This is it, this is my Hotel California moment. Turns out the cramped little terrace I'm currently set up in is now my forever home, because thanks to the Lian Li DK-04F gaming desk I'm never going to be able to move anywhere else. At least not without some serious dismantling, a probable hernia, and potentially one of those mechanic's cranes they use to lift engine blocks out of cars.
But it is arguably the best gaming desk, and one that has given my home office environment the ultimate upgrade having used it over the last few weeks exclusively as both my place of work and point of play. The Lian Li DK-04F is a delicious bit of engineering, at once a gaming desk but also an industrially beautiful chassis that can either show off your glorious PC components, or else hide the mess you've made of cable tidying beneath a frosted RGB glow.
The Lian Li chassis/desk has become more than that to me too. It's now part of my component photo studio, it's responsible for making my valuable PC parts ultra-secure, and has actually performed the miracle of healing on me too. It's like the messiah desk or something. But, I mean, for $1,500 (£1,300) you'd kinda hope it would give you something more than just a place to rest your keyboard, mouse, and monitors.
But at first all it gave me was a little panic.
"Can I just check what the access is like to your business address," says the nice lady from the distribution company. "We need to make sure there's enough space for the lorry to park up so we can unload the pallet."
Business address? Pallet?!
I live in suburban Bath, a quaint rolling vista of Victorian terraces, sub-alcoholic students, and narrow, winding streets. It's a UNESCO world heritage site and not the sort of place that offers easy access for large scale articulated vehicles. And we've all played enough Euro Truck Sim 2 to know how that goes.
"Okay, we'll make sure to send an 18 Tonne truck with the pallet instead," she says finally, noting the rising panic in my responses.
Desktop size - 1000 x 740mm
Height - 1175 - 689mm
Drive bays - 6x 3.5-inch, 3x 2.5-inch
Fans - 7x 120mm
Desktop - switchable 8mm tempered glass
Exterior - aluminium
Interior and legs - iron
Motherboard compatibility - Mini-ITX, mATX, ATX, E-ATX
Expansion slots - 8
I/O - 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 4x USB 3.0, Audio
LED strips - 3
Price - $1,500 | £1,300
Jacob suggests maybe it's like those people who mistakenly get sent a box of RTX 2080s instead of just the one… and that I'm actually getting a pallet full of massive gaming desks. That doesn't help the fraying nerves. Thankfully while it does arrive on a pallet, and with a nightmarish mass of cardboard packaging, it's just a single unit. And doubly thankfully Lian Li has shipped me the DK-04F and not the frankly unwieldy DK-05F which can house two liquid-cooled PCs inside its capacious innards.
Essentially there are only four parts to assemble with this gaming desk. The main chassis itself, the two telescopic legs, and the tempered glass desktop. Telescopic? Oh yes, this is a motorised sitting/standing desk, but I'll come back to that li'l nugget of joy in a minute. On the whole the DK-04F is relatively easy to assemble, the only issue being how you suspend the very heavy aluminium body while you struggle to get the ultra-heavy iron legs into place.
From there it's classic Lian Li. I've built systems into enough Lian Li chassis in my time to know what I'm getting myself into. That's sliced fingers, scraped knuckles, and machined screw holes that don't quite match up. Luckily the few screw holes that don't aren't a huge issue because there are a vast number of screws holding the thing together. It's nothing if not robust.
Pro-tip: get yourself an electric screwdriver. You might strip a couple screws here and there, but it'll take at least half the time.
But once the legs are in place, connected to the desk's own power supply, and the desktop lid is in place, you're good to go. And by that I mean you're good to build your PC inside it… and that way lies more pleasure and pain. More cut digits, more screwdriving, but at the end of it all a gaming PC that will always have you smiling beatifically as you follow its whirrs up and down.
Sure, I had issues getting my rig inside. Mostly because the old Corsair H100i liquid chip-chiller I have attached to the 7900X CPU has tubing that's just a little too short to be screwed into place over the chassis' air vents. That means it's essentially just free-roaming inside.
It still works but is rather unsightly, though is going to soon be replaced by something a little more fitted. But that's not the only thing that looks a little less than ideal. I'm no pro-builder, I just want to get things inside, get them running, and not spend an age making it super tidy. But because of all the myriad chassis fans and RGB LED strips that come as part of the DK-04F package, and the extensive front panel controls, there is a lot of cabling inside the case.
And it doesn't look great in there right now.
Which is why the switchable tempered glass desktop is such a wonderful thing. At the touch of a button it can go from crystal clear to perfectly opaque. It means I can shut out the disgusting mess of wiring I've let loose inside until I get around to sorting out the cooler, and am just left with a soothing RGB underglow slowly fluttering around beneath my keyboard and mouse.
And if I shift my peripherals to the side it becomes the perfect background for a little product shoot, to which my Core i9 10900K review can attest. Lovely stuff.
Having the DK-04F being height adjustable from the off, thanks to those motorised legs, means you can get it to a comfortable height to work in. No more building PCs cross legged on the floor for me, which is good because this portly frame, descending disgracefully into middle age, is not dealing brilliantly with such limb contortions right now.
It's precisely that adjustability of the Lian Li DK-04F which has made it become some sort of miracle cure. Since the birth of my son the home office has been designated for a completely antithetical use, and I've been relegated to a dark corner of the dining room. Until now my PC was encased in the wonderful Corsair Crystal 280X—one of the best mini-ITX chassis around—and jammed under a jury-rigged desktop where I couldn't squeeze my legs beneath.
With the perpetual working from home situation now foisted upon us that means I've spent most of my recent life pushed up against a set of draws, bending my legs, neck, spine out of place to bash at a keyboard for many hours a day. As a result I've been waking up in agony (generally between 5am and 6am, thanks Charlie) with little respite throughout the day.
Now, I love codeine as much as the next inveterate pill-popper, but the mix of being able to stand at my desk comfortably, as well as get my legs directly under the desktop when I want to sit down, has rendered its regular use unnecessary. My posture has infinitely improved, and so has my sleep. Ten month-old baby notwithstanding.
There are up and down buttons to adjust the height of the desk on the fly, but also quickly and easily stored and activated presets too. The four buttons allow you to save different working heights at will and mean you can go from standing to sitting, and back, at just the press of a button. And the action is sublime too. Sometimes I'll just press the button to watch it go up and down, with an all-too satisfying whirrrrrrr.
Apparently it's eminently distracting during video meetings, but I'm cool with that.
As well as correcting my spine, the DK-04F has also ensured my pricey PC components are ultra-secure. As much as I love that micro-ATX Corsair 280X chassis, its compact design makes it easily portable. Anyone jimmying the front door could have wandered off with my expensive gaming rig in a second. As referenced earlier, now they're going to need a crane to get the damned thing out of my home.
Seriously the security aspects of this gaming desk have been completely ignored in Lian Li's marketing material about it. I'd definitely have it as at least a bullet point on the product page - "Secure your gaming rig against would-be thieves with the DK-04F." You can have that one for free, guys.
Well, so long as you don't make me extricate my components from the chassis and try and figure out how to package this bad boy back up again. Though maybe you'd be doing me a favour… one day I will want to move house.