All aboard the PC train case

We’re used to seeing dull, monolithic PC cases turn up the PC Pro Labs, so we were more than a little surprised when Lian Li’s PC-CK101 trundled onto our test bench… 20 minutes late.

It might hold a mini-ITX motherboard and include a pair of USB 3 ports, but Lian Li’s latest looks like a train, sounds like a train (although we must confess we’ve added sound effects to our video), and even moves like a train. Unlike most locomotives, though, this one only costs a mere £265.

train16Don’t think that this particular train runs on steam power, though – Lian Li includes an electric motor, and you’ve got to put the rest together: two axles stretch between pairs of wheels, a drive-belt attaches the two, and cogs transfer power from the motor to the wheels.

Power comes from four AA batteries in a pack at the rear of the locomotive, and it’s linked to the motor with a small unit that sits in the bottom of the carriage – and it’s here where you’ll find switches for forwards or backwards motion.

train25The power supply for the PC sits at the top of the engine – presumably replacing a driver and a bloke shovelling coal – and the cables snake through from engine to carriage. If you’re crazy enough to want to actually use this case, be prepared for plenty of headaches, as it’s not an easy build: the power unit and 120mm case fan make the already-cramped carriage even trickier to work inside, there’s barely enough room for the motherboard, and we had to studiously tie cables out of the way so they didn’t interfere with the processor’s fan.

A slimline optical drive can be fitted at the front of the engine, the power button is embedded right in the centre of the fascia, and the front also offers two USB 3 ports. It’s possible to double up on storage thanks to 2.5in mounts in both the engine and carriage.

P1030504Our system includes a Core i3 processor, a Kingston Hyper-X SSD and 4GB of RAM, and it’s entirely possible to run the PC while the Lian Li is trundling along the track – the only thing stopping you is the length of your PC’s cables. It even runs Crysis, albeit not at its highest quality settings.

That’s not something we’d say about the average late-running SouthEastern service, and this case can be bought for a fraction of the cost of the average season ticket, too: the basic model, which has no motor, costs £160, but the case with a motor, six pieces of track and a vaporiser to produce steam from the chimney – which Lian Li couldn’t send us – costs £265. It’s the most imaginative case we’ve ever seen, but is that price enough to tempt you away from dull black boxes?

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