Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Case Review: Little in Almost Every Wayby Dustin Sklavos on July 26, 2012 3:01 AM EST
In and Around the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
For their budget cases I've noticed Cooler Master offers a lot of options for people who want something flashy, but also for people who want something more functional and workaday. The Elite 120 definitely falls into the latter category; it has a very stylish aesthetic, but that style is smart and understated.
I actually find the front fascia of the Elite 120 amongst the most attractive of the cases I've tested. Gunmetal is, in my opinion, a shamefully underused color that fits in with most setups very nearly as well as basic black does. The cool, gunmetal-colored brushed aluminum finish covers the center of the fascia and continues to the 5.25" drive bay shield, and the accent is flanked by the ports, LEDs, and power and reset buttons. That recessed area around the aluminum plate has ventilation on the sides to allow the 120mm front fan to take in cool air, but I have some reservations as to how much air is really going to get into the case and how effective that fan is going to be.
The top and sides of the Elite 120 are a single piece and the joints are exactly flexible enough to make assembly fairly easy. Each side is ventilated where it needs to be; the extra ventilation is essentially a trade-off between acoustics and thermal performance. This panel is fastened to the back of the case with three thumbscrews: one on each side.
The watercooling port in the back is a cute idea but basically unnecessary; what's more interesting is the extrusion for the power supply. There's a power supply bracket held on with four screws, and the bracket in turn supports mounting the PSU with the fan intake facing the bottom (toward the CPU) or the top (toward the ventilation). This extra 30mm of space could very well wind up being an eyesore for some builders, but it does allow for using a standard ATX PSU, and our modular unit fit snugly without being too cramped. A shorter (say 140mm) power supply without modular cabling would probably fit beautifully. I'm also happy to see Cooler Master didn't even bother with a cover over the extruded expansion slots; my experience with these covers is almost universally negative, and generally I'd rather have that space just left open than have to fiddle with it.
The interior includes a remarkable amount of amenities. The cables all come bundled and tied to the bottom of the case, but I'm more impressed by the drive sleds. Cooler Master included something that's frankly so obvious that it makes other case designs feel silly by comparison: a pair of 3.5"-to-dual-2.5" bay adaptors. 3.5" drives (and the adaptors) have rails that snap securely into their sides (similar to the Antec Eleven Hundred's), and these simply plastic adaptors allow you to not only include two 2.5" drives instead of a single 3.5", they actually provide a healthy amount of space between them. They've also included a remarkably sturdy toolless locking mechanism for the 5.25" bay, and a single removable 80mm side intake fan that blows directly on to the CPU heatsink.
It should be obvious at this point that I'm pretty impressed with the amount of value Cooler Master has crammed into the Elite 120, at least in terms of features. What remains to be seen is how easy the Elite 120 will be to assemble, and just how well it will perform. We've tested a couple of Mini-ITX cases thus far, but this is among the smallest yet and I have concerns about just how effective that single 120mm intake fan will be with so much blocking it.