Review: Lian-Li PC-XB01 XBox 360 Case – UPDATED

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Playing video games is hard enough without your console frying every few hours. I get headshot, teabagged, ROLFed, and laughed out of XBox Live with reckless abandon and, in a way, I’m sick of it. That’s why I’m glad I can now be a little bit different and, hopefully, keep the red ring of death from attacking thanks to the Lian-Li PC-XB01, an XBox case mod that almost anyone can put together.

Note: This will void your warranty in ways you don’t even want to think about.

What is the PC-XB01? It’s basically a PC case with a few special stand-offs and inserts to work well with the XB360’s motherboard. If you open the XB360 you’ll find a motherboard, a DVD drive, and two tiny fans. These fans are supposed to cool the graphics chips which, as my buddy recently discovered, are covered by heatsinks with insufficient contact with the chips. The chips are further ruined by insufficient heat paste which eventually dries up over the years. My XBox, for example, was 3 years old.

This selfsame XBox just suffered from the red ring of death. I’ve had it since 2005 and it was running fine until I turned on Force Unleashed and all hell broke loose. So I decided the best solution would be to tear it up and try it in the new case. Either my box would still be broken and I’d have a review or the Lian-Li would miraculously cool it sufficiently to play. It was a win-win, essentially.

The kit includes the case, a SATA cable, and a power cable adapter. The case itself is made of lightweight aluminum and contains little more than the DVD/HD mount and some holes for the XB360 standoffs. There is also a large fan in back and a metal cowling to direct the airflow.

One thing to consider: this case has considerably more air space than the original case and, as a result, is considerably bigger than a standard XB360. Rest assured, however, it is not nearly as noisy as the 360 when on and this thing definitely cools the motherboard – the fan is probably four times as big as both of the original XB fans.

The case includes full instructions for removing the original motherboard and installing the new kit. These instructions suffer from a bit of Engrish but it’s nothing a dedicated hacker can’t figure out. The real problem is that Lian-Li doesn’t include a Torx wrench with the kit. You need 6, 8, and 10 sizes and it’s kind of a pain to go buy them if you don’t have them.

We began by stripping off the top, bottom, and front panels. After that we stripped off the side panels and were left with the original case. A few screws later and we had the bare motherboard exposed for all to see. You then have to strip the DVD drive and the HD drive and prepare the new case with metal stand-offs.

After installing the motherboard into the case you add the HD – connected via SATA – and the DVD drive. It took us about an hour to install the entire thing but a skilled XB hacker could do it considerably more quickly.

The back cut outs are supposed to be multi-purpose and, as a result, are a bit sloppy. There are two rubber holes for HDMI cables if you’re using an Elite version and the front slots for the USB and DVD drive are simple flaps. There is no front button to open the DVD slot, either, so you have to do it from within the XB360 Dashboard. A small button under the DVD drive opens it.

After installing all the parts I plugged the XBox in and cried. Even all my ministrations couldn’t save a fried graphics chip. My recommendation is this: if your 360 is older and out of warranty and you have experienced the RROD once and don’t want to experience it again, feel free to use this case. It won’t, however, solve major problems immediately. This is not a case for novices – I was lucky that my brother-in-law the engineer was working with me or I’d have probably cracked the heatsinks or something. It could be a fun modding project, however, and at $80 it’s almost an insurance policy against future overheating. The case is not for everybody but it could be a fun project for a certain type of gaming nerd.

UPDATE – We fixed the motherboard so I could actually test this thing live. I can say that the modded XBox is considerably quieter than the standard 360 I have. With one large fan and a metal cowling, noise is reduced. This case also makes “getting into” the XBox easier, if that’s what you’re into. As someone asked in comments yes, you could potentially swap out drives and things, assuming you could match the hardware keys. You can also use this case as a base to modify your current 360 in odd ways, adding cut-outs and lights to the wide-open structure. In all, however, the differences are minimal.