake to avoid.
But overall, the Lian Li A4-H2O is a fantastic case regardless of its size. It’s not just easy to build in, but affordable too. The PCIe 3.0 riser cable version costs $130 USD, and one with a PCIe 4.0 riser cable is $165 USD. (You can find both the black and silver variants at Newegg, Caseking, and Overclockers UK.) This pricing puts the A4-H2O in the same range as mid-tower ATX cases of similar quality. That’s a solid win, especially given how quality SFF cases normally go for much higher prices.
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Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.